Workshop: Working with the Unix shell

Feb 6, 2019, 10:30 am10:30 am



Event Description

Back in the mists of time, before there was Mac or Windows, there was, and still is, Unix. Unix is the preferred choice for running servers - from the servers that make up most of the internet, to the cloud resources you might rent from Amazon, Microsoft, or Google, and all of Princeton's high performance computing clusters. So if you think you're going to need to work with any of these, you'll want to learn how to talk to them. And to do that you'll need to know how to navigate the Unix shell. 

This workshop introduces the most common Unix shell: 'bash'. While bash makes available a more powerful and complex set of file manipulation tools than the graphical user interfaces you may be familiar with, this workshop tries to provide a subset of tools that will be sufficient for much or all of the things you will need to do on a Unix server, and enough orientation and terminology that you can discover the remainder when you need them.


Windows users:

First, sign up for an account on the university's own unix server Nobel by going to this page and following the instructions at the link "enable your Linux accounts by clicking here." If you are asked to choose a shell, select:

/bin/bash - GNU Bash (/bin/bash)

It's possible you already have an account on Nobel e.g. if you host a your own webpages or have used the university's networked version of Stata. In which case, you're all set.

Next, if you are running an updated Windows 10 you can install the Ubuntu app from the Microsoft Store. Just follow the instructions there (reboot required). This is the preferred approach. Alternatively, download and run the putty installer as described by OIT here.


You have a Unix shell available from the Terminal application, which can be found in the Utilities folder of Applications folder. But to make the most of it you will want to have the 'commandline tools' installed on your machine. Open the Terminal application and type:


If you get the message 

make: *** No targets specified and no makefile found.  Stop.

then you are all set.

If you do not then, depending on the version of Mac OS you a dialog box may appear asking you if you want to install the commandline tools. You do. 

If no dialog appears, type

xcode-select --install

to trigger it, and install the tools. You are now all set.

If you do not want to download the commandline tools for some reason, just apply for an account on the university server Nobel. The application is on this page. Follow the instructions at the link "enable your Linux accounts by clicking here."


This workshop is open to anyone interested in getting an introduction to the unix shell. If you are not a politics graduate student, please send email to [email protected] that you are planning to attend, so we can ensure enough space in the room.