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Set up an offline command line dictionary in Fedora

You don’t need an internet connection to have an easily searchable and extendable dictionary on your Fedora computer. You can use sdcv (StarDict under Console Version) and the public Stardict files on the default repositories to keep a local record for offline use. This article shows you how.

What is sdcv?

sdcv is a command line variant of Stardict. Stardict is a part of a long legacy of GUI offline dictionaries. The “dic” files it uses are formatted as a colon delimited file, with the word in first column and the definition in the second column. You can have multiple lines with the same word and different definitions. sdcv will provide you with a search function and formatted display of your results.

Installing sdcv

You can get started quickly with sdcv and the English dictionary by installing them from the default repos:

sudo dnf install sdcv stardict-dic-en

sdcv will be ready for use right away. If you want to see what other languages are available, use this command:

dnf search stardict

How to use sdcv

sdcv has an interactive and non-interactive mode. You can perform a quick search on a word or term using this command:

sdcv word

For example, you could search sdcv linux. Alternately, you can run sdcv by itself to activate interactive mode.

Customizing sdcv

sdcv has a –color option that adds coloring to the words and source of the definition. You can also use an alias to enable –color by default. Simply edit your shell resource file (default on Fedora is ~/.bashrc) to add this command:

alias sdcv="sdcv --color"

You can also use a more friendly name like this: 

alias describe="sdcv --color"

sdcv references /usr/share/stardic/dic by default, or it uses the path located in the shell variable STARDICT_DATA_DIR. You can also set up a personal dictionary in the file $HOME/.stardict/dic.

Fun facts

Believe it or not, the dict network protocol is still alive to this day. You can use it with the curl command by using a command like this to search for a word:

curl dict://<word>

This pull definitions straight from the internet via your command line. Enjoy using sdcv!

Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash.

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Best of 2019: Fedora for system administrators

The end of the year is a perfect time to look back on some of the Magazine’s most popular articles of 2019. One of the Fedora operating systems’s many strong points is its wide array of tools for system administrators. As your skills progress, you’ll find that the Fedora OS has even more to offer. And because Linux is the sysadmin’s best friend, you’ll always be in good company. In 2019, there were quite a few articles about sysadmin tools our readers enjoyed. Here’s a sampling.

Introducing Fedora CoreOS

If you follow modern IT topics, you know that containers are a hot topic — and containers mean Linux. This summer brought the first preview release of Fedora CoreOS. This new edition of Fedora can run containerized workloads. You can use it to deploy apps and services in a modern way.

InitRAMFS, dracut and the dracut emergency shell

To be a good sysadmin, you need to understand system startup and the boot process. From time to time, you’ll encounter software errors, configuration problems, or other issues that keep your system from starting normally. With the information in the article below, you can do some life-saving surgery on your system, and restore it to working order.

How to reset your root password

Although this article was published a few years ago, it continues to be one of the most popular. Apparently, we’re not the only people who sometimes get locked out of our own system! If this happens to you, and you need to reset the root password, the article below should do the trick.

Systemd: unit dependencies and order

This article is part of an entire series on systemd, the modern system and process manager in Fedora and other distributions. As you may know, systemd has sophisticated but easy to use methods to start up or shut own services in the right order. This article shows you how they work. That way you can apply the right options to unit files you create for systemd.

Setting kernel command line arguments

Fedora 30 introduced new ways to change the boot options for your kernel. This article from Laura Abbott on the Fedora kernel team explains the new Bootloader Spec (BLS). It also tells you how to use it to set options on your kernel for boot time.

Stay tuned to the Magazine for other upcoming “Best of 2019” categories. All of us at the Magazine hope you have a great end of year and holiday season.

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A quick introduction to Toolbox on Fedora

Toolbox allows you to sort and manage your development environments in containers without requiring root privileges or manually attaching volumes. It creates a container where you can install your own CLI tools, without installing them on the base system itself. You can also utilize it when you do not have root access or cannot install programs directly. This article gives you an introduction to toolbox and what it does.

Installing Toolbox

Silverblue includes Toolbox by default. For the Workstation and Server editions, you can grab it from the default repositories using dnf install toolbox.

Creating Toolboxes

Open your terminal and run toolbox enter. The utility will automatically request permission to download the latest image, create your first container, and place your shell inside this container.

$ toolbox enter
No toolbox containers found. Create now? [y/N] y
Image required to create toolbox container.
Download (500MB)? [y/N]: y

Currently there is no difference between the toolbox and your base system. Your filesystems and packages appear unchanged. Here is an example using a repository that contains documentation source for a resume under a ~/src/resume folder. The resume is built using the pandoc tool.

