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Online Course

Unix Tools: Data, Software and Production Engineering

Delft University of Technology via edX


Processing information is the hallmark of all modern organizations, which are increasingly digital: absorbing, processing and generating information is a key element of their business.
Being able to interact flexibly and efficiently with the underlying data and software systems is an indispensable skill. Knowledge of the Unix shell and its command-line tools boosts the effectiveness and productivity of software developers, IT professionals, and data analysts.

The Unix tools were designed, written, actively used and refined by the team that defined the modern computing landscape. They allow the performance of almost any imaginable computing task quickly and efficiently by judiciously combining key powerful concepts. The power of Unix tools for exploring, prototyping and implementing big data processing workflows, and software engineering tasks remains unmatched. Unix tools, running on hardware ranging from tiny IoT platforms to supercomputers, uniquely allow an interactive, explorative programming style, which is ideal for the efficient solution of many of the engineering and business analytics problems that we face every day.

Through the use of Unix tools:

  • Software developers can quickly explore and modify code, data, and tests.
  • IT professionals can scrutinize log files, network traces, performance figures, filesystems and the behavior of processes.
  • Data analysts can extract, transform, filter, process, load, and summarize huge data sets.

The course is uniquely based on carefully-selected, interactive walk-through examples that demonstrate how each command operates in practice. The examples that we use involve problems that engineers and analysts face every day.


We start by introducing the key ideas and advantages of Unix tools. We then build many one-liners around the tools that follow a sequence of fetching, selection, processing, summarization and reporting. We demonstrate the tools for each phase: the plumbing that joins the parts into a whole, more specialized commands for handling software development and system administration tasks, sound and images and even graph-structures. We end with a discussion of common use patterns to follow and anti-patterns to avoid.

Week 1 Introduction — Getting to the Command Line; The command-line interface; Input and output redirection; Files and directories; Command-line arguments; Command grouping; Scripting
Week 2 Execution control; Data processing flow; Data fetching: Remote services, archives, remote hosts, and the file system
Week 3 Data fetching: Version control systems, compiled code, graphical desktop systems, and system administration; Data generation; Regular expressions and data selection with grep, egrep, and fgrep
Week 4 Other data selection tools; Processing: Sorting, working with sorted data, sed, awk
Week 5 Processing: File differences, testing, and expressions dealing with characters, lines, and graphs
Week 6 Processing images and sound; Summarizing; Reporting: Email and text formatting; Good shell practices; Improving your shell style

Throughout the course you’ll be monitoring your progress through more than 110 knowledge checks. Furthermore, five progress assessments interspersed throughout the course will allow you to demonstrate in practice how you deploy your newly acquired skills by completing about 20 carefully selected tasks modeled after real-life scenarios. Many of the questions will set you off on a virtual treasure hunt, providing you with the opportunity to experiment with what you’ve learned in order to derive the right answer.

Taught by

Diomidis Spinellis

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5.0 rating, based on 1 reviews

Start your review of Unix Tools: Data, Software and Production Engineering

  • I took this class maybe a year or so ago but forgot to write the review.

    Overall, I found this class to be great! The videos were concise, well edited, and packed with information. No hours and hours of professors droning on repeating content until you understand it.

    I highly recommend paying to get to do the exercises. They are quite challenging and definitely the best part of the class.

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