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I’m sure you still cannot use Linux without opening a single terminal window December 15, 2006

Posted by oktyabr in desktop, linux, opinions, personal, Windows.

The title of this article, “I’m sure you still cannot use a Linux without opening a single terminal window”, is a line taken from the tail end of a blog post about “Biggest Linux Problem: it makes users think” which while I found the article a somewhat interesting read I thought the statement about opening a command line was conceptually wrong…

There is actually a fairly common misunderstanding by many computer users that the use of a command line terminal is somehow an indication of an operating systems inferiority or relative archaic nature and I guess I’ve been meaning to post something about it for awhile!  Here is pretty much what I used as a comment on the afore mentioned blog post (we’ll see if he moderates it out or not 😉

As proof you can take a look at any of the dozens (if not hundreds) of “live” linux cds (google for those three words together.) These are distros that you just burn to a disc, pop in your drive, reboot the computer and presto! you are in a full linux enviroment *without* writing anything to the harddrive.

Because all the system files are stored in a “read only” format on the cd you burned you cannot change any of it so in principal you shouldn’t even need a command line terminal and yet these distros are still incredibly popular and useful.

But more to the point! I use both linux and windows and on occasion I’ve used a command line in both. It is a useful tool in windows (tracert http://www.google.com without it) but even more so in linux due to the fact that linux is written as an operating system independant of any graphical user interface… linux runs on millions of computers around the world (primarily servers but also things as simple as many common routers) quite happily without any sort of “desktop” or “windows”…

The barriers seperating a windows user desktop enviroment from the operating system that actually does all the work, underneath, are infamously resistant and difficult to work through, as Microsoft intended. The classic analogy about buying a car with the hood welded shut is a good one to use here, I think… What you see is what you get, for the most part.

By comparison there really are no barriers in linux between the desktop user and the underlying OS, the way the distro developer intended. You are welcome to “pop the hood” and poke around if you like. Want to maintain it yourself? Tune it up? Modify it to go faster or get better mileage? You are welcome to mess around with every single nut and bolt in a linux operating system too. Nothing welded shut here! Again the analogy is a good one.

It’s important to understand that concept because many very useful tools in linux are intended to be ran from the command line, which in this instance is simply a “real time” interface to a program that can also be ran from a customized script (generally everything you would type in at a command line) or perhaps remotely from another computer or chained together to operate with other programs or even bound to perform it’s functions by clicking on a button on a desktop!  Also sometimes the command line is just plain *quicker* than mousing through a series of menus, finding the app, waiting for the graphical user interface to be generated on the screen, accessing the desired function and so on. Try starting several apps at the same time using only a mouse!

The command line terminal is a very useful and important interface in linux and to think that it’s use or existance is a flaw or somehow makes linux inferior is an incorrect assumption based on a lack of proper understanding.



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