Dear OR Practitioners,

I would like to self-teach Unix o/s (along with using SQL) as I have never used Unix before. Please can you tell me which version of Unix is most commonly used in industry and also any books available for learning Unix from scratch? Grateful for your response.

asked 19 Feb '12, 01:13

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retagged 19 Feb '12, 06:38

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Marco Luebbecke ♦

While researching and learning about various Linux desktop environments, GNOME is the right option for a beginner. Has anyone been using LXDE or xfce? Specifically for large scale computations? -- sources say that these environments are required for old systems, it would use relatively low memory for processing. Based on this logic, is it correct to assume that when you use LXDE based Linux, you can run the optimization program in 1 machine itself where it requires 2 (roughly speaking)? (Anyways, I am going with the default GNOME for now.)

(20 Feb '12, 03:41) Pavan

Unarguably, Linux and Mac OS X are the most popular Unix 'flavors' these days.

(You may have heard of [Open]Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, BSD-style Unices, etc. – they are still out there and have their piece of the cake; but that's not where you want to start as a novice.)

A lot of Linux distributions come bundled with a good handbook which provides all information that is required to get started (i.e., they offer an introduction to the general concepts of *nix systems, make you learn how to setup and configure your OS, and tell you how to get the most out of it).


answered 19 Feb '12, 04:14

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fbahr ♦
accept rate: 13%

edited 19 Feb '12, 07:54

Thanks for your comment. I went through your link for linux and it seems there are lot of options. Which one do normally people use in industry?

(19 Feb '12, 05:07) Pavan

I don't think that there is an option "normally" used in industry, the world is colorful and so is it's IT.

(19 Feb '12, 05:15) Marco Luebbecke ♦

@Marco Luebbecke: Still researching on various editions and its versions and what I am looking for is a linux where I can run all programming and modeling languages, open office, SQL and scientific computing packages like Octave (Open source version of Matlab). Also that linux os has good online community (say like most OR practitioners using that particular linux os -- would be great to interact and troubleshoot if a problem arises).

by the way, may I also ask you which linux distro do you use?

(19 Feb '12, 05:27) Pavan

I personally (home and work) use opensuse, but I know a lot of people who like debian based distros, ubuntu appears to be great (but I have no first hand experience). opensuse is considered "heavy", i.e. many (non-used?) package. But all these distros run right out of the box. And all the software you request (libreoffice, SQL, octave, etc.) are either already installed or can be installed on any of them.

Maybe you choose what your friends/colleagues chose, so you have someone to talk to.

(19 Feb '12, 05:34) Marco Luebbecke ♦

@Pavan: IANAE, but here's my advice: pick any one of the TOP4-ranked Linux distributions (Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE). Those are tailored to 'ease-of-use' and have a large user-base – which roughly translates to: stable, yet up-to-date systems with good support.

[Most of] What you learn from using one of these distributions is widely applicable to all *nix-style systems.

[And: once you made yourself familiar with system A, you still can switch to system, B, C, a.s.o. – and this path is probably the (only) way achieve to 'true' mastery.]

(19 Feb '12, 05:41) fbahr ♦

When I started using Linux, I loved the nerdy part i.e you had to tweak and hack to get things working. Now Linux is a much smoother experience, which suits me fine I don't have the time to mess around with things not working and I don't take a joy in it any more. Choosing linux distro is not so complicated as it used to be, basically for me it comes down to long time support and which package system the distro uses. My prefered package system is apt, which is why I currently use ubuntu.

(19 Feb '12, 05:58) Bo Jensen ♦

@Marco Luebbecke: Thanks for your response.. @fbahr: Thank you! I will narrow it down from that list to one.

(19 Feb '12, 10:56) Pavan

I would go about it slightly differently: I would install Ubuntu, since it is easy, but then I would get an book from O'Reilly and learn how to use the Bash Shell to run programs and manipulate data. You are probably interested in learning Unix to do operations research and data analysis, not to administer a website, and learning shell (and grep and awk and sort and ssh) would be a good place to start. Then figure out how to run the Coin OR tools once you can login to box and download some input data.

