A few more shell commands

Here are some Linux commands that I encountered in a feature article in the current issue of Linux User & Developer that I had not met before:

cd --

This returns you to the previous directory where you were before with having to go back through the folder hierarchy to get there and is handy if you are jumping around a file system and any other means is far from speedy.

lsb_release -a

It can be useful to uncover what version of a distro you have from the command line and the above works for distros as diverse as Linux Mint, Debian, Fedora (it automatically installs in Fedora 22 if it is not installed already, a more advanced approach than showing you the command like in Linux Mint or Ubuntu), openSUSE and Manjaro. These days, the version may not change too often but it still is good to uncover what you have.

yum install fedora-upgrade

This one can be run either with sudo or in a root session started with su and it is specific to Fedora. The command performs an upgrade of the Fedora distro itself and I wonder if the functionality has been ported to the dnf command that has taken over from yum. My experiences with that in Fedora 22 so far suggest that it should be the case though I need to check that further with the VirtualBox VM that I have created.

Restoring GRUB for dual booting of Linux and Windows

Once you end up with Windows overwriting your master boot record (MBR), you have lost the ability to use GRUB. Therefore, it would be handy to get it back if you want to start up Linux again. Though the loss of GRUB from the MBR was a deliberate act of mine, I knew that I’d have to restore GRUB to get Linux working again.So, I have been addressing the situation with a Live DVD for the likes of Ubuntu or Linux Mint. Once one of those had loaded its copy of the distribution, issuing the following command in a terminal session gets things back again:

sudo grub-install --root-directory=/media/0d104aff-ec8c-44c8-b811-92b993823444 /dev/sda

When there were error messages, I tried this one to see if I could get more information:

sudo grub-install --root-directory=/media/0d104aff-ec8c-44c8-b811-92b993823444 /dev/sda --recheck

Also, it is possible to mount a partition on the boot drive and use that in the command to restore GRUB. Here is the required combination:

sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt /dev/sda

Either of these will get GRUB working without a hitch and they are far more snappy than downloading Boot-Repair and using that; I was doing that for a while until a feature on triple booting appeared in an issue of Linux User & Developer that reminded me of the more readily available option. Once, there was a need to manually add an entry for Windows 7 to the GRUB menu too and, with that instated, I was able to dual-boot Ubuntu and Windows using GRUB to select which one was to start for me. Since then, I have been able to dual boot Linux Mint and Windows 8.1 with GRUB finding the latter all by itself so your experiences too may show this variation so it’s worth bearing in mind.


During the latter part of last year, the magazine Linux Format suffered a staff clear-out and I was left wondering why. It was as if a load of folk left at once and, even if I have seen that sort of thing happening at my current place of work, I was asking if something went wrong at Future Publishing.

What had passed me by was that the then staff of Linux Format were working on starting up their own magazine. They then went about crowdfunding the thing on Indiegogo and it only was the appearance of Linux Voice on a shelf in the Macclesfield branch of WHSmith’s that alerted me to what was happening in previous months.

It does sound risky to have an entire bunch of folk from one publisher’s magazine go off on their own and do their own variant of it, especially in these digital days when magazine publishing is not as secure as it once was. The mention of someone being held by no-compete covenant that reminded me of the mindset of where I work for a living. Quite what their old employers must make of it would make interesting reading because mine might be tempted to see me in court if I did something similar, assuming that was a possibility; I too would be bound by a covenant for six months after leaving.

As for the magazine itself, the content is good like it needs to be. There may be the occasional misspelling but articles on OwnCloud and Arch Linux installation would draw my attention along with reviews of Mageia 4 and FreeBSD 10. A lot of the old names from Linux Format appear too so there’s an air of continuity there. The design of the new upstart is less flashy than its longer standing predecessor and it will be interesting to see how they coexist.

It will take time for any new ideas to come to fruition and I wish the new magazine well. Its intentions are good in that half if profits are to go to open source software projects and articles are to be made available to all under a Creative Commons licence. First though, it needs to stay financially viable and the coming months could be interesting. The collective experience of who is behind the magazine should help though and that might stop it becoming like Walking World Ireland and Cycling World, other magazines whose appearance in newsagents is occasional. Having support from an enthusiastic community is a bonus too and there may come a time when I have to decide between Linux Voice and Linux Format as is the case with Linux Magazine and Linux User & Developer.  For what is supposed to be a niche operating system, users of Linux are not badly served when it comes to magazines.