STC Announcement        Skills You Learn

Announcement from

Wednesday, November 3, 1999

Unix/Linux/Windows NT Live Demonstration and Training Session
[Walk-ins Welcome]

Thomas Albert and Marina Krakovsky will provide gentle, easy training in the latest operating system environments that technical communicators face. In a lively, interactive format, they will present a conceptual overview of operating system functions and trends, including the explosion of Linux popularity. The training sessions assumes only a rudimentary knowledge of Windows 95; no prior experience with Windows NT or Unix/Linux is required. The facilitators will show demos of the tasks technical writers use in their daily work which include:

Date: Wednesday, November 3, 1999
Time: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Location: Sunnyvale Hilton Hotel 
Cost: Members $35.00, Non-members $45.00 
Snack and beverage included

Thomas Albert, Ph.D., is a technical writer at Rational Software and also teaches for the University of California at Berkeley Extension. His web site is
Marina Krakovsky is a veteran freelance technical communication consultant, author of Prentice Hall’s Understanding the Oracle Server, and an instructor for UC Berkeley Extension. She can be reached at .


Skills You Learn

Importance of UNIX to technical communicators
  • documenting Unix products
  • using FrameMaker in a Unix environment
Continuum of Ease-of-Use versus Command-Line Customization and Power

OS-continuum.gif (4618 bytes)

What is the UNIX operating system? [topology of kernel versus shell]

OS-topology.gif (6055 bytes)

Why UNIX? (Main features)
  • stable (kernel isolated from shell and applications)
  • scalable (symmetric multiprocessing and parallel processing)
  • secure (administrator password not broadcasted when adding a new machine)
  • multi-user (assumes a network)
  • configurable (compare driving a standard transmission stick shift to an automatic)
  • scripting
  • diagnostic detail for startup and shutdown
  • file-centric, even for devices and remote computers
  • novice hostile/expert friendly
UNIX culture
  • decentralized, impartial peer review fosters quality and reliability--the creative anarchy of the open bazaar versus the sterile centralization of the closed cathedral
  • a culture of text, not pictures (Windows): "UNIX as Literature":
  • open source movement, GNU, copyleft
  • crazy quilt of contributions from research labs, universities, corporations, and private individuals
  • cryptic, idiosynchratic naming "conventions"
    • straightforward: clear, find, sort, compress/uncompress, mail, script, which, vacation, who, whoami
    • shorten: man, cal, cat, diff, cmp, spell, telnet, passwd, cp, mv
    • acronym: cd, ls, pwd, mkdir, rm, rmdir, ftp, tar, vi, grep, egrep, fgrep, df, du, ps, su, rlogin
    • metaphor/metonymy: tr, at, more, unique, strings, nice, top, touch, kill, bang (!), splat or star (*)
    • contrast: more vs less; head vs tail; pine vs elm, Bourne shell vs bash (born again shell)
    • resort to foreign language (apropos)
    • multiple, inconsistent meanings for common symbols (/, $, ., @, &)
The special case of GNU/Linux
  • world's first operating system package developed in large part over the internet
  • blends Windows focus on the Intel PC with Unix power
    • converts your "Wintel" PC into a Unix-like Workstation (Intel stays "Inside", but Windows goes)
    • Intel, Compaq, Dell, Silicon Graphics, Corel--all invest in Linux
    • Sun copycats Linux by offering Open Source StarOffice
  • cultural revolution as well as a rapidly evolving product
  • part of the paradigm shift from software products to software-related services (support, distribution, ASPs)


What are things you normally do on a computer (Windows, Mac)?
  • work with files: find, edit, save, print

understanding the hierarchical file structure (root directory, home directory, /bin, /etc, /usr)

navigating the hierarchical file structure "tree"

  • absolute file names (/)
  • relative file names (cd ../..)

pwd (print working directory)

mkdir (make directory)

ls (ls -F --color for the Linux bash shell) shows directories in blue with /; executables in green with *; symbolic links (shortcuts) in teal with @.

linux-ls.gif (9947 bytes)

cd (change directory using relative or absolute argument)

which [to find the path of a command]

directory-structure.gif (8085 bytes)
Manipulating files
  • cp (copy a file)
  • mv (move file to another directory and/or rename file)
  • cat (display contents or concatenate files)
  • more (view screenful of a file)
    • less is more than more!
  • touch (create an empty file)
  • rm (remove)
UNIX command syntax (general)
  • switches
  • arguments
  • wildcards (*, ?)
more advanced commands
  • find
  • grep (fgrep, egrep, regular expressions)
  • script
  • history [Korn vs bash]
  • ps -el or ps -aux to show processes


redirection of input and output
  • > output of a command to a file
  • < input to a command from a file
  • >> append output to a file
  • creating a "pipeline" of multiple commands
  • the output of command 1 is the input for command 2
  • example: ls | more
  • Bourne (integral to Unix; required for the root user)
  • Korn
    • most widespread shell
    • history uses -r
  • C (invented by Berkeley, closer to the C programming language)
    • popular in Silicon Valley
    • history uses ! (bang)
  • tcsh (enhanced C shell)
  • bash (integral to Linux; required for the root user, supports color)
editors (vi, emacs, GUI editors) Marina
sample shell scripts Marina


how to access
  • man vs apropos
  • Unix In A Nutshell vs man pages
  • MKS Toolkit and Linux have shorter, friendlier man pages
sections and structure
  • sections: 1 for user commands; 5 for miscellaneous
  • Solaris structure: section and date of last change; name of command; synopsis; description; options; usage; environment variables; exit status (error value); files (associated with the command); attributes; see also; notes; bugs
  • MKS Toolkit structure: section; copyright date; name of command, synopsis, description, environment variables, diagnostics, portability, see also
grep'ing to find key words Thomas
interpreting the reference material Thomas
what to read (example), what not to read Thomas


software (getting your hands on UNIX Thomas
  • Practical guide for installation and use
    • Running Linux, 2nd ed., Matt Welsh and Lar Kaufman (1966), O'Reilly, ISBN 1565921518, $30.
  • References for commands
    • UNIX In A Nutshell
    • Linux In A Nutshell
  • Visual Quickstart Guide UNIX
  • SAMS Teach Yourself UNIX in 24 Hours or SAMS Teach Yourself Linux in 24 Hours
  • UNIX for DOS Users
  • Side-by-Side Comparision of Operating System Tasks (well organized and clear)
    • Solaris Guide for Windows NT Administrators, Tom Bialaski, Sun Microsystems Press, 1999; ISBN 0130258547, $28.
  • Technical Communication in the UNIX Environment -- UC Berkeley Extension EDP 313056 
    Feb. 12 to March 11 in downtown SF -- taught by Thomas Albert/Marina Krakovsky
  • College and University Extension introductory and intermediate UNIX classes
  • UNIX system administrator classes
  • online UNIX classes, such as   (Texas State: $185)
handout (print this web page)



copyright August-November 1999 Thomas Albert and Marina Krakovsky