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Beginning Ubuntu Linux 204

Posted by samzenpus
from the start-to-finish dept.
Ravi writes "Anybody who have heard about Linux would be aware of Ubuntu which is a very popular flavor of Linux created by the South African firm Canonical founded by the space tourist Mark Shuttleworth. In fact, they set the precedent of supplying free CDs of this very popular OS to any one interested in installing and trying out Linux on their machine. Recently, I got hold of this wonderful book named "Beginning Ubuntu Linux - From Novice to Professional" authored by Kier Thomas. Being a Ubuntu user myself, I was pleased to see a Linux book specifically concentrating on Ubuntu, finding its way to the book stores. This book is aimed at people who are new to Linux and who wish to start their Linux journey by installing Ubuntu on their machines. Read the rest of Ravi's review.
Beginning Ubuntu Linux - From Novice to Professional
author Keir Thomas
pages 600
publisher APress
rating 9/10
reviewer Ravi Kumar
ISBN 978-1-59059-627-2
summary A good book targeted at neophytes in Linux who wish to install and use Ubuntu on their machines


The book's 600 pages are divided into 7 parts each concentrating on a particular topic. And there are in total, 34 chapters and 4 appendices.

The first part of the book concentrates on giving a firm foundation to the readers as to what Linux is all about, its history and the benefits of using Linux over any other operating system.

From here, the author moves into explaining how to install Ubuntu on ones machine which forms the basis for the second part of this book. This part is divided into 3 chapters, one each dealing in pre-installation steps like partitioning ones hard disk, the actual installation steps and the equally important part of the most common issues faced by users before, during and after the installation and their solutions. In fact, the author lists over 18 problems that any user could encounter and gives their possible solutions.

The third part of the book which contains 6 chapters focuses on giving a fly-by tour of different aspects of Ubuntu Desktop, its various elements like menus, panels, virtual desktops and applets. I especially liked the section which listed the Microsoft Windows desktop functions and their equivalents found in Ubuntu. There is a special chapter titled "Ubuntu replacements for Windows programs" which could be an eye opener for any one interested in embracing Linux. In fact, the whole book is geared towards neophytes who are hoping to take their first steps in Linux.

Part 4 aptly named - "The Shell and Beyond" - contains 5 chapters where the author gives a sound introduction to the shell in Linux as well as takes the reader through the most useful and commonly used commands which would help a user save time. This part of the book contains a chapter on the Bash shell where the author explains the uses of the command line and how one can benefit from it. I really liked the table giving the DOS commands and their equivalents in Linux and also the section on how to disable the graphical desktop and boot into the console. And surprisingly the author explains how to do it the command line way which I found really interesting. This section is full of useful tips for people who have an affinity for the command line - like creating aliases, getting more help on the command usage, the file hierarchy in Ubuntu, file permissions and much more. The icing on the cake is the chapter named - "Cool Shell Tricks" - which contains many command line gymnastics that showcase the true power of the console in Linux. But what is amazing is that the author explains all these topics in a very simple and lucid manner which makes it easy for even a lay person to understand.

The fifth part of the book deals entirely with the topic of digital music, movies and image editing and is spread over 3 chapters. Here one gets to know the various software used to play different media formats as well as an introduction to the fine art of image manipulation using Gimp. One of the biggest drawbacks for Linux users is the lack of out-of-the-box support for popular media formats due to license restrictions. The author explains how one can enable the media players bundled with Ubuntu to play most of these media files including the ever popular mp3. By going through the chapters in this section, one gets to know more about the different audio and video formats which could be an eye opener for any tech neophyte.

What is the use of a desktop if it does not suit an office setup right? The next section comprising of 8 chapters cover how one can use Ubuntu at one's work place. The author takes the users on a trip of using OpenOffice.org office suite to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations as well as configuring an email client to send and receive emails. The last chapter in this section is exclusively dedicated to installing and running Microsoft Office in Ubuntu using Wine.

Till now if the book was dedicated more or less to new users of Linux, then in the seventh and final part of this book, the experts among us have something to look forward too. This part of the book covers the finer nuances of maintaining the Ubuntu system which includes installing and updating software, managing users and groups, ways of backing up data, and most interesting of all, steps to make the system more responsive which includes disabling unnecessary services, optimizing the hard disk, the concept of prelinking and much more.

The inclusion of 4 appendices which contain among others a glossary of Linux terms, the bash shell command index, information on getting further help online as well as a synopsis of the different flavors of Ubuntu makes this book a perfect guide for new users in Linux.

