Where, how and why are you using Unix?

Greetings everyone, today's post is going to be a bit different from the usual technical tips and tricks I share. This time around, I need a bit of help myself – and I hope many of you will be able to answer my questions. Bear with me: it's a lengthy post, but any help is GREATLY APPRECIATED!

Why am I asking these questions?

As you remember, a month ago I have offered invited all of the Unix Tutorial readers to learn Unix together. Everyone benefits from this – you get a chance to ask the questions which you always wanted answered, and I get to refresh my mind or even conduct a research on new topics just so that I can share the answers and solutions in the easiest to follow form.

I'm currently working on a members area for Unix Tutorial, which will eventually have a number of self-paced courses to help you improve your knowledge of Unix and get to the next level of productivity when solving technical problems.

Update: if you're interested in becoming a member, subscribe to the Unix Tutorial waiting list!

But guess what? Without knowing what exactly you do and why you ask the questions about Unix, it's extremely hard to address some of the topics. I would like to give the fullest coverage to everything I present, but at the same time it probably wouldn't make sense to spend much time explaining some concepts most of you are familiar with already.

With this in mind, I'd like you to please take a few moments and help me out by sharing a bit about yourself and your experience with Unix-like operating systems so far. Please feel free to leave comments or use a contact form – any form of your help will be greatly appreciated.

Where are you using Unix?

More likely than not, you have arrived at one of the Unix Tutorial pages while searching for an answer. Webserver logs give me a pretty good idea about your interests and challenges, but they don't reveal one important piece of information: where do you use your Unix?

  • Are you a home user with Ubuntu desktop?
  • Do you have a RedHat Linux desktop at your workplace?
  • Is the hospital you work for using Unix-based equipment?
  • Do you have Linux on your PDA or MP3 player?

These and many more questions are the ones I'd really like to have answered  – the nature of my technical tips so far had been rather basic, but some of the comments (and especially the email questions submitted through Unix Tutorial contact form) are so technical that it's obvious their authors have many years of Unix experience.

How are you using Unix?

This is another question which really interests me. Recent years saw many Unix-like OS distributions rapidly advance to take up new positions in business solutions of all fields. You can find Unix-like OS in storage and network appliances, desktops, servers, laptops and netbooks, MP3 players and book readers. It's hard to imagine a technological niche which cannot benefit from using a Unix-like system.

So how do you use your Unix?

  • Do you manage Unix servers in your hosting startup?
  • Do you develop software on a Linux platform?
  • Are you using Unix in your finance department?
  • Is Unix-based solution behind your compute grid used for some kind of research?
  • Are you a professional artist or photographer working in Unix?
  • Do you compose music or produce podcasts and vidcasts?

Let me know about all the ways you've found Unix to be useful so far – I'm quite often surprised to discover new ways people manage to use the most unusual operating systems, so there's bound to be plenty of interesting ideas about Unix!

Why are you using Unix?

This is the last question for today.  Glad to still have you with me, reading this post! I REALLY appreciate your time and willingness to help!

Why are you a Unix user at the moment? Is it because:

  • it's a requirement at work
  • it's a great family of operating systems which you simply love working with
  • you're a hacker or a developer
  • Unix-like OS is the only option you have for the unique task at hand
  • you've been told Unix is cool
  • you've been told Unix is so not cool, but got curious and simply couldn't resist

Whatever your reason may be, I'd like to know it – please share your thoughts!

Thank you!

Thanks for stopping by and reading through all the questions! I will be delighted to hear back from you about your Unix story, and if there are any questions you decide to ask me – I'll be happy to answer.

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  • SlavoF


    First thank you for this tutorials. I learn great deal here. 😉

    Now, for your questions. I worked about 15 years as corporate programmer in big company, doing web development using Microsoft technologies (Windows Server, MS SQL Server, ASP.NET, C#). Now I work for small programming shop as open source developer (Linux, MySQL, PHP (legacy), RubyOnRails).

    Where are you using Unix?

    – In my (new) work there is a Linux only environment on servers and mostly also on workstations (it is allowed to use Windows or Mac too). On servers Debian distro is used – workstations is mostly Ubuntu/Kubuntu.

    For few last months also also try using Ubuntu at home (on my private notebook) – I want to force myself using Linux for everyday things to learn it better.

    How are you using Unix?

    I learning to use unix as my developer workstation, also I learning to use unix to manage our linux based internal servers and to manage linux on our hosting environment.
    As I mentioned I trying to use linux on my home notebook for everyday things like email, social networking, watching TV, browsing web, …


  • anonymous

    I am posting anonymous, but my comment is honest. Delete it if you like…

    Where are you using Unix?

