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UNIX Unleashed, System Administrator's Edition

- 3 -

Additional UNIX Resources

by Fred Trimble

There is an abundance of information available to help you learn about all of the UNIX variants. In fact, the two volumes of UNIX Unleashed, System Administrator's Edition (this book) and Internet Edition, contain a wealth of information on many varieties of UNIX. Aside from these two books, one of the best ways to find information is to do a simple keyword search on the Internet using your favorite browser. Doing so usually yields a lot of hits, given the popularity of UNIX on the World Wide Web. Also, ask your system administrator of she knows of any good reference material. He or she can probably recommend a good publication or user group for your flavor of UNIX.

This chapter discusses several different resources to help you learn UNIX. The first source of information to be discussed is the documentation that comes with UNIX systems: the online manual pages. There is a lot more information to help you learn UNIX besides the "man" pages. Because the UNIX operating system has had a profound impact on the development of the Internet, many Internet and Web sites exist that provide information on many facets of UNIX. In addition to identifying some important Web sites, this chapter identifies some key newsgroups, user groups, and publications to help you become a UNIX guru!

UNIX Manual Pages

Each UNIX system comes with a set of printed documentation. Most UNIX system administrators configure their systems to make this information available to their users. They are often referred to as "man pages," because they are accessed with the man command. The man command is discussed later in this section. If the manual pages are not available on your system, see your system administrator.

Manual Page Organization

The manual pages are divided into eight sections. They are organized as follows:

1. Commands This section provides information about user-level commands, such as ps and ls.

2. UNIX System Calls This section gives information about the library calls that interface with the UNIX operating system, such as open for opening a file, and exec for executing a program file. These are often accessed by C programmers.

3. Libraries This section contains the library routines that come with the system. An example library that comes with each system is the math library, containing such functions as fabs for absolute value. Like the system call section, this is relevant to programmers.

4. File Formats This section contains information on the file formats of system files, such as init, group, and passwd. This is useful for system administrators.

5. File Formats This section contains information on various system characteristics. For example, a manual page exists here to display the complete ASCII character set (ascii).

6. Games This section usually contains directions for games that came with the system.

7. Device Drivers This section contains information on UNIX device drivers, such scsi and floppy. These are usually pertinent to someone implementing a device driver, as well as the system administrator.

8. System Maintenance This section contains information on commands that are useful for the system administrator, such as how to format a disk.

At first, knowing which section to search can seem bewildering. After a little practice, however, you should be able to identify the appropriate section. In fact, certain man page options allow you to span sections when conducting a search.

The Manual Page Command

The man command enables you to find information in the online manuals by specifying a keyword. You can use it to in the following ways:

  • List all entries whose one-line summary contains the keyword.
  • Display all one-line descriptions based on the specified keyword.
  • Display the complete manual page entry for the specified keyword.
  • Search only the specified section, as outlined above, for the specified keyword.

The simplest way to invoke the man command is to specify a keyword without any options. For example, if you want more information on the finger command, invoke the man finger command. On an HP system running the HP-UX version of UNIX, the following output is displayed:

Figure 3.1.
Output to man finger command on an HP-UX machine.

Notice that the man page is divided into a number of sections, such as NAME, SYNOPSIS, and DESCRIPTION. Depending on the manual page, there are other sections, including DIAGNOSTICS, FILES, and SEE ALSO.

If you have a particular subject that you want to investigate in the online documentation but don't know where to start, try invoking the man command with the -k option. This searches all of the descriptions in all eight of the manual page sections, and returns all commands where there is a match. For example, suppose you want to find out information related to terminals, but you aren't sure which command you should specify. In this case, specify the command man -k terminal. The following is sent to your screen:

clear (1) - clear terminal screen
ctermid (3s) - generate file name for terminal
getty (8) - set terminal mode
gettytab (5) - terminal configuration database
lock (1) - reserve a terminal
lta (4) - Local Area Terminal (LAT) service driver
pty (4) - pseudo terminal driver
script (1) - make typescript of terminal session

You can then use the man command to find more information on a particular command.

Unfortunately, not all systems are configured to use this option. In order to use this feature, the command /usr/lib/whatis must be in place. If it is not in place, see your system administrator.

Finally, when you invoke the man command, the output is sent through what is known as a pager. This is a command that lets you view the text one page at a time. The default pager for most UNIX systems is the more command. You can, however, specify a different one by setting the PAGER environment variable. For example, setting it to pg allows you to use features of the pg command to go back to previous pages.

