Two sets of utilities—the GNU Core Utilities[1] and util-linux[2]—comprise many of the Linux system administrator's most basic and regularly used tools. Their basic functions allow sysadmins to perform many of the tasks required to administer a Linux computer, including management and manipulation of text files, directories, data streams, storage media, process controls, filesystems, and much more.

These tools are indispensable because, without them, it is impossible to accomplish any useful work on a Unix or Linux computer. Given their importance, let's examine them.

GNU coreutils

To understand the origins of the GNU Core Utilities, we need to take a short trip in the Wayback machine to the early days of Unix at Bell Labs. Unix was written[3] so Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Doug McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna could continue with something they had started while working on a large multi-tasking and multi-user computer project called Multics[4]. That little something was a game called Space Travel. As remains true today, it always seems to be the gamers who drive forward the technology of computing. This new operating system was much more limited than Multics, as only two users could log in at a time, so it was called Unics. This name was later changed to Unix.

Over time, Unix turned out to be such a success that Bell Labs began essentially giving it away it to universities and later to companies for the cost of the media and shipping. Back in those days, system-level software was shared between organizations and programmers as they worked to achieve common goals within the context of system administration.

Eventually, the PHBs[5] at AT&T decided they should make money on Unix and started using more restrictive—and expensive—licensing. This was taking place

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