Distributed Networks Home 

Advanced Unix Concepts - Glossary

A B C D  E F  G H I  J K L  M N O  P Q R  S T  U V W X Y Z 
UNIX is an operating system originally developed in the 1960s and 1970s by a group of AT&T Bell Labs employees including Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie.
UNIX was designed to be portable, multi-tasking and multi-user in a time-sharing configuration.
With the client/server framework splitting the computing environment into two (often, three) distinct parts, UNIX today is firmly entrenched as the operating system of choice for the server community.
Enterprise databases run on UNIX, and Oracle runs with full vigor on UNIX systems. Moreover, Internet Service Providers (ISP) use UNIX machines and UNIX remains the preferred platform for Web servers and electronic commerce.
absolute path name
An absolute path name is the address of a file or directory, specified with the root directory as the starting point.
access mode
The access mode is the first column of an ls -l listing. The access mode is composed of a file type followed by the user permissions, group permissions, and other permissions.
access string
An access string is the symbolic argument used with the chmod command.
Your account (or user account) is a unique environment within a UNIX system. An account comes with a user ID and a home directory.
An alias is a brief label that provides a command shortcut. For example, by defining an alias, you can execute a complex command by typing only a few characters of the alias.
An anchor is a metacharacter such as ^ or $ that restricts a match to a particular position.
Anonymous FTP
Anonymous FTP is a connection to a public FTP site without the use of an assigned user name and password. You enter the user name anonymous to sign on and your access is limited.
append redirection operator
Using the append redirection operator, >>, you can add output to the end of an existing file.
An archive is a set of files that are packaged as a single, large file.
Command arguments are the files, directories, or other objects that a command acts on.
A block is a unit of storage equal to 512 bytes.
A buffer is an area of memory where data are temporarily stored.
case sensitive
When a text search is case sensitive, the search treats uppercase and lowercase letters differently. If uppercase and lowercase letters are treated the same way, then the search is considered to be case in-sensitive.
command history
Command history is a C shell feature that lets you display previously entered commands, rerun them, or run modified versions of them.
command interpreter
Command interpreter is another term for the UNIX shell, because it processes the commands you enter.
command mode
Command mode is one of two modes of operation in vi. In command mode, you can move the cursor and issue editing commands, but you must switch to text mode to add text.
command-line interface
A command-line interface is one way of interacting with UNIX, in which you type commands at a prompt and the shell interprets them.
configuration options
Configuration options control vi's behavior. Use the :set command to manage these options.
Pressing Ctrl-C interrupts a command and returns you to the shell prompt. Ctrl-C is executed by holding down the Control key (labeled Ctrl) and pressing the C key.
current directory
Your current location in the file system. By default, UNIX commands apply to the current directory.
cwd variable
The cwd variable is a C shell variable that stores the name of your current working directory.
default printer
When you don't specify a printer name with your print command, the print request is sent to your default printer. The system administrator defines your default printer for you.
A directory contains files and other directories. A directory is like a folder on Macintosh or Windows.
directory tree
A directory tree is the set of all files and subdirectories organized under a particular directory.
disk usage
Disk usage is the amount of storage space your files occupy on the disk.
To download means to transfer data from a remote computer.
ex editor
ex is a line editor that serves as an underlying program for the vi editor. A line editor is a program in which you see only one line at a time.
To extract files from an archive means to copy them out of an archive and onto the filesystem.
A file is the basic unit of storage on UNIX, just as on any operating system.
file compression
File compression is a way of packing a file's contents more efficiently, so that the file takes up less disk space.
file owner
The file owner is typically the user who created the file. You can change permissions only on files you own.
File Transfer Protocol
The File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, is the set of communication rules that computers use to exchange files.
file type
The file type is the first character in an access mode. The most common file types are - for a regular file and d for a directory.
A filter can take input from another command, manipulate the data in some way, and produce output. Filters are regular UNIX commands. Examples include head, tail, more, pr, grep, and sort.
Abbreviation for File Transfer Protocol.
FTP session
When your computer connects to an FTP server, also called an FTP site, you are engaged in an FTP session.