    I am a Unix administrator for a managed services company. We migrate our clients from Oracle on Windows to Oracle on Unix then remotely administer both Unix and Oracle for them. The Client decides which version of Unix (sometimes dictated by their choice of hardware). I support all commercial Unix variants, Linux and BSD.

    I also have my own websites for hobbies and special interest topics, all hosted on Linux. I run Linux on most computers at home. One laptop runs Linux, one runs OS X (Unix) a third is running Windows.

    How are you using Unix?
    With my occupation, I use Unix as a host for Oracle databases in OLTP mode. Some data warehousing, but not much.

    –(0)> wc -l ~/.ssh/known_hosts
    210 /Users/username/.ssh/known_hosts

    I 'know' a few Unix systems 😉 This is from my work laptop (An Apple MacBook running OS X)

    At my office, we run Asterisk PBX on Linux, Linux is our fileserver, print server, database and webservers. (All Apple desktops, 9 servers between the office and colocation facility)

    At home, Linux is my email server, webserver and fileserver. My family uses Gnome desktops from the Linux computer via VNC for their web browsing (safer than using Winblows).

    Why are you using Unix?
    Unix is:
    1) More Mature
    Unix is older than Windows. The maturity stems from the age as well as the preexisting high quality software design that is used as a model by newer programmers. The maturity carries on well by use of the good programming examples and practices.

    2) More Stable
    Because of it's age and maturity, Unix is more stable. Unix has been developed on a more open foundation where peer review is encouraged. Open Source is a great example of the peer development and review model. Bad code is identified and addressed in the review process leading to more stable, more secure code in most cases. Due to the fundamental differentiation between 'users' and 'root' the system is inherently more secure to computer user account attacks. (Though due diligence is always required to ensure security.)

    3) More Powerful
    Unix runs on more hardware platforms. (Remember Windows on DEC Alphas? I do. Not many people do…) Unix runs leaner leaving more system resources for the applications and services the system will ultimately run. Unix installations typically have a magnitude more tools available to the administrative user for monitoring, debugging and fixing the system. Out of the box, a desktop Linux installation supports more hardware and includes more software than Windows.

    4) Cost
    Using most Unix variants and Linux can be done far cheaper than Windows.
    The initial cost can be as cheap as free.
    The per user license fee can be as cheap as free.
    The per system license fee can be as cheap as free.
    Commercially provided Unix may incur purchase and license fees. Most times this is part of a hardware purchase and not directly applicable. Along with the purchase and license fees, I consider the cost of administration. I can do more administration work in less time on Unix leading to reduced staffing requirements and thereby salary and benefit savings.

    How are you using Unix?
    With my occupation, I use Unix as a host for Oracle databases inel by newer programmers. The maturity carries on well by use of good programming examples and practices.

    2) More Stable
    Bes been developed on a more open foundation where peer review is encouraged. Open Source is a great example of the peer development and review model. Bad code is identified and addressed in the review process leading to more stable, more secure code in most cases. Due to the fundamental dire to computer user account attacks. (Though due diligence is always required to ensure security.)

    3) More Powerful
    Unix runs leaner the administrative user for monitoring, debugging and fixing the system. Out of the box, a desktop Linux installation supports more hardware and includes more software than Windows.

    4) Cost
    Using most Unix variants and Linux can be done far cheaper than Windows.
    Them license fee can be as cheap as free.
    Commercially provided Unix may incur purchase and license fees. Most times this is par not directly applicable. Along with the purchase and license fees, I consider the cost of administration. I can do more administration work in less time on Unix leading to reduced staffing requirements and thereby salary and benefit savings.

  • Gleb Reys

    Thanks for the great comments, guys! This helps a lot, and I can relate to many of the opinions and observations expressed so far – like I mentioned somewhere before, I've been a Unix administrator for the past 10 years or so, and have been through many similar scenarios.

    Look forward to more comments!

  • Steve Kist


    I ran across this site by accident while searching for information on monitoring memory usage in Linux. I haven't read much else that has been posted on the site, but it looks like one I would like to see grow. I'd really like to see the members area you mentioned, sounds like a good idea. Or, I might be in the wrong place altogether. Your previous responses have been from people who have had a great deal more experience.

