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Unix - Frequently Asked Questions (Contents) [Frequent posting]

Archive-name: unix-faq/faq/contents
Version: $Id: contents,v 2.9 1996/06/11 13:08:13 tmatimar Exp $

The following seven articles contain the answers to some Frequently Asked
Questions often seen in comp.unix.questions and
Please don't ask these questions again, they've been answered plenty
of times already - and please don't flame someone just because they may
not have read this particular posting.  Thank you.

This collection of documents is Copyright (c) 1994, Ted Timar, except
Part 6, which is Copyright (c) 1994, Pierre Lewis and Ted Timar.
All rights reserved.  Permission to distribute the collection is
hereby granted providing that distribution is electronic, no money
is involved, reasonable attempts are made to use the latest version
and all credits and this copyright notice are maintained.
Other requests for distribution will be considered.  All reasonable
requests will be granted.

All information here has been contributed with good intentions, but
none of it is guaranteed either by the contributors or myself to be
accurate.  The users of this information take all responsibility for
any damage that may occur.

Many FAQs, including this one, are available on the archive site in the directory pub/usenet/news.answers.
The name under which a FAQ is archived appears in the "Archive-Name:"
line at the top of the article.  This FAQ is archived as

These articles are divided approximately as follows:

      1.*) General questions.
      2.*) Relatively basic questions, likely to be asked by beginners.
      3.*) Intermediate questions.
      4.*) Advanced questions, likely to be asked by people who thought
           they already knew all of the answers.
      5.*) Questions pertaining to the various shells, and the differences.
      6.*) An overview of Unix variants.
      7.*) An comparison of configuration management systems (RCS, SCCS).

The following questions are answered:

      1.1)  Who helped you put this list together?
      1.2)  When someone refers to 'rn(1)' or 'ctime(3)', what does
              the number in parentheses mean?
      1.3)  What does {some strange unix command name} stand for?
      1.4)  How does the gateway between "comp.unix.questions" and the
              "info-unix" mailing list work?
      1.5)  What are some useful Unix or C books?
      1.6)  What happened to the pronunciation list that used to be
              part of this document?

      2.1)  How do I remove a file whose name begins with a "-" ?
      2.2)  How do I remove a file with funny characters in the filename ?
      2.3)  How do I get a recursive directory listing?
      2.4)  How do I get the current directory into my prompt?
      2.5)  How do I read characters from the terminal in a shell script?
      2.6)  How do I rename "*.foo" to "*.bar", or change file names
              to lowercase?
      2.7)  Why do I get [some strange error message] when I
              "rsh host command" ?
      2.8)  How do I {set an environment variable, change directory} inside a
              program or shell script and have that change affect my
              current shell?
      2.9)  How do I redirect stdout and stderr separately in csh?
      2.10) How do I tell inside .cshrc if I'm a login shell?
      2.11) How do I construct a shell glob-pattern that matches all files
            except "." and ".." ?
      2.12) How do I find the last argument in a Bourne shell script?
      2.13) What's wrong with having '.' in your $PATH ?
      2.14) How do I ring the terminal bell during a shell script?
      2.15) Why can't I use "talk" to talk with my friend on machine X?
      2.16) Why does calendar produce the wrong output?

      3.1)  How do I find the creation time of a file?
      3.2)  How do I use "rsh" without having the rsh hang around
              until the remote command has completed?
      3.3)  How do I truncate a file?
      3.4)  Why doesn't find's "{}" symbol do what I want?
      3.5)  How do I set the permissions on a symbolic link?
      3.6)  How do I "undelete" a file?
      3.7)  How can a process detect if it's running in the background?
      3.8)  Why doesn't redirecting a loop work as intended?  (Bourne shell)
      3.9)  How do I run 'passwd', 'ftp', 'telnet', 'tip' and other interactive
              programs from a shell script or in the background?
      3.10) How do I find the process ID of a program with a particular
            name from inside a shell script or C program?
      3.11) How do I check the exit status of a remote command
            executed via "rsh" ?
      3.12) Is it possible to pass shell variable settings into an awk program?
      3.13) How do I get rid of zombie processes that persevere?
      3.14) How do I get lines from a pipe as they are written instead of
            only in larger blocks?
      3.15) How do I get the date into a filename?
      3.16) Why do some scripts start with #! ... ?

      4.1)  How do I read characters from a terminal without requiring the user
              to hit RETURN?
      4.2)  How do I check to see if there are characters to be read without
              actually reading?
      4.3)  How do I find the name of an open file?
      4.4)  How can an executing program determine its own pathname?
      4.5)  How do I use popen() to open a process for reading AND writing?
      4.6)  How do I sleep() in a C program for less than one second?
      4.7)  How can I get setuid shell scripts to work?
      4.8)  How can I find out which user or process has a file open or is using
            a particular file system (so that I can unmount it?)
      4.9)  How do I keep track of people who are fingering me?
      4.10) Is it possible to reconnect a process to a terminal after it has
            been disconnected, e.g. after starting a program in the background
            and logging out?
      4.11) Is it possible to "spy" on a terminal, displaying the output
            that's appearing on it on another terminal?

      5.1)  Can shells be classified into categories?
      5.2)  How do I "include" one shell script from within another
            shell script?
      5.3)  Do all shells have aliases?  Is there something else that
            can be used?
      5.4)  How are shell variables assigned?
      5.5)  How can I tell if I am running an interactive shell?
      5.6)  What "dot" files do the various shells use?
      5.7)  I would like to know more about the differences between the
            various shells.  Is this information available some place?

      6.1)  Disclaimer and introduction.
      6.2)  A very brief look at Unix history.
      6.3)  Main Unix flavors.
      6.4)  Main Players and Unix Standards.
      6.5)  Identifying your Unix flavor.
      6.6)  Brief notes on some well-known (commercial/PD) Unices.
      6.7)  Real-time Unices.
      6.8)  Unix glossary.
      6.9)  Acknowledgements.

      7.1)  RCS vs SCCS:  Introduction
      7.2)  RCS vs SCCS:  How do the interfaces compare?
      7.3)  RCS vs SCCS:  What's in a Revision File?
      7.4)  RCS vs SCCS:  What are the keywords?
      7.5)  What's an RCS symbolic name?
      7.6)  RCS vs SCCS:  How do they compare for performance?
      7.7)  RCS vs SCCS:  Version Identification.
      7.8)  RCS vs SCCS:  How do they handle with problems?
      7.9)  RCS vs SCCS:  How do they interact with make(1)?
      7.10) RCS vs SCCS:  Conversion.
      7.11) RCS vs SCCS:  Support
      7.12) RCS vs SCCS:  Command Comparison
      7.13) RCS vs SCCS:  Acknowledgements
      7.14) Can I get more information on configuration management systems?

      If you're looking for the answer to, say, question 2.5, look in
      part 2 and search for the regular expression "^2.5)".

While these are all legitimate questions, they seem to crop up in
comp.unix.questions or on an annual basis, usually
followed by plenty of replies (only some of which are correct) and then
a period of griping about how the same questions keep coming up.  You
may also like to read the monthly article "Answers to Frequently Asked
Questions" in the newsgroup "news.announce.newusers", which will tell
you what "UNIX" stands for.

With the variety of Unix systems in the world, it's hard to guarantee
that these answers will work everywhere.  Read your local manual pages
before trying anything suggested here.  If you have suggestions or
corrections for any of these answers, please send them to to

Ted Timar -
ISG Technologies Inc., 6509 Airport Road, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L4V 1S7

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