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Ham Radio is
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Shiawassee Amateur Radio Association [SARA]

Established: January, 1958 an ARRL Affiliated Club since 1961

"Whiskey 8 Quack Quack Quack"

Meets at: James P. Capitan Center, Lower Level; 149 E. Corunna Ave.; Corunna, MI 48817 Monthly: 2nd Tuesday @ 7:00 PM

Club station located in the James P. Capitan Center - Lower Level.
IARU: 2 Grid Square EN72wx   Latitude: 42.9819 N   Longitude: -84.1164 W   Alitude: 760 ft.

Contact us at:   SARA / W8QQQ <Email>

You're invited to a club meeting!  7:00 PM the 2nd Tuesday of each month in Corunna, MI.


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SARA Linux Beginning Points

Linux Introduction

Linux is a very flexible system, but you must communicate in a manner only it understands and controls. You must know about Linux directories (and structure) along with some common commands, file permissions, network configurations and connectivity before you can really start to experience the really great power involved. The most used method for starting and really learning Linux is to do this is by using the bash shell. A command window where you enter commands and the system responds directly to what you entered. Next, moving on to writing bash scripts to do your biding.

IMPORTANT: An inexpensive and safe method to learn Linux is to use a Raspberry Pi [RPi] computer. For less than $50.00 you can have a complete computer setup that provides an inexpensive safe environment to play Linux, later you can move on to larger computers with many trials behind you. If you start on a larger computer, you will surely crash the system and need to 'reload' that computer from scratch. I have not met a 'Linux computer person' who has not crashed a complete system (usually many more than a single crash). The RPi is easily reloaded and away you go and usually no important files are lost. Of course, if you always have at least two or three up-to-date system backup copies, you are probably safe anyway.

To use the RPi you must install it's OS on a micro-SD card (using a different computer). Then just insert the card into the RPi and boot the RPi (or buy a S/D card 'pre-loaded'). Next you typically connect to the internet (WIFI/Ethernet connection) and install any software updates. Checkout the graphical interface to quickly see what is installed on your RPi. Insure the hardware and network is properly configured. Explore and enjoy the Raspberry Pi from this point. We also show you how to do that step-by-step on our SARA's RPi Initial web page. SARA's Linux information is geared towards RPi, but concepts generally apply to any/all computer running a full Linux distribution. Bash shell can be explored and learned on a low cost and 'safe' system without fear of damaging your computer and data.

I have taken older computers and installed Linux as the operating system, another great path to a 'playground' Linux computer system. These units really are great performers in my home networking system. I continue to use some 'really old' computers in this fashion (dating from the early 1990s - getting close to 30 years old). I have internet surfing for my grandchildren and the great grandchildren! They are free to use those computers and go where they wish... games and general surfing seem to be their choices. I do not 'play' on those, but they work fine for them to utilize and leave 'my computers' alone! Also, Great Gramps encourages a little technical learning along the way. Much better then placing these "old computers" on the scrap pile. At six or seven years of age, they understand a great deal of computer systems operational concepts... stuff I started in my thirties. All my grand children eat, live and breath these modern concepts daily in their lives... Oh what lives they are living!

We hope the information we provide here is a concise little list of memory joggers and several jumping off points for further investigations. The job is (as we see it) to show you where to look, not to provide you the information itself. Others have a large amount of information online, but knowing 'where to look' for the information is the key to the most effficient use of your time. Give us feedback and let us know if you find better places to gather the information (andd we can reference them), contact us with the email link in the header/footer of each of our Web pages. Thank You in advance. We will consider adding links into spots as you inform us.

We, the amateur radio audience have a serious Linux following. A good start is at: DX Zone Linux Distros. Followed with some software applications: DX Zone Linux Software.

