Scot’s Newsletter

Windows and Broadband Information You Can Use!





 More Back Issues


 Newsletter Home Page


 The Forums

 Product Reviews

 Let’s Fight Sp@m!

 NetBEUI and Win XP

 PayPal Donate

 Letter Mail Donate

Get free email delivery of this newsletter!

Recommend Scot’s Newsletter to a Friend!

September 18, 2003 - Vol. 3, Issue No. 50

By Scot Finnie


  • Rant: Antivirus: Buy It. Use It. Update It!
  • Review: GoToMyPC | Top Product!
  • 60-Second Briefs
       - Symantec's New Products
       - Norton AntiVirus 2004
       - Norton AntiSpam 2004
       - Norton Internet Security 2004
       - Norton SystemWorks 2004
  • Let’s Fight Sp@m, Part 10
  • Scot’s Newsletter Forums’ Six-Month Anniversary
  • Goodbye, SpeakEasy DSL
  • Tips for Linux Apprentices: Command-Line Shortcuts
  • Newsletter Schedule
  • Subscribe, Unsubscribe, or Change Subscription.

    Smaller Issue of the Newsletter
    Just a quick note to let you know that for several reasons (including my son's emergency appendectomy late last week), this issue is somewhat abbreviated, and does not have all the sections Scot's Newsletter usually comes with. That doesn't signal a trend or anything. By the way, my boy is home and doing just fine. Feel better Brian!

    I'd also like to take a moment to wish safety to all those people in the path of hurricane Isabel on the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast.

    Back to the Top

    Antivirus: Buy It. Use It. Update It!
    While I was on vacation a few weeks back an insidious devil infested my email, slowed my PC to circa-1984 performance levels, and robbed me of all productivity the following week. Did I catch Blaster or Sobig? No. My defenses held on that score. But the defenses of many other people who have one of my email addresses in their address books did not fare so well. And that left me in the soup.

    You see, I was receiving Sobig emails at the rate of well over a thousand a day. And even though Norton AntiVirus 2003 stripped out the payload in every instance before the bad stuff hit my inbox, basic scripts in these messages continued to attempt to run, which tripped an OK dialog box from my email program. So while I wasn't infected with Sobig, the sheer volume of Sobig messages heading my way brought my email program to a crashing halt.

    My anti-spam program is able to solve the email package's problem by automatically disabling HTML and scripts of any message it deems to be spam. A delicate little balance. But trying to make that work reliably, without stripping out the heart of messages that are false positives -- including messages from my boss, of course -- proved to be a nuisance. Eventually, of course, I resolved the problem.

    I can manage the technology, but there's a lesson learned from Sobig that I can't manage on my own: Not enough people use antivirus packages properly. Especially at this time of year, right before the major new antivirus upgrades come out, many people's virus-definition subscriptions are expiring. And instead of signing up for a new subscription, many wait to buy the next major version.

    And those are the smart people. A lot of others have their antivirus protection disabled on purpose. Some never install it to begin with. And many, many people never update their antivirus program or definitions. They're not even aware of the importance of doing so. Antivirus companies are, in part, to blame for this state of affairs. Here are three things that all antivirus programs should do, do well, and do without any noticeable system overhead:

    1. Antivirus software should automatically self-update with new virus definitions via the Internet on at least a daily basis (or as soon as you connect). Program updates should also be automatically checked for at least weekly and a notification delivered when they're available.

    The use of Windows Task Scheduler for this purpose is probably a bad choice, since it is not very reliable and tends to conflict with third-party software. Microsoft should improve Task Scheduler as a public service; but in the meantime, antivirus companies should find a better solution.

    2. All inbound and outbound email messages should be scanned for virus or worm contents, both in the message as well as any attachments. I've yet to find an antivirus program whose outbound mail scan was fast enough. We need better, faster email-scanning technology because that will allow more people to feel comfortable with full-time message scanning.

