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11 Lesser Known Useful Linux Commands

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Linux command line attracts most of the Linux Enthusiastic. A normal Linux user generally posses a vocabulary of roughly 50-60 commands to carry out their day-to-day task. Linux commands and their switches remains the most valuable treasure for a Linux-user, Shell-script programmer and Administrator. There are some Linux Commands which are lesser Known, yet very useful and handy irrespective of the fact whether you are a Novice or an Advanced User.

Lesser Known Linux Commands

Lesser Known Linux Commands

This very article aims at throwing light on some of the lesser known Linux commands which surely will help you to handle your Desktop/Server more efficiently.

1. sudo !! command

Running the command without specifying sudo command will give you permission denied error. So, you don’t need to rewrite the whole command again just put ‘!!‘ will grab the last command.

$ apt-get update

E: Could not open lock file /var/lib/apt/lists/lock - open (13: Permission denied) 
E: Unable to lock directory /var/lib/apt/lists/ 
E: Could not open lock file /var/lib/dpkg/lock - open (13: Permission denied) 
E: Unable to lock the administration directory (/var/lib/dpkg/), are you root?
$ sudo !!

sudo apt-get update 
[sudo] password for server: 
Fetched 474 kB in 16s (28.0 kB/s) 
Reading package lists... Done 

2. python command

The below command generates a simple web page over HTTP for the directory structure tree and can be accessed at port 8000 in browser till interrupt signal is sent.

# python -m SimpleHTTPServer
python -m SimpleHTTPServer

Directory Structure Tree

3. mtr Command

Most of us are familiar with ping and traceroute. How about combining the functionality of both the command into one with mtr command. In case mtr is not installed into your machine, apt or yum the required package.

$ sudo apt-get install mtr (On Debian based Systems)
# yum install mtr (On Red Hat based Systems)

Now run mtr command to start investigating the network connection between the host mtr runs on and google.com.

# mtr google.com
mtr command

mtr command

4. Ctrl+x+e Command

This command is very much useful for administrator and developers. To Automate day-to-day task an administrator needs to open editor by typing vi, vim, nano, etc. How about firing instant editor (from terminal).

Just Press “Ctrl-x-e” from the terminal prompt and start working in editor.

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5. nl Command

The “nl command” number the lines of a file. Number the lines of a file say ‘one.txt‘ with lines say (Fedora, Debian, Arch, Slack and Suse). First list the content of a file “one.txt” using cat command.

# cat one.txt 


Now run “nl command” to list them in a numbered fashion.

# nl one.txt 

1 fedora 
2 debian 
3 arch 
4 slack 
5 suse

6. shuf Command

The “shuf” command randomly select lines/files/folder from a file/folder. First list the contents of a folder using ls command.

# ls 

Desktop  Documents  Downloads  Music  Pictures  Public  Templates  Videos
#  ls | shuf (shuffle Input)

#  ls | shuf -n1 (pick on random selection)

# ls | shuf -n1 

# ls | shuf -n1 

# ls | shuf -n1 


Note: You can always replace ‘n1‘ with ‘n2‘ to pick two random selection or any other number of random selection using n3, n4.

7. ss Command

The “ss” stands for socket statistics. The command investigates the socket and shows information similar to netstat command. It can display more TCP and state informations than other tools.

# ss 

State      Recv-Q Send-Q      Local Address:Port          Peer Address:Port   
ESTAB      0      0         *.*.*.*:http    
CLOSE-WAIT 1      0           
ESTAB      0      0         *.*.*.*:http    
ESTAB      310    0           
ESTAB      0      0        *.*.*.*:http    
ESTAB      0      0       

8. last Command

The “last” command show the history of last logged in users. This command searches through the file “/var/log/wtmp” and shows a list of logged-in and logged-out users along with tty’s.

