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Just starting (another) list of Rules of Thumb that might make a transition to Linux easier.


Don't Work as Root

There are a lot of reasons not to work as root related to security. I will not discuss those here (at least not now) -- I want to cover some related points.

  • If you work as root creating or copying files in your home directory, those files quite likely will be owned by root -- when you operate as a user, you may not be able to do things that you expect with those files. (If the files are scripts or configuration files for an application, you may have problems with that application because it cannot read the files.)

Which sort of begs the question -- does the ownership / permission structure in Linux really serve a valid purpose, especially in this age when more computers are dedicated as workstations for a single user rather than being shared among multiple users? Is the whole security magic of Linux (or the majority of it) due to this business of permissions and ownership? If it is, and it's necessary, the best ways of working within that structure should be better known and better explained to newbies.

Pay Attention to Ownership and Permissions

Maybe I said most of what I wanted to say (first cut) above.

Save your zips, tars, etc.

Under dos / Windows, the default behavior of the zip and similar archive / compression utilities is to save the source zip file when "extracting" the archive. I like this behavior, as I like to keep the zip around as a backup copy. Under Linux, the default behavior of tar, gunzip, etc. is to "destroy" the archive. (Maybe default behavior isn't the right word in either case, because I'm not really sure that there are any options under either operating system.)

Maybe a habit that you want to cultivate is saving a copy of an archive either somewhere else or under a different name after acquiring it and before extracting it.

(It seems to me that this is another subtle but influential unwritten (unrecognized, unremarked, ??) difference in philosopy between Linus and Windows, that leads to small problems and misunderstandings for someone trying to move to Linux from Windows, or for a Linux guru to explain something to a Windows guru. (And yes, I think it's fair to say that some people are dos / Windows guru's, who've paid as many dues as any Linux guru.) (What are the other differences -- don't want to think about it now, and here's a bad example (not really a Linux / Windows difference) -- the Injun problem (big endians and little endians).)

Man Pages Disappointing, Need to be Improved

Sorry, just get frustrated every time I look at a man page. I don't like the term "synopsis" (why not summary, abstract, or ?? -- maybe synopsis is ok, but we need something more) -- going to look it up.

But, we need something like a "syntax" or "example" section that gives the one (or a few) (most?) common ways of invoking a command. How many times have I gone to the tar man page to try to figure out that I need to do tar -xvf and get frustrated and give up? Likewise, how to use find.

Ok, from Merriam-Webster (www.m-w.com):

1 : a condensed statement or outline (as of a narrative or treatise) : ABSTRACT

So, it is an appropriate word / section.

And, my intent is to modify the man pages, but I want to modify the "canonical" "original" so all man pages everywhere are changed. I wonder how that can be done. Does the ldp have anything to do with them? Must I contact the maintainer of each program with a man page?

See BeginnersManPages.


  • RandyKramer - 26 Jan 2002
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