Debian Distro Information

NOOBS [New Out Of the Box] distribution is where most RPi beginners start. The NOOBS/Raspian distribution is a 'Debian' based release and the naming follows the Debian naming conventions and system structure. 'Raspian' is a special build of Debian setup for the RPi. Full Debian release information can be found at Front Page at You can read about the status of various releases and open issues. That data says:

Raspian Releases

LabelNamedDate Released
Debian 10.3updated busterFeb-08-2020
Debian 10busterJuly-06-2019
Debian 9.7stretchJan-23-2019
Debian 8.11JessieJun-23-2018
Debian 9.0stretchJun-17-2017
Debian 8.3JessieJan-23-2016
Debian 7.9UpdateSep-05-2015
Debian 7.0WheezyMay-04-2013
Debian 6.0.0SqueezeFeb-05-2011

The Raspian releases followed these Debian naming conventions based upon the initial Debian designer.

Many Linux distros come with very nice Graphical Users Interfaces [GUIs]. These allow for quick efficient usage of a computer system, without requiring a full understanding of the command line details. For many users this interface is all that they require to use the system. However, if you wish to really understand the system and be able to interface it with external (outside wolrd) systems, it is required that you learn the command line and probably more than one of the 'higher' programming languages. The reason for the RPi platform is to learn how to interface computers to the outside world and learn operating system details required to do the interfacing. It is an experimenting environment and you need to understand the goals at the start. The RPi is not considered a general usage computer system for development and using advanced application programs, though it can be pressed into that duty. The trade off is speed versus costs. It does not take a very large computer to pass by what a RPi can do performance wise. But cost a system security are best on the RPi.

Python programming is very important on many Linux systems. We will stay concerned with Linux bash shell for now.

A wiki is a knowledge base website on which the users modify and structure content directly from their web browser. In a wiki, text is written using a simplified markup language and often edited with the help of a rich-text editor. 'Wikipedia' is my favorite but there are many others. A large number of RPi/Linux users use MoimMoin Wiki Engine. It is written in Python from a Linux system.


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SARA's Linux ~ RPi Learning Map

Lets start with a overview of what we think you should learn. If you already have the knowledge, just skip on. Otherwise we suggest the following order to getting your RPi / Linux system knowledge off to a good fast start. Remember to go at your pace and learn as you go. Enjoy the process (do not make it a work item). Our interest is using RPi units in the ham shack and around the house. Perhaps learning enough Linux to use on other computers as additional incentive. Just use your internet sources to get complete details on how to do the following. Make your own notes as you proceed to document where you were having issues... later this can be useful for your future study. Steps for RPi setup are at: RPi Getting Started use it for initial RPi. Go to: MagPi Issues Index look for the book "Essentials Bash" the higher version number is best.

  1. Pluging-In and Booting the RPi

    Gather and connect the necessary hardware and SD card, and get it booted up and into a 'bash' mode.

  2. Gain some very basic Command Line knowledge by moving around the file system

    file data, programs and devices are all treated the same in Linux. Understanding the directory tree structure (what is where) is a key to your later understanding the system. In order to do that, you need to be able to get to the various directories/sub-directories. Learn about 'man' pages and what they contain (they become essential to quickly gaining knowledge. LEARN TO USE MAN it is a great friend on this journey.

  3. Try these commands for an example of what 'man' provides:
    • $ man man
    • $ man bash
    • $ man builtins
    • $ man grep
    • $ man ls
  4. Learn to Shutdown Properly

    Linux is a 'caching type' of system that uses memory to store temporay results and files. If you do not shutdown properly then fragments of files and data will become fragmented and lost. If you do not use a proper shutdown, you change the system status from "if you may have an issue" to "when you have an issue". It is IMPERATIVE that you power down properly to maintain system integrity. 'halt' and 'shutdown' become a way of life after a couple of these types of system crashes. Iit usually becomes one of those "hard life lessons". You need to reprogram your SD card from scratch and reconfigure the system the way you want... it can take a large amount of time. Doing this instead of shutting down properly is not efficient use of your time. Learn to powerdown properly from the start.

  5. Investigate the File System on your RPi as installed

    Knowing how to move around the system and investigate where things are located is required. Note all the sub-directories in the 'root' directory. Move to each one and see what resides in each one... repeat looking further and further into each sub-directory level. Be sure to look for 'hidden' files and directories in each one. As you progress, you will start to understand how Linux connects these items into doing something useful.

