CS330 Unix and Linux

Highlights of this lab:

Unix Introduction

Brief History

Advantages of Unix

Unix Flavors

There are many different implementations of Unix. They all have subtle differences in the way that they operate.

A few commercial implementations are:

A few Linux distributions are the following. Some are free. Others the user must pay for a support contract.

Parts of Unix

Unix is organized at three levels:

  • kernel

"The UNIX kernel is built specifically for a machine when it is installed. It has a record of all the pieces of hardware it needs to talk to and knows what languages they speak (how to turn switches on and off to get a desired result)." http://www.extropia.com/tutorials/unix/kernel.html


  • shell

The Unix shell provides a user interface. " The most basic UNIX shell provides a "command line" which allows you to type in commands which are translated by the shell into kernel speak and sent off to the kernel." http://www.extopia.com/tutorials/unix/shells.html


  • tools and applications
These provide additional functionality to the operating system. To see some tools that you have access to check out: /bin or /usr/bin

More on the Unix Shell

There are several different shells, they offer their own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, some allow for auto completion using the tab key; others don't.

A few common shells are the following:

For more on shells, click here.

To see what shells exist on your current Unix system, try the following command:

$ cat /etc/shells

How do you get your shell?

Before you get a shell, you identify yourself with a login name and password. That login name is looked up in a file called /etc/passwd, which describes each user's account. More specifically, it tells your unique numeric ID, principal group ID, general information, home directory, and shell.

Try the following command:

$ cat /etc/passwd | grep yourusername

The format of the data in the /etc/passwd file is

Name:Password: UserID:PrincipleGroup:Gecos: HomeDirectory:Shell

Note, each of these attributes are separated by a : (colon). The last attribute on the line is your shell.

More information about /etc/passwd can be found here.

Focus on Unix Commands

Although somethings you can do with the GUI interface, it is often necessary to execute commands on the command-line. The basic format is:

$ command-name options arguments

as in:

$ g++ -c main.cpp 
$ ls -l

A summary of a few commands is provided in tabular format here:

Command Example Comments
ssh ssh hercules.cs.uregina.ca -l smithj Secure Shell (ssh) enables you to log in, execute commands, and run applications on a remote system.
SSH encrypts any communication between the remote user and a system on your network.

scp input.txt smithj@hercules.cs.uregina.ca:/CS330lab1

scp -r CS330 smithj@hercules.cs.uregina.ca:/classes

With Secure Copy (scp) you can copy files between the remote host and a network host. scp actually uses ssh to transfer data and employs the same authentication and encryption.

This first example copies the file input.txt from a users current directory to the user smithj's CS330lab1 directory, located on the hercules host.
The second example uses the -r option (which allows whole directories to be copied); it, thus, copies the entire CS330 directory to the classes directory of the user smithj

touch touch myfile Update the access and modification time of "myfile". If "myfile" does not exist, create it.
mkdir mkdir reports Creates a directory named "reports"
rmdir rmdir letters Erases a directory named "letters"

rm myfile

rm -r mydir

Erases a file named "myfile"

Erases the directory "mydir" and any contents/subdirectories in it


ls -F

ls -R

ls -a

ls -l

ls -i

Lists directory name with a preceding slash

Lists working directory as well as all subdirectories

Lists all files including "hidden files"

Lists files with permissions, owner, group, time stamp

List the files inode number--a unique number used by the system to identify a specific file.


cd reports


cd ..

Changes to the "reports" directory, making it the working directory.

Changes back to the home directory

Moves you up one directory level

pwd pwd Displays the pathnames of the Present Working Directory

cp lab1 mylab

cp lab1 mydirectory

cp -r mydirectory dirname

Copies file "lab1" to "mylab" file

Copies "lab1" in your working directory to "mydirectory"

Copies "mydirectory" and all its contents into "dirname".


mv lab1 lab2

mv lab1 labdirectory

mv lab1 labdirectory/newfile

mv labdirectory newdirectory

Renames "lab1" to "lab2"

Moves "lab1" to the "labdirectory"

Moves "lab1" to the "labdirectory" and renames it "newfile"

Renames a whole directory to a new directory name

(on Hercules)

g++ -o prog_run main.cpp

g++ -c main.cpp

g++ -o prog_run main.o part1.o part2.o

compiles and links "main.cpp", calls the executable "prog_run"

compiles "main.cpp" (creates the object file)

links the object files (when you have different files), calls the executable "prog_run"

For another summary of Unix command, click here.

