Creating ~/github

And learning some shell commands in the process

This brief tutorial has two purposes.

  1. By the time you are finished, you should have a github directory immediately under the home directory of your SPIS ACMS account, that is a directory called ~/github

  2. By the time you are finished, you’ll have learned about a few basic Unix commands, including the ones in the table below.

If both you and your pair partner are already thoroughly familiar with Unix command basics—that is, you know how to create ~/github, and you are throughly familiar with everything in the table below, you can just create ~/mkdir, and skip the rest of this page.

But if either or both of you has any doubt, you are strongly encouraged to go through this page carefully and slowly, to learn some of the basics of working with Unix commands at the bash shell. That is one of the most fundamental skills you’ll need throughout all of the courses that use the ACMS unix accounts during your entire stay at UCSD.

Unix commands covered in this tutorial

Here is a table of the Unix commands covered in this brief tutorial:

Unix Command Brief explanation
date Show current date and time
history Show history of recent unix commands
pwd Print working directory
ls List files
mkdir foo Create subdirectory (folder) foo in current directory
mkdir ~/bar Create subdirectory (folder) bar under home directory (~)
cd Change directory to home directory (1st option)
cd ~ Change directory to home directory (2nd option)
cd foo Change directory to foo inside current directory
cd .. Change directory to parent of current directory (go up)
cd ~/fum Change directory to foo inside home directory (~)

You should also learn the following concepts:

Step 1: Bring up a bash terminal shell

Bring up a bash terminal shell. As a reminder, you can do this by selecting “Applications”, then “System Tools”, then either “Terminal” or “Konsole” from the menu that pops up. (Your Applications menu may have only Terminal, or only Konsole, or may have both. For our purposes, they work equally well.)

For now, we can use the following terms to mean more or less the same thing. (There are fine-grained distinctions among these terms, but those won’t be important until later in your studies)

Let’s also establish that while “Unix” and “Linux” refer to different things, for our purposes in SPIS, it is enough to know that “Linux” is a particular flavor of the “Unix” family of operating systems. The systems we are running use Linux, in contradistiction to running Windows or Mac OS.

So, during SPIS, when we refer to Unix or Linux, these are, again more or less interchangable terms. The fine grained distinctions between the two can be saved for later.

Step 2: Learn about the bash prompt, date, ~ for home directory, and history

When you open up a terminal session on the ACMS machines the bash terminal prompt typically looks like this:


It is called a prompt because it prompts you to enter some a command. One of the most basic commands you can enter is the date command. Try it: type in date and press return Enter.

[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:~:32$ date
Thu Aug  4 13:56:29 PDT 2016

The date is printed, and you get a new prompt. Note that the last number in that prompt keeps increasing by one (1) each time you enter a command. Try entering the date commmand and pressing enter several times to see this.

These numbers refer to your “command history”. If you type the command history, you’ll see a list of all the recent commands you have typed. Try it:

[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:~:33$ history
    1  idle
    2  idle
    3  pwd

(I left some out here…)

   31  exit
   32  date
   33  history

You can see that the next command I type will be “number 34” in my history.

Step 3: Your account and machine in the prompt

There are a few others parts of the prompt.

Your home directory is a folder (called a directory on Unix) that stores all of the information you keep on the ACMS systems. When you first log on, you always start in your home directory.

Step 4: The cd, mkdir, and ls commands

You can return to your home directory at any time by typing cd, all by itself on the command line. The letters cd stand for change directory. Try it:

[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:~:34$ cd

In this case, nothing changed, because we were already in our home directory. But, we can try changing into a different directory, and then returning to our home directory.

To see what other directories exist, we can type the ls command, which is the list files command. Try it:

[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:~:39$ ls
Desktop  Documents  Downloads  Music  Pictures  Public  Templates  Videos

You can see that there are eight folders (directories) under our home directory. We are going to create one more. We’ll do that with the mkdir command for make directory.

Step 5: The mkdir command

Type this at the bash prompt: mkdir github and the press enter. Then type ls again and press enter:

[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:~:40$ mkdir github
[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:~:41$ ls
Desktop  Documents  Downloads  Music  Pictures  Public  Templates  Videos  github

Now you see that there is an additional directory. Do you see it? It’s called github, and its the last one listed.

Step 6: More on cd and ls

Our current directory is our home directory, as we can see from the ~ in our prompt. We can change our current directory to be the github directory by typing cd github, as shown here. Try it, and try typing ls right after that.

[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:~:42$ cd github
[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:github:43$ ls

You can see that the second part of the prompt changes to github to show that we are our in our github directory. Since this directory is located “under” our home directory, we sometimes call this a “subdirectory”.

Step 7: The pwd command, and Unix paths

The next command we are going to learn is the pwd command, for print working directory. Try it:

[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:github:44$ pwd

You see that this command prints out our “working directory”. Current directory and working directory are just two different ways to say the same thing.

Lets look more closely at what was printed: /home/linux/ieng6/spis16/spis16t3/github

This is a list of parent directories (or folders), each of which contains the one below it.

A simplified view is this:

These files and directories, though exist in the context of a larger directory tree that contains many other directories and folders.

This output /home/linux/ieng6/spis16/spis16t3/github from the pwd command is called a path, since it shows the path from the root directory of the disk space on our machine, which is represented by the symbol /, all the way down to the directory github that we just created.

Our home directories for spis this year are all located inside /home/linux/ieng6/spis17. They are, for example:

Each of you has their own home directory.

Step 8: Various directory navigation commands

As a reminder:

You can change the current working directory in a variety of ways. Try changing your directory in various ways, exploring the directory tree shown in the diagram above, and using pwd and ls to show the effect.

You should be able to use the pwd command at each level

Note that cd /foo does NOT go one level down from the current directory. Instead, it goes into the foo directory directly under the root directory.

Step 8: Finishing up in ~/github

When you are all finished, cd into your ~/github directory. Note that you can do this from anywhere with a single command: cd ~/github, as shown here:

[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:~:79$ cd ~/github
[spis16t3@ieng6-240]:github:80$ pwd

As shown above, use pwd to verify that you are indeed in your ~/github directory.

Your output won’t say spis16t3, but instead will show your own ACMS username in place of that.

If you were doing these steps as part of SPIS 2017 lab02,
you can use this link to return there now: SPIS 2017 lab02