    3. Antivirus programs should be tested in the field before they're rolled out. When was the last time you heard about Symantec doing a public beta test? There are too many problems with antivirus products causing issues on real people's computers. That's a big part of the reason why people turn off this software. Every effort should be made to make it work in the real world.

    It's been suggested that people should be required to have a license to use the Internet. I don't think so. But the notion that all computers should be running antivirus software -- the way most U.S. states require people to use seatbelts in autos -- is something worth exploring. People who leave their computers turned on 24x7 without any virus or firewall protection are doing a disservice to us all because they are helping to promulgate the spread of mass-mailing worms and other malware. It's idiotic, and it has to stop.

    Microsoft is in the process of testing antivirus software that it intends to include in the next version of Windows. Ordinarily, I would take strong issue with Microsoft singling out another software category to take over. But it's becoming imperative that every new PC come with antivirus software pre-installed, and that's just not the case, much as you might think it is.

    What's more, the antivirus companies should take some responsibility for what's gotten us where we are. Rising antivirus annual subscription rates aren't helping. I'd rather see them charge more for the product but have it include a two-year subscription. An expired virus definition subscription should be as much Symantec's responsibility as it is the customer's. Bottom line: annual subscription renewals should cost no more than $10, and be set to automatically self renew via credit card where possible. Every PC needs antivirus software. This should just be a part of the regular cost of computing.

    Does it sound ridiculous to require all PC's to be security inspected annually, just the same way cars are in most states? Probably. But if we did that, it would cut way back on this problem.

    We're never going to stamp out mass-mailing worms and spam with protective software. But people who use computers should take responsibility for the mass-mailing scourges they negligently inflict on others. We could greatly reduce the public pain if we raise our level of awareness and teach people how to take action. It's clear from the pathetic attempts of software vendors and law enforcement to do something useful about Blaster and Sobig that we have a long way to go before we get this right.

    Back to the Top

    NetSwitcher keeps you going when you switch network connections!
    paid advertisement

    Review: GoToMyPC | Top Product!
    Remote access has been around for a long time, but it hasn't been this easy until recently. GoToMyPC from Expertcity is a secure, Internet-based remote-access service that lets you take control of your PC's desktop from literally any other computer connected to the Internet. For the personal version of this product (tested for this review), here are a couple of classic scenarios where that might come in handy:

    Scenario 1. You need to access work from home. You get home from work and realize you left a file on your computer that you need to review for an early morning meeting. GoToMyPC lets you directly access your work PC, through your home firewall and your work firewall, and transfer files from it to your home PC. You can also access email and virtually any data, program, printer, or network volume that you could access if you were sitting at your work PC. To put a twist on it, you could also reverse the picture and access your home PC while you're at work.

    Scenario 2. You're going on a trip. You want access to your email, but you don't want to move your email to a portable PC or deal with synchronizing your email on two machines. Instead, use the portable to connect to the Internet and then remotely access your work or home PC from the road. It'll let you get email or handle a variety of other chores as if you were sitting back at your PC. Or here's another wrinkle: Don't bother taking a PC with you at all. Just use any Internet-connected computer or PC kiosk you find along your travels to access your PC back at the ranch. It also works with Pocket PCs (but not Palms).

    Simplicity At Work
    Let me get something out of the way right at the top. GoToMyPC is extremely easy to set up and use. On Windows PCs in particular, it's very well thought out. (Linux, Macintosh, Unix, and Solaris platforms are supported also, although they get a less full-featured Java-based client user interface.) On Windows, GoToMyPC 4.0 has all the features and then some of Windows XP's Remote Desktop Connection (covered in earlier issues), but it's designed to work over the Internet. Windows XP's Remote Desktop Web Connection (more comparable to GoToMyPC) is far less powerful than GoToMyPC, less secure, and also much harder to use. In fact, I've had some trouble getting RDWC to work at all. There are also products like Symantec's pcAnywhere and others that do a pretty good job. But GoToMyPC installs and configures in a trice, and it just works and works.

