This article is mainly notes I have taken for CSCB09/CSC209 at UofT.

Who is using Unix/Linux?

  • 10% Desktop/Laptops
  • 85% Tablets/Smartphones
  • 65% Web Servers
  • 98% Super Computers

What is an Operating System

The software layer between user applications and hardware.

  • Resource manager
  • Control program
  • Abstractions

One example of abstraction is files and directories. These are concepts defined within an OS.


File is a named collection of data with some attributes

  • name
  • owner
  • size
  • permissions
  • timestamps
  • location on the actual hardware

To get information of a file in Unix, you use the following commands

ls -l

UNIX Implementation

Unix uses a data structure called inode to store information about a file. It is identified by inode number.

615 (inode number)
size                    |
owner                   |
timestamps              |
link/block counts       |
permissions             |
pointers to file blocks |
single indirect pointer | -> pointers to next blocks
double indirect pointer |
triple indirect pointer |


Directories is a collection of files.

In UNIX, every directory is a file.

UNIX Implementation

Since directories are files, they also uses inode. Only special thing is that they contain data called directory entries

615 (inode number)
size                    |
owner                   |
timestamps              |
link/block counts       |
permissions             |
pointers to file blocks |  -
-------------------------  |
single indirect pointer |  |
-------------------------  |---> Directory entries contians other inode numbers
double indirect pointer |  |
-------------------------  |
triple indirect pointer |  -

Everything is a File

In UNIX, all input / ouput are files.

  • regular files
  • directories
  • devices
    • camera
    • sound
    • network
    • …..

Directory Hierarchy

Directories are not trees, but an acyclic graph.

For example, graph below is an acyclic graph.

To create a hard link, use following command

ln <target> <name of link>

The link will be identical to target, containing the same inode number. A file will only be removed if there are no more name/hard links.

So even if you remove the original file, the hard link is still valid.

To create a soft link, use following command

ln -s <target> <name of link>

This will create a small file containing the true path of the linked file. Soft link will have different inode number. Think of it as a bookmark.

If you remove target, soft link will become invalid.


Permissions in UNIX is very simple. When you run ls -l, you should see the following output:

[email protected]  8 junzheng  staff   256 19 Jul 04:20 Applications
drwxr-xr-x   3 junzheng  staff    96 31 May 13:24 CLionProjects
[email protected] 26 junzheng  staff   832 28 Jul 20:54 Creative Cloud Files
[email protected] 15 junzheng  staff   480  2 Aug 21:33 Desktop

rwxr-xr-x is the corresponding permissions for the file. It is structured like following

User   Group    Other
rwx    r-x      r-x

Each entry have three permissions:

  • read
  • write
  • execute

Directory permissions is similar to files, with d prefix.

  • read - You can ls directory
  • write - You can create and remove files in directory
  • execute - You can cd into the directory

Modify Permissions

To modify permissions, use chmod.

For example, following command will give owning user execute permission

chmod u+x file_name


Shell is simply a commandline interpreter, it is the interface between user and OS.

There are many shells to choose from:

  • sh - Bourne shell
    • Most common
    • Good for programming
  • csh or tcsh
    • C-like syntax
  • bash - Bourne again shell
    • Based on sh with some csh features
  • korn - Commercial

We usually use bash, it is a superset of sh.

Input and Output Redirection

By default, programs read from stdin and write to stdout. They also write errors to stderr.

However, you can change input/output/err.

  • > file redirect output to file
  • >> file appends output to file
  • < file redirects input

1 is stdout, 2 is stderr. You can redirect stderr using 2> file.


Use | to redirect the output of a command to input of another command.

For example:

ls -l | wc -l

Will count the lines printed by ls -l command.


Filters are programs, that reads from stdin, and outputs filtered result.

There are many to choose from

  • wc - Count words, lines etc.
  • grep - Filter by pattern
  • uniq - Remove repeating lines
  • sort - Sorts the input
  • head - Get first lines
  • tail - Get last lines
  • sed - Text transformations

Job Control

Use ps to view processes. There are two main types of processes:

  • Forground: has control of terminal
  • Background: runs concurrently with shell in background

To run a command in background, append & to the name.

You can hit ctrl+z to suspend forground job.

  • jobs will show a list of running jobs.
  • fg <id> will put id in foreground.
  • bg <id> will put id in background.
  • kill %<id> will kill job id.

Jobs are different from processes!