Applications Command Line (CLI) Using Linux

Burning Music CD Backup is not simple

Recently, I needed to backup a Music CD with my Linux OS.  Sadly, this was not simple.  This post discusses using Linux to back up a music cd. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t intend to promote or sell my backups.  Yes, I am aware that

  • On Mac and Windows, music cd backup woes aren’t worth discussing since easily-obtainable programs exist
  • This is an area of computer use that can raise eyebrows

Why backup our music CDs?

Safekeeping in a familiar location; your personal computer

If I backed up my Led Zeppelin CD “In Through the Out Door”, then I wouldn’t be upset about it (it’s missing). Of course, music CDs are not as expensive as they were before the days of digital purchase, digital download, and youtube, but it’s the principal of it.

Easily encode & transfer music for different formats & players

For example, you make a digital backup of “In Through the Out Door”. Your wife wants to listen to it on her iPad in high quality audio format.  Your nephew would also like to listen to it, but has limited audio file type support and less storage space on his iPod Touch.  With a full digital backup of the cd, you can easily encode the songs to satisfy both requirements without having to take the original music cd out of its case multiple times.

You covered “why”, ? “how”

I will first give citation to the source of the solution that worked for me. See the first post from user noz in How to dump an Audio CD to ISO from the freebsd forums for the instructions. I found a “gotcha” (possibly) overlooked in the “Playing it” section;  Note: Playing the BIN without conversion will give you an earful of static.  This is notable, it also applies to the burn process.  You want to burn the converted (not original) bin file.  I got this wrong the first time. To avoid the mistake the 2nd time, I did the following:

  • Kept the file names the same for both original and converted bin files.
  • Used sed to replace the source (in TOC) to the converted bin file. Sed was quicker than a GUI text editor to accomplish same [find/replace] task.

For example, if your original bin = in-out-door.bin, converted bin = in-out-door-converted.bin, and TOC file is in-out-door.toc

sed -i -e ‘s/in-out-door.bin/in-out-door-converted.bin/’ in-out-door.toc

You might prefer to rename the .bin files and leave the toc as-is. It’s up to you.

Applications Command Line (CLI) Web Development

Favorite CLI Linux Apps: php5cli

php5cli runs PHP commands in a shell

PHP is a scripting language used on many websites.  It allows a page to do “dynamic” things (such as changing a page’s appearance based on user input, time or date, etc.)

One of the things I do wtih php5cli (or php in the shell) is check a PHP script for errors.  This saves you the trouble of running your PHP-based web page in a browser (which may have bad side effects).  ??Bad side effects?? Sure, what if your page is supposed to overwrite a file, and then hits an error.  It may erase a perfectly-good file.  Ok, enough gloom and doom talk.  Let’s say you wanted to check “myPHPscript.php” for errors. Run the following command in a shell to check it for errors before it runs/executes.  The option is a lowercase L (l) not a digit.

php -l myPHPscript.php

Another good use of PHP in a terminal is to generate HTML code.  There’s a certain frustration in coding up an entire web site, and then needing to go back and make a change across all your pages.  A time (and headache) saver is to let PHP do the “heavy lifting” for you.  What does this mean?

Basically, you set up a series of instructions for a script to follow.  Then, based on your needs, you make the script “write” different output based on a variable whose value may change.  Sometimes this involves changing the size of table cells, but it could apply to writing an entire series of web pages.  It comes in way handy when you’re looping over database results (and deciding to print the 2nd line of an address to the page).

In summary, when you’d have to change the same attribute in many, many places, and change them a few times, manually finding the attribute (for example a web link), you don’t have to manually (not mention “tediously”) hunt for the item(s) you want to change.  Install php5cli with Synaptic (or other) package manager. This installs any needed dependencies.

Applications Command Line (CLI) Using Linux Your Choice

Favorite CLI Linux Apps: Guake

Guake and Yakuake are drop-down terminal shells

Guake, or (if it’s a K Desktop Environment) Yakuake are “drop-down terminal shells” that appear when you press a button (usually F12).

If you usually open a terminal with every log in to your Linux desktop, there’s a more convenient (not to mention laaazy) way.  Simply tell the OS to run Guake after your user’s successful login. In Openbox, you’d add it to your file

The Guake terminal will notify you that it has started, and then auto-hides itself until you “un-hide it” by pressing the F12 key.  When you’re done with your current command-line stuff, simply press F12 again and Guake gets out of your way.

Applications Command Line (CLI) Using Linux Your Choice

Favorite CLI Linux Apps: Lynx

Lynx is a text-only web browser that runs in the shell.