    We suggest you use the 'Midnight Commander {mc}' to speed up your moving around. You may (probably) need to install it first. $ sudo apt-get install mc, it is a menu driven console which allows moving around with the arrow keys and using <enter>. mc will invoke Midnight Commander, then 'F1' will open a help screen. 'F10' will exit midnight commander. Play around a little and you will learn quickly.

  6. Connect to a Network / Internet

    You need to connect your RPi to the internet via a network. It is a key requirement to getting to other resources and keeping your system 'current'. Depending on your model of RPi, wiredd or wireless may be chosen by you.

  7. Update / Upgrade your system software

    Learn to use "apt-get" properly. It is how you update, upgrade, add (and remove) programs. It is a good idea to "update/upgrade" your system software before installing any new program (package). Linux is "always changing" and being current is a real key to proper software operation in many, many cases.

  8. Install your "Other Hardware"

    If you have USB/HD devices, sound card devices, printers, screens (vs a monitor), HAT devices, TNCs, etc. now is the time to go through the installs

  9. Set up SSH on your RPi

    Even if you have no current plans to use Secure Shell [SSH], it is a good time to set it up. If you do have plans, the process of setting it up will assist your knowledge of the system. It is used for remote command-line login and remote command execution, but any network service can be secured with SSH.

  10. Learn your GUI

    RPi Raspian NOOBS has a great Graphical User Interface [GU]}, learn to use it and get around. For many people, the GUI will be the only place they launch from. GUIs are popular because they make systems very conveinent for the user to perform many high level tasks.

  11. Learn to Backup your SD card

    Learn to backup your SD card. You have it setup and updated, now is the time to back it up just in case. You may later want to repeat with a version with your software packages installed. These can save you from redoing these tasks from the start if someting bad happens (if you are like me, it always happens when I can least afford lots of time to recover). This is a key item to protect you from unplanned power outage ~ RPi shutdown in an 'uncontrolled' manner, see above topic on 'Shutdown Properly'.

  12. Install Software packages from the repository

    The repository hold many free applications for use on your system. Think of it as a large library at you command that holds all these programs you need to use. Most Linux programs require 'packages' of files. A package is a collection of programs and files that when come together, make an application to what it does. Changing a small part of a file that is part of a package collection can have large impacts on the application. The application writer does not need to change the entire collection (say to add a new option / feature to the application or to fix an error), just change a small part and place that in the repository package. When the end user updates his package, the change is spread to the user (almost automatically).

    Investigate how these application installs changed your file structures. Where did they put the program files?, where do they store the data?, etc. You can learn alot by understanding how the application designer structured the system changes to do the task.

  13. Investigate Programs (inside of the applications) you use

    Looking around inside the information you can start to learn what programming language(s) are being used. The knowledge may allow you to make a small change (improvement) to the application. It will add to your knowledge of various programming languages and may spark an interset to 'roll your own' application/project. Learn about 'pipes' and 'redirection' in Linux. This allows you to use the input to or output from one file and connect it (passing on or recieving information) to another file.

  14. SSH into your RPi from a remote computer

    Controlling your RPi from a remote computer is a good thing to discover. It will start you thinking about what your RPi might control in your environment from a remote location. If you have a 'smart cell phone', think about what you might control or monitor remotely. this is also the key to remotely monitoring various sensors you may wish to have connected to yoour RPi.

  15. Learn about the GPIO on the RPi

    The General Purpose Input/Output [GPIO] pins are the control connections to the outside world. You can monitor sensor(s), turn on and off things, run motors, etc. For making small control projects, the RPi is a great tool. Learn the basics of how to use it and then expand to whatever your mind desires.

  16. Learn to Program your RPi

    Start simple and learn one programming language as a simple starting point, then add another and then repeat. The ability to program is a "learned response". Soon you will learn the tradeoffs of one language vs another. Just start slow and keep going, soon you will be able to use many and be able to be fast and efficient with your programs. It can be enjoyable and impressive to all your other contacts. The conceptual steps in programming is similar in ALL computer languages. The syntax changes and the 'noun/verb' order maybe different - just like spoken and written languages of a different type.