Each time you click a glossary term, you'll see a window like this one displaying the term and its definition. To see the entire glossary, click “Show All Terms.”
A group allows an arbitrary set of users to share files. When a user is a member of the file's group, the user will have that file's group permissions.
group permissions
Group permissions are the second set of read/write/execute permissions in an access mode. Group permissions apply to users that are members of the file's group.
A GUI, short for graphical user interface, is a system of windows, menus, and icons that you can click and drag with a mouse. Operating systems such as Macintosh, Windows, and UNIX provide a GUI.
Hard link
A hard link is another name for a file.
hidden file
A hidden file starts with a dot (.) and is not seen unless you specify the -a option of ls. Hidden files usually contain preference settings that control your UNIX environment or the way certain commands behave.
hierarchical file system
A hierarchical file system is like an inverted tree. Files are organized in directories. Directories are contained in higher-level directories, and so on until you reach the top-level directory, called root.
history substitution
History substitution is one of the tasks you can perform using the command history feature. History substitution lets you replay all or part of a previous command.
history variable
The history variable is a C shell variable that stores the number of commands you want in your command history.
home directory
Your home directory is a unique place in the file system where you can store and create files.
input/output redirection
Input/output redirection is a feature that lets you change the normal location that UNIX reads input from or writes output to.
job control
Job control is a feature for managing multiple commands that are running. Job control lets you run a command behind the scenes, so you don't need to wait for the command to finish.
The kernel is the core of the UNIX operating system. The kernel remains hidden from typical users.
Keyboard macro
A keyboard macro lets you perform a sequence of vi commands as a single keystroke. Keyboard macros also are called keyboard maps because they are created using the :map command.
Korn shell
The Korn shell is a commonly used UNIX shell. It's a superset of the Bourne shell, and in the command line offers conveniences similar to those of the C shell.
line editor
A line editor is a primitive editing program in which you see only one line at a time. An example of a line editor is ex, the underlying program of vi.
A link is another name for a file. A link is similar to a Macintosh alias or a Windows shortcut.
local computer
In an FTP session, the local computer is the one from which you connect to an FTP server. The FTP server is the remote computer.
logging in
Logging in is the process of supplying your user ID and password to identify yourself to the system.
man page
A man page (short for manual page) is an online reference for a particular UNIX command.
A metacharacter is a character with special meaning in regular expressions and is not treated literally. Examples include the * and . metacharacters.
In vi, a multiplier is a number that you place before a movement command or editing command to extend the range of the command.
multiuser operating system
A multiuser operating system allows more than one person to use it at a time. UNIX is a multiuser operating system. Macintosh and Windows 98 are single-user operating systems.
operating system
An operating system is a computer's main control program. It manages how the system works (for example, the terminals, printers, files on disk, and memory). UNIX, Macintosh, and Windows are examples of operating systems.
In vi, an operator is one of the letters c, d, or y, which combine with a movement command to create an editing command.
Options modify the behavior of a command. Options (sometimes called flags or switches) are usually a single letter preceded by a minus (-) sign.
other permissions
Other permissions are the third set of read/write/execute permissions in an access mode. Other permissions apply to everyone besides the file owner and the group members.
output redirection operator
Using the output redirection operator, >, you can sent output to a file.
parent directory
Compared to your current directory, the parent directory is the one that is immediately higher in the hierarchy. To navigate to a parent directory, use the .. (dot dot) notation.
path name
A path name indicates the location of a file within the file system.
pattern matching
Pattern matching is the task of using regular expressions to search for text.
permission type
A permission type grants users a particular type of access. The three basic permission types are r (read), w (write), and x (execute).
A pipe is a technique for using the output from one command as the input of another command. To form a pipe, place the pipe character ( | ) between two commands.
Porting software means adapting it to run on another type of machine. UNIX became popular because it's portable, meaning that it can run on different types of computers. Unfortunately, this also led to the creation of many different UNIX variants.
print queue
The print queue is the list of items waiting to be printed.
print request
A print request is generated whenever you issue a print command.