Lynx is useful tool for those times when you want to extract only the web links from a web page.  Install lynx using the Synaptic (or other) package manager.

To view the hyperlinks of a given web page ( in this example), issue the command

lynx -dump

It can also behave in a similar way to wget when you want to view the HTML source code of a web page.  The command to view the HTML source code is

lynx -source

Click the following link to view a post where we collected links to mp3 files to build an unattended download list for the wget command.  Another feature of Lynx is that it allows you to view your pages as a web crawler/robot such as googlebot might see them.

Command Line (CLI) Using Linux

The linux find command

Using the find command to find and move files

Today I’d like to discuss one of my favorite shell commands: find.
find is awesome.  It locates files on your unix/linux system by using options and criteria.

Many of us are familiar with using the Microsoft Windows “Search Tool” in XP to Find Files or Folders, files by date, etc.  Finding a file this way involves populating text fields, drop-down menus, and (possibly) date-range selectors to find the files you’re looking for.

In unix and linux, the find command is used like this:

find [directory to search] [options] [actions]

Here’s a find command example.  Let’s say we want to find .mp3 files within your “Music” folder (/home/yourName/Music).  For this example, let’s pretend that you have the following files: song1.mp3, song1.wav, song2.mp3, song2.wav, song3.mp3, and song3.wav.

To find files in the Music directory, the command is: [don’t type the dollar sign- it’s the prompt, start typing at the word “find”.]

$ find Music/ -type f [press ENTER]

We used the “-type f” option to find a regular file and not a directory.  The output (above) shows that we have media files (mp3 and wav) in the Music folder.  Remember we’re not interested in listing files so much as performing a ‘find’ on them.

On a Linux system you can use a GUI program to find files, but you can find them faster using the find command.  With its many options, find’s power is in its flexibility.  Flexibility to do what??? Finding files is finding files, right? Yes, I suppose so.

But what if you wanted to perform an action on files that you find? In Windows you’d have to first find them, navigate to them, and then (possibly) perform actions on them one file at a time.  While the steps are few, they can be manual and tedious, thus begging for a shortcut.

Let’s take our example a step further.  Let’s filter the command to only find ‘mp3’ files.  We’ll add the “-name” option to search wildcard patterns for files ending in mp3.

$ find Music/ -type f -name "*mp3"

If you wanted to find only the .wav files, then you’d change *mp3 to *wav.  Now let’s use find to move files to another folder.  For the sake of neatness, let’s create 2 sub-folders (also known as sub-directories) to hold mp3 files and a separate sub-folder for wav files.

To create a new directory use mkdir [folderPath].  If you do not specify a folder path, the shell creates the directory within the current working folder.  More on “current working folder” later.  For now, let’s assume that you’re in the “home/yourName” folder.

Creating folders “Music/mp3” and “Music/wav” requires 2 identical commands.  However, you can create 2 sub-directories in the “Music” folder with the command below.

mkdir Music/{mp3,wav}

Brackets tell the shell to expect a sequence of characters.  The comma separates each new directory.  This is the same as issuing mkdir Music/mp3 and mkdir Music/wav.

With the sub-folders created, we have a neater storage arrangement for our music files.  But we’re not done yet.  Remember that our “Music” folder currently stores both mp3 and wav files.  Let’s move each type into their respective sub-directory.  To make this happen we add an action onto our command known as “-exec” (followed by the “command terminator” \;) and the mv command to move the files as seen in the example below:

mv fileOldLocation fileNewLocation

Note: mv also renames files and can overwrite them—so use caution because mv actions cannot be undone.  For safety, use mv -i which is interactive in the event of a possible naming conflict or unintentional overwrite—it may save you anguish.

We then add brackets {}, BUT brackets behave differently in this context.  When brackets are part of -exec they represent each found file.  Also, when moving a file to another directory, put the trailing slash / on the target directory name.

