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Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Panther Edition by David Pogue

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Nine Useful Unix Utilities

So far, you’ve read about only a handful of the hundreds of Unix programs that are built into Mac OS X and ready to run. Yes, ls and sudo are very useful tools, but they’re only the beginning. Here’s a rundown of some more cool (and very safe) programs that await your experimentation.

Tip

If you don’t return to the $ prompt after using one of these commands, type q or, in some cases, quit; then hit Enter.

bc

Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, and Windows aren’t the only operating systems that come with a basic calculator accessory; Unix is well equipped in this regard, too.

When you type bc and hit Enter, you get a copyright notice and then...nothing. Just type the equation you want to solve, such as 2+2, or 95+97+456+2-65, or (2*3)+165- 95*(2.5*2.5), and then press Enter. On the next line, bc instantly displays the result of your calculation.

(In computer land, * designates multiplication and / represents division. Note, too, that bc solves equations correctly; it calculates multiplication and division before addition and subtraction, and inner parentheses before the outer ones. For more bc tricks and tips, type man bc at the prompt.)

kill

Mac OS X offers no shortage of ways to cut the cord on a program that seems to be locked up. You can force quit it (Section 4.1.2), use Activity Monitor (Section 9.25.1.1), or use kill.

The kill program in Terminal simply force quits a program, as though by remote control. (It even works when you telnet or SSH into your Mac from a remote location, ...

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