Getting Started with Unix

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UCSC Unix environment

UCSC currently offers a UNIX environment based on a combination of Athena and Solaris.

UCSC Accounts

UCSC Unix servers require UCSC Accounts. Instructions for registering for UCSC accounts are in the Account management section of the ITS web site.

Server Names

The UCSC Unix/Athena servers are:

  • (anyone with a UCSC account)

SSH is required when logging into unix. For more information about SSH please visit the IC web pages

How to login using ssh

Once your account is set up you can login into your account using any number of clients using the ssh protocol. Ssh is available for both Windows or Machintosh computers connected to the internet or campus network. If you are not connected, it will report an error.

If you are in a instructional computing lab, ask the consultant how to get connected to UNIX.

Eventually, you will be shown a prompt, like this:


When you get this prompt,, you have successfully logged into your Unix account. The % sign is called a prompt because it is prompting you to do something and tells you that you are in UNIX. There are other prompts; they come from applications you run while you are in unix.

Deleting characters

If you make a mistake while typing at a terminal you can backspace to correct typing errors on the line as long as you haven't pressed the RETURN key. If your terminal doesn't have a BACKSPACE key, hold the CONTROL key down then press the h key. See below for additional control characters.

Some useful programs

Most UNIX commands are in lower case (do not use upper case). Commands are separated from the rest of the line by one or more spaces. For example, type:

webster college to see the definition of college [or some other word]

fs lq to see how much disk space you use

ls to list all your files.

ls -l for more details about your files.

lynx to use a non-graphical web browser

pine to read email

quickhelp to see help on using IC Solaris

help to see UCSC help pages with a text-only web browser

Where to get more information

The UNIX manual is also on-line, and can be accessed by using the man command. For example, to get more information on the ls command, type:

% man ls

If you don't remember the name of a command, try the -k flag with the man command to look up command names by using keywords. For example if you wanted to list your files, type:

% man -k list

and you will get a list of all the commands having something to do with listing, and among them, you would recognize that ls does what you want.

In addition to the man command, check the web pages which amplify the information provided by the often terse UNIX manual, or which explain configurations unique to our UNIX systems. To access it, type:

% lynx

Control characters

To exit a program, stop printing, or stop most things, hold the CONTROL key down and press the c key at the same time. Here is a list of the control characters you may use:

CTRL-C stops everything.

CRTL-S temporarily suspends printing on screen.

CTRL-Q quickly starts the screen printing again.

CTRL-U undoes the present line.

CTRL-W deletes last word.

CTRL-H deletes last character.

What next?

Most people tend to do one of following things with UNIX:

Text editing/formatting with pico or vi
Electronic mail using Pine
Read the USENET news using rn or trn
Programming (various compilers like C, C++, Fortran)

See the UNIX Programmer's Manual page for more information on each of these topics using the specific command.There may also be additional "Intro" Help Pages on these topics on the web pages at

Need more help?

If you need more help, send electronic mail to the ITS Support Center. You may also call the ITS by dialing xHELP (x4357, 831-459-4357 from off-campus) Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. We do not provide programming support or debug programs for you. Student consultants are available in several of the Instructional Computer Labs.