Unix basics (was Re: For My Edification)

Chris Hill chris at monochrome.org
Mon May 2 23:37:48 UTC 2011

On Mon, 2 May 2011, Louis Marrero wrote:

> I have a number of really dumb questions that I hope you might be able 
> to shed some light on.

I shall endeavor to provide dumb answers in return :^)  For *good* 
answers, a great place to start is the Handbook, 
http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/index.html. In 
addition, I'm sure some of the many smart people on this list will speak 

Also, notice that I've changed the subject line to reflect a hint of the 
message's content. This list is archived, and anyone searching later migh 
not know to use 'edification' as a search term.

> Although I am familiar with basic computer operation, I've been trying 
> to understand a very experienced programmer friend that mixes Linux/Unix 
> terminology in his vocabulary under the assumption that everyone knows 
> the language.
> Being familiar only with general knowledge on the Windows XP that I use 
> daily, I've gone on the web to find out more information on some of the 
> terms used by this programmer, such as "BSD", "shell terminal", "nc -u", 
> etc.  Since my friend knows that my computer is strictly MS Windows, 
> when my friend writes down something like "In a shell terminal type nc 
> -u 5555." it makes me wonder what I'm missing.

When he says "shell terminal", think "command prompt". nc is netcat, but I 
didn't know Windows had that. In your friend's defense, I use Windows 
every day (at work) and I can't always remember what things are called. 
Especially since MS changes terminology every now and then, evidently just 
for the hell of it.

> 1.  I know that Windows is an OS, and Linux/Unix as well as FreeBSD are 
> other Operating System.  My very basic question is this: Is it even 
> possible to install a second OS, like FreeBSD on an existing 
> Windows-based computer?

Yes. You can either set it up for dual boot - either by adding a second 
hard drive, or by partitioning your existing drive if there's space - or 
you can run another OS within a virtual machine of some sort. The latter 
would need a pretty fast machine if the guest OS is to have decent 

Having said that, I found it easier to get started using an old PC that 
was too slow to run a modern Windows, but perfectly fine for a GUI-free 
BSD. I'm typing this on an old Dell that I bought on ebay.

> 2.  Is it possible to link my Windows laptop to a web server with Unix 
> or FreeBSD and exercise Unix/Linux commands.  If so, how is that done?

The server's admin would have to give you a shell account. Most commercial 
ISPs won't do that, but maybe your friend will.

> I'd be grateful for any information.

Hope this helps, and welcome.

Chris Hill               chris at monochrome.org
**                     [ Busy Expunging </> ]

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