    Where I use a Unix-like system
    At home. Work is Windows. I'm using a distro called Mepis ( Debian based currently, though they did have a flirtation with Ubuntu ). Ubuntu was born with a Silver Spoon in its mouth and I don't care for it. I used SuSE 9.3 for a time and found it good, then they made that deal with Micro$oft, haven't looked into open SuSE yet. I never experienced the dependency hell folks talk about with .rpm's.

    How do I use a Unix-like system
    Google, e-mail, Hulu, etc. I'm basically a userland sort of guy, but when something goes wrong, I like having the option of fixing or changing things without a BSOD. I'm not totally incompetent, I once set up a system for a friend to triple boot DOS, Windows, and Linux from a grub boot loader, it would take me hours of study to it again.

    Why I use a Unix-like system
    Richard Stallman, Dennis Richie, Ken Thompson, Linus Torvalds, Eric Raymond, I can't begin to thank all the people responsible. A good place to start for noobies, Neal Stephsenson's "In the Beginning was the Command Line"


    Google lets me put a bunch of feeds on my home page. Unix Tutorial doesn't seem to be one of the choices. You might look into that.

    Hoping to here more,


  • Gleb Reys

    Thanks for replying and for sharing the link, Steve! I'll contact you via email to follow up.

  • kimc

    Hi there,

    In the pass, while I was setting up our servers, I constantly had to Google for unix command. Due to time constraint, I had not time to digest the unix command I used, hence forgetting all those command. After subscribing to this RSS, I get small driblet of unix tips/hints where I can learn on my leisure time – giving it a chance to stay in my memory for longer. Keep up the good work.

    Where are you using Unix?
    I'm using OSX for both at home and at work desktop. FreeBSD and Ubuntu for our servers.

    How are you using Unix?
    Our production servers runs FreeBSD 6.3. Our developments servers runs Ubuntu Server 8.04.
    I design the system infrastructure in small startup company – for social networking service for mobile device.

    In the pass, I was an application support engineer. Supporting production application in Solaris environment. I have to investigate problem in a large scale system.

    Why are you using Unix?
    1. Being a startup company, everything has to be cost effective – $0 vs M$.
    2. Reliability of unix os and run smoothly on any low-mid spec hardware.
    3. Easy to manage the server remotely.
    4. Most opensource application available in each distribution of *Nix (port tree, apt-get). Installed application consistent across each distitribution of *Nix.

  • Gleb Reys

    Thanks for sharing, Kim!

    I'm not ready to convert to OSX yet, but will definitely give it a try some day (always wanted to own a MacBook Air).

  • verdon vaillancourt

    I'm a long-time Mac user. My first introduction to unix was watching over the shoulder of a couple sys-admin friends. To be honest, at that time I didn't get it. When Mac went to OSX, I was an early adopter and started to play with unix there. I began to get it. As my work moved further from DTP and more to web development and then more serious web dev, and finally running my own servers, I really gained an admiration for unix.

    I think the important reasons have already been mentioned above, as to the why.

    I currently use a couple MacOSX boxes for my primary workstations, using a kind of mix of the GUI and Terminal for working with them. I also primarily develop my php apps on my MacOSX PowerBook. The development environment is a pretty standard LAMP setup and projects I develop there are quite portable.

    My webservers are CentOS and are actually 500 or so km away from me. See point 3 in the post above 😉

  • Phil

    I found this site by searching Google for a Ubuntu problem where I am trying to get Ubuntu to install on a Sun workstation.

    I like what I have been reading about this site. I do remember the DEC Alpha and I use to read newsgroups a lot. I am still reading and re-reading the manual, but I found out a lot of things by conversing with others on the net. This really helped me better understand manual.

    Where are you using UNIX?
    I use Unix/Linux at work and at home. I guess I am lucky in that way.

    How are you using UNIX?
    I use it for firewalls (iptables and fail2ban), network monitoring (nagios and snort), file sharing (samba and NFS), PXE boot, application server and mail server (sendmail). It is also my desktop for my workstation.

    Why are you using UNIX?
    It is part of my job would be the first answer, but I have always like UNIX even when it didn’t have a GUI interface. I enjoy the command line and shell scripting. Getting programs or applications to work brings me great joy. Writing scripts and getting the computer to work as I want or need is a great sense of accomplishment. These enjoyments keep me coming back even after the rough days of little or no accomplishments.

    I have worked with Windows and Apple over the years because of different jobs and different situations. There are good things to say about each. I learned that there isn’t one best computer or one best operating system. The world of computing is very diverse in its needs and this diversity is well served by a variety of solutions, something that doesn’t come from just one computer or just one operating system.

