3 Methods of Linux System Administration and Why Linux Commands Are Best – Linux Training Online

When you are a new user needing to get Linux training, it is often confusing to decide what to focus on.

Should you learn how to use Linux for just one distribution (a.k.a. version, distro)?

Should you focus on learning GUI utilities – or should you learn Linux commands for doing system administration?

Linux Commands Training Tips: The Linux System Administration concepts and commands covered here apply to ALL Linux distros, including: Red Hat, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Slackware, Debian, Fedora, SUSE and openSUSE.

3 Methods of Linux System Administration and Why Using Linux Commands is the Best Method

1. Using Linux GUI utilities for System Administration

Many Linux distributions have “point-and-click” GUI (graphical user interface) utilities that allow you to do common and popular tasks, like manage the file system, create Linux users, and manage user and group permissions.

However, these GUI utilities are usually specific to a single Linux distribution.

So, learning how to use a Linux GUI in one distro is basically useless if you have to use a different one later, or if you’re working in an environment with multiple Linux distributions.

Linux Training Tips: To run a GUI utility, you need to have a desktop installed and sometimes one isn’t installed on a Linux server because it isn’t needed. In addition to this, the Linux system administration pros only use commands because GUI utilities are too slow to run and time-consuming to use.

2. Doing Linux System Administration Tasks with Commands that are Specific to a Distribution

The major (popular) Linux distributions all have several commands that are specific to that single distribution. In other words, for each popular distro, there are several commands that are specific that just that version.

For example, a Linux distribution will likely have a command that is used to manage partitions (disk space) and this command is specific to that distribution.

Learning how to use commands that are only available on a single distribution is a huge waste of time – if there is an equivalent GNU / Linux command – and there almost always is.

For example, the Linux fdisk command is a GNU command that is used to manage the partitions on a system and this command exists on all distributions.

So, rather than learn a command that is specific to a single Linux distribution, learn the GNU commands because these commands are common to all distributions.

3. Using Linux Commands that are Common to All Distributions – The GNU Commands

The GNU commands are the most popular Linux commands – and they are common to all distributions.

Linux Training Tips: Linux distributions are rising and falling in popularity all the time.

If you just learn how to use Linux by running the GUI utilities in one distro, and then you stop using that distro, then you have to learn all the GUI utilities of the next distro. If you learn how to use commands, then you learn how to use Linux for all distros!

How can you tell which commands are the GNU / Linux commands?

Get an excellent set of videos that shows you the popular GNU commands and then try these Linux commands yourself. Then you can learn Linux the easy way – by watching it and then working with it!

Brief Introduction to the Plan-9 Operating System

Plan 9 is a distributed operating system made by Bell Labs. The OS is free and open source. Plan 9 is similar to Unix in some ways, but Plan 9 is meant to be an improvement to Unix and POSIX.

FUN FACT: The mascot for Plan 9 is a rabbit named “Glenda”.

Plan 9 has some features familiar to Unix users. For instance, Plan 9 uses ProcFS and applies the “everything is a file” concept. However, applications from Unix, Linux, and other systems do not work on Plan 9. Some Linux software works on the Linux emulator (linuxemu). Although, the emulator is not yet complete.

The default shell is “rc”. Many of the usual Unix commands (like ls, cp, rm, etc.) can be used. However, despite the same names, the code used to make these commands are entirely different. Plan 9 does not use any GNU software, neither will any work with help from linuxemu. rc is similar to Bash. However, there are some differences. While Bash’s syntax is ALGOL-like, rc uses C-like syntax.

A GUI is also available to Plan 9 named “rio”. rio is a windowing system. rio does not rely on display servers (such as X11). In fact, rio functions as a display server and window manager. rio supports the alpha bit (transparency).

Plan 9 uses a hybrid kernel which has attributes of both monolithic kernels and microkernels. The kernel supports a variety of platforms such as x86, x86-64, MIPS, SPARC, etc.. Plan 9 has also been ported to ARM platforms such as the Raspberry Pi motherboard.

A hybrid kernel has characteristics of both microkernels and monolithic kernels. Inter-Process Communication (IPC), thread management, filesystems, and drivers reside in the kernel space.

Plan 9 is best known for its 9P network protocol. 9P (also called Styx or “Plan 9 Filesystem Protocol”) also serves as a communications protocol between the internal components of the system. The fourth edition of Plan 9 introduced a modified 9P protocol called 9P2000.

FUN FACT: The Styx protocol used in the Inferno operating system is a variant of 9P.

To avoid confusion, it may help to know a little about the Inferno operating system, which is sometimes mistaken as some form of Plan 9. Inferno is a distributed operating system originally made by Bell Labs (like Plan 9), but is now maintained by Vita Nuova. Inferno is neither Unix or POSIX and its primary use is to be a programming environment for the Limbo programming language. Inferno is not a typical operating system. Rather, its kernel is a virtual machine called “dis” that runs on a pre-existing OS (such as Linux, Windows, Plan 9, FreeBSD, etc.).

Distributed File System Or Centralized File Systems?

Many professionals, especially engineers and architects are working from home offices or collaborating with small teams no longer centralized in a home office location, but rather spread all over the country. How does the engineer in Philadelphia share large CAD files with the General Contractor who is doing the project in Tampa? The old system was to use FTP technology, but there are two key problems with this methodology.

  • The files are large and take a long time to upload and download.
  • The files can have revision issues if two people decide to edit the same file at once.

So, IT professionals have to make decisions. Do they employ a solution like SharePoint for the potential of “File Locking” — technically it is a check in and check out system. Do they invest tens of thousands of dollars at each site for WAN Optimization? Are there other technologies they can use?

The most prevalent solution to these problems is to employ a distributed file system. A distributed file system allows the files to all be “distributed” to each user so that the download time is minimal and changes are merely replicated out to the other users of the files. It works slick when employed properly. There is the speed of the local networks for the opening of the files without the WAN optimization costs and there is the file locking capacity if employed with the right 3rd party software solution.

If your organization has been trying to figure out how to share large files, your group should consider a distributed file system.