Just the FAQs

Unix Insider |  Operating Systems

It seems entirely possible that at some point in my many articles on Unix, I've missed the boat and failed to answer a question or two. Perhaps I even raised a question and glossed over it, leaving you, poor reader, mystified.

I decided to devote this article to resources where you can find the answers to many more questions than I will ever have time to cover in articles.

Man pages

The most comprehensive source of Unix information is, of course, the Unix man pages. Finding these pages online isn't difficult. Versions exist at the National Technical University of Athens (Greece, not Georgia), Linux Hong Kong, Linux Journal, and SolarisGuide.com. A hypertext version is available at http://www.freebsd.org.

My first reaction to online man pages was: why? I can always type:

man doodah 

and get the needed reference for the doodah command.

But there are two good reasons to use the online pages. First, the hypertext versions of man pages are very convenient. It's very easy to hop from one entry to the next with a click.

The second reason is even more important: having data available when you need it. I'm currently working for a very large corporation that has several Unix boxes. None of those boxes have the man pages loaded. I've inquired about that several times and cannot find anyone with an answer. The system administrators reply that they've never had man pages and don't know who to ask to get approval to add them.

I'm expected to develop several shell scripts and C++ programs on those boxes, and I've learned to bless the availability of the online man pages, although they're not the friendliest approach to Unix. They're notorious for being the product of cryptic geekdom at its worst. Aside from being obnoxious, they rarely provide examples. Or they provide examples that are completely useless.

I remember once trying to learn a Unix tool called yacc. Without getting too technical, yacc is a specialized language generator that lets you specify the a programming language's grammar using a set of grammar symbols.

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