    Using the service involves logging into the GoToMyPC website, which uses Secure Socket Layers (SSL). Logging in forces a quick download of the GoToMyPC Personal 4.0 client code. At first this may seem a nuisance even if it only takes 30 seconds or so, but it's really not. By handling things this way, Expertcity ensures that it does not leave any code behind. Each time you exit the service, the downloaded code is deleted, leaving the computer as you found it. This is the way you want the service to behave when you're remotely accessing your computer from a public PC or kiosk. Leave no traces. It does mean that broadband is an absolute necessity, however. I don't recommend this product for dial-up users. In fact, Expertcity's requirements say: "Always-on stable Internet connection with cable modem, ISDN, DSL or better."

    GoToMyPC is also very secure with 128-bit AES encryption, a double password login system, the option to use one-time passwords (it doesn't get any more secure than that), and a long list of other security attributes, this product doubles as a VPN solution.

    Another feature worth noting is the ability to invite one person on a time-limited basis to either view your desktop or take control of it. (That should put you in mind of Microsoft's Remote Assistance feature in Windows XP.) You can also print remotely once you've gone through a fairly simple setup procedure. Like most remote access solutions, copy and paste from the remote desktop to your local desktop is limited, but GoToMyPC does perform this operation, so long as the item being pasted is 10K or less in size.

    The client user-interface provides a wealth of solid features with a high degree of usability. It's very similar to the Windows XP Remote Desktop Connection functionality. It even improves on RDC in places. If your host PC and your client PC have different screen resolutions, GoToMyPC is capable of resizing the host window to match the client. It does this by automatically changing the resolution of the host. Although that is more a brute force solution, I greatly prefer it. Microsoft's RDC resizes application windows on the fly, but in so doing, it changes the default size of all your apps. GoToMyPC's method means that all you have to do is change the computer's resolution when you get back to the host PC. Note: This way of working is optional. The default approach is to handle the difference in resolution virtually.

    Expertcity offers four flavors of GoToMyPC: Personal, Pro, Corporate, and Corporate Plus. The Personal version comes in one-host-or-two? configurations. By that they mean, would you like the ability to simultaneously serve up the desktops of more than one host? The one host solution gives you the option to switch from one host to another at any time -- even from a client (so long as the host software is installed on both hosts in advance).

    The basic price for a single host is $19.95 a month. It's cheaper to buy by the year, though, where the standard price is $179.40 a year. As I write this, though, Expertcity has two different promotions going on. One will give you the annual one-host service for $119.40 a year. The other, which *should* be visible to you after you sign up for the one-month trial service, is just $99. That first promotion level provides 2-host service for $179.40 a year, and the second one offers 2-host service at $149.00 a year. For more information, call Expertcity's Personal customer service line at 888-259-3826.

  • GoToMyPC Personal Pricing
  • Limited-Time Bargain Pricing

    The Pro version is aimed at small offices in the 4-20 PC range, and standard pricing ranges from $765.60 to $3,829 per year, depending on the number of PCs.

  • GoToMyPC Pro Pricing

    Expertcity offers Corporate and Corporate Plus services too. You can find out some more about them on the website, but I recommending give Expertcity a call: 888-646-0016.

  • GoToMyPC Corporate

    Where's the Rub?
    There are a few downsides to GoToMyPC. The largest is probably price. But I figure that even if I only used it 10 times a year it'd be well worth the $180 price tag for the basic service. And if you can get it for $100, at least for the first year? So much the better.

    Performance is another issue. Do not expect your remotely accessed desktop to whiz along at the speeds it would if you were sitting at that computer. There's some lag, even with very fast broadband connections. Compared to what remote access used to be like, it's a speed demon. But you're not going to want to stay home from work every day and work that way.