$ pwd /home/rwaltr $ cd src/resume/ $ head -n 5 Makefile all: pdf html rtf text docx pdf: init pandoc -s -o BUILDS/resume.pdf markdown/* $ make pdf
bash: make: command not found
$ pandoc -v
bash: pandoc: command not found

This toolbox does not have the programs required to build the resume. You can remedy this by installing the tools with dnf. You will not be prompted for the root password, because you are running in a container.

$ sudo dnf groupinstall "Authoring and Publishing" -y && sudo dnf install pandoc make -y
... $ make all #Successful builds
mkdir -p BUILDS
pandoc -s -o BUILDS/resume.pdf markdown/*
pandoc -s -o BUILDS/resume.html markdown/*
pandoc -s -o BUILDS/resume.rtf markdown/*
pandoc -s -o BUILDS/resume.txt markdown/*
pandoc -s -o BUILDS/resume.docx markdown/*
$ ls BUILDS/
resume.docx resume.html resume.pdf resume.rtf resume.txt

Run exit at any time to exit the toolbox.

$ cd BUILDS/
$ pandoc --version || ls
pandoc 2.2.1
Compiled with pandoc-types, texmath, skylighting 0.7.5
for a particular purpose.
resume.docx resume.html resume.pdf resume.rtf resume.txt
$ exit logout
$ pandoc --version || ls
bash: pandoc: command not found...
resume.docx resume.html resume.pdf resume.rtf resume.txt

You retain the files created by your toolbox in your home directory. None of the programs installed in your toolbox will be available outside of it.

Tips and tricks

This introduction to toolbox only scratches the surface. Here are some additional tips, but you can also check out the official documentation.

  • Toolbox –help will show you the man page for Toolbox
  • You can have multiple toolboxes at once. Use toolbox create -c Toolboxname and toolbox enter -c Toolboxname
  • Toolbox uses Podman to do the heavy lifting. Use toolbox list to find the IDs of the containers Toolbox creates. Podman can use these IDs to perform actions such as rm and stop. (You can also read more about Podman in this Magazine article.)

Photo courtesy of Florian Richter from Flickr.

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Command line quick tips: Using pipes to connect tools

One of the most powerful concepts of Linux is carried on from its predecessor, UNIX. Your Fedora system has a bunch of useful, single-purpose utilities available for all sorts of simple operations. Like building blocks, you can attach them in creative and complex ways. Pipes are key to this concept.

Before you hear about pipes, though, it’s helpful to know the basic concept of input and output. Many utilities in your Fedora system can operate against files. But they can often take input not stored on a disk. You can think of input flowing freely into a process such as a utility as its standard input (also sometimes called stdin).

Similarly, a tool or process can display information to the screen by default. This is often because its default output is connected to the terminal. You can think of the free-flowing output of a process as its standard output (or stdout — go figure!).

Examples of standard input and output

Often when you run a tool, it outputs to the terminal. Take for instance this simple sequence command using the seq tool:

$ seq 1 6

The output, which is simply to count integers up from 1 to 6, one number per line, comes to the screen. But you could also send it to a file using the > character. The shell interpreter uses this character to mean “redirect standard output to a file whose name follows.” So as you can guess, this command puts the output into a file called six.txt:

$ seq 1 6 > six.txt

Notice nothing comes to the screen. You’ve sent the ouptut into a file instead. If you run the command cat six.txt you can verify that.

You probably remember the simple use of the grep command from a previous article. You could ask grep to search for a pattern in a file by simply declaring the file name. But that’s simply a convenience feature in grep. Technically it’s built to take standard input, and search that.

The shell uses the < character similarly to mean “redirect standard input from a file whose name follows.” So you could just as well search for the number 4 in the file six.txt this way:

$ grep 4 < six.txt

Of course the output here is, by default, the content of any line with a match. So grep finds the digit 4 in the file and outputs that line to standard output.

Introducing pipes

Now imagine: what if you took the standard output of one tool, and instead of sending it to the terminal, you sent it into another tool’s standard input? This is the essence of the pipe.

Your shell uses the vertical bar character | to represent a pipe between two commands. You can find it on most keyboard above the backslash \ character. It’s used like this:

$ command1 | command2

For most simple utilities, you wouldn’t use an output filename option on command1, nor an input file option on command2. (You might use other options, though.) Instead of using files, you’re sending the output of command1 directly into command2. You can use as many pipes in a row as needed, creating complex pipelines of several commands in a row.

This (relatively useless) example combines the commands above:

$ seq 1 6 | grep 4

What happened here? The seq command outputs the integers 1 through 6, one line at a time. The grep command processes that output line by line, searching for a match on the digit 4, and outputs any matching line.

