A technical troubleshooting blog about Oracle with other Databases & Cloud Technologies.

Linux Administration.

9 min read

A Linux distribution is a collection of (usually open source) software on top of a Linux kernel. A distribution (or short, distro) can bundle server software, system management tools, documentation and many desktop applications in a central secure software repository.

A distro aims to provide a common look and feel, secure and easy software management and often a specific operational purpose.

Let’s take a look at some popular distributions

Red Hat
Red Hat is a billion dollar commercial Linux company that puts a lot of effort in developing Linux. They have hundreds of Linux specialists and are known for their excellent support. They give their products (Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora) away for free. While Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is well tested before release and supported for up to seven years after release, Fedora is a distro with faster updates but without support.
Canonical started sending out free compact discs with Ubuntu Linux in 2004 and quickly became popular for home users (many switching from Microsoft Windows). Canonical wants Ubuntu to be an easy to use graphical Linux desktop without need to ever see a command line. Of course they also want to make a profit by selling support for Ubuntu
There is no company behind Debian. Instead there are thousands of well organised developers that elect a Debian Project Leader every two years. Debian is seen as one of the most stable Linux distributions. It is also the basis of every release of Ubuntu. Debian comes in three versions: stable, testing and unstable. Every Debian release is named after a character in the movie Toy Story.
Distributions like CentOS, Oracle Enterprise Linux and Scientific Linux are based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and share many of the same principles, directories and system administration techniques. Linux Mint, Edubuntu and many other *buntu named
distributions are based on Ubuntu and thus share a lot with Debian. There are hundreds of other Linux distributions

Which to choose ?

Working with directories

1. Display your current directory.

2. Change to the /etc directory.
cd /etc

3. Now change to your home directory using only three key presses.
cd (and the enter key)

4. Change to the /boot/grub directory using only eleven key presses.
cd /boot/grub (use the tab key)

5. Go to the parent directory of the current directory.
cd .. (with space between cd and ..)

6. Go to the root directory.
cd /

7. List the contents of the root directory.

8. List a long listing of the root directory.
ls -l

9. Stay where you are, and list the contents of /etc.
ls /etc

10. Stay where you are, and list the contents of /bin and /sbin.
ls /bin /sbin

11. Stay where you are, and list the contents of ~.
ls ~

12. List all the files (including hidden files) in your home directory.
ls -al ~

13. List the files in /boot in a human readable format.
ls -lh /boot

14. Create a directory testdir in your home directory.
mkdir ~/testdir

Linux file tree

root directory /
All Linux systems have a directory structure that starts at the root directory. The root directory is represented by a forward slash, like this: /. 
Everything that exists on your Linux system can be found below this root directory. Let's take a brief look at the contents of the root directory
[oracle@localhost ~]$ ls /
bin  boot  dev  etc  home  lib  lib64  media  mnt  opt  proc  root  run  sbin  srv  sys  tmp  u01  usr  var
Binary directories

Binaries are files that contain compiled source code (or machine code). Binaries can be executed on the computer. Sometimes binaries are called executables.

The /bin directory contains binaries for use by all users. According to the FHS the /bin directory should contain /bin/cat and /bin/date (among others).

[oracle@localhost ~]$ ls /bin
[                                    hivexsh                                         printf
a2p                                  host                                            prlimit
ab                                   hostid                                          processcsv.py
abrt-action-analyze-backtrace        hostname                                        procmail
abrt-action-analyze-c                hostnamectl                                     profiles
abrt-action-analyze-ccpp-local       hpcups-update-ppds                              prove
abrt-action-analyze-core             hpijs                                           prtstat
abrt-action-analyze-oops             hsqldbRunUtil                                   prune
abrt-action-analyze-python           htdbm                                           ps
abrt-action-analyze-vmcore           htdigest                                        ps2ascii
abrt-action-analyze-vulnerability    htpasswd                                        ps2epsi
abrt-action-analyze-xorg             HttpClient                                      ps2pdf
abrt-action-check-oops-for-hw-error  httxt2dbm                                       ps2pdf12
abrt-action-generate-backtrace       hugeadm                                         ps2pdf13
abrt-action-generate-core-backtrace  hugectl                                         ps2pdf14
abrt-action-install-debuginfo        hugeedit                                        ps2pdfwr
abrt-action-list-dsos                huge_page_setup_helper.py                       ps2ps
abrt-action-notify                   hunspell                                        ps2ps2
abrt-action-perform-ccpp-analysis    hwloc-annotate                                  psed
abrt-action-save-kernel-data         hwloc-assembler                                 psfaddtable


/sbin contains binaries to configure the operating system. 
Many of the system binaries require root privilege to perform certain tasks.