    Right now the service only supports 8-bit color -- meaning that even if your host is displaying 32-bit locally, it will appear as 8-bit color on the client. That helps with performance, I'm sure, but 16-bit would be better. What 8-bit means is that colors that change gradually along a gradient may appear blocky instead of transitioning smoothly. It's not a big deal, but it's not a big deal, but it does alter the experience a little.

    But that's about it. Anything else would be picking at nits. I really like this service, and I'm clearly going to be paying Expertcity for years to come -- so let's hope they don't raise the price too much!

  • Top Product! | GoToMyPC Personal 4.0, Expertcity, Phone: 888-259-3826, GoToMyPC FAQ, Version 4.0 Press Release, $179.40 per year

    Back to the Top

    60-Second Briefs
       - Symantec's New Products
       - Norton AntiVirus 2004
       - Norton AntiSpam 2004
       - Norton Internet Security 2004
       - Norton SystemWorks 2004

    Symantec's New Products
    Symantec has released a whole new set of 2004 version desktop security products. All new Symantec products now have product activation that works very similarly to Microsoft's (although I'm told it's not the same anti-piracy company's technology). The real-world lowdown is this: Symantec allows you to install its programs on five PCs before you'll run into trouble. But remember, that includes your next new PC, or your existing PC if you do some major hardware upgrading. It's wrong to pass out programs to your friends just because you can. The rest of this week's 60-Second Briefs fill you in on Norton product specifics.

    Norton AntiVirus 2004
    NAV 2004 and Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional are available for about $50 and $70 on the street, respectively. Prices include a one-year subscription to antivirus definitions. Current users of Norton AntiVirus and competitive antivirus products will be able to upgrade to Norton AntiVirus 2004 and Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional for about $30 and $40, respectively. Norton AntiVirus 2004 Small Office Packs will be available for a street price of about $200 for five users and $400 for 10 users. These products should be available now.

    The biggest new feature of this product is the addition of spyware and adware detection and removal, including keystroke-logging programs. NAV 2004 also performs real-time scanning of compressed files. There are also improvements to the subscription management process, which I'm told include preservation of previous subscription time and fixes for other subscription snafus. Subscription renewal rates are $19.95 per year.

    Norton AntiSpam 2004
    NAS 2004, which includes 12 months of protection updates, is available for about $40 from Symantec's online store. Current users of Symantec products as well as users of select competitive products can get an upgrade mail-in rebate for $10. Product should be available in stores about now.

    This product is part of the Norton Internet Security product line. It's best user interface experience is found under Microsoft Outlook, where it allows you to quickly tag any open message as spam or not. See Let's Fight Sp@m elsewhere in this issue for additional information about the product.

    Norton Internet Security 2004
    street prices of about $70, $100, and $50, respectively and should be available right now. Norton Internet Security 2004 includes Norton Personal Firewall 2004, Norton AntiVirus 2004, Norton AntiSpam 2004.

    The most important new feature besides the updated versions of Norton AntiVirus and Norton Personal Firewall is a Network Detector in Norton Personal firewall, which allows you to name and save network configurations by user. Subscription renewal rate is $29.95 a year (includes Norton AntiVirus).

    Norton SystemWorks 2004
    NSW 2004 and NSW 2004 Professional sell for about $70 and $100 on the street, respectively. NSW is the superset of Norton products, including the latest versions of Norton AntiVirus, Norton Utilities, Norton GoBack, Norton CleanSweep, One Button Checkup, and a new program called Norton Password Manager, which provides both an encrypted password database and also quick fill-in of passwords in Windows programs and websites. The Pro version adds Norton Ghost, Process Viewer, and PassMark PerformanceTest.

    Back to the Top

    Have you thought about advertising in Scot’s Newsletter? New ad positions may be opening soon. Now’s the time to find out about it. Check the Rate Card for more information. Or send us an enquiry by email to:

    house advertisement

    Let’s Fight Sp@m, Part 10
       - Spamnix's Bayesian Side
       - Norton AntiSpam 2004
       - Eudora 6.0's Bayesian Junk Mail Filter
       - Paul Graham, Better Bayesian Filtering

    Since May when the Let's Fight Sp@m series made its last appearance, the big story has been that the whole world has awakened to the spam problem. Until recently though, an ISP solution, a server-based antispam tool, an Outlook-client based spam-fighting utility (there are several for Outlook), or some sort of proxy-server solution (such as John Graham-Cumming's POPFile) were the only truly effective spam-fighting measures. The first two of those often have questionable efficiency, with false positives a near certain thing -- meaning that sooner or later you're going to miss that message from your boss, a client, a family member, or a long-lost friend. [Editor's Note: So that's what happened to that steamy message I sent you about date night ... --Cyndy.]

    Outlook Express, Eudora, and Netscape Mail users ... your most effective (but not exactly low-maintenance) solution has been POPFile, SpamBayes, or any of a recent uprising of Bayesian products like them:

  • SpamBayes
  • POPFile

    Spamnix's Bayesian Side
    Until now, that is. Eudora finally has a Bayesian spam-filtering product that plugs right into the interface. Spamnix, the anti-spam utility I've been using with Eudora for quite some time (as better than nothing), has become a lot more functional recently with the inclusion of SpamAssassin's new Bayesian filtering system. (SpamAssassin is content-filtering technology that underlies Spamnix.) The 1.2 Beta of Spamnix (I'm running 1.2.12), is working very well, and best of all, the false positives are markedly reduced.

    Spamnix program author Barry Jaspan's simple interface makes it easy to work with. You train the Bayesian filter by feeding it at least one folder known to have no spam messages and one that has nothing but spam messages. The program requires 200 of each type of message to get started. This process is very similar to other types of Bayesian products. I still receive a small trickle of spam in various inboxes. But Spamnix is literally catching hundreds of spams a day on my desktop, quietly and efficiently. Without requiring me to do really anything. It's clearly better than the 1.x generation of Spamnix was.

    Find out more about the Spamnix 1.2 Beta. Note: Some of the earlier Spamnix 1.2 builds were problematic, so be sure to install 1.2.11 or newer.

    Norton AntiSpam 2004
    The bigger news, especially for Outlook Express users, is probably the new Norton AntiSpam 2004 product. Although Symantec says this product is integrated into the user interface of OE, Eudora, Outlook, and others, the truth is that it's a standalone program that has a couple of menu hooks. Norton AntiSpam, which includes a pop-up and ad blocker, creates its own white and black lists. It also supposedly employs Bayesian technology. I've just installed the product, and so far I'm not seeing anything Bayesian about it. I also haven't been able to get it to work properly with Eudora, perhaps because I'm using Eudora 6.0, which was released only a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps Symantec didn't test Norton AntiSpam with Eudora 6.0.

    One big thing of note about Norton AntiSpam is that it's definition-based, meaning that you'll have to pay to continue getting updates after the first year, just like Symantec's other products. This may or may not make sense. But right now, the best Bayesian anti-spam tools do not require this sort of updating. Norton AntiSpam would have to work better than any anti-spam product on the market before I'd be willing to say it was worth paying another annual security subscription fee.

    I'm testing this product, and I'll let you know what I think of it in a future issue.

    Eudora 6.0's Bayesian Junk Mail Filter
    Like Mozilla's latest "Netscape Mail" product, Eudora's newest mail 6.0 client has built-in Bayesian anti-spam filtering. It's pretty basic, though. Spamnix actually has a slightly better UI than Junk Mail (which Qualcomm actually calls "SpamWatch" in marketing materials). I tested the Eudora 6.0's SpamWatch features for a couple of days. Without any training at all, there were lots of false positives. Since my current focus is Spamnix 1.2, I'll come back to full-fledged testing of the Qualcomm solution at a later date.

    Paul Graham, Better Bayesian Filtering
    Back in January, Paul Graham, who has been leading the charge on Bayesian algorithm antispam solutions, released a companion piece to his A Plan for Spam (a past Link of the Week here in Scot's Newsletter). It's called Better Bayesian Filtering.

  • A Plan for Spam
  • Better Bayesian Filtering

  • Read the rest of the Let's Fight Sp@m series

    Back to the Top

    Scot’s Newsletter Forums’ Six-Month Anniversary
    Today marks six months since Scot’s Newsletter Forums threw open its doors.

    Some 1,725 new members and 35,000+ posts later, the thing is going like gang-busters (as my Dad used to say). Our managing moderators, Arena2045 (Admin), LilBambi (Senior Moderator), and Jeber (Community Moderator) have things very well in hand. I'd also like to welcome our newest moderator, Teacher, who, like all of our mods, is a serious asset to the boards. Thanks also go out to Bruno, GolfProRM, Peachy, ChrisP, ThunderRiver and the whole gang. You guys are amazing! Congratulations everyone on building a true online community. It's small and cozy, and many people seem to like it that way. Including me.

    If you'd like to participate in the SFNL Forums, here's the lowdown. The Forums are completely wide open for anyone to read. But to post your thoughts and respond to others, you need to do our free five-minute registration. Here's how to register:

    1. You need a valid email address to register to SFNL Forums. Your email address is not visible to other people in the forums, however. You can even use the forum software to send email to other members, and your email address will still be protected. Other members will tell you, you don't get spam from registering with SFNL Forums. That's something we take very seriously.

    2. Use your browser to visit this page to register to Scot’s Newsletter Forums.

    3. Be sure to read the "COPPA Registration" page closely so you don't inadvertently make a mistake about your age. If you're under 14, you have to fill out a form and have a parent or guardian sign it.

    4. Choose a user name, password, and supply a valid email address. You need to receive an automated message from the Forums to complete your registration, so the email address should be one you can receive mail to right away.

    5. You will shortly receive an email with the subject: "Registration at Scot's Newsletter Forums." To complete your registration, click the *second* link in that message while you're connected to the Internet.

    That's all there is to it.

    Back to the Top

    Goodbye, SpeakEasy DSL
    Those of you who've been reading this missive for a while may recall that it took me over a year to get my first DSL service in my current location, from late 1999 through early 2001. I won't rehash the story, because it's all there in the Scot's Newsletter and Broadband Report archives for anyone to see. But after a Herculean effort by Covad, I did eventually get SDSL service. All in all, it took about half a dozen different line installations before we got one short enough to support SDSL service.

    Later, my first DSL ISP went out of business and I had to scramble to keep my line. A few months after that, my SDSL line was accidentally hijacked by a phone-company technician -- something it's all too easy for a tech to do because dedicated DSL lines don't have dial tones.

    SpeakEasy is one of the last great nationwide DSL ISPs in the U.S. The Baby Bells have increasingly taken over this business since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was weakened by the FCC. I think it's a sad state of affairs. And I'd like to go on supporting independent companies like Covad and SpeakEasy, but the cost is prohibitive. You see, they can't upgrade my existing dedicated SDSL line, which is far shorter than the analog phone lines that come to my house. No one can. That's just the way it is with all dedicated DSL lines.

    Currently I pay $108 a month for 384kbps up/384kbps down SpeakEasy/Covad SDSL service. To lower the price, I would be forced to give up my $30-a-month Verizon DSL service. My cost for the new SpeakEasy DSL service would be $60 a month with a dedicated IP address, with performance being the same as my Verizon service. Needless to say, I can't justify the price difference.

    My SpeakEasy service is scheduled to be turned off on October 1. SpeakEasy, to its credit, has tried a number of things to get me to stay onboard. But nothing has actually solved the problem.

