Get Yourself A UNIX Today!

Posted on by ejames

In conjunction with our self-styled ‘Linux week’, Professor Brown gave a cool talk on the Unix philosophy at Friday Hacks earlier tonight (slides available here). We at NUS Hackers would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to install a *nix flavour, for experience, fun, and indoctrination in programming kung-fu.

If you were around tonight, you’d have heard Professor Brown say two things:

  1. “The industry expects Unix experience. You’d be surprised how many places use Unix and expect you to know Unix. If you don’t know it, well … <pause> … then it’s our fault for not teaching you while you’re at school, but then also you should learn it!”
  2. “Every student should have command line experience. I’m always very surprised by students who don’t: ‘oh you don’t compile in the shell? … errrgghh.’” <makes a face>
The easiest way to give a *nix system a shot (other than buying a Mac, that is) [1] is to download and use Virtual Box. Virtual Box is virtualization software, which means it allows you to install and run another operating system on your current machine. Alternatively, get VMWare Player, also free, though not Open Source.

After you’ve done that, download and use one of the following *nix distributions:

  • Ubuntu - Ubuntu is a newbie-friendly Linux distribution that believes in pretty visuals and graphical ease-of-use above all else. (I say this slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it is certainly a good distro to start with.)
  • Linux Mint - Another newbie friendly Linux distribution. It is in fact probably the best Linux system for newbies. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu.
  • Fedora - Fedora is the general-purpose Linux distribution provided by Red Hat software. It’s the operating system Red Hat uses to experiment with cutting-edge packages and operating system approaches, before folding the good ideas into Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
  • Arch Linux - Arch is the distribution of choice for many coreteam members here at NUS Hackers. It is a highly customizable, barebones Linux distro, with a focus of giving the user complete control over what he or she wants in his/her operating system. This distro is not for the new user; expect spending months customizing Arch to your liking.
  • OpenBSD - is interesting: it is a BSD-descended flavour of Unix with a focus on security above all. It has had very few known security holes or exploits, and is exported with cryptography. This allows it to take cryptographic approaches towards fixing security problems.
Download a flavour of *nix today and give it a try!

[1] OSX is based on BSD, and has many of the same command line tools that *nix distros enjoy. Open terminal.app and you’ll see bash. OSX is not, however, open source.

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