Current_Issue.tar.gz - The Most Grepping Issue of the Year!

Bad puns aside, the Command-Line issue is one of our favorites. Although Linux has evolved into an elegant operating system complete with GUI front ends and a stylish visual appeal, at its core, Linux is still text configs, symbolic links and log files. Around these parts, we consider that a feature, so this month, we've dedicated our issue focus to the command line.

Reuven M. Lerner starts us off in the world of text as he continues his series on non-relational databases. This month it's Cassandra, which appears to have amazing scaling abilities. I suspect Dave Taylor's column this month is really a subtle joke about coders spending too much time in their parents' basements. He shows us how to use a script to determine whether the sun is up. Granted, we could peek outside, but why do all that needless work when our computers could do it for us!

Daniel Bartholomew reviews the Ben NanoNote—this fascinating little sub-$100 device is a real computer inside a case the size of a large cell phone. What might a computer that small be good for? Read Daniel's article to find out. When you're finished doing that, check out Jes Fraser's roundup of CLI-based applications. She covers everything from multimedia to editors to Web browsing, and even instant messaging. Perhaps an SSH session and the Ben NanoNote will be all you need for a computer! (Assuming you don't stray more than 15 feet from a bigger computer. Be sure to read Daniel's article.)

When you stick to the command line, a surprising number of solutions will keep all that GUI stuff out of your hair. Whether you want to bookmark directories in Bash (Ira Chayut shows how) or to kick it old-school with a text-based spreadsheet (Serge Hallyn covers that task), the command line can make a superhero out of anyone. If you don't believe me, take a look at our resident command-line superhero on page 18. Kyle Rankin knows root is the true master of the Linux universe, and he sports his powers proudly. In fact, if you've ever hung around with Kyle, you know that although he has a fancy high-powered laptop, his aversion to all things GUI makes it unnecessary. He uses it to ssh into an 800MHz server and does pretty much all his work from there. This month, he shows us part of his elaborate e-mail setup with mutt. If you've ever doubted the power of mutt, you won't after reading his column.

I'm sure many of you love the command line for those things best done on the command line, but prefer a more point-and-clicky interface for other stuff. We can respect that. In fact, although I do much of my sysadmin work on the command line, things like e-mail and spreadsheets just make more sense when they're GUI, at least for me. Ibrahim Haddad gives us an intro to MeeGo, which is a combination of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin. It's a GUI-based operating system for small screens. Of course, there's more to it than that, so you'll want to check it out yourself. We also have an article by Adrian Klaver that covers rdiff-backup, a command-line backup and restore system, but he also includes an intro to a Web-based front end to rdiff-backup called rdiffWeb. Finally, as one of those applications that can go either CLI or GUI, Greg Bledsoe shows us how we can use the normally graphical virtualization solution VirtualBox in a headless, command-line way.

Although choice is something we pride ourselves on in the Linux community, and those command-line-only folks can happily live with their GUI neighbors, Kyle Rankin and Bill Childers don't always agree on things. This month, feel free to take sides as they argue over sane defaults or extensive configurability in their Point/Counterpoint column. While they state their cases, in honor of the command-line issue, I think I'll go play a text adventure. I hope I don't get eaten by a grue.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on


Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.