  17. Editors - Linux has several

    Debian/Raspian comes with a number of different editors. We recommend you install the vim package. Unified access is provided to the system default editor via command "/usr/bin/editor" so other programs (e.g., reportbug(1)) can then invoke it. You can change it by the following $ sudo update-alternatives --config editor. Using "/usr/bin/vim.basic" over "/usr/bin/vim.tiny" is recommended for newbies since it supports syntax highlighting.

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Learning the RPi Command Line

The "Essentials Bash" book is a great concise starting point (look above). Another great resource is many issues of the 'Mag Pi' magazine. The Raspberry Pi Foundation magazine, "The Magi-Pi", with the "learning the 'Command Line'" article series for the RPi bash. We suggest you go these articles and read them all. Downloaded copies of the magazine are free. Below is a small list of 'what is where' for some of these articles. The first few issues had great/short articles on starting to use many of the various programming languages. I use the link: Mag Pi Issues Index to quickly download a free magazine copy or book.

RPi Command Line Articles
 Magi-Pi Issue #  Article #Topic(s) Covered Page # 
311Begin RPi ~ Look Around and Moving48
322Read & Write Text = nano Editor42
333File Permissions & File Updates32
344Manipulating Text = pipes34
355Customize Command Line38
366Connecting Disks48
377Remote Access RPi = SSH (samba ~ printer / network sharing)48
388 (last)Downloading & Installs (unpack tar, wget, curl ) New SD Cards56

The following is a shortened list of information for your quick reference to information (not in order of topics).

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Linux Network Tools

Linux provides a number of tools for network configuration and connectivity verification. The following are some of the tools that allow you investigate and control your network from the shell command line [bash shell]. You may wish to connect your RPi to the network for several reasons, so these become important for you to understand. Play around and read the 'man' for these commands.

CommandInformation Returned
ifconfigDisplays the configuration for a network interface
pingChecks network connectivity
 traceroute Shows the path taken to reach a host
routeDisplays the routing table and/or lets you configure it
arpShows the address resolution table and/or lets you configure it
netstatDisplays the status of the network

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Working in the Bash Shell with Linux

Here is a good point to introduce the "man" {manual} command (did you try those suggested commands above? ~ see learning map item #2 above). The 'man' command yields access to all the details of most line commands. Results may look cryptic at first, but get in there and look it over frequently. Soon you will be able to read it through and it starts making more and more sense. Learn to use the 'man' often at the start and it will help you learn quickly.

The bash shell serves as the 'go-between' where the user and the Linux kernel connection. Bash is the most common shell in use today for Linux. Use bash and command line as the same term when you are getting started. These are truly important concepts to understand fully. Efficient interaction between the various Linux commands becomes much easier if you understand the 'pipes' and 'redirection' concepts. The "pipe" allows the output of one command to become the input of the next. Redirection directs how inputs and outputs connect together in a command string. Environment and system variables are another area that you need to understand. Spend some time in the online tutorials for Linux and you will gain the knowledge rapidily. Watch for the following items as you read, Debian Tutorial from the Debian organization, a great place to start and it is free. It is written towards a "full install", but has an easy to follow path to great knowledge. If you have an old computer, think about installing a Linuix distro and use that for further access.



Special Commands for Linux

Special Linux Commands
alias:Defines a shortcut for a long command
apropos:Searches the manpages for keywords
history:Displays the most recent commands
locate:Finds files
whereis:Finds executable files for a command
which:Shows the full pathname for a command
man:Displays online help
printenv:Displays the environment variables

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Some Environment Variables:

A good explanation of shell and evironmental variables can be found at Digital Ocean - Tutorial.

NOTE: The actual system variables usually are different with different boot ups (a new set). A 'log-in' vs 'non-log-in' or 'interactive' vs 'non-interactice' type of start will set different system variables. Read the tutorial for a good explanation.

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Linux File System Structure Basics

To interact with the Linux file system, you must understand the basic system structures. Some the directories are key to using Linux. The structure builds upwards from the 'root' through other layers of directories with directories and sub-directories containing files. A few common commands and knowledge of permissions will add to you abilities to use the file system. Control of the file system becomes important when using Linux.

