Chapter 3. Basic tools for the administrator

PID_00148442 PID_00148453 PID_00148464 X07_M2103_02282 Eureca Media, S.L. FUOC

Av. Tibidabo, 39-43, 08035 Barcelona

2009-09-01 1


Josep Jorba Esteve

preface. preface

On a daily basis, an administrator of GNU/Linux systems has to tackle a large number of tasks. In general, the UNIX philosophy does not have just one tool for every task or just one way of doing things. What is common is for UNIX systems to offer a large number of more or less simple tools to handle the different tasks.


It will be the combination of the basic tools, each with a well-defined task that will allow us to resolve a problem or administration task.

Example 3-1. Note

GNU/Linux has a very broad range of tools with basic functionalities, whose strength lies in their combination.

In this unit we will look at different groups of tools, identify some of their basic functions and look at a few examples of their uses. We will start by examining some of the standards of the world of GNU/Linux, which will help us to find some of the basic characteristics that we expect of any GNU/Linux distribution. These standards, such as LSB (or Linux standard base) [Linc] and FHS (filesystem hierarchy standard) [Linb], tell us about the tools we can expect to find available, a common structure for the file system, and the various norms that need to be fulfilled for a distribution to be considered a GNU/Linux system and to maintain shared rules for compatibility between them.

For automating administration tasks we tend to use commands grouped into shell scripts (also known as command scripts), through language interpreted by the system's shell (command interpreter). In programming these shell scripts we are allowed to join the system's commands with flow control structures, and thus to have a fast prototype environment of tools for automating tasks.

Another common scheme is to use tools of compiling and debugging high level languages (for example C). In general, the administrator will use them to generate new developments of applications or tools, or to incorporate applications that come as source code and that need to be adapted and compiled.

We will also analyse the use of some graphics tools with regards to the usual command lines. These tools tend to facilitate the administrator's tasks but their use is limited because they are heavily dependent on the GNU/Linux distribution and version. Even so, there are some useful exportable tools between distributions.

Finally, we will analyse a set of essential tools for maintaining the system updated, the package management tools. The software served with the GNU/Linux distribution or subsequently incorporated is normally offered in units known as packages, which include the files of specific software, plus the various steps required in order to prepare the installation and then to configure it or, where applicable, to update or uninstall specific software. And every distribution tends to carry management software for maintaining lists of installed or installable packages, as well as for controlling existing versions or various possibilities of updating them through different original sources.