Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Linux shell, a new user's friend?

Paul made another post yesterday, about the merits of the Linux text shell, and whether it was an ideal interface for new Linux users to have to learn.

So, they say that Linux forces users to learn how to use the shell and that, basically, Linux can't do anything without it.
It is a common argument made by Windows advocates, that it is impossible to use Linux without using the shell. I am glad to say, this is just not true.

Everyone knows that Linux grew from a shell-only interface, X and GUI applications came (much) later. Over the years Linux gained an image of being the hacker's operating system. It is far easier to hack (NOT 'crack') than Windows is.

Linux is growing beyond that now. Distributions (yes, I am saying it again) such as Ubuntu are doing their best to keep the shell to only those people that want it, and not require the people who don't to use it. In reality it is perfectly possible to use an Ubuntu system without knowing anything about the shell. There are graphical applications for practically any task you need to perform. I believe a little more could be done (ie. a GUI way to run programs as root), but still we are practically there already. One problem is that Linux tutorials nearly always show only shell way of doing things. This is at least better than Windows where a long how-to like this ("Click this tab, tick that box, click ok, oh, and again, and again...") could usually be done in a single command that could be copied and pasted.
Are shells good or not?
Yes, yes they are. There is no doubting the power of the shell. It is pretty easy to get started, you don't have to be a computer expert either. Knowing how to use the shell can help you take advantage of certain features in Linux that make it better than other operating systems - the possibility to bring it back to life from practically any crashed state, without data loss, and nearly always without rebooting. (Perhaps a simple how-to on this topic is in order... :) )


Sebastian said...

You can hate text shells all you want but if you stick with Linux, you'll learn how to use it eventually ;). - you might end up using it more than you think, regardless how abstracted the shell might become... I believe so.

Karl L. Gechlik said...

Its all about the shell in linux just like its all about the command prompt in windows. I just found your site and I really dig it. Thanks keep up the great work.

Karl G.

Sebastian said...

I believe there's a shell on Windows too :D

Unfortunately for M$, knowledgeable people choose to change that shell with something better.

Now on Linux, how many people have problems with their default shell? :P