Getting comfortable with the CLI

For two of my classes (C++/C and more Java) this semester, I’ll be diving into the CLI. If you’ve read my other site (Jane Talks Tech!), you’ll know that I’ve been exposed to the Linux but for the most part, my stomping grounds have been the Microsoft Windows OS. Typing commands is something I haven’t done a lot of but now, I have an added incentive to learn how to use the terminal and the Unix environment!

The first thing I did was image my notebook using Acronis True Image. Then, I installed Ubuntu Oneiric on the entire disk. I have learned that the best way for me to learn is total immersion so that’s why I went for Ubuntu as my main OS and using VirtualBox to add any other OSes as needed. I had it the other way around i.e. Windows 7 as the main OS and Ubuntu as a VM but it wasn’t quite the same.

After importing my files, I’ve decided that I create way too many folders for my own good but it helps with organization. So as a shortcut, I installed nautilus-open-terminal which will let me open a terminal in whatever folder/directory I am browsing. This has saved a lot of unnecessary cd-ing commands and my fingers love me for it. 🙂 I would like to give a serious shout-out to the people who write the documentation at help.ubuntu.com. Besides the man page, the Ubuntu help site has been invaluable for simply finding the right commands to figuring out how to make my external monitor work with Ubuntu

Beyond getting comfortable with the CLI, we are actively making use of text editors and have been encouraged to use either vi or emacs. I selected emacs (for now) and so far, I have learned the key commands to be able to work well. All that needs to happen now is for the shortcut keys to become second nature. 🙂 Emacs integrates quite nicely into nautilus so that all I need to do is rightclick a file to edit it in Emacs. Of course, I could cd to the file and type “emacs filename” but I’ve quickly found out that unless I quit the file, I can’t use that particular terminal for anything else! Hence, my preference for navigating to the file in nautilus and rightclicking to edit in emacs. Please feel free to correct me if I’ve been “doing it wrong”. 🙂

Update (1/26): A way to start emacs from the terminal and get a Unix prompt back is to type: emacs & .Awesome. 🙂 

I’ve also been learning about make (really Makefiles which are a nifty way to compile & build executables). At first, I pooh-poohed the idea and wondered how hard typing “javac filename.java” was. However, as software applications increase in complexity and require more dependencies, having a Makefile totally makes sense. It’s quite powerful and I am sure I’ll become very intimate with its quirks.

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