    Even though I have three analog phone "lines" coming to my home, two of them can't be used for DSL because they consist of a single line being shared by two numbers through the use of an analog line-sharing box on the outside of my house. I would love to be able to capture that shorter dedicated DSL line, use it for one of my other analog phone lines, and ditch this analog line-sharing device. Because it's some 2,000-feet shorter, I might just be close enough to get 1.5Mbps DSL service from either Verizon or SpeakEasy on that line, instead of the 768kbps service I'm relegated to now. Any Verizon techs out there who have advice for me about the analog line-sharing box, and how I might get Verizon to replace it, your input is greatly welcomed!

    Back to the Top

    Have you thought about advertising in Scot’s Newsletter? New ad positions may be opening soon. Now’s the time to find out about it. Check the Rate Card for more information. Or send us an enquiry by email to:

    house advertisement

    Tips for Linux Apprentices: Command-Line Shortcuts
    If ever there were an installment of Linux apprentices to print out and tack up on the wall beside your Linux machine, it's this one. Linux is nowhere near to escaping its Unix roots (and many Linux users feel that's a good thing). This week we'll tackle the Linux Console and the many commands you use in it. Windows users who date back to the DOS days will find all this strangely familiar, since many DOS commands typed at the C:> prompt bear more than a passing resemblance to their Unix/Linux counterparts. On the other hand, this can also be deceiving. DOS and Linux are very different.

    The Console or Terminal
    Windows XP's Command Prompt window or the "DOS Box" of earlier versions of Windows has a parallel under Linux. The actual name of this command-line-entry object depends on the Linux distro you're running, but it's frequently known as the "Console" or "Terminal." In Mandrake, for example, it's called the Console. In RedHat, it's called the Terminal. You'll find your Console or Terminal somewhere on the main menu of your desktop graphical user interface. When you open it, you'll be presented with a text prompt that will end with: $. That means you're logged in as a normal user.

    After typing the "su" command and providing your password, the $ prompt will change to a # prompt, indicating that you're logged in as root (roughly equivalent to an Administrator under Windows, but it carries more weight in Linux):


    Ctrl+D logs you out as root and brings back the $ prompt. And if you use the Ctrl+D keyboard combination again, the Console will close. A normal prompt looks something like:


    (Note: The words localhost and localdomain may appear as something different on your Linux PC.)

    For nearly every program or command there are "man"-ual pages stored on your computer. Man pages are built-in Linux documentation files. You can read them by typing this in the Console:


    Here's a specific example. The following command elicits the man pages for the cp command (which handles file copies).

    man cp

    Use the spacebar to scroll the page, and press the q key to close the man pages.

    More information on individual Console commands can often be found by typing " --help" or " --info" after any command, like this:

    man --help
    cp --info

    Navigating the File System and Simple Commands
    These are the most often used navigational or directory-related Linux Console/Terminal commands:

    Command  Function
    cdChanges the current directory.
    cd ..Changes the current directory up to the parent directory.
    cd /Changes to the root directory.
    mkdirMakes a new directory.
    rmdirRemoves, or deletes, the named directory.
    rmRemoves, or deletes, named file.
    cpCopies the named files or directories.
    mvMoves or renames the named files or directories.
    lsLists the contents of a container, such as a directory.
    ls -aLists the contents of a container, including hidden objects.*
    catShows the contents of a file.
    touchMakes an empty text file.

    * Note: Hidden files begin with a period, like this: .Test1

    The following are some actual commands you might use and how they would work on your Linux system. These examples assume you've opened a console window on desktop 1 and the home directory in desktop 2, which lets you see and verify the commands you enter in desktop 1.

