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CHAPTER 10 MANAGING YOUR DATA
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Figure 10-9. Hardware devices under Linux are accessed as if they were files and can be found in the /dev folder. Here s another example. Say you re working in an office and want to connect to a central file server. To do this under Linux, you must mount the files that the server offers, making it a part of the Ubuntu file system. We discuss how this is done in the Mounting section later in this chapter.
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Note Bear in mind that, in most cases, Ubuntu takes care of mounting automatically, as discussed later in this
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chapter. For example, when you try to connect to a shared folder by clicking Places automatically handles the mounting of the shared folder. Network Servers, Ubuntu
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After the network server is mounted, it is treated exactly like a directory on your hard disk. You can copy files to and from it, just as you would normally, using the same tools as you use for dealing with any other files. In fact, less-knowledgeable users won t even be aware that they re accessing something that isn t located on their PC s hard disk (or, technically speaking, within their Ubuntu partition and file system). By treating everything as a file, Linux makes system administration easier. To probe and test your hardware, for example, you can use the same tools you use to manipulate files.
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CHAPTER 10 MANAGING YOUR DATA
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Working with Disks and Volumes
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So far you ve learned how to work with Nautilus and what the file system is. This is what is known as the logical side of data but there is a physical side as well, that is composed by the disks and removable media attached to your computer on which the file system rests. Without disks, there could be no file system, no directories, and no files. But it is not enough to attach the disk or plug in the removable media; you need also to make it available to the OS through an operation called mounting.
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Mounting Volumes
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Described in technical terms, mounting is the practice of making a file system available under Linux. Whereas Windows uses drive letters to make other file systems available in Windows Explorer, Linux integrates the new file system within the root file system, usually by making the contents appear whenever a particular directory is accessed. The mounted file system could be a partition on your hard disk, a CD-ROM, a network server, or many other things. Mounting drives might seem a strange concept, but it makes everything much simpler than it might be otherwise. For example, after a drive is mounted, you don t need to use any special commands or software to access its contents. You can use the same programs and tools that you use to access all of your other files. Mounting creates a level playing field on which everything is equal and therefore can be accessed quickly and efficiently. Most of the time, external storage devices are mounted automatically by the GNOME desktop software used under Ubuntu; a GNOME background service runs constantly and watches for the user attaching any storage devices to the PC. If this occurs, the external storage device is automounted by the GNOME desktop, usually in a folder named after the device s label within the /media directory (in other words, a USB memory stick with the label KINGSTON will be mounted at /media/KINGSTON). An entry appears on the Places menu, and an icon for the device appears on the desktop, pointing to the mount point (the directory used to mount the device). In the case of mounting network storage, such as those accessed by clicking Places Network, a system called gvfs-fuse mounts the devices. Upon being mounted, these also appear on the Places menu and are given a desktop icon, but you can access them from Nautilus by browsing the hidden .gvfs directory within your /home directory. Should you access shared storage on Bluetooth hardware devices, these will also appear within the .gvfs directory. Note that the contents of the mounted file system are made available in a virtual way. The files are not literally copied into the directory. The directory is merely a conduit that allows you to read the mounted file system contents. There aren t any special commands used to work with drives that have been mounted. File managers such as Nautilus have no trouble browsing their contents.
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Note The root file system is itself mounted automatically during bootup, shortly after the kernel has started and
has all your hardware up and running. If you look within the special file /etc/fstab, used to tell Ubuntu Linux which partitions to mount, you ll see that it too has its own entry, as does the swap partition. Every file system that Linux uses must be mounted at some point.
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