Web Sites

The World Wide Web has an abundance of sites with useful information on UNIX. This section presents a survey of some very helpful ones. This section provides their URL (Uniform Resource Locator) for access through a Web browser, along with a brief description of the kinds of information you'll find.

Book Lists


This site gives a bibliography of UNIX books. It also includes comments for some of the books. Most of the titles came from misc.books.technical faq.


This site provides a list of UNIX titles, along with a brief review of the book.


This site also contains a list of recommended UNIX titles, along with a discussion of the book contents. Its contents include books on introductory UNIX, text editing and processing, networking topics, advanced UNIX programming, and UNIX system administration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


This site contains the USENET FAQ for questions in the comp.unix.questions and comp.unix.shell newsgroups. Due to its size, it is divided here into seven sections.


This gopher site contains links to the FAQs for many UNIX-related topics, such as rcs, sccs, shells, and UNIX variants.

Finally, many UNIX FAQs have been reproduced and appear at the end of the Internet Edition.



This page contains a link called "UNIX Basics." It includes sections on basic UNIX concepts for beginners, as well as tutorials on vi, emacs, and ftp.


This site contains a tutorial for the emacs editor and the elm mail program, along with a brief overview of some UNIX commands.


This site contains an extensive tutorial on UNIX, including logging in, manual pages, file and directory structure, mail, and job control. It ends with a summary of useful UNIX file commands.


Here, you will find a wide variety of practical tutorials, covering vi, emacs, e-mail, ftp, tar, remote system access, network news reader, advanced UNIX commands, and more!


From this page, check out the UNIX link. It contains links to scores of other UNIX-related Web pages. Here, you will find information on USENET FAQs, UNIX shell FAQs, IBM AIX, HP-UX, UNIX for Pcs, Sun Systems, X-Windows, Networking, Security, Linux, UNIX humor, and much more.


This site provides an excellent interactive UNIX tutorial called "Coping With UNIX: An Interactive Survival Kit." It is sponsored by the Northwest Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering. The tutorial runs best on a Web browser that supports frames and is Java-enabled.


This page contains an overview of the UNIX directory structure.


This page contains a list of UNIX tutorials that can be found on systems at Indiana University, and on outside systems as well. This page contains five links: beginning tutorials, intermediate tutorials, advanced topics and tutorials, quick references, and other references. Each link contains a number of UNIX references.


This gopher site contains five introductory UNIX lessons. Each lesson can be downloaded to your system.


This tutorial is named "Coping With UNIX, A Survival Guide." It covers UNIX basics with a sense of humor.


This UNIX tutorial is very extensive, containing information about many UNIX commands and utilities. It also contains information about the Internet and the World Wide Web.


This tutorial, entitled "UNIX is a Four Letter Word, and vi is a Two Letter Abbreviation," contains a humorous look at some basic UNIX commands and the vi editor.


This tutorial contains an outline of X-Windows programming concepts.


This tutorial is entitled USAIL, which stands for UNIX System Administration Independent Learning. It is designed to be an independent study course for prospective UNIX system administrators. It contains information on typical system administrator tasks, including installation, network administration, maintaining mail, backup and restore, and system performance. It contains a self-evaluating quiz.


This page contains a summary of UNIX commands.


This site also contains a summary of UNIX commands.


This site contains many interesting links, including FAQ lists for most popular UNIX vendors, a DOS-to-UNIX command information sheet, and a number of links to other interesting sites.


This site, named "Jeff's UNIXVault." contains a great number of links to interesting UNIX sites. Topics include "unices" (links to sites that focus on different flavors of UNIX), windowing systems on UNIX, shells, security, shell scripting, organizations, publications, UNIX and Pcs, and UNIX newsgroups.


As the name implies, this site contains a link to "The Perl Language Home Page." It gives information on how to download the latest version of perl, as well as documentation, a perl FAQ, and perl bug reports. It also contains links to other perl sites, perl mailing lists, perl security information, and "The Perl Journal," a newsletter dedicated to perl.


While working with UNIX, you are likely to come across terms that you haven't seen before. This site provides a free online dictionary of computing that will help you discover the meaning of such terms. It even provides a search mechanism for ease of use.


This site contains a number of links to other interesting sites. It contains links to sites that cover networking issues, UNIX organizations, and various UNIX utilities, such as perl, Tcl/Tk, Python, elm, and pine.


Here, you will find many links to Internet guides. The site also contains a couple of UNIX-specific links.


