Using Linux at Work

02.24.10

Use Linux at work—even if your PC runs Windows.

When I started using Linux, I wondered when I would get to actually use it “on the job”.  It wasn’t easy sometimes to work with a Windows-based computer—when there’s a skill set available that can help you do things faster on the computer.  This skill set is the Linux command shell, but as mentioned your computer runs Microsoft Windows.  What can you do??

At one job, I was able to install Perl.  At another job one had to submit a request (with business justification) to add software to a workstation.  Instead of Perl I thought “why not Python?”  Since both times it was a Windows XP Environment, I used the DOS command line (or “CMD” app) to execute the Perl or Python programs.

I used the DOS CMD because (at that time) I did not know about Cygwin.  Using the DOS CMD to execute programs is easy.  The difficult part is dealing with case-insensitivity (which hurts portability) and using a shell to navigate folders with spaces in the names is a real pain.

Using the DOS shell to execute programs is not the same as using Cygwin.  Cygwin is command shell that emulates a working Linux environment.  Installing Cygwin with the base packages is simple and will provide a good “starting point” for learning some shell commands.

Want to use Linux but your work computer is Mac OS-X?

OS-X (like Linux) is Unix-based.  It has a shell that’s known as “Terminal” and it is in the Applications/Utilities folder.  You can also (if the OS is 10.5 or later) use keystrokes (apple + Space bar) to show the “spotlight search” box at the top right and start typing Terminal.  When search finds “Terminal” then press ENTER and voila!  Say hello to the Darwin Terminal.

Darwin handles the basic stuff really well.  It’s capable of helping you learn Shell commands.  But it doesn’t do everything that a regular Linux distro does.  Darwin’s limits can be overcome by installing apps and libraries.  Most likely you will need your System Administrator’s help to get and install X11, MacPorts, or Fink to augment the BSD-derived Darwin environment.

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