    I see this web site has a variety of different things to check out and learn from. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Gleb Reys

    Hi Verdon,

    great to have met you through my website! My VPS server is also thousands of miles away, but the beauty of using Unix-like OS is once everything is set up, you grow quite comfortable with managing it remotely. Look forward to learning more about your experience in the future, especially in the web development field.

  • Gleb Reys

    Hi Fil,

    Thanks for stopping by! Yes, it's quite amazing how Unix-like systems changed since the first time we got to use them. My first systems were BSDI 3.0 and Sun OS 2.5, back in 1995.

  • Kurt

    I'm using Linux now for 3 years (2 years as my default OS). Before that, I used MS Windows XP which I found (and find) a decent OS (just everything has its pros and cons…). However, since my work at the university required me to program for Linux, I started using it more and more until it became my primary OS.

    Where are you using UNIX?
    On my Laptop as main OS, at home as my main OS and on a little home server I have running.

    How are you using UNIX?
    – On my laptop: for development (java, C/ C++, scripting), writing documents etc… I only switch to Windows to get my mobile phone synchronized with Thunderbird :-)
    – On my desktop at home: pretty much the same as my laptop usage
    – On my home server: it is configured as a mail and web server.

    Why are you using UNIX?
    Wll, it all started as I needed it for some C++ development. Now I really like it. Once you get used to the way of working, once you get used to the command line,… it feels in some way much more comfortable than MS Windows (although I'm honest enough to admit some things are just easier for the end user to do in Windows).
    Besides that, I managed to get quite some experience with Windows (both XP as server editions) in the past years, so now I'm eager to learn everything again the *NIX way…

  • Gleb Reys

    Great to hear from you, Kurt!

    From all the comments, it looks like the Unix Tutorial members community will be even more useful than I originally hoped – all of the people who commented here so far seem to have unique Unix skills, so I look forward not only to share my experience, but to also learn from all of you.

  • http://n/a squawkker

    To be honest, I want to learn Unix because I'm a Network admin (late to the game) who doesn't know a dang thing about programming, Unix, Linux, Ubuntu, you name it, I'm clueless. So I'm looking for a place to start, and since it seems like half the job ads I see in my hometown require Unix admin experience, I figured I better get some. I very much appreciate any help or advice anyone can give me on GETTING STARTED. Should I install Ubuntu on one of my old desktops? If so, what should I do after that, to get started?

    Thanks again in advance. You guys rock mightily.

  • Gleb Reys

    Thanks for leaving a comment!

    There's always time for a fresh start, and I quite envy you because you're going to learn so much in very little time. Yes, installing Ubuntu on one of the desktops (or better yet, a laptop) is a good enough way to start.

    I see you've joined the waiting list, so look forward to inviting you and learning Unix together!

  • Olivier

    On my side, I am a very beginner. I have started to work with Unix because I need it to run a protein modeling software for my post doctorate. My very basic knowledge allows me to run it only when it runs fine, when problems occurs I have to depend on more advanced users to get me through.
    At home, I have installed Ubuntu on my laptop because I was curious and I believe in the open source philosophy. But on that part also, my basic knowledge limits me to do more interesting things.
    Also, I believe that a deeper mastering of the language would not hurt my resume.
    Finally, I think it is fun to be challenged.

    I am happy to have found such a web site to get me to the next level. Thanks for your precious help.

  • Gleb Reys

    Hi Olivier,

    Thanks for stopping by! Your feedback would be among the most valuable for me as one of my primary goals is to help complete beginners get started with Unix and enjoy their experience from day one. Look forward to speaking with you soon!

  • http://n/a Steven

    I'm using Unix in two different places for the same purpose. I'm using it on my eee PC under ubuntu (eeebuntu, to be exact), and I'm using it under Mac OS X.

    Mac OS X offers a Terminal in its "Utilities" folder under Applications. This was my introduction to Unix and the CLI, and I loved it.

    I find working using the command line to be incredibly fun and rewarding (when things work out correctly).

    I look forward to reading UNIX tips and tricks on this site. Thanks!

  • Gleb Reys

    Great to have you interested, Steven! I'm only considering getting a Unix-based laptop specifically for my experiments – at the moment my playground is a few PCs and a few VirtualBox VMs, but no eee PCs or any Apple gear.

  • Aleksei Kozadaev

    Where are you using Unix?
    I've been always used UNIX/BSD/Linux at work and at home.

