Understanding the Computer Terminal for Beginners

terminalThe terminal in your computer is the most interesting way to interact with your computer. Way before there were mouses, keyboards and proprietary operating systems with immensely user-friendly features, there was only a small window, a blinking cursor and an extensive series of commands. Each of these commands served a purpose and looked to take care of a specific task. With technology moving at the rate it is most average computer users don’t see a need for using the terminal window. Why type when you can click?

Devoted terminal users cite a certain amount of freedom with the terminal; a break from the modality of the point-and-click aspect of computing. In other words, “what I say, is what is done” sort of mentality. There’s certainly pros and cons of each, but that is for you to decide what those are.

This post looks to approach understanding the terminal if you were someone with little to no understanding of what terminal commands are or even what a terminal is. For this section, I’ll be using my Macbook (my Ubuntu loaded book is currently away from me at the moment…), but rest assured, terminal is terminal across any operating system – Linux, OSX or otherwise.

Terminal Terminology 101

Before jumping into the terminal and punching in commands, there were some terms that I regret not investigating the meaning of sooner. To save you the hassle of scouring the Internet for all these terms, here are the most basic ones it helps to know which will help you on your mission to understanding terminal computing:

1. Shell (sh): A shell is a command-line interpreter. This is where you’ll be punching in commands which will get your computer to perform actions. There are different kinds of shells for computing as we’ll see below.

2. Bash (Bourne Again Shell): This is the most common kind of shell where commands are put in. There are other kinds of shells including: the Korn Shell (ksh), the C shell (csh) and the TC-shell or T-shell (tcsh).


Bash Shell

C Shell

C Shell

T Shell

T Shell

Korn Shell

Korn Shell

3. Terminal: The terminal is actually the program that runs a shell. Most shells in computers are the Bash shell. It can’t actually be pictured per se as all of the shells above are the visual representations of the terminal program in action. Those ARE the Terminals.

To summarize:

  • Shell is the general name for any command-line operator.
  • Bash is a kind of shell – the most common kind of shell – and 99% of the time will be the one you use when you’re making commands.
  • Terminal is the program that runs the shell and in most cases it will be the Bash Shell.

Playing with the Terminal

Before there were keyboards and mouses to get around a computer, there was only the terminal and a slew of commands that could be applied to get things done. Now, the keyboard and mouse are staples to any computing experience and the terminal has gone by the wayside for 90% of the computer users. Which is a shame. Though it takes some getting used to, the terminal, whether in a Linux or UNIX based distribution (or distro) like Ubuntu or Fedora or on a Mac, can provide the ultimate experience in user flexibility.

Upon opening the terminal you should see a shell prompt that has: username@hostname:~$

  • Username is you or rather the name your computer is registered under.
  • Hostname is your computer (ubuntu will likely have @ubuntu; my macbook for this exercise has macbook-pro).
  • The “~” symbol is shorthand for “your home folder”. In other words, the folder (or Directory) you are currently in. More on that below.
  • “$” means that you are the superuser. As superuser, you are just a person, so to speak, making commands in the terminal. The flipside to superuser is Root (which would show up as username@hostname:~# instead). More on that in the future.

Common Commands

*NOTE: I censored my last name in each of these examples – that’s what the white line is about 🙂

These are some of the most common commands for all terminal users that we’ll go over right now. There will certainly be other installments of this series in the near future, covering more advanced commands and concepts. In the mean time, here are 3 basic commands for terminal computing:

1. ls. The ls command creates a list of the current files and directories. The equal to clicking on the User name and seeing a list of folders show up:

ls example 2

2. cd. The cd command changes directories. In the terminal, each section of your computer (Desktop, Documents, Pictures, etc.) are seen as directories. Rather than navigating with your mouse from Desktop to Documents to Pictures, you can type the command cd followed by the directory. Now we’re on my Desktop. Now that we’re on Desktop, we can use the ls command again to see the contents of the Desktop directory

cd example

Ls example

3. clear. Clear command simply clears all the text present in the terminal.

clear example

This was a small, small glimpse into the terminal. Albeit from this entry, you have a better understanding of the most basic terminologies and three simple commands. Terminal computing can seem like a daunting thing when you look at it for the first time. But like most things, you’re going to be frustrated at first – but that’s the learning process. You will learn to love what you’re learning with time. Remember: proper practice makes perfect and a thirst for knowledge can only help.

This will certainly be a topic that will come back in the future.

Looking to get in touch with your computer expert? Check out this cool link as well for more commands and in-depth explanation of terminal computing.


Start Building a Better You By Waking Up Early

sleepMany of us dread getting up early for whatever reason. Go to work, take the dog out for a morning walk, getting the kids ready for school. We don’t naturally get up early unless there is a need to and that need is of the utmost pressing concern. One Forbes article argues that there is something to getting up early and doing so can lead to a more productive day and optimistic outlook on life.

Granted, training oneself to wake up early can be a challenge for some. But the rewards are well worth the initial investment of learning to do so that will pay dividends in the long run.

What is “early”?

Early can mean different things to different people. For some, the sunrise is early while others think noon is early. When I first started training different wake up times, I first started by finding out when I wake up without the aid of an alarm clock. Without being prompted, I found I woke up around 9-9:30am semi-regularly.

Now I had a baseline to work with and with any good experiment, a baseline is essential. With this data in my head, the next thing I did was try setting an alarm a half an hour earlier (8:30am) and seeing how that felt waking up. Continuing to go to bed around midnight, waking up at 8:30am felt very uncomfortable and left me tired and disoriented throughout the day.

The next step was to alter when I went to bed. This was done by going to bed a half an hour earlier: 11:30pm.

By progressively tooling with bedtime/wake up times and training my mind and body to get used to waking up at these different times, I eventually found a good medium: 11pm bedtime with a 6:45am wake up. To my body, this was the perfect balance: I woke up feeling rested and was able to go the day without feeling exhausted and disoriented.

In the end, early is a “to each his own” word, but first learning what early means and then working at making it happen is the first step to some really transformative living.

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

Training your body and mind for getting up early can do wonders to your personal life, career and family life. Here are some of the benefits that can come when you wake up early:

1. Become more proactive. Those who get up early often see themselves able to take additional time to plan out their long term goals with greater depth and detail.

2. Time for exercise. Obesity is still very much an issue in the United States and in many parts of the world. Combine this with people working well past the 8 hour day and 40 hour week (http://20somethingfinance.com/american-hours-worked-productivity-vacation/), people simply don’t have the time they wanted to get to the gym or spend an hour out for a run or bike ride like they’d like to. Waking early allows you that additional time to fit in that exercise you wanted to do for so long, but couldn’t.

3. More optimistic. Studies have shown that people who wake up early have a more optimistic outlook on the day and life in general. This is largely in part for the reasons mentioned above: because there is that little bit more time in the day to prepare for the day, think and assess life as it stands at this time, feelings of stress tend to fall by the wayside in place for a more fulfilled outlook.

Robin Sharma has an excellent video on 5 steps everyone can take for bringing themselves to wake up earlier:

How to Stay Focused When Running on a Treadmill

treadmillTreadmill running is a strange paradox of exciting and boring at the same time. One the one hand, your body is active; sweat is pouring, limbs are moving and your breathing is fast paced. You’re in the moment. On the other hand…you’re not moving. The scenery around you is not going anywhere and all you can seem to focus on is how long you’ve actually been on the treadmill and when can you get off. Indoor training is certainly not as much of a rush as outdoor training, but if you’re a year-round runner, then indoor running has to happen sooner or later.

The Trick: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Here’s a small trick that I use to keep my mind focused on the running aspect and not on the Can I Get Off Yet? aspect: cover up the timer screen

™ covered

If you’re without music or a book or something else to overtly distract you from running in place, then try covering up the screen that displays all the information about your workout including time, distance run, heart rate and calories burned puts the technical components of your workout. A post-it note, a towel, a piece of paper – anything will do as long as it fully covers the data on the screen. Rather than being distracted by something else and not your workout, you can now focus constructively on your workout: how do I sync by breathing? Am I running correctly? Is this good form? When you’re more focused on your running and perfecting your exercise, you’re sure to have a better treadmill workout.

To coin an old M*A*S*H line, your workout becomes out of sight, out of mind. Your mind will focus less on the technical aspects of the exercise and more on actually running, syncing your breathing and finding your rhythm.

Give it a shot. See what happens the next time you’re at the gym!

5 Desktops to Organize Your Desktop

We don’t typically think of our computer desktop background as anything significant. Often times the backgrounds of our computer are representative of something we like enough to show our support for it. A favorite basketball team, Call of Duty, U.S. Marines background – whatever your personal preference may be.

But few of us know that our background wallpaper can actually be something to organize our folders and the way we look for information on our desktop. Knowing where something is at the drop of a hat is one of the most effective ways to reduce mental stress and free-up mental bandwidth.

Here are 5 helpful desktop designs sure to help you format and layout your computer for easy, stress-free navigation. Each utilize the method of grids and quadrants to visually organize your information:

 wp 5http://files.customize.org/download/wallpapers/72197/77295/desktop_office-1920×1200.jpg


wp 1

wp 2http://lifehacker.com/5807262/give-your-desktop-a-productivity-boost-with-these-built+in-organization-wallpapers/


wp 3http://www.labnol.org/software/desktop-icons-wallpaper/13321/


wp 4http://needsomeair.kundansen.org/2010/03/desktop-organizer-background.html

Tying the Knot: How to Tie a Four-in-Hand Knot

knotPerhaps the most pressing challenge of every man on his way to work or just looking to dress up for a formal engagement, the tying of the tie is every man’s Achilles Heel. I can’t think  of a single thing more daunting than unraveling the knot (no pun intended) of what it means to tie a a tie. I was one of these people for a long time until I soon found myself needing to get dressed up more often than I had before and with it, I needed to learn how to make a tie more than ever. Though there are many different tie tying styles, which might get covered more in depth at a later time (stay tuned!), we’re just going to look at the Four-in-Hand Knot or the Schoolboy Knot today, a relatively common tie knot and usually the knot people think of when they think of tying their tie.

Finding the Best Way to Tie a Tie

Generally speaking, picture tutorials or video tutorials were much more helpful than step-by-step instructions. Picture sequences and watching other people and mimicking their actions to achieve a result seems more apt with this particular task. For me, this picture-by-picture tutorial has been my personal go-to anytime I need a refresher on putting my tie on.

None the less, when you get right down to it, tying a tie is very much like tying your shoes: when you see what’s going on, the a-ha! moment clicks and you wonder how you were ever NOT able to make a tie.

Courtesy of artofmanliness.com, here’s a cool tutorial on how to do the Four-in-Hand:

As you get more comfortable with the Four-in-Hand, try out some of these other knots and REALLY up your tie tying game:

Eldridge Tie Knot
Merovingian Knot
Cavendish Knot

Awesome Pair of LED Rave Shades (with Instructions!)

Ever been at a rave and say to yourself, “Man, I wish I had something really cool on my head right now!” A little bit of prowling around the Internet has once again yielded some very cool results, perfect for the devoted rave goer or the person who has a thing for hundreds of LED lights working in chorus.

Rave glasses

Check out this cool DIY video of how to make your own pair of LED rave glasses. Perfect for your next Daft Punk concert – or just to wear around the house because they’re LED rave glasses.

Can’t forget the instructions!