(19 Feb '12, 13:35) forkandwait

Ubuntu is good, but if your leaning that direction I would recommend Mint (which is a fork of Ubuntu). IMO Mint generally has a somewhat friendlier user interface than does Ubuntu. More importantly, the last iteration of Ubuntu tried to force the Unity desktop on users, whereas Mint stuck with the GNOME desktop. I don't know if it makes a big difference to first-time Linux users, but I know that many experienced users cursed a blue streak when they ran into Unity.

(19 Feb '12, 17:49) Paul Rubin ♦♦

@forkandwait Good advice - same as what I thought as well.

(19 Feb '12, 18:51) Samik R.

@forkandwait: Thanks for your insightful advice, I strongly agree with your plan. But, it seems like Ubuntu works well only for few people as I installed it and the o/s is not able to recognize my USB ports and I am unable to access my complete hard disk (only the Linux partition was accessible). Like @Paul Rubin says, I will try the Mint Gnome, hopefully it works well.

(20 Feb '12, 03:30) Pavan

@Pavan, are you really sure Ubuntu does not recognize your usb ports ? That would surprise me if any modern linux distro didn't. It's more likely what you plugin into the usb is missing a driver in linux default install. Also what do you mean by your complete hard disk, are you dual booting with a windows partition ? That should work automatically and you should be able to access the win partition (might be read only but that can be fixed).

(20 Feb '12, 03:41) Bo Jensen ♦

@Bo Jensen: Yes, I have win'xp and Ubuntu. No its not a problem with read only option, the error was unable to mount the hard disk or something. I use Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat and not the recent one. I will have to check the USB problem by inserting a different USB stick and see if I get the same problem.

(20 Feb '12, 03:47) Pavan

An update on the Ubuntu problem: the USB problem is fixed as my other USB stick worked. But the hard disk accessibility remains a problem.

(21 Feb '12, 08:30) Pavan

maybe this discussion should be shifted to an ubuntu forum. ubuntu is very well supported, and a lot of problems have been discussed and solved already; why not make use of this rich resource?

(21 Feb '12, 08:56) Marco Luebbecke ♦

@Pavan: Mounting Windows Partitions (NTFS, FAT) @ Ubuntu Community Documentation; if this doesn't help, there are several other options (support chat, web forums,...) to get in touch with people who might have experienced the same problem and worked around it.

(21 Feb '12, 09:33) fbahr ♦

@Pavan: I got so excited by the Unix part, I forgot the SQL part. If you can get it to work easily via a package, I would use PostgreSQL instead of MySQL -- the syntax is much more developed, it less likely to corrupt data, and there are some super cool extensions for text matching and geographic data. If getting Postgres up and running is a pain, I would play around with SQLite to get your feet wet -- you can run a full SQL database from a file on the command line (you can also use Firefox SQLite manager extension too).

(21 Feb '12, 23:32) forkandwait

Thanks again @forkandwait! I will look into those

(23 Feb '12, 02:50) Pavan
showing 5 of 18 show 13 more comments

For SQL in general (I know nothing about linux). Understand the relational database model (what normalization is, keys, relationships between tables). Once you understand why databases are built the way they are (which is very common sense and logical) SQL queries become pretty straight forward. Get a SQL book or tutorial from the internet (I think I used "The SQL users handbook" many years ago) and work through the examples on a database you put together or have access to. A lot of the basic books cover both the relational database concepts and SQL together. Personally knowing SQL has been invaluable in my career, knowing how to build simple databases for personal use has been helpful but not as much, knowing hard core DBA functions has not been too useful to me at all, so based on my personal experience I wouldn't get too deep into the technical details of setting up a database. Get it up and running with some data in multiple tables so you can work through some examples. I've had luck with MYSQL on windows machines when I have to build personal databases, but every job I've ever had put their "real" data in oracle databases.


answered 22 Feb '12, 11:11

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Asked: 19 Feb '12, 01:13

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Last updated: 23 Feb '12, 02:50

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