At one point, this was the first assignment in the course. That's how important I believe man-pages are.

I've since moved it back a bit until you have access to a Linux command line so you can see it in all its glory.

First, think about a command you want to learn about.... you don't know any yet? Well let's start strong, man is the name of the command that pulls up manpages. So you use man by doing this:

$ man [name of program you are interested in]

But what should be the first program we check out the man-pages for... oh how about man?

$ man man

That's meta, man.

Always Have a Goal

Look at the output of man man (or this online copy of the man-pages if you aren't in a VM ) and write down the first three things you don't understand.

Once you have found three things you don't understand: STOP READING! It will only hurt your head, and there is no need to go any further. Remember Rule 3 of the Hacker Attitude, "Boredom and Drudgery are evil."? If you're not getting anything out of something at any point in this course, don't do it, and leave us feedback that we are wasting your time. We mean that. You won't hurt my feelings.

The reason I had you write down the first few things you didn't understand is I want to make it clear to you how useless it would be right now for you to dive, unguided into the material. Reading a man-page, with no direction and no firm base to start from is a waste of your time.

For the rest of the course, and the rest of the time you do anything on Linux, still can't go wrong to do a quick look at the man-page and get an idea of what programs can do. Don't read them in their entirety or try to memorize the functionality, but if you're having problems, always a good idea to RTFM (or you might get stabbed by your toaster).


Answer in a sentence or two.


  1. What is a man-page?
  2. How do I pull up the man-page for the system call "read"?
  3. What can I learn from man-pages?


Answer in the usual format.