Python is a portable, interpreted, object-oriented language which runs on many UNIX systems. This site contains a wealth of information, including links to other relevant sites.


This site contains many links to a wide variety of sites, including UNIX FAQ, UNIX security, perl, UNIX system administration, and C and C++ programming.


Here, you will find a nice description of many UNIX and Internet commands.

FTP Sites


This site contains all of the programs available from the GNU Software Foundation.


This site contains a great deal of X-Windows software.


Here, you will find many UNIX utilities for programmers and system administrators alike.


The UNIX operating system has played a major role in the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Consequently, there are a number of newsgroups dedicated to various aspects of UNIX. For more information on how to participate in a newsgroup on the Internet, see Chapter 7, "Communicating With Others." Here is a listing of various UNIX discussion groups, in alphabetical order:
cern.security.unix This newsgroup holds discussions on UNIX security at CERN. CERN is the European Particle Physics Laboratory, and is where the World Wide Web originated.
comp.lang.c Discussion about the C programming language.
comp.lang.perl Discussion of the perl programming language.
comp.os.linux.advocacy These groups discuss the benefits of Linux, compared to other operating systems.
comp.os.linux.answers This is a moderated discussion group that includes FAQs on Linux.
comp.os.linux.hardware This group discusses Hardware compatibility and Linux.
comp.os.linux.misc General information about Linux that is not covered in the other group.
comp.os.linux.setup Linux installation and system administration.
comp.security.unix Discussion of UNIX security.
comp.sources.unix This contains postings of complete UNIX-oriented source code (moderated).
comp.std.unix Discussion for the P1003 UNIX committee (moderated).
comp.unix.admin This newsgroup discusses any topic related to unix system administration.
comp.unix.aix This group is dedicated to discussions of IBM's flavor of UNIX (AIX).
comp.unix.amiga Discussion of UNIX on the Commodore Amiga.
comp.unix.aux Discussion of UNIX on the Apple Macintosh II computer.
comp.unix.internals Discussions on UNIX internals.
comp.unix.large UNIX on mainframes and on large networks.
comp.unix.misc UNIX topics that seem to fit other groups.
comp.unix.programmer This is a question and answer forum for people who program in a UNIX environment.
comp.unix.questions This group is appropriate for newcomers to UNIX, with general questions about UNIX commands and system administration. It is one of the most widely used newsgroups on the Internet.
comp.unix.shell This group discusses using and programming shells, including the Bourne shell (sh), Bourne again shell (bash), C Shell (csh), Korn shell (ksh), and restricted shell (rsh).
comp.unix.solaris Discussion of Sun's solaris variant of UNIX.
comp.unix.sys5.r4 Discusses UNIX System V Release 4.
comp.unix.ultrix This group is dedicated to discussions of DEC's flavor of UNIX (ultrix).
comp.unix.unixware Discussion about Novell's UnixWare products.
comp.unix.user-friendly Discussion of UNIX user-friendliness.
comp.unix.xenix.misc This group discusses general questions about Xenix, not including SCO.
comp.unix.xenix.sco This group discusses Xenix from SCO (Santa Cruz Operation).
comp.unix.wizards This is a moderated discussion group for advanced UNIX topics.
comp.windows.x This is a discussion group for the X-Window system.
info.unix-sw UNIX software that is available via anonymous ftp.

UNIX User Groups

Joining a UNIX user group can be a great way to learn about UNIX. Many groups sponsor meetings, which often include a guest speaker as well as a forum to share ideas and experiences. There are literally hundreds of UNIX user groups in existence worldwide, so to list them here would not be practical. However, an excellent listing of UNIX user groups can be found by visiting http://www.sluug.org/~newton/othr_uug.html.

Professional Associations

There are many professional associations that are dedicated to the discussion and advancement of UNIX and Open Systems. This section gives information about some of the larger groups.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to privacy and free expression, including social responsibility, for online media. For anyone interested in encryption, the Internet, and legal issues, this site is a must.

For more information, including membership, contact them at http://www.eff.org, or at the following:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation

1550 Bryant Street, Suite 725

San Francisco CA 94103-4832 USA

Phone: (415) 436-9333

Fax: (415) 436-9993

Email: ask@eff.org

The Open Group

The Open Group, consisting of X/Open and the OSF (Open Software Foundation), is an international consortium of vendors and end-users from many disciplines, including industry, government, and academia. It is dedicated to the advancement of multivendor information systems. The group is actively involved in creating UNIX standards that incorporate widely accepted practices. For more information about The Open Group, including membership information, see their web site at http://www.osf.org.


