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The Fedora 3 Linux File Structure

Linux is the enterprise operating system of choice. For over 14 years, Linux has proven itself to be stable and secure. Now, millions of PC users, frustrated with the poor reliability and abusive product activation scheme of Windows, are switching to Linux for their desktop operating system. And, the best part is that Linux is free to use at home, at school, or in your place of business, and you can freely give copies to your friends.

You'll feel more comfortable using Linux if you understand its file system. Like any operating system, the Linux file system is organized in a hierarchical structure where a "directory" can contain files or other directories, which in turn can can contain other files or directories.

Unlike Windows, Linux doesn't use drive letters. The storage of all media is organized as directories under the root of the file system, which is named "/" (forward slash). Unlike Windows, which uses "back-slashes", Linux directory names in a file path are separated by forward slashes.

Linux, like the Internet, uses forward slashes in file paths. The use of back-slashes in file paths by Windows is incompatible with the Internet and has resulted in all kinds of complexities and problems when converting Window's file paths for the Internet.

There are many different versions or "distributions" of Linux, but they all use the same standardized set of top level directories. These standard directories each have a specific purpose. If you understand the purpose of each directory, you'll know your way around and be comfortable with the Linux operating system.

Below is a description of the top levels directories in Linux.

/boot contains the compressed Linux kernel and files that provide information for booting Linux. The Linux kernel is decompressed and loaded at boot time.

/bin contains executable programs that are part of the Linux operating system.

/dev contains device files. Similar to Windows device drivers, there are device files for just about any device that may be on the system.

/etc contains system configuration files. When you install a software package, it may create a directory under /etc for storing its own files.

/home is where the users directories reside. There is a subdirectory under /home for each of the system's users.

/lib contains loadable program modules used by the programs stored in other directories.

/lost+found is where lost files are stored.

/mnt is where storage from mounted file systems like a CD-ROM drive and floppy drive are entered in the file system.

/opt is where some software applications may be stored.

/proc contains special files that work as an interface to the kernel. The directories and files under this directory are created dynamically and exist only while Linux is running. These files constantly change as the system operates.

/root is the home directory for the system's administrator.

/sbin contains executable programs that are used for system administration tasks.

/selinux contains information used by the Security Enhanced Linux Kernal patch that provides a secure access control system for Linux.

/sys contains information about devices used by the kernal.

/tmp is used for temporary storage. This directory is automatically cleaned of any files that have not been accessed for 10 days.

/usr contains software applications, libraries and other data that are shared by all users.

/var is used by various system services for logging and spooling. Print spooler queues, system logs, and incoming email are stored here.

Many of the top level directories contain several standard subdirectories. It's best to become familiar with these through configuration and use of the system. After using Linux for a while, you will enjoy the benefits of a stable, secure operating system without the annoying product activation scheme that accompanies the Windows operating system.


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