Here’s a slightly more useful example. Let’s say you want to find out if TCP port 22, the ssh port, is open on your system. You could find this out using the ss command* by looking through its copious output. Or you could figure out its filter language and use that. Or you could use pipes. For example, pipe it through grep looking for the ssh port label:

$ ss -tl | grep ssh
LISTEN 0 128* LISTEN 0 128 [::]:ssh [::]:*

* Those readers familiar with the venerable netstat command may note it is mostly obsolete, as stated in its man page.

That’s a lot easier than reading through many lines of output. And of course, you can combine redirectors and pipes, for instance:

$ ss -tl | grep ssh > ssh-listening.txt

This is barely scratching the surface of pipes. Let your imagination run wild. Have fun piping!

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Use a drop-down terminal for fast commands in Fedora

A drop-down terminal lets you tap a key and quickly enter any command on your desktop. Often it creates a terminal in a smooth way, sometimes with effects. This article demonstrates how it helps to improve and speed up daily tasks, using drop-down terminals like Yakuake, Tilda, Guake and a GNOME extension.


Yakuake is a drop-down terminal emulator based on KDE Konsole techonology. It is distributed under the terms of the GNU GPL Version 2. It includes features such as:

  • Smoothly rolls down from the top of your screen
  • Tabbed interface
  • Configurable dimensions and animation speed
  • Skinnable
  • Sophisticated D-Bus interface

To install Yakuake, use the following command:

$ sudo dnf install -y yakuake

Startup and configuration

If you’re runnign KDE, open the System Settings and go to Startup and Shutdown. Add yakuake to the list of programs under Autostart, like this:

It’s easy to configure Yakuake while running the app. To begin, launch the program at the command line:

$ yakuake &

The following welcome dialog appears. You can set a new keyboard shortcut if the standard one conflicts with another keystroke you already use:

Now click the menu button, and the following help menu appears. Next, select Configure Yakuake… to access the configuration options.

You can customize the options for appearance, such as opacity; behavior, such as focusing terminals when the mouse pointer is moved over them; and window, such as size and animation. In the window options you’ll find one of the most useful options is you use two or more monitors: Open on screen: At mouse location.

Using Yakuake

The main shortcuts are:

  • F12 = Open/Retract Yakuake
  • Ctrl+F11 = Full Screen Mode
  • Ctrl+) = Split Top/Bottom
  • Ctrl+( = Split Left/Right
  • Ctrl+Shift+T = New Session
  • Shift+Right = Next Session
  • Shift+Left = Previous Session
  • Ctrl+Alt+S = Rename Session

Below is an example of Yakuake being used to split the session like a terminal multiplexer. Using this feature, you can run several shells in one session.


Tilda is a drop-down terminal that compares with other popular terminal emulators such as GNOME Terminal, KDE’s Konsole, xterm, and many others.

It features a highly configurable interface. You can even change options such as the terminal size and animation speed. Tilda also lets you enable hotkeys you can bind to commands and operations.

To install Tilda, run this command:

$ sudo dnf install -y tilda

Startup and configuration

Most users prefer to have a drop-down terminal available behind the scenes when they login. To set this option, first go to the app launcher in your desktop, search for Tilda, and open it.

Next, open up the Tilda Config window. Select Start Tilda hidden, which means it will not display a terminal immediately when started.

Next, you’ll set your desktop to start Tilda automatically. If you’re using KDE, go to System Settings > Startup and Shutdown > Autostart and use Add a Program.

If you’re using GNOME, you can run this command in a terminal:

$ ln -s /usr/share/applications/tilda.desktop ~/.config/autostart/

When you run for the first time, a wizard shows up to set your preferences. If you need to change something, right click and go to Preferences in the menu.

You can also create multiple configuration files, and bind other keys to open new terminals at different places on the screen. To do that, run this command:

$ tilda -C

Every time you use the above command, Tilda creates a new config file located in the ~/.config/tilda/ folder called config_0, config_1, and so on. You can then map a key combination to open a new Tilda terminal with a specific set of options.

Using Tilda

The main shortcuts are:

  • F1 = Pull Down Terminal Tilda (Note: If you have more than one config file, the shortcuts are the same, with a diferent open/retract shortcut like F1, F2, F3, and so on)
  • F11 = Full Screen Mode
  • F12 = Toggle Transparency
  • Ctrl+Shift+T = Add Tab
  • Ctrl+Page Up = Go to Next Tab
  • Ctrl+Page Down = Go to Previous Tab

GNOME Extension

The Drop-down Terminal GNOME Extension lets you use this useful tool in your GNOME Shell. It is easy to install and configure, and gives you fast access to a terminal session.