    How are you using Unix?
    I've been using Unix (*BSD mostly and sometimes Linux) for creating a solid mail/internet/security environments for the companies I worked for. I use it at home too as UNIX is everything for me – a job, an entertainment, security, etc.
    I've been using OpenBSD and FreeBSD for most of my career. However although *BSDs still remain my OSs of choice I recently switched my focus to Red Hat Linux Ent. and CentOS as it appears to be in a very high demand nowadays. So I put it on my notebook and I use it nearly everywhere now as it is the only way to get into it quickly. I like XEN virtualization support on my CentOS which gives me freedom in learning and "housekeeping" of my home computer:
    * I can always create a couple of virtual machines in a matter of minutes, which significantly improves the learning process time.
    * I don't have to install many things on my computer, but rather install them on virtual machines and wipe the machines as soon as I finished with them.
    I like spending time writing shell/Perl scripts on my home computer to improve my processes and "housekeeping" and the good thing is that one would never know everything – there is always something new – so there is always a ground for learning, which is so much fun.

    Why are you using Unix?
    I use it because UNIX is not only a OS; it is a culture with its long-lasting traditions.
    What discourages me, though, is that many distros nowadays are being led to the wrong direction – towards "extreme user friendliness" which I think violate the whole idea of UNIX. UNIX was always focused on performance, rather than on user-friendliness, which I think must remain the same. Normally, IMHO – Unix administrator needs only a console and a text editor (depending of user preference), or in a fancy package – X server, lightweight window manger (like icewm, where one can do without a mouse even), a browser, an email client and the xterm for, again, accessing console and a text editor. Things like gnome or similar take so many things out of admin's control which scares me alot. This is my personal and highly subjective attitude to UNIX which I am going to keep forever. :)


  • Muhammad Sharfudddin

    Basically I am Windows Admin, but my Boss wants to move all the services onto the linux boxes, due to high cost of licenses and economic conditions, and and he loves Novell SUSE(he was a Novell Netware Guy).
    Thats why I am learning Linux(SUSE), I just have ground/down the MS Windows 2003 fileserver with SAMBA server.
    My next target is to move our mail server with Postfix, MS Active Directory with LDAP, and MS ISA Server with Squid and IPtables.
    I would love if some one here help me configuring Postfix, Cyrus and Squid with LDAP authentication

    a Linux learner

  • Marossity

    I am a home user. I recently switched from a desktop arrangement to a laptop. I have a triple boot setup with Windows XP, Ubuntu 9.04, and at this time another Ubuntu 9.04. Usually I have the third partition available for trying out different distros. I use the system to "surf the web", and download and manipulate videos and still photos from my vid-camera and my digital camera. Also I like to play around with music files. I maintain the Windows XP because I haven't been able to find good free video software that works as well as the Windows program. Otherwise it would be off my computer. No, I am not a Microsoft basher. I just believe in open source, very much. I started with MS in the early '80s' and switched to Ubuntu about 2 and 1/2 years ago. I have tried many different flavors but always have come back to Ubuntu. I don't know how I might be able to contribute to your effort here, but if you think of something, please let me know. Thanks for the excellent work.

  • http://www.glebreys.com Gleb Reys

    Hi all, just realized I never replied to the last few comments.

    First of all, THANK YOU for taking the time to share your story! Increasingly so, I find myself among a great bunch of technical minded people from all the fields of IT industry!

    I love the diversity of your skills and needs, it sounds like we'll have great time learning Unix and sharing technical tips!

    I've still to finish my introductory course before we'll move on to more advanced topics, but your comments help me identify what most interesting topics will be.

  • danimal1960


    I'll be completely honest with you–I've worked in IT for the past 8 years, but most of my work has been in hardware–everything from desktop support at a large corporation to a field technician installing and repairing SANS for a major SAN provider.

    Then I got laid off–'involuntary reduction in force' they called it–and I found there was not much call for people with my hardware skills.

    So I am now turning to software. I have a possible job lined up with the government, but I need to know UNIX. Now, I have dabbled with LINUX, but only insofar as installing it on servers and configuring it on NAS Boxes–never studied UNIX itself.

    I am hoping to learn as much as I can about UNIX so that I can become a viable candidate for this job.

    Thank you very much for this site–I am trying to learn all I can and your site is a BIG help.


  • http://www.glebreys.com Gleb Reys

    Thanks for joining the mailing list, Dan!
    I'm flattered that you found my humble website to be useful, and look forward to sharing more! While the first course I'm (still) working on is the foundation course, I'm sure you'll gain some solid basic skills along with Unix history. Future courses are aimed at exactly the profile you have – someone looking to get started with a Unix systems administration profession. Please don't hesitate to email me any questions, and all the best with your job hunt!