Binaries found in /bin and /sbin often use shared libraries located in /lib. Below is a screenshot of the partial contents of /lib.
[oracle@localhost ~]$ ls /lib
alsa      dracut      hsqldb      jvm          libopamgt.so        mozilla         python3.6         tmpfiles.d
binfmt.d  firewalld   java        jvm-commmon  libopamgt.so.0      NetworkManager  rpm               tuned
bonobo    firmware    java-1.5.0  jvm-exports  libopamgt.so.0.4.0  opa             sendmail          udev
cpp       fontconfig  java-1.6.0  jvm-private  locale              openslp-server  sendmail.postfix  x86_64-redhat-linux6E
crda      games       java-1.7.0  kbd          modprobe.d          oracleasm       sse2              yum-plugins
cups      gcc         java-1.8.0  kdump        modules             polkit-1        sysctl.d
debug     grub        java-ext    kernel       modules-load.d      python2.7       systemd


The purpose of /opt is to store optional software. In many cases this is software from outside the distribution repository. You may find an empty /opt directory on many systems. A large package can install all its files in /bin, /lib, /etc subdirectories within /opt/ $packagename/. If for example the package is called wp, then it installs in /opt/wp, putting binaries in /opt/wp/bin and manpages in /opt/wp/man

Configuration directories


The /boot directory contains all files needed to boot the computer. These files don't change very often. On Linux systems you typically find the /boot/grub directory here. /boot/grub contains /boot/grub/grub.cfg (older systems may still have /boot/grub/grub.conf) which defines the boot menu that is displayed before the kernel starts.

All of the machine-specific configuration files should be located in /etc. Historically /etc stood for etcetera, today people often use the Editable Text Configuration backronym.
Many times the name of a configuration files is the same as the application, daemon, or protocol with .conf added as the extension
[oracle@localhost ~]$ ls /etc/*.conf
/etc/asound.conf                 /etc/extlinux.conf  /etc/libaudit.conf   /etc/numad.conf        /etc/softhsm2.conf
/etc/autofs.conf                 /etc/fprintd.conf   /etc/libuser.conf    /etc/oddjobd.conf      /etc/sos.conf
/etc/autofs_ldap_auth.conf       /etc/fuse.conf      /etc/locale.conf     /etc/pbm2ppa.conf      /etc/srp_daemon.conf
/etc/brltty.conf                 /etc/GeoIP.conf     /etc/logrotate.conf  /etc/pcp.conf          /etc/sudo.conf
/etc/cgconfig.conf               /etc/host.conf      /etc/man_db.conf     /etc/pnm2ppa.conf      /etc/sudo-ldap.conf
/etc/cgrules.conf                /etc/idmapd.conf    /etc/mke2fs.conf     /etc/radvd.conf        /etc/sysctl.conf
/etc/cgsnapshot_blacklist.conf   /etc/ipsec.conf     /etc/mtools.conf     /etc/request-key.conf  /etc/tcsd.conf
/etc/chrony.conf                 /etc/iwpmd.conf     /etc/named.conf      /etc/resolv.conf       /etc/updatedb.conf
/etc/dleyna-server-service.conf  /etc/kdump.conf     /etc/nfs.conf        /etc/rsyncd.conf       /etc/usb_modeswitch.conf
/etc/dnsmasq.conf                /etc/krb5.conf      /etc/nfsmount.conf   /etc/rsyslog.conf      /etc/vconsole.conf
/etc/dracut.conf                 /etc/ksmtuned.conf  /etc/nsswitch.conf   /etc/sestatus.conf     /etc/wvdial.conf
/etc/e2fsck.conf                 /etc/ld.so.conf     /etc/ntp.conf        /etc/slp.conf          /etc/yum.conf

A lot of Unix/Linux distributions have an /etc/init.d directory that contains scripts to start and stop daemons. This directory could disappear as Linux migrates to systems that replace the old init way of starting all daemons.

The graphical display (aka X Window System or just X) is driven by software from the X.org foundation. The configuration file for your graphical display is /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

The skeleton directory /etc/skel is copied to the home directory of a newly created user. It usually contains hidden files like a .bashrc script.

This directory, which is not mentioned in the FHS, contains a lot of Red Hat Enterprise Linux configuration files.

In memory directories

Device files in /dev appear to be ordinary files, but are not actually located on the hard disk.
The /dev directory is populated with files as the kernel is recognising hardware.

common physical devices
Common hardware such as hard disk devices are represented by device files in /dev. Below a screenshot of SATA device files on a laptop and then IDE attached drives on a desktop.
(The detailed meaning of these devices will be discussed later.)
[oracle@localhost ~]$ ls /dev/sd*
/dev/sda  /dev/sda1  /dev/sda2  /dev/sdb  /dev/sdb1  /dev/sdb2  /dev/sdb3

/var variable data

Files that are unpredictable in size, such as log, cache and spool files, should be located in /var.