For a Unix tutorial, click here.

Focus on Permissions

Each file and directory in Unix contains a set of permissions that determine who can access them and how. You set these permissions to limit access in one of three ways:

  1. You can restrict access to yourself alone (user)
  2. You can allow users in a predesignated group to have access (group)
  3. You can permit anyone on your system to have access (world)

How do you view permissions?

The ls command with the -l option allows you to view a file's permissions (among other information).

 $ ls -l mydata
 -rw-r--r-- 1 chris weather 207 Feb 20 11:55 mydata
The breakdown of this information is as follows:
File Type Permissions Number of Links Owner Name Group Name Size of File in Bytes Date and Time Last Modified File Name
- rw-r--r-- 1 chris weather 207 Feb 20 11:55 mydata

Right now, the owner of mydata has read and write permissions, and the group, and the world have read permissions. How do I know? The permissions are organized in groups of three:

In addition,

What would the following permissions represent?

  1. -rwxr--r--
  2. drwxr-xr-x
  3. -rwxrw-r--

How does Unix determine who has permissions to access files?

Again it comes down to the /etc/passwd file. In this file, you have a unique numeric id, and a principle group id (also numeric). When you create a file, your unique numeric id and principle group id are assigned to that file. If there is a match of these numbers, then you will have specific permissions (according to whether you are user/group/world).

You have a principle group id, but you may also belong to other groups that are not your principle group. To know what groups you belong to, try the following command:

$ groups

This command gets its information from the /etc/group file as well using your principle group id.

How do I set permissions?

To set permissions, you use chmod. There are two main usages of chmod:

Symbolic Permission Mode:

The general format for using the symbolic permission mode is the following:
chmod 'access class' operator 'access type' filename
For example, this would add executable access for the user:
$ chmod u+x testfile
The following summarizes the values of "access class", "operator", and "access type" in the above syntax:
  1. Access Class
  2. Operator
  3. Permissions

Given a base permission of -rw------ for a file called "myfile", what would the resulting permission be after the following chmod calls?

  1. chmod u+x myfile
  2. chmod a+x myfile
  3. chmod g+r myfile

Absolute Permission Mode

Another way to change permissions is by using a numeric (octal) code. Typically, you will use three octal numbers: one for the user, one for the group and one for other (world).

The syntax for using chmod in absolute permission mode is:

chmod 'octal permissions' filename
For example:
$ chmod 744 myfile
Each of the three octal digits represent the read, write, and execute permissions for the user, group, and world respectively.

The following table summarizes the octal digits and how the permissions are affected:

Octal Binary Permissions
0 000 ---
1 001 --x
2 010 -w-
3 011 -wx
4 100 r--
5 101 r-x
6 110 rw-
7 111 rwx

What would the permissions look like on "myfile" after the following chmod calls?

  1. chmod 755 myfile
  2. chmod 644 myfile
  3. chmod 711 myfile

For more on chmod click here

Focus on Links

You can give a file more than one name using the ln command. You might want to reference a file using different filenames to access it from different directories. The added names are often referred to as links.

These links are similar in concept to shortcuts in windows

There are two kinds of links:

  1. Symbolic Links
  2. Hard Links

Hard Links:

A hard link appears just like a file or directory, not a link. Hard links have a disadvantage in that they only work within one filesystem. In other words, they don't work between mounted filesystems. A hard link only refers to the original file. If the original file is deleted no information will be lost because the file is kept as long as there is at least one link to it.

To create hard link, you use the ln command with two arguments: the name of the original file and the new (added) filename.

$ ln original-filename added-filename
$ ln today weather

You can use the ls command with the -l command to find if a file has several links. The first number that comes before the user's name indicates the number of links.

In order to see what files are links of other files use the ls command with the -i option to list the files inode number. An inode number is a unique number used by the system to identify a specific file. If two filenames h ave the exact same inode number, they reference exactly the same file.

$ ls -i today weather lab1
1234 today  1234 weather  3976 lab1
In the above example, today and weather reference the same file.

Symbolic Links

So far the links we have seen have be hard links. When viewed with a long listing (ls -l), the symbolic link holds the path name of the file to which it is linking. It is not a direct hard link, it stores information on how to locate a specific file.

To create a symbolic link, use the following syntax:

 $ ln -s today weather 

For more on the difference between hard and soft links, see this link: http://linuxgazette.net/105/pitcher.html

References and More Info

Extra Info: