I remember hearing that Linux was powerful, but nobody every really said it
was easy. The thing is, Linux is actually quite easy, if you are willing
The reason it is easy is that the learning you have to do is all about very
tiny and easy to understand pieces. It can be intimidating to learn them
if you try all at once, but a lot of fun if you take them one at a time.
The real fun is when one day you realize you are reinstalling a complete
operating system, but all of the machines are up, even the machine that is
getting the new OS, and that you did not have to read a HOW-TO, you made up
the procedure yourself. Here goes:
-> First, a little tool called "screen" that somebody here first
mentioned to me. Simply put, you type "screen" at a prompt and you
get .... another prompt! But this prompt is "inside" of the screen
program. Hit CTRL-A D and you have detached from this session.
Type in screen -R and you reattach. Hmmmm, so if you did something
time-consuming, like a compile, inside of screen, you could detach
and walk away while it hums a long in the background. Nice.
-> Plain old ssh, the secure remote access program. If you ssh into a
machine, you have a text console. Now if you ssh and then use
screen, then detach, you can ssh the next time from a different machine,
re-attach to your screen session, and you have effective control of
the process from anywhere.
-> su. A simple tool that allows you to "go root". You do your normal
tasks in your regular account, and when necessary you "go root" to
perform tasks that require elevated priveleges. With ssh and su, you
can prohibit root logins to a box, but still login and administer.
Combine su, screen, and ssh, and you have complete and secure control
over a box from anywhere in the world.
-> chroot. There is no analog to this in the windows world that I know
of (That's an invitation, Erik). Basically, you can go to a prompt
and then tell it that /some/sub/directory is actually the top-level
root directory. If you have populated /some/sub/directory with folders
like /bin, /sbin, /etc, and so forth, you have a simulated virtual
So I ssh'd into my internet machine, which is running SuSE, went to screen,
mounted a partition, chroot'd into it, unpacked the gentoo stage 1 tarball,
and began the bootstrap, then disconnected. In a few hours I'll check up
on it, from wherever I happen to be at the moment.
When it is all done, I'll emerge the various internet services I make use
of, and then begin moving data files.
My goal this time is affect a complete operating system switch, including
upgrades to all relevant utilities (mail, webmail, apache, mod_ssl, etc.)
with less than 30 minutes of downtime.
If this were a professional setting I would of course have a second box to
slip in, but I figure this is pretty good for a hobby situation.