Logging Into Your Shell Account

Please note, regarding the following information, that not all ISPs automatically provide for a shell account login.

The shell is program run as process when a user logs into a unix system, and is your amabassador to the actual operating system.

Most people have a computer with Windows running as the effective operating system, and with DOS lying under it. The Browser be it explorer, netscape, or whatever runs as a process supported by Windows. You will need to get to the underlying DOS system, and then invoke a telecommunications program to connect to the local server, but this time in a different way. This different way was how it was always done before the advent of the dreaded windows.

Since you are already connecting by modem, the correct information that you will need is already known to windows, and you can get this information from windows first because you will need to feed this exact same information to the telecommunications program to configure it.

To get the modem connection information from windows: (Courtesy of Ron Haesly)

     1) Click on the internet access icon  --> connect to window
     2) Click on Properties
     3) Click on Modem Tab
     4) Write down the values of the displayed information:

            Port Number:
          Maximum Speed:
           Flow Control:

To access your shell account, you avoid the browser, and using the "programs" menu from windows get to the underlying DOS system. DOS is not graphical - no windows - no icons and presents to the user a "command line prompt" much as the unix shell does.

From the DOS prompt which will look something like


You may have more than one telecommunications (terminal emulation) program. If you have a telecommunications program (terminal emulation program) that has Z-modem file transfer ability this is to be preferred. Open the terminal program and configure, using the above information retrieved from windows. The "word structure" should be:

     8 bits
     No Parity
     1 Stop bit

Use the same dial number you usually use to call in. You will be presented with a login prompt after the connection has taken place. Use your usual login name and similarly, your usual password that will then be asked for. Remember that although your login name will be echoed on the screen as you type, your pass word will not be echoed.

If all goes well, you will see a shell prompt, which awaits your command. Although there are literally hundreds of commands utilities programs and possibilities in the hundreds of thousands under a unix system, for starters only a few are necessary and you can find a cursory description of the commands: pwd, cd, mv, ls, mkdir in the documentation on uploading files. You have been "placed" in your home directory; to see this, issue the command


Two very important commands available are 'apropos' and 'man'. The man command prints to the screen the online manual section for commands (programs) that are on the system. Try

          man pwd

The apropos command searches a database constructed from the manual pages that trys to find a manual entry that has associattion with arguments that you give to apropos. Try both
          man apropos
          apropos man

Other commands that are important that you can find out about through the manual (or unix reference books) are

          cp       -     copy a file
         more      -     peruse a text file.
          cat      -     print entire file to the screen
         grep      -     finds patterns in files
         sort      -     sorts files by key and field
         uniq      -     removes sequential duplicate lines
          cut      -     cuts out specified columns
        paste      -     pastes columns together.
Notice that each utility does only one thing. Variations in how it does it are controlled by 'options' which immediately follow the command. Some commands have few or no options, some have option combinations that exceed one million. The command 'ls' has *many* options. Look at the manual section using the man command. Options are simply declared using a minus sign, for example

         ls -l

gives an option '-l' to ls which will list the contents of your current directory in long form. Some information given in the long form are: name, whether a file or directory, owner, group ownership, permissions, size in bytes, time & date of last modification.

Some options even themselves take arguments; most do not. 'ls' is an example of a command where no option takes an argument. One can often ask for more than one option to be active. For example

         ls -l -t

should give a long listing in chronological order of last modification date, most recent first. A short way of asking for simultaneous option satisfaction is illustrated by

         ls -lt

which does the same thing. Should you want the chronological ordering reversed, use

         ls -ltr

Again see the manual section for terse description of all the options to ls.

Most of the options to uniz commands are relatively simple. The two bears are 'find' and 'sort'

Most unix systems have the editors: 'ed', 'ex', 'vi', 'emacs' as well as 'sed' (the stream editor used mostly in shell programming). Both ed and ex are line editors. If you don't know what that means, forget about them. Both vi and emacs are visual or screen editors and the most commonly used text editors under unix. Be advised, these are "text editors", not word processors. Any text formating is done by you. What you type in as text is what goes into the file: nothing more, nothing less. For more information on the ubiquitous unix editor 'vi' see The VI Pages [LINK]

Editors are treated by people the same way other people and things are treated: one loves what one knows. Some people are in love with emacs because of its host of bells and whistles. For me, its keystrokes are entirely too complicated; I prefer the speed and simplicity of vi (which is pronounced vee-eye, and NOT as "vie"). The fact that I've used it consistently for over ten years, even now as I enter this text, of course, has nothing to do my decided preference.

On the graham server at your shell prompt issue the command

Yes, indeedy! This is the name of a program file. The program is designed as a menued crib sheet for using vi where you select what you want to know how to do. This program can be embedded as a hot key from vi itself. If you want to use vi and want this hot-keyed into vi when you use it, just send me email, and I'll do it for you.

Why is the shell and access to it important? If you've read this far, either you've already figured that out, or you are just dying to know. It happens to be the easiest, quickest and most trouble free way publishing web pages, and also of editing them in place for minor adjustments.

I'll be hapyy to clarify anything that is still obscure, and add the clarfications here. Please email me with any comments, problems, etc.

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Created: 1997
Last Updated: May 28, 2000
Email me, Bill Hammel at
bhammel@graham.main.nc.us READ WARNING BEFORE SENDING E-MAIL