Key Directories

*/: Root directory (base of file system)
/bin:Executable programs
/boot:Linux kernel and boot loader
/dev:Special device files
/etc:System configuration files
/home:Home directories of all users
/lib:Library files for programs
/media:Mount points for CD-ROM and other media
/root:Home directory of the root user
*/sbin:System administration commands
/srv:Data for services such as Web and FTP
*/tmp:Temporary directory
/usr:Many of the important administration programs
/var:Various system files, such as logs

A Few Common Linux Commands

cat:Copies a file to the standard output
cd:Changes the current directory
chmod:Changes file permissions
chown:Changes file ownerships
cp:Copies files
dd:Copies blocks of data
df:Reports disk space usage by device and available space
diff:Compares two text files
du:Reports disk space usage by directory
file:Displays the type of data in a file
find:Finds files based on specified criteria
grep:Searches for text in a file
ln:Links a filename to an alias name
ls:Displays the contents of a directory
mkdir:Creates a directory
more:Displays a text file, one page at a time
mount:Mounts a file system
mv:Renames or moves a file
pwd:Displays the current directory
rm:Deletes files
rmdir:Deletes directories
sort:Sorts lines in a text file
split:Splits a file into smaller parts
umount:Unmounts a file system
wc:Counts the words and lines in a file

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File Permissions

Permissions can be thought of as three sets of four levels. The three sets belong to: Owner, Group, and Others. The level for place values can be an "R W X -". Leading to the permission line of nine places with each place being a r, w, x and '-', which stand for: 'read', 'write', 'execute' and - 'no permission' respectively.

Linuix Permissions

r w x r w x r w xThree sets of rwx levels.
r w x - - - - - -Only the owner can read, write, and execute.
r w x r - - r - -Owner can read, write and excute, everyone else can read only.
r w - r - - r - -Everyone can read, and the owner can also write.
r w - - - - - - -Only the owner can read and write.
r - - r - - r - -Everyone can read.

Permissions can also be expressed numerically {as three digits or an 'octet'}, where read (r) is equal to 4, write (w) is equal to 2, execute (x) is equal to 1, and no permission is equal to 0. Therefore, r w x r w x r w x is equal to 777, r w x r w - r w - is equal to 744, r w x - - - - - - is equal to 700, r w - r - - r - is equal to 644, r w - - - - - - - is equal to 600, and r - - r - - r - - is equal to 444. Consider three digits as the sum of the values, 4, 2, 1, or a maximum of 7 for each set of three - this is the 'octet' values.

Now you try it on your RPi on a command line (using LXTerm). Lets move into the /home/pi directory and we'll assume you are not sure where in the file directory we are currently at, so the first command will move to the 'root' directory. Followed by a move to 'home/pi' directory and finally a special list command for that directory. That will look like;

cd / then "enter"

cd /home/pi then "enter"

ls -la then "enter"

I know there are ways to quickly figure out where in the file ystem you are located, but leaving those for you to find on your own.

Now you can see all the files and information about them. It easy to see I did not tell you about the character preceding the file permissions. It is a single character that deifnes file type:

 character meaning
-normal file
ccharacter device node
bblock device node
pnamed pipe


When you see a "." {period} before the filename in Linux it means that it is a 'hidden' file. You can make a file hidden by starting the file name with a period. As you can see, it does not really hide it very deep, so is a very low level of security. There other details you can read about on your own, you can start to understand some details.

To see a detailed listing of commands check Linux Debian Reference.

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GUI Articles in 'Mag Pi'

Changing the Graphical Users Interface [GUI] may be something you wish to investigate. It allows you to customize the GUI to be what you want it to be. This is true for all Linux distros, including the RPi. A nice set of articles in "The Magi-Pi" covers this topic quite well, see below:

 Issue #  Article # Topic(s) CoveredPage #
321Hack Desktop46
322Customize LXPanel36
323Customize Openbox38
324 (last) Hacking RPi Desktop 40


Miscellaneous Web Data

Some items you might like to review are below here. They are of a general interest, but do not fit into other topics listed. Check them out!

Coax that connects things! topic divider


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