The Linux shell will always be with us

Summary:There's been some talk recently about how we're now beyond using the command line. Nonsense!


Over at TuxRadar, a Linux site as you could guess from the name, they've been debating for some time the question of whether or not the Linux shell is obsolete. The argument really got kicked off with this comment: “The command line is a crusty, old-fashioned way to interact with a computer, made obsolete by GUIs, but a small hardcore of people who refuse to move on still use it to perform arcane tasks that the majority of more enlightened users never need to perform. Mostly these tasks need to be performed in this way because of defects and omissions in current GUIs.”

Oh please. For most users most of the time you'll no more need to use Linux shell commands, than you'll need to know how to change your oil to drive your car. But, sometimes, and here's the point, sometimes, you do need to change your oil.

With modern Linux desktop systems, this may only happen every time a Republican in the House votes for ObamaCare, but it can happen. That's why I still write stories such as  “The 16 Linux Shell Commands Every Desktop Linux User Should Know."

There's nothing there a Linux pro won't know by heart, but if things go really odd for you and you don't know your Bash from your C Shell you might find something handy there.

Don't get me wrong. A modern desktop Linux user is no more likely to use shell commands than a Windows user is likely to use regedit. That's why there are now Linux computers for grandpa and grandma  and my 80-year old mother-in-law is happily using Ubuntu 12.04. In 2012, most desktop users will never need to get their hands dirty with their desktop operating system's motor.

But, the shell, or its Windows equivalent. the command line, was never just for desktop users. Any Linux or Windows system administrator must know how to use this level of tools. Unlike Joe or Jane Desktop User, a system manager will use shell or command line tools all the time.

Why? For the same reason a car mechanic needs power tools to work on an engine. No graphical user interface (GUI) can give you access to all the possible tweaks that need to be made to a misbehaving desktop or to keep any server in line.

So while most users will never need to know the ins and outs of Linux's netstat or nmon or Windows' PowerShell scripts, system administrators, on any operating system, will always need to those “crusty, old-fashioned ways” to interact with a computer.

Related Stories:

A Linux computer for grandpa and grandma

If my mother-in-law can use Ubuntu Linux, anyone can

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.3 is ready today

Has Microsoft opened the door to the Linux desktop?

Ubuntu, CentOS, & SUSE Linux comes to Windows Azure

Topics: Linux, Enterprise Software, Open Source, Windows


Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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