To move the mp3 files from directory level “Music” to “Music/mp3” issue this command:

$ find Music/ -type f -name "*mp3" -exec mv -i {} Music/mp3/ \;

Since there weren’t any files in Music/mp3 we didn’t get any warnings from mv -i
Result: mp3 files moved from /home/yourName/Music to /home/yourName/Music/mp3/

To check it, you can use the ls command in the shell to “list” files in a given directory

$ ls Music/mp3/
song1.mp3  song2.mp3  song3.mp3

To move the wav files from directory level “Music” to “Music/wav” issue this command:

$ find Music/ -type f -name "*wav" -exec mv -i {} Music/wav/ \;
$ ls Music/wav/
 song1.wav  song2.wav  song3.wav


  • find (and its options) allow you to find files and perform actions on the found items
  • mkdir allows you to create new directories
  • ls lists files (and directories, subdirectories) within folder(s)
  • mv moves or renames files
Applications Command Line (CLI) Using Linux

Download several files: part 2

In an earlier post we used wget to download a single image file, and then used it to get all of the ‘gif’ and ‘jpg’ files from a single command.  Multi-download commands of this type are helpful when you know the URL and exact directory where the image files exist.  Let’s now take it a step further, and get lazy too.  Lazy?? Yes, lazy.  Since we’re looking to use Linux for time-saving shortcuts, the less work we have to do to get to accomplish our task, the better.

As previously mentioned, I like podcasts.   Podcasts are (usually) available in an RSS feed in the form of a web URL.  Programs such as ITunes, Amarok, Rhythmbox (or other) use feed URLs to get info about the available audio files and you can manually download them or set up preferences that do this for you.

We’re going to look at this from a “get me all the files—now” approach using the Linux command line.

To perform a multi-file “unattended” download…

  1. Make sure that “lynx” (a terminal-based web browser) is installed.  To check if lynx is installed, type which lynx at the prompt.  If the shell responds with nothing but the next prompt, then it’s not installed.  To install lynx and you’re on a debian-based OS such as Ubuntu (or similar) type “sudo aptitude install lynx” at the prompt.  If you’re using a redhat-based system type “yum install lynx” to accomplish the same.   When lynx is installed, the shell will return the executable path of lynx (it might appear as /usr/local/bin/lynx) when you type “which lynx” at your prompt.
  2. Make sure you have wget installed.  In the terminal, type “which wget” and see what the shell returns.  If it’s not on your system then install it.  Items one and two only have to be done once, if at all.  I think wget will be there, but  lynx is probably not included out of the box at install time.
  3. A URL (or RSS feed URL) where the desired files exist.

Here’s our practical example.  Let’s download all the mp3 files at Steven J. Cohen’s “Doctor Who” RSS Feed. You should view this link in a web browser to make sure that the page/feed is still there.

Time for a “trial-run” (this next command will not download, just list the mp3 files at the Feed URL).

lynx -dump | egrep -o "http:.*mp3"

lynx -dump [URL] returns a numbered list of web links from a given web page (for the complete HTML source, use lynx -source [URL]). Since we only want the links, (and not the numbering) we need to filter this list using the UNIX pipe character “|” and the search tool egrep -o [pattern].  We put in “http:.*mp3” as our pattern which will capture any link that starts with http and ends with mp3 (note the .* is a wildcard meaning `any character`). A word of caution. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to do a trial run so that you have an idea of what you will request for download and if your command will succeed in building the list properly.  This is a very important preliminary step.

Now, let’s do this for real.  The following command downloads files into the current directory of the shell.  So if you execute the command from “/home/myUserName/music” then the files get saved into “music”.

lynx -dump | egrep -o "http:.*mp3" | xargs -n1 wget

And that’s it.  The shell shows progress of each file as it downloads.  When it’s done with the first file, it downloads the next one, and so on.  It runs unattended, allowing you to do other things with your time.

To perform the “unattended” download of all the files specified in the list, we needed another pipe, and another command structure known as “xargs”.  Why xargs?  Sometimes the shell runs into a problem of having “too many arguments” in its list to act on.  xargs is your friend should this happen.

xargs [options] [command].  The option and the command work together as follows.  Option “-n1” directs the command “wget” to work one time per each url from the list resulting from the “lynx -dump” part of the command.  Like many shell commands, there’s usually more than one way to do it.

Applications Command Line (CLI) Using Linux

Download several files: part 1

How to use wget; download many files with one command.

A typical way to download a file is to “right-click” on it and “save as” to a folder on your computer.  Downloading a few files this way is not tedious.  But if an audio book has 25 to 30 files you can bet I don’t want to do those manual moves over and over again.

Using a terminal, there’s a faster way to download files.  I’ll introduce now one of my often-used commands: wget.  This command has many useful options.  For example, you can download files, set up custom directory structures for your download(s), or see if a file exists without actually downloading it.

Using the command (in simple terms): Open a terminal and type wget [options] [urls] at the prompt (usually a dollar sign).  You can use one or several URLs.  Options are (well…) optional.

Here’s a practical example where you can download a gif image from the O’Reilly site linked below.  When you open a Linux terminal, you are usually in your user’s “home” directory.  This is fine for the purpose of this example.  Issue the command


Here’s what will happen: the file 0596009305_bkt.gif gets downloaded and saved to your home folder.  Cool right? But it was a bit of work (typing) just to download one file.  How does this save me time?

Yes, the above example is overly-simplified.  You can, if you wish, download any “.gif” or “.jpg” files from a given web address in the example below.  It’s a time-saving single command, borrowed from the commandlinefu website mentioned in the “cool and advanced uses of wget” link below.

wget -r -l1 --no-parent -nH -nd -A".gif,.jpg"

*Change the “” to a valid web address.  The options above (explained) are:

  • -r for “recursive”
  • -l1 only get files in the “images” directory (don’t dive into subdirectories)
  • –no-parent and -nH and -nd : ignore directory structure (no directories—just get the files)
  • “-A” is the “accept list” for files of type [.gif and .jpg].  It’s case-sensitive, so it would not download files ending in “.JPG”, so if you needed those too, specify with -A”.gif,.jpg,.JPG”

You can find more wget info and options here.  For really cool and advanced uses of wget, see this page.

I’ll post another awesome usage of wget in another post.  Thanks for reading.

Command Line (CLI) Learning Linux Using Linux

Useful Commands: introduction

Learning useful shell commands help save time & effort.

Do you have to use the command line?  No, you don’t have to use it.  I didn’t use it much when I started using Linux.  But, in my opinion, learning useful shell commands helps you get the most out of Linux.

What are some benefits of using the Command Line?

  • When you need help from the Linux community, many helpful solutions are expressed as commands to be run in the terminal.  It’s done this way for simplicity, accuracy, and consistency.  Many graphical-based (GUI) programs are “front-ends” where a user triggers events (via menu choices & button clicks) that execute terminal-based commands in the background.
  • Many jobs in the IT and web development field require candidates to be comfortable on the command line.  This implies the ability to issue shell commands and use console-based text editors such as vi and emacs.  Some jobs will also require you to understand (and perhaps troubleshoot) pre-written shell scripts in many languages.
  • For repetitive tasks, using the command line is just plain faster.  Why wait for a GUI program to open, click on things, or browse for file(s) to manipulate one file at a time?  You could simply type one or more commands [and options] into a prompt to accomplish the same.  When you find yourself issuing the same commands a few times, it becomes apparent to save these command calls in a text-based file (a shell script) to make the process even faster.  More on this to come.
Command Line (CLI) Learning Linux Using Linux

Save time on tasks

Learning basic Linux commands helps save you time when working on repetitive tasks.

Imagine you had a folder of images in *.bmp format.  File sizes of bmps are larger than jpg files because they contain more information.  To convert these bmp files to jpgs you could open a .bmp file in a graphics program (such as photoshop), select processes (such as ‘save for web’), set the format to convert to, and finally, save the file “as” filename.jpg.  Converting each image takes about five to six “manual” steps, depending on how you opened the source files and where you save the destination files.  If you had a folder with 100 images, it becomes tedious repetition.  There are better ways to do this.

You could create a batch process or “macro” in your graphics app that lets you record the individual steps performed on a single image, and then point the macro at a folder of source images and a folder to save the converted images.  Photoshop has “batch processing” that handles this fine.  Other programs (such as THE GIMP) are “scriptable” but some knowledge of Python is probably a must.

So we now have a way to convert images en masse with a GUI app, but is it the most efficient way? Is it reusable? It is reusable but you’ll probably have to reset the macro/batch settings if your source and destination folders change the next time you had to convert a lot of images.

Is there a quicker way to accomplish the same thing more or less?  There is, in my opinion, a better way perform mass image conversion in a predictable, reliable way.  It requires the command line terminal and an application known as “ImageMagick“.

Using Linux (the bash shell and ImageMagick) here are the 2 steps:

1. Use the “cd” command to get to the directory that has the bmp images
2. Issue this command:  mogrify -format jpg *.bmp
The above command was found at and I thank them for posting it.  It accomplished in one line the same work as a 50-line shell script.
Result: All of your bmp files have been converted and saved-as jpgs in the same directory
Warning: the “mogrify” command usually replaces the source, but when changing formats, Imagemagick is intelligent enough not to destroy the original bmp file.

2a. To store the new files in a folder other than the source (e.g. “bmpFiles/jpgs”), add the -path option in front of -format.  The command becomes:  mogrify -path jpgs/ -format jpg *bmp
The folder specified by -path must first exist, or the command will fail.