Open a browser and go to the site for this GNOME extension. Enable the extension setting to On, as shown here:

Then select Install to install the extension on your system.

Once you do this, there’s no reason to set any autostart options. The extension will automatically run whenever you login to GNOME!


After install, the Drop Down Terminal configuration window opens to set your preferences. For example, you can set the size of the terminal, animation, transparency, and scrollbar use.

If you need change some preferences in the future, run the gnome-shell-extension-prefs command and choose Drop Down Terminal.

Using the extension

The shortcuts are simple:

  • ` (usually the key above Tab) = Open/Retract Terminal
  • F12 (customize as you prefer) = Open/Retract Terminal

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4 tips for better tmux sessions

The tmux utility, a terminal multiplexer, lets you treat your terminal as a multi-paned window into your system. You can arrange the configuration, run different processes in each, and generally make better use of your screen. We introduced some readers to this powerful tool in this earlier article. Here are some tips that will help you get more out of tmux if you’re getting started.

This article assumes your current prefix key is Ctrl+b. If you’ve remapped that prefix, simply substitute your prefix in its place.

Set your terminal to automatically use tmux

One of the biggest benefits of tmux is being able to disconnect and reconnect to sesions at wilI. This makes remote login sessions more powerful. Have you ever lost a connection and wished you could get back the work you were doing on the remote system? With tmux this problem is solved.

However, you may sometimes find yourself doing work on a remote system, and realize you didn’t start a session. One way to avoid this is to have tmux start or attach every time you login to a system with in interactive shell.

Add this to your remote system’s ~/.bash_profile file:

if [ -z "$TMUX" ]; then tmux attach -t default || tmux new -s default fi

Then logout of the remote system, and log back in with SSH. You’ll find you’re in a tmux session named default. This session will be regenerated at next login if you exit it. But more importantly, if you detach from it as normal, your work is waiting for you next time you login — especially useful if your connection is interrupted.

Of course you can add this to your local system as well. Note that terminals inside most GUIs won’t use the default session automatically, because they aren’t login shells. While you can change that behavior, it may result in nesting that makes the session less usable, so proceed with caution.

Use zoom to focus on a single process

While the point of tmux is to offer multiple windows, panes, and processes in a single session, sometimes you need to focus. If you’re in a process and need more space, or to focus on a single task, the zoom command works well. It expands the current pane to take up the entire current window space.

Zoom can be useful in other situations too. For instance, imagine you’re using a terminal window in a graphical desktop. Panes can make it harder to copy and paste multiple lines from inside your tmux session. If you zoom the pane, you can do a clean copy/paste of multiple lines of data with ease.

To zoom into the current pane, hit Ctrl+b, z. When you’re finished with the zoom function, hit the same key combo to unzoom the pane.

Bind some useful commands

By default tmux has numerous commands available. But it’s helpful to have some of the more common operations bound to keys you can easily remember. Here are some examples you can add to your ~/.tmux.conf file to make sessions more enjoyable:

bind r source-file ~/.tmux.conf \; display "Reloaded config"

This command rereads the commands and bindings in your config file. Once you add this binding, exit any tmux sessions and then restart one. Now after you make any other future changes, simply run Ctrl+b, r and the changes will be part of your existing session.

bind V split-window -h bind H split-window

These commands make it easier to split the current window across a vertical axis (note that’s  Shift+V) or across a horizontal axis (Shift+H).

If you want to see how all keys are bound, use Ctrl+B, ? to see a list. You may see keys bound in copy-mode first, for when you’re working with copy and paste inside tmux. The prefix mode bindings are where you’ll see ones you’ve added above. Feel free to experiment with your own!

Use powerline for great justice

As reported in a previous Fedora Magazine article, the powerline utility is a fantastic addition to your shell. But it also has capabilities when used with tmux. Because tmux takes over the entire terminal space, the powerline window can provide more than just a better shell prompt.

Screenshot of tmux powerline in git folder

If you haven’t already, follow the instructions in the Magazine’s powerline article to install that utility. Then, install the addon using sudo:

sudo dnf install tmux-powerline

Now restart your session, and you’ll see a spiffy new status line at the bottom. Depending on the terminal width, the default status line now shows your current session ID, open windows, system information, date and time, and hostname. If you change directory into a git-controlled project, you’ll see the branch and color-coded status as well.

Of course, this status bar is highly configurable as well. Enjoy your new supercharged tmux session, and have fun experimenting with it.

Photo by Pamela Saunders on Unsplash.