It's time to take our tour. The table below lists some interesting places to explore. This is by no means a complete list, but it should prove to be an interesting adventure. For each of the directories listed below, do the following:
|/||The root directory where the file system begins. In most cases the root directory only contains subdirectories.|
|/boot||This is where the Linux kernel and boot loader files are kept. The kernel is a file called vmlinuz.|
|/etc||The /etc directory contains the configuration files for the system. All of the files in /etc should be text files. Points of interest:
|/bin, /usr/bin||These two directories contain most of the programs for the system. The /bin directory has the essential programs that the system requires to operate, while /usr/bin contains applications for the system's users.|
|/sbin, /usr/sbin||The sbin directories contain programs for system administration, mostly for use by the superuser.|
|/usr||The /usr directory contains a variety of things that support user applications. Some highlights:
|/usr/local||/usr/local and its subdirectories are used for the installation of software and other files for use on the local machine. What this really means is that software that is not part of the official distribution (which usually goes in /usr/bin) goes here.
When you find interesting programs to install on your system, they should be installed in one of the /usr/localdirectories. Most often, the directory of choice is /usr/local/bin.
|/var||The /var directory contains files that change as the system is running. This includes:
|/lib||The shared libraries (similar to DLLs in that other operating system) are kept here.|
|/home||/home is where users keep their personal work. In general, this is the only place users are allowed to write files. This keeps things nice and clean :-)|
|/root||This is the superuser's home directory.|
|/tmp||/tmp is a directory in which programs can write their temporary files.|
|/dev||The /dev directory is a special directory, since it does not really contain files in the usual sense. Rather, it contains devices that are available to the system. In Linux (like Unix), devices are treated like files. You can read and write devices as though they were files. For example /dev/fd0 is the first floppy disk drive, /dev/sda (/dev/hda on older systems) is the first hard drive. All the devices that the kernel understands are represented here.|
|/proc||The /proc directory is also special. This directory does not contain files. In fact, this directory does not really exist at all. It is entirely virtual. The /proc directory contains little peep holes into the kernel itself. There are a group of numbered entries in this directory that correspond to all the processes running on the system. In addition, there are a number of named entries that permit access to the current configuration of the system. Many of these entries can be viewed. Try viewing /proc/cpuinfo. This entry will tell you what the kernel thinks of your CPU.|
|/media,/mnt||Finally, we come to /media, a normal directory which is used in a special way. The /media directory is used for mount points. As we learned in the second lesson, the different physical storage devices (like hard disk drives) are attached to the file system tree in various places. This process of attaching a device to the tree is called mounting. For a device to be available, it must first be mounted.
When your system boots, it reads a list of mounting instructions in the file /etc/fstab, which describes which device is mounted at which mount point in the directory tree. This takes care of the hard drives, but you may also have devices that are considered temporary, such as CD-ROMs, thumb drives, and floppy disks. Since these are removable, they do not stay mounted all the time. The /media directory is used by the automatic device mounting mechanisms found in modern desktop oriented Linux distributions. On systems that require manual mounting of removable devices, the /mnt directory provides a convenient place for mounting these temporary devices. You will often see the directories /mnt/floppy and /mnt/cdrom. To see what devices and mount points are used, type mount.
During your tour, you probably noticed a strange kind of directory entry, particularly in the /boot and /lib directories. When listed with ls -l, you would have seen something like this:
lrwxrwxrwx 25 Jul 3 16:42 System.map -> /boot/System.map-2.0.36-3 -rw-r--r-- 105911 Oct 13 1998 System.map-2.0.36-0.7 -rw-r--r-- 105935 Dec 29 1998 System.map-2.0.36-3 -rw-r--r-- 181986 Dec 11 1999 initrd-2.0.36-0.7.img -rw-r--r-- 182001 Dec 11 1999 initrd-2.0.36.img lrwxrwxrwx 26 Jul 3 16:42 module-info -> /boot/module-info-2.0.36-3 -rw-r--r-- 11773 Oct 13 1998 module-info-2.0.36-0.7 -rw-r--r-- 11773 Dec 29 1998 module-info-2.0.36-3 lrwxrwxrwx 16 Dec 11 1999 vmlinuz -> vmlinuz-2.0.36-3 -rw-r--r-- 454325 Oct 13 1998 vmlinuz-2.0.36-0.7 -rw-r--r-- 454434 Dec 29 1998 vmlinuz-2.0.36-3
Notice the files, System.map, module-info and vmlinuz. See the strange notation after the file names?
These three files are called symbolic links. Symbolic links are a special type of file that points to another file. With symbolic links, it is possible for a single file to have multiple names. Here's how it works: Whenever the system is given a file name that is a symbolic link, it transparently maps it to the file it is pointing to.
Just what is this good for? This is a very handy feature. Let's consider the directory listing above (which is the /boot directory of an old Red Hat 5.2 system). This system has had multiple versions of the Linux kernel installed. We can see this from the files vmlinuz-2.0.36-0.7 andvmlinuz-2.0.36-3. These file names suggest that both version 2.0.36-0.7 and 2.0.36-3 are installed. Because the file names contain the version it is easy to see the differences in the directory listing. However, this would be confusing to programs that rely on a fixed name for the kernel file. These programs might expect the kernel to simply be called "vmlinuz". Here is where the beauty of the symbolic link comes in. By creating a symbolic link called vmlinuz that points to vmlinuz-2.0.36-3, we have solved the problem.
To create symbolic links, use the ln command.