ISBN: 9780596003302
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Found 7 comments on HN
sciurus · 2018-05-30 · Original thread
I'd also recommend Unix Power Tools. There's definitely some outdated content, but I learned a lot about shell usage and text manipulation from it.

a3n · 2015-09-20 · Original thread
Read man pages.

For every command you run, assume there is a man page, and assume there is quick help, there usually and often are both.

$ man man # The man command has a man page about itself.

$ man -help # The man command has quick help.

A lot of this stuff is 40 years of accumulated and evolving conventions. Quick ref might not be available for a particular command, or might be found with -h, -help or --help.

Read the bash man page. Or whichever shell you're using, but if you haven't set it yourself it's probably bash.

The bash man page is pretty large, so don't read it all at once. Here's table of contents script that will give you a man page's table of contents. Make yourself a bin directory at /home/yourlogin/bin, then put it and other little tools that you write in there. Make them executable, and put that directory on your path. ("bin" is an old convention for "binary" or compiled programs. Ironically, most of what you put in there will not be binary. :)

  $ cat ~/bin/toc
  #! /usr/bin/env bash
  if [[ $# == 2 ]]; then
      man -S $2 -P "grep -E '^[^ ]'"  $1
      man -P "grep -E '^[^ ]'" $1

  $ toc time
  TIME(1)                       General Commands Manual                       TIME(1)

  $ toc time 2
  TIME(2)                      Linux Programmer's Manual                      TIME(2)
  Linux                                2011-09-09                             TIME(2)
C functions often have their own man page, as in time(2) above. Run this to see:

  $ man -S 2 time # As opposed to $ man time
Without a section number, man will show you the default, usually from section 1, general commands, which is often what you want.

  $ man -k time # Show every man page title that has "time" in the tile or synopsis.
Gradually add little convenience scripts to your ~/bin directory, but don't go wild. A good guide is when you find yourself doing a series of tasks repeatedly, gather those commands together into a script.

Learn about command history, and command line recall and editing

  $ history # Shows all your recent commands.
You can use emacs style editing or vi style editing. I prefer vi. but don't worry too much about this yet, you have actual work to do instead. Just tuck it away for later. same, later.

Learn about pipes, redirection and command substitution.

Use vim. Or emacs. But vim.

I use the urxvt terminal emulator. In my package repository it's called rxvt-unicode-256color. It has nice color support and unicode support, and a nice, very simple tab system.

Use tmux if you can, when/if you need it. My use of urxvt means I almost never need tmux (at home). I use it all the time at work, for its tab-like behavior. Most people who use tmux use it for its session management (I think).

Two good books:

Effective Computation in Physics

It's a decent intro to Python, if you need/want that. But even if you don't care much about Python, or physics (I don't), it's also a decent introduction to how to use Unix to get shit done.

Unix Power Tools

It's a door stop, but you can it it as an ebook (and all O'reilly digital products are DRM-free). Remember I said an accumulation of 40 years? It's all in here. I love this book.

nonamegiven · 2013-03-10 · Original thread
Me too, that's all there was. And that may be the answer: only allow yourself the command line for longer and longer periods of time. Force yourself to learn it.

I really like this book, even today:

The key to being proficient at the command line (as distinct from writing shell scripts) is to think of it as composition.

For example, run this:

  $ file $(which $(man -k python | cut --delimiter " " --fields 1))
(The first '$' is your command line prompt, yours may differ; you don't type that. The other '$' characters you do type.)

Now run each command from the inside out, starting with the man command. See what each command does. Build it up bit by bit, that's exactly what I did, like this:

- the man command

- the man command piped into the cut command

- the man command piped into the cut command after reading "man cut" to remember about the --delimiter option

- the output of that pipeline fed to which

- the output of which fed to file

Note that I didn't use any for loops or variables, the shell did the right thing for me.

Read the man pages for each of those commands.

set -o vi or set -o emacs (or their equivalent in .inputrc) helps a lot when you compose things incrementally. esc-k k k (etc) is your friend if you set -o vi.

Read man bash. It will take you a long time. For today, read the section on READLINE. While in man bash, search for the word READLINE at the front of the line, like this:


Slash = search

^ = anchor the search to the front of the line

READLINE = what you're searching for in the current man page.

For now, all you need in your ~/.inputrc file is:

set editing-mode vi

This will give you vi command line editing in bash, as well as any other program that uses readline, like the python REPL.

For more info on .inputrc,

  $ man readline
which is documentation for the C interface to readline, but is mostly about how readline is used by a user. For example, in man readline

/VI Mode bindings

gives you all your command line editing commands when you use vi mode.

Get a mostly table of contents of man bash, for your searching pleasure:

  $ man -P cat bash |egrep -v "^ " |egrep -o "^[^ ]+"
Sort it:

  $ man -P cat bash |egrep -v "^ " |egrep -o "^[^ ]+" |sort

olefoo · 2012-12-20 · Original thread
Get the book Unix Power Tools

Keep it on your desk; read and apply a tool whenever you have a minute.

gosub · 2012-10-08 · Original thread
Knowing most of the power tools mentioned in this book would do a better job as a discriminating factor, in my opinion.
antidoh · 2012-07-22 · Original thread
The Turing Omnibus is an interesting survey of computer science. For any chapter that interests you or that you don't understand to your liking, you now have a starting point for further focused learning.

For more specific topics, look through the entire O'Reilly catalog. There is bound to be something there that covers at least part of what you want to learn.

For stuff that you do while you're doing something else, I really like Unix Power Tools.

drsnyder · 2009-03-23 · Original thread
Take a look at Unix Power Tools

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