#  last 
server   pts/0        :0               Tue Oct 22 12:03   still logged in   
server   tty8         :0               Tue Oct 22 12:02   still logged in   
(unknown tty8         :0               Tue Oct 22 12:02 - 12:02  (00:00)    
server   pts/0        :0               Tue Oct 22 10:33 - 12:02  (01:29)    
server   tty7         :0               Tue Oct 22 10:05 - 12:02  (01:56)    
(unknown tty7         :0               Tue Oct 22 10:04 - 10:05  (00:00)    
reboot   system boot  3.2.0-4-686-pae  Tue Oct 22 10:04 - 12:44  (02:39)    

wtmp begins Fri Oct  4 14:43:17 2007

9. curl ifconfig.me

So how do you obtain your External IP address? Using google?. Well the command output your external IP address right into your terminal.

# curl ifconfig.me

Note: You might don’t have curl package installed, you have to apt/yum to install package.

10. tree command

Get the current directory structure in tree like format.

# tree
|-- Desktop 
|-- Documents 
|   `-- 37.odt 
|-- Downloads 
|   |-- attachments.zip 

|   |-- ttf-indic-fonts_0.5.11_all.deb 
|   |-- ttf-indic-fonts_1.1_all.deb 
|   `-- wheezy-nv-install.sh 
|-- Music 
|-- Pictures 
|   |-- Screenshot from 2013-10-22 12:03:49.png 
|   `-- Screenshot from 2013-10-22 12:12:38.png 
|-- Public 
|-- Templates 
`-- Videos 

10 directories, 23 files

11. pstree

This commands shows all the processes running currently along with associated child process, in a tree like format similar to ‘tree‘ command output.

# pstree 
     │         ├─config 
     │         └─log 
     │      │                 ├─gdm-session-wor─┬─x-session-manag─┬─evolution-a+ 
     │      │                 │                 │                 ├─gdu-notific+ 
     │      │                 │                 │                 ├─gnome-scree+ 
     │      │                 │                 │                 ├─gnome-setti+ 
     │      │                 │                 │                 ├─gnome-shell+++ 
     │      │                 │                 │                 ├─nm-applet──+++ 
     │      │                 │                 │                 ├─ssh-agent 
     │      │                 │                 │                 ├─tracker-min+ 
     │      │                 │                 │                 ├─tracker-sto+ 
     │      │                 │                 │                 └─3*[{x-sessi+ 
     │      │                 │                 └─2*[{gdm-session-wor}] 
     │      │                 └─{gdm-simple-slav} 
     │      └─{gdm3} 

That’s all for now. In the next article of mine I would cover certain other lesser known Linux commands which would be fun. Till then stay tuned and connected to Tecmint. Like and share us and help us get spread.

Read Also:

  1. 10 Lesser Known Linux Commands – Part 2
  2. 10 Lesser Known Commands for Linux – Part 3
  3. 10 Lesser Known Effective Linux Commands – Part IV
  4. 10 Lesser Known Useful Linux Commands- Part V
I am a major in computer science, love to research nix. I love to write codes and scripts, review distros, experiment Foss Technologies, write technical articles, Hack, of course Ethically. I am working as System Administrator (nix) for a NGO.

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31 Responses

  1. deepanjan says:

    Qualitative info

    will you provide your mail address so that if i get stuck in around Linux or kind of troubleshooting you could help me out

    i am exploring this OS now a days

  2. Ernst says:

    Thanks you Avishek Kumar, this article is very very helpful to me. It improves my vision and skill for GNU Linux. Thank you very much

  3. Stuart Page says:

    Thanks! These are actually quite useful!

  4. Most of these commands will not work unless you install the appropriate software. I wouldn’t call them less known useful linux commands, I would call them “less known useful linux commands that you most likely don’t have installed”

    - CTRL+x+e requires emacs to be installed
    - Tree must be installed

    The rest are good but are not very useful for day to day activities.

    You can use a wget on an external website that prints the IP to know what your server’s external IP is. Just one method on top of my head.