    Command        Function
    mkdir OneMakes the directory One in your home directory.
    mkdir oneMakes the directory one in your home directory. Note: Linux is case sensitive so One and one are not the same.
    touch Test1Makes an empty text file named Test1
    touch Test2Makes an empty text file named Test2
    cp Test1 OneCopies the Test1 file into the One directory.
    mv Test2 oneMoves the Test2 file into the one directory.
    mv one OneMoves the one directory into the One directory.
    cd OneSwitches you to the One directory, and places that directory name in the prompt.
    lsLists the file contents of the One directory. If you've done everything right so far, you should see one and Test1.
    rm Test1Removes (deletes) the Test1 file from the One directory.
    cd ..Changes the current directory to the home directory.
    rm Test1Removes the Test1 file from the home directory.
    rm -rf OneDeletes all the files and directories used for the above examples.

    The following are a couple of common Console command combinations followed by an explanation of what they do.

    First Combination:
    cd /

    Changes to the / (root) directory and lists the files and directories there, such as: /boot, /etc, /opt, /root, /tmp, /var, /bin, /dev, /home, /lib, /mnt, and /usr.

    Second Combination:
    cd /mnt

    Shows the mounted and unmounted devices that can be found in the /mnt directory, such as: cdrom, cdrom2, floppy, and (win_c).

    To learn more about the above commands and the arguments you can use with them, use the man command followed by the command name, like this:

    man cp
    man mv

    A Few Handy Console Commands

    For IP Networking:
    ifconfig  (shows assigned IP addresses)
    route  (shows traffic)

    Display Disk Performance:
    hdparm -t /dev/hda

    Space Usage:
    df -h
    du -s /var/log/*  (space usage of all the files in /var/log)

    Showing Available Memory:
    free -b  (in bytes)
    free -k  (in Kilobytes)
    free -m  (in Megabytes)
    free -o  (without buffers)
    free -t  (totals)

    Take and Store Screenshot:
    import -w root screen.jpg  (Stores the file in your /home directory)

    See also The One Page Linux Manual in .PDF format.

    Most of the material you'll read in Tips for Linux Apprentices comes from Bruno of Amsterdam, one of the moderators of the popular All Things Linux forum at Scot's Newsletter Forums.

    Bruno is helped by All Things Linux co-moderators Peachy and Teacher, as well as other forum members who have posted in the highly useful Tips for Linux Starters thread (from which Linux Apprentices is derived).

    Previous installments of Linux for Apprentices can be found in these Scot's Newsletter back issues:

  • Check Your Linux 'ISO'
  • Installation Tips
  • Updating Your Distro

    Back to the Top

    Newsletter Schedule
    The next issue of this newsletter is planned for October 14.

    Did you know you can always find out when the next issue of Scot's Newsletter is scheduled to appear by visiting the Scot's Newsletter home page?

    Back to the Top

    The Fine Print
    If you like this newsletter, I need your help spreading the word about it. Please share it with friends and co-workers, and encourage them to sign up! It's free.

    Visit the new Scot's Newsletter Forums.

    Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Change Email Address or Message Format
    You can unsubscribe at any time; I don't believe in captive audiences. The website subscription center is the easiest way to manage your Scot’s Newsletter subscription. Changes take only a minute or two. You must select your message format — Text or HTML — even for address changes or unsubscribes.

  • Unsubscribe
  • Unsubscribe Help and Options
  • Subscribe
  • Change Email Address or Message Format (HTML or Text)

    To help with the cost of creating and distributing the newsletter, I accept contributions via PayPal and Letter Mail. For more information on donations:

  • Sign-up for PayPal (if you don't already have it)
  • Option #1: Donate via PayPal
  • Option #2: Donate via Letter Mail

    Send comments, suggestions, or questions about this newsletter. Don't be bashful about telling me what you like or don't like. Send emails related to editorial content (only) to

    Please address advertising inquires (only) to:

    Sign-up for PayPal.

    Support this Newsletter by Donating Today.
    Or donate via Letter Mail.

    How to Link to Scot’s Newsletter

    Copyright © 2001-2007 Scot Finnie. All Rights Reserved.
    Ten Myths About Copyright Explained.

    You are subscribed to Scot's Newsletter HTML EDITION as: $subst('Recip.EmailAddr')