USENIX is the advanced computing system's technical and professional association. Since 1975, Usenix has supported the presentation and discussion of advanced developments in all aspects of computing. Each year, the association sponsors a number of conferences, symposia, and workshops covering a wide variety of topics. Their conferences are usually well attended, and are aimed at the UNIX developer and researcher. USENIX also has a number of programs for colleges and universities, including student research grants, undergraduate software projects, scholarship programs, and student stipends so that students can attend USENIX events. They also provide a discount to the yearly dues for students.

USENIX also sponsors a technical group called SAGE (System Administrator's Guild). SAGE is an organization dedicated to the system administration profession. They publish a number of excellent booklets and pamphlets with practical information on system administration. They also publish a bi-monthly newsletter with useful tips for system administrators.

For more information, you can contact USENIX at http://www.usenix.org. In addition to membership information, you will find a number of useful articles from their publication, ";login:," as well as papers published at previous conferences.

You can also contact USENIX with the following information:

The USENIX Association

2560 Ninth Street, Suite 215

Berkeley, CA 94710 USA

Email: office@usenix.org

Phone: (510) 528-8649

Fax: (510) 548-5738


UniForum is a professional association aimed at promoting the benefits and practices of open systems. Its members come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including engineers, developers, system administrators, system integrators, MIS directors, and CIOs. One of their stated goals is to provide a vendor-neutral approach to the evaluation and development of open systems. Each year, they sponsor a number a high quality conferences and seminars. They also provide a number of technical publications that help you to understand open systems technologies. For example, you can access their online newsletter "UniNews Online," through their web site (http:/www.uniforum.org). They have a number of excellent technical articles on their web site as well. Perhaps their most popular publication is the Open Systems Products Directory. It contains a description of thousands of open systems products and services, and is free of charge to members.

For more information about UniForum, including how to become a member, contact them at http://www.uniforum.com, or at the following address or phone number:

UniForum Association

10440 Shaker Drive, Suite 203

Columbia, MD 21046

(410) 715-9500

(800) 255-5620 (US Only)

The X Consortium

This group was recently incorporated into The Open Group. It is dedicated to the X-Windows desktop environment and its role in the UNIX environment. It is a nonprofit organization for developing user interface standards and graphics technology in an open systems environment. For more information, including membership, visit their web site at http://www.x.org.


Several useful UNIX-related publications are available. Some are available free of charge for qualified individuals.

UNIX Review

UNIX Review is a monthly magazine that covers the latest in UNIX technologies. It contains useful information for both UNIX developers and administrators. The magazine covers many aspects of UNIX-based systems, including software, hardware, peripherals, and support services. You can subscribe to UNIX Review by filling out an online qualification form at their website (http://www.unixreview.com). In fact, you may qualify for a free subscription.

UNIX World

UNIX World is a subscription-free web-based magazine. It provides practical tutorials on a wide variety of subjects. It contains a handy online search facility for searching for articles in their archives. You can find UNIX World at http://www.unixworld.com/uworld.

Sys Admin

Sys Admin magazine focuses on UNIX system administration. It provides in-depth coverage of multiple versions of UNIX on a variety of platforms. It covers a number of topics, including system monitoring, system security, backup and recovery, crash recovery, shell scripting, and X-Windows. You can subscribe to Sys Admin by filling out the subscription form on their web page at http://www.samag.com.

Sun World

This is an online magazine with a focus on Sun products and services. Each month, it contains many practical articles for users and system administrators alike, such as the column "UNIX 101." It also provides a means to search for back issues by keyword. You can access the magazine at http://www.sun.com/sunworldonline/index.html.


This is another magazine dedicated to the Solaris flavor of UNIX. Monthly columns include "Ask Mr. Protocol," "UNIX Basics," and "System Administration." It recently merged with another UNIX publication entitled RS/magazine. It is free of charge to qualified readers. For subscription information, visit http://www.netline.com/sunex/sunex.main.html.


This section has presented a number of additional resources for learning UNIX. The manual pages are a good place to start; they usually contain a description of each command and service on the system. Given the popularity of UNIX, a number of other resources are available to help you become a UNIX expert. The Internet contains a great deal of information, including tutorials, news groups, UNIX FAQ lists, and online publications. There are also a number of user groups and organizations dedicated to the pursuit and sharing of knowledge.


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