A prompt is a character (or a word or two) that is displayed whenever the shell or some other program is expecting you to type something. The C shell prompt is %.
prompt variable
The prompt variable is a C shell variable that stores the value of your shell prompt.
A protocol is a set of rules for exchanging data.
quick substitution
Quick substitution lets you make simple fixes to the most recent command and rerun the result.
recursive listing
A recursive listing of a directory is one that repeatedly displays all subdirectories down the hierarchy, until the last level of the directory tree is reached.
regular expression
A regular expression describes a pattern using literal characters and optional metacharacters known as regular expression syntax.
relative path name
A relative path name is the address of a file or directory, specified relative to the current location.
remote computer
In an FTP session, the remote computer is the FTP server to which you connect. The local computer is the one from which you run ftp.
request ID
A request ID identifies a print request. You can cancel a print request by specifying its request ID.
root directory
The root directory, indicated by a slash (/), is the top-level directory in the UNIX file system.
A server is a computer that sends information out to other computers over a network.
The shell is a program that interprets your commands and passes them to the operating system for further processing. You enter commands at the shell prompt (also called the system prompt or command prompt).
shell script
A shell script is a set of commands stored in a file. You can run the file as a program, much like a batch script is run on DOS.
shell variable
A shell variable is a place to store data that is used by the shell.
standard input
Standard input is where a command takes its input from. By default, the standard input is your keyboard. In many cases, if a command accepts a filename argument, the command reads the file as standard input.
standard output
Standard output is where a command sends its output to. By default, standard output is your terminal, but you can redirect standard output to a file (using >) or to another command (using | ).
A string is a sequence of characters.
A subdirectory, also called a child directory, is one level lower than the current directory.
symbolic link
A symbolic link is a name that points to another file or directory. The target of the link can reside on another file system.
system administrator
A system administrator is responsible for managing the UNIX system. Common tasks include setting up new user accounts, configuring printers, and backing up data.
tape device
A tape device is any hardware that contains a tape drive for use with storage media.
tar file
A tar file is an archive created by the tar command.
TCP/IP is a networking feature that divides data into small pieces, called packets. This technique allows data to be passed efficiently within a computer network TCP/IP on UNIX contributed to the growth of the Internet in the 1970s.
Telnet is a program that emulates a terminal, thereby allowing you to log in to UNIX from any machine.
A terminal is any device that provides a screen from which you can log in to UNIX.
terminal emulator
A terminal emulator is a program, such as Telnet, that lets your screen behave like a UNIX terminal.
text abbreviation
A text abbreviation lets you add long phrases in text mode whenever you type the abbreviation. Abbreviations are created using the :ab command.
text mode
Text mode is one of two modes of operation in vi. In text mode, you can use your keyboard to add text to your document.
To upload means to transfer data to a remote computer.
user permissions
User permissions are the first set of read/write/execute permissions in an access mode. User permissions apply to the file owner.
Utilities are small, useful programs. An example is sort.
When a command uses verbose mode, the command displays more than the usual status information. Many UNIX commands accept a -v option that causes them to run in verbose mode.
Wildcards are characters that the shell interprets in a special way. Wildcards create patterns for matching filenames. Examples include ?, *, and [].
word substitution
Word substitution is a technique for replacing part of a command and rerunning the result.WYSIWYG WYSIWYG stands for "what you see is what you get." It means that whatever is displayed on your screen will appear exactly that way when you print it. In other words, the screen displays document formatting--bold, italics, font sizes, and so on. Word processors are WYSIWYG applications. Text editors typically cannot display formatting graphically, so they are not WYSIWYG programs.
The asterisk (*) is a wildcard that matches any number of characters in a filename.
.cshrc file
The .cshrc file is a configuration file in your home directory, where you can store custom settings that will be read by the C shell and executed.
.exrc file
The .exrc file is a configuration file that lets you store custom vi settings in your home directory. When you start the vi editor, it reads the .exrc file and runs the commands in the file.
.Z extension
When you run the compress command, the resulting files are renamed to end with a .Z extension/
The question mark (?) is a wildcard that matches any single character in a filename.
[ ]
Brackets ([ ]) are wildcards that match a range of characters enclosed in the brackets.