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How does Linux know how to execute this if it's a shell script, or compiled machine code? I understand how the shebang works, but there doesn't seem to be anything like that here.

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The binfmt subsystem of the Linux kernel recognizes various magic numbers at the start of the file and invokes the appropriate loader for it.

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Thanks again Ignacio –  Stephen Sarcsam Kamenar Jul 25 '13 at 2:37

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