Monday, 23 March 2009


If you've been following along for a while, you should have picked up a fair bit of knowledge about how to use the command line. You should be comfortable using a non-graphical text editor such as Vim or nano, installing software using apt-get or dpkg, and viewing text files using cat or less. But I strongly suspect you may not be ready to use the command line exclusively!

However, you may be surprised by just how much can be done from the command line. Did you know you can listen to music from the command line? Or watch videos? Read email? Chat via IRC or IM? Even surf the Web (and not just using a text-only browser such as Lynx, I'm talking about with graphics, although you shouldn't expect the same experience as you get in Firefox).

Furthermore, there's a lot you can get from an interactive teaching method, rather than just following along with my blog posts. For that reason, I highly recommend that if you can spare the bandwidth, you download a copy of INX. It's a live CD, based on Ubuntu, that doesn't include either a desktop or an X window server. In other words, it's command line only!

Now, I'm not dreaming of suggesting you install this in place of your regular Ubuntu or Ubuntu-derived distro install, but it's a great teaching tool. It includes the excellent Ceni network manager, which I've encountered before in Sidux, another distro which like Ubuntu is based on Debian. Ceni is surprisingly intuitive to use and isn't appreciably harder to use than Network Manager in Ubuntu.

INX is also a great showcase for GNU Screen, which is included along with a full tutorial on how to use it. There's also a great introduction which shows just how much the command line can do. On top of that, there's a very easy tutorial that teaches you some of the basics of the bash shell, in an interactive and fun way. All the way through you're given menus to navigate, and you'll never be left at a blank prompt with nothing obvious to do (unless you ask to!).

INX is a great way to learn more about the Linux command line, and I strongly recommend everyone who reads this downloads a copy if they can, and either runs it in Virtualbox or burns it to a CD and boots from it. It's based on Ubuntu Hardy so it should work fine on most hardware. Try it out, and even if you always swore you'd never touch the command line you'll soon lose your fear and will begin to appreciate just why so many Linux and Unix users are ardent fans of the command line. It's an interface that in many ways is more powerful and quicker to use than a point-and-click graphical desktop, and INX will help you get the best out of it. And as it's a live CD you don't have to worry about messing anything up!