4. Getting Help and Information

Here are some useful sources of help. Text stands for something of your choice that you type in—usually a command or filename.

apropos text

Everything containing string text in the whatis database.

man text

The manual page for text. The major source of documentation for UNIX® systems. man ls will tell you all the ways to use the ls command. Press Enter to move through text, Ctrl+B to go back a page, Ctrl+F to go forward, q or Ctrl+C to quit.

which text

Tells you where in the user's path the command text is found.

locate text

All the paths where the string text is found.

whatis text

Tells you what the command text does and its manual page. Typing whatis * will tell you about all the binaries in the current directory.

whereis text

Finds the file text, giving its full path.

You might want to try using whatis on some common useful commands like cat, more, grep, mv, find, tar, chmod, chown, date, and script. more lets you read a page at a time as it does in DOS, e.g., ls -l | more or more filename. The * works as a wildcard—e.g., ls w* will show you files beginning with w.

Are some of these not working very well? Both locate(1) and whatis(1) depend on a database that is rebuilt weekly. If your machine is not going to be left on over the weekend (and running FreeBSD), you might want to run the commands for daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance now and then. Run them as root and, for now, give each one time to finish before you start the next one.

# periodic daily
output omitted
# periodic weekly
output omitted
# periodic monthly
output omitted

If you get tired of waiting, press Alt+F2 to get another virtual console, and log in again. After all, it is a multi-user, multi-tasking system. Nevertheless these commands will probably flash messages on your screen while they are running; you can type clear at the prompt to clear the screen. Once they have run, you might want to look at /var/mail/root and /var/log/messages.

Running such commands is part of system administration—and as a single user of a UNIX® system, you are your own system administrator. Virtually everything you need to be root to do is system administration. Such responsibilities are not covered very well even in those big fat books on UNIX®, which seem to devote a lot of space to pulling down menus in windows managers. You might want to get one of the two leading books on systems administration, either Evi Nemeth et.al.'s UNIX System Administration Handbook (Prentice-Hall, 1995, ISBN 0-13-15051-7)—the second edition with the red cover; or Æleen Frisch's Essential System Administration (O'Reilly & Associates, 2002, ISBN 0-596-00343-9). I used Nemeth.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at http://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
Send questions about this document to <freebsd-doc@FreeBSD.org>.