  5. MAC says:

    Excellent write up, the sudo !! is pretty slick!

    • Avishek Kumar says:

      Thanks @ MAC, for your feedback.

      keep visiting tecmint.com
      we are coming up with another article of this very series, Yeah! “11 Lesser Known Useful Linux Commands”

  6. txtechdog says:

    You stated in your article that Ctrl-x-e would bring up an editor. What it actually does is open the command line editor, which is not the same thing at all.

    Also, this behaviour is dependent on several things.
    - First, you have to be using bash as your shell.
    - Second, you must be in emacs line editing mode.
    - Third, the editor that is invoked is determined by the value of the EDITOR environment variable. If that variable isn’t set, then it looks for emacs in your path and tries to invoke it.

    If you just want to open a file for editing, then Ctrl-x-e isn’t what you want.

    Try this experiment to see why this isn’t a good idea:

    Run the following two commands as root at the shell prompt.

    # export EDITOR=/usr/bin/vi
    # set -o emacs

    now, Ctrl-x-e and type the following in the editor session spawned:

    cd /
    echo rm -rf *
    echo “OMG….You just typed rm -rf * in the root filesystem as root”

    then exit the editing session with :wq

    You will see something like this:

    [root@w0140860 ~]# set -o emacs
    [root@w0140860 ~]# echo $EDITOR

    [root@w0140860 ~]# export EDITOR=/usr/bin/vi
    [root@w0140860 ~]#
    cd /
    echo rm -rf *
    rm -rf bin boot dev etc home lib lib64 lost+found media mnt opt proc root run sbin srv sys tmp usr var
    echo “OMG….you just ran rm -rf as root in the / directory.”
    OMG….you just ran rm -rf as root in the / directory.

    Once you are done running this little experiment, be thankful that I put an echo in front of the rm -rf * and you didn’t trash your whole system.

    Linux user since kernel version 0.12 (that isn’t a typo)
    Sr. Linux Administrator / Architect

    • Avishek Kumar says:

      @ txtechdog,

      Your finding is appreciated. we need to verify it on our side, before editing the article. Thanks

      • txtechdog says:

        Excerpt from section 8.4 of the Bash Reference Manual:

        edit-and-execute-command (C-x C-e)

        Invoke an editor on the current command line, and execute the result as shell commands. Bash attempts to invoke $VISUAL, $EDITOR, and emacs as the editor, in that order.

        Your article is wrong. Please correct it. Tips are great, but incorrect tips are not only not helpful, but can be harmful.


  7. Rizwan says:

    1) curl ifconfig.me is nice !!

    2) mtr command consumes more cpu usage

  8. deepanjan says:

    sry sry the reply was not moderated n i thought that my reply was deleted


    i need a help in context of some setting in squid proxy server kindly if u can provide your mail address

  9. Rajiv says:

    Very gracious sir. It is extremely most pleasant to read such tidbits of knowledge and to savor the taste of victory.

    Please provide your private email address so that I can communicate to ask you particular questions of your undoubted authority.

  10. Andrea says:

    Nice, thanks :)

    Actually, `nl ‘ just numbers text lines while `cat -n ‘ numbers all the lines in the file

    • Avishek Kumar says:

      @ Andrea, Thanks for your concern, we are aware of the fact and will be placing your suggested command in our future post:)

  11. ovi says:

    python -m http.server

  12. Long Cao says:

    Very informative!!! Thanks a lot Avishek.

  13. Andy says:

    Can I point out that #9 is not really a linux command, as such, but is making use of the website called “http://ifconfig.me”. Your readers should be made clearly aware of that. Many newbie linux users will not be aware, and many come to linux for privacy concerns.

    As for the rest, nice work…

  14. Srikanth says:

    Thank you very much, sir.

  15. Very useful – despite working with Linux for years, there is always new/surpising stuff hidden there.

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