The /var/log directory serves as a central point to contain all log files.
[oracle@localhost ~]$ ls /var/log
amanda             dirsrv              messages-20230423                        spooler                   Xorg.1.log.old
anaconda           dmesg               ntpstats                                 spooler-20230406          Xorg.2.log
audit              dmesg.old           openlmi-install.log                      spooler-20230413          Xorg.2.log.old
boot.log           firewalld           oracleasm                                spooler-20230416          Xorg.3.log
boot.log-20221203  gdm                 oracle-database-preinstall-19c           spooler-20230423          Xorg.3.log.old
boot.log-20221210  glusterfs           oracle-database-server-12cR2-preinstall  sssd                      Xorg.4.log
boot.log-20230406  grubby              oracleohasd                              swtpm                     Xorg.4.log.old
boot.log-20230416  grubby_prune_debug  pcp                                      tallylog                  Xorg.5.log
boot.log-20230417  httpd               pki                                      tomcat                    Xorg.5.log.old
boot.log-20230420  lastlog             pluto                                    tuned                     Xorg.6.log
boot.log-20230426  libvirt             ppp                                      vboxadd-install.log       Xorg.6.log.old
btmp               maillog             qemu-ga                                  vboxadd-setup.log         Xorg.7.log
btmp-20230406      maillog-20230406    sa                                       vboxadd-setup.log.1       Xorg.7.log.old
chrony             maillog-20230413    samba                                    vmware-vmtoolsd-root.log  Xorg.8.log
cron               maillog-20230416    sa-update.log                            vmware-vmusr-root.log     Xorg.8.log.old
cron-20230406      maillog-20230423    secure                                   wpa_supplicant.log        Xorg.9.log
cron-20230413      mariadb             secure-20230406                          wtmp                      Xorg.9.log.old
cron-20230416      messages            secure-20230413                          Xorg.0.log                yum.log
cron-20230423      messages-20230406   secure-20230416                          Xorg.0.log.old            yum.log-20230406
cups               messages-20230413   secure-20230423                          Xorg.10.log
custodia           messages-20230416   speech-dispatcher                        Xorg.1.log

A typical first file to check when troubleshooting on Red Hat (and derivatives) is the /var/ log/messages file. 
By default this file will contain information on what just happened to the system.
The file is called /var/log/syslog on Debian and Ubuntu
[root@localhost ~]# tail /var/log/messages

Apr 26 14:24:36 localhost pulseaudio[3328]: [alsa-sink-Intel ICH] alsa-sink.c: We were woken up with POLLOUT set -- however a subsequent snd_pcm_avail() returned 0 or another value < min_avail.
Apr 26 14:26:14 localhost dbus[841]: [system] Activating via systemd: service name='net.reactivated.Fprint' unit='fprintd.service'
Apr 26 14:26:14 localhost systemd: Starting Fingerprint Authentication Daemon...
Apr 26 14:26:14 localhost kernel: xfs filesystem being remounted at /tmp supports timestamps until 2038 (0x7fffffff)
Apr 26 14:26:14 localhost kernel: xfs filesystem being remounted at /var/tmp supports timestamps until 2038 (0x7fffffff)
Apr 26 14:26:14 localhost dbus[841]: [system] Successfully activated service 'net.reactivated.Fprint'
Apr 26 14:26:14 localhost systemd: Started Fingerprint Authentication Daemon.
Apr 26 14:26:16 localhost su: (to root) oracle on pts/0
Apr 26 14:26:16 localhost dbus[841]: [system] Activating service name='org.freedesktop.problems' (using servicehelper)
Apr 26 14:26:16 localhost dbus[841]: [system] Successfully activated service 'org.freedesktop.problems'
[root@localhost ~]# 

The whoami command tells you your username.

The who command will give you information about who is logged on the system.

The w command shows you who is logged on and what they are doing.

The id command will give you your user id, primary group id, and a list of the groups that you belong to.
[root@localhost ~]# whoami
[root@localhost ~]# 

[root@localhost ~]# who
oracle   :0           2023-04-26 14:00 (:0)
oracle   pts/0        2023-04-26 14:08 (:0)

[root@localhost ~]# w
 14:37:17 up 37 min,  2 users,  load average: 0.07, 0.25, 0.45
USER     TTY      FROM             LOGIN@   IDLE   JCPU   PCPU WHAT
oracle   :0       :0               14:00   ?xdm?   2:48   0.37s /usr/libexec/gnome-session-binary --session gnome-classic
oracle   pts/0    :0               14:08    1.00s  0.26s  2.24s /usr/libexec/gnome-terminal-server

[root@localhost ~]# id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root) context=unconfined_u:unconfined_r:unconfined_t:s0-s0:c0.c1023
[root@localhost ~]# 

sudo su -
On some Linux systems like Ubuntu and Xubuntu, the root user does not have a password set. This means that it is not possible to login as root (extra security). To perform tasks as root, the first user is given all sudo rights via the /etc/sudoers. In fact all users that are members of the admin group can use sudo to run all commands as root.
You can add users with the useradd command. The example below shows how to add a user named yanina (last parameter) and at the same time forcing the creation of the home directory (-m), setting the name of the home directory (-d), and setting a description (-c).
[root@localhost ~]# useradd -m -d /home/asr -c "Anish" Anish

[root@localhost ~]# tail -1 /etc/passwd

You can delete the user yanina with userdel. The -r option of userdel will also remove the home directory
[root@localhost ~]# userdel -r Anish 

[root@localhost ~]# tail -1 /etc/passwd

File Permission