just how much can you do with?

Martin McCormick martin at x.it.okstate.edu
Mon Mar 4 17:51:19 UTC 2013

	I started my present job in March of 1990 and was told
on the day I was hired that I was to learn C as in the C
programming language, and Unix. There is no end to what there is
to learn so you'll never catch up. I have done an average job of
trying to learn about C and Unix but I was once in much the same
spot as Karen finds herself. The difference is that it is much
easier to find accessible information today than it was in 1990,
actually 1989 when I was working here part-time.

	Even with the graphical interface, Unix is still a lot
more cerebral than Windows since it is an operating system based
on commands, numbers and words that happens to have a graphical
interface added to it.

	Note, I've been saying Unix and not Linux and that is on

	Linux is but one flavor of Unix and I can remember being
thrilled in about the year 2000 when I first got Linux going on
a Dell Pentium that had previously run Windows95.

	I was afraid that Linux would be sort of a toy version
of DOS but nothing could be further from the truth.

	Now for some specific advice on two unrelated things:

	Since you come from a DOS world, you are always the root
user. In Unix this is called the superuser and you can pick any
color cape you want to ware but it should be flashy and glow in
the dark or something. You can add, delete and mess up anything
on your system you desire as superuser. There is a much safer
route to travel, however, and that is to be yourself as much as
possible. You can still wreck your home directory all you want,
but you aren't as likely to trash the operating system or to
have to start all over or even reboot if you log in as you and
then only become superuser when you must. That's thing number 1.

	The second thing since you mentioned perl regular
expressions is to tell you that the keys to the Unix kingdom
belong to the expert on regular expressions. Even after 23 years
of this, I still keep learning about regular expressions because
they are so, so useful.

	Don't let the perl part confuse you. Perl is a
programming language that was put together by real brains in the
field. It uses regular expressions but so do a huge number of
other Unix applications that have nothing to do with perl.

	Regular expressions are lists of symbols such as
[0-9a-f] and tons of other blobs of what might look at first
like somebody's cat walked on the keyboard, but these blocks of
what look like garbage are rules that determine whether or not
text should be ignored, printed or modified. There is an older
text editor called ed and if you do a man command on ed as in

man ed

on some systems, you will see a big discussion on the use of
regular expressions. Also, you can use google to find countless
articles on regular expressions and their use.

	You will amaze yourself eventually on how useful these
things are.

	Well, enough rambling. I hope this helps. Just focus on
one task at a time and don't try to eat the elephant in one
sitting. It causes heart burn and most people can't eat that
much elephant at once.


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