Having said that, even though at first glance, a person who is well versed in Linux might be tempted to pass it on as a book for newbies; on close scrutiny, one will find interesting nuggets and tips which even an expert would not have known. One example of this is the part where the author explains how one can configure Ubuntu to communicate and transfer data with one's bluetooth enabled cell phone. And it is to the authors credit that all these technical topics are explained in clear and simple language. The book is interspersed with images and screen shots making it easier to visualize the steps being explained. All in all a good book which is both informative and entertaining at the same time, and which would appeal to anybody interested in installing and using Ubuntu Linux on ones machine.

The author, Keir Thomas has been writing about computers, operating systems,and software for a decade. He has edited several best-selling computer magazines, including LinuxUser & Developer, PC Utilities, and PC Extreme, and worked as part of the editorial staff on a range of other titles. He was formerly Technical Group Editor at Live Publishing. Throughout Keir's career, his aim has been to explain advanced and confusing technology in ways that the average person can understand. Keir works as a freelance editor and writer. He lives on the side of a mountain in England, and his pastimes include hiking and playing musical instruments.

Ravi Kumar is passionate about all things related to Linux and likes to share his experiences through his blog on Linux."


You can purchase Beginning Ubuntu Linux - From Novice to Professional from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Beginning Ubuntu Linux

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  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:34PM (#15019440)
    Taken from the site [ubuntu.com]:
    "Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". Ubuntu also means "I am what I am because of who we all are".
    My favorite meaning comes from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
    "a person is a person through other persons"
    To me, it gets at the root that concepts of self and other are fairly arbitrary. It often makes more sense thinging about who I am in the context of family, work, and society.
  • Using Ubuntu (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wren337 (182018) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:40PM (#15019489) Homepage
    I've been a fedora core user for some time and I decided to try Ubuntu on a recently donated dell 933. I have been pleased with the ease of setup and install and the intuitive package tools so far. Most amazing to me was that my old MA101 USB wireless adapter "Just Worked(tm)". No ndiswrapper install, no kernel stack size recompile, no headache. I was just on the network. Amazing. Core seems to go out of it's way to make ndiswrapper hard to use. I may switch all my boxes to Ubuntu.
  • Ubuntu just rocks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc@@@carpanet...net> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:43PM (#15019509) Homepage
    Not related except as my ubuntu experience.

    I had an old laptop that i recently fixed (it just needed to be taken apart and have some connectors reseated). I had been running Debian on it, but I have a new job, and a new work issued laptop...so I didn't need it.

    So my sister, who is one of those people who "knows how to use word". Thats right, she could type up a report for school, and browse the web, but that was about it. Complete novice.

    So I didn't have a copy of windows to install (though since there was a product key attached to the laptop I technically could have, if I had install media)... anyway... so I installed Ubuntu and said "If you want windows, you have to have it put on, but heres this" (she lives too far away for me to get media and drive out to her). I showed her how to log in and pointed at open office and said "that works like word" then pointed her at firefox and said "heres your web browser".... litterally all of 2 minutes.

    She called me 3 days later to tell me how great it was working and ask why she was able to get on the internet last night, but not today... turns out she just randomly had picked up someone elses wireless and got on, never even realised it... whoever it was must turn off their access point when they are not home, she never saw the signal again.

    Point is... she never even needed to ask a question beyond that. I have had less problems giving her an ubuntu box, than giving people with similar experience levels windows boxes...she has been usign it and happy with it (I talked to her the other day) for several weeks now.

    Man... who ever would have thought Linux on the desktop would really get there for us non-geeks? I always said it would, but I have to admit, I always had some doubt in my mind.

    Hell as it is I have completely switched over to ubuntu myself. Its a fresh debian! Yay! Its what i have wanted for years now... a debian stable thats less than 6 months old! (and more often than for 6 months out of every 3 years)

    -Steve
  • Oh? You want a book? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by irimi_00 (962766) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:45PM (#15019540)
    This book is great and if you can't install Unbuntu yourself; go and buy the book. But here is what I did:

    I wanted to migrate away from Windows.
    I am sorta tech savvy - I know the different parts of a computer, I can trouble shoot some basic problems, and I can type "getting your printer to work in ubuntu' into google.

    My point is, instead of paying 40 dollars for a book, here is what you do:

    1.Go download the Ubuntu ISO
    http://mirror.mcs.anl.gov/pub/ubuntu-iso/CDs/5.10/ ubuntu-5.10-install-i386.iso [anl.gov]

    2.Go get some burning software, I had to download a few free ones off downloads.com to find that actually worked burning isos as they claimed to, but you probably have some installed, I'm sure.
    http://www.download.com/Click-N-Burn-CD-DVD/3000-2 646_4-10461707.html?tag=lst-0-5 [download.com]
    http://www.download.com/3120-20_4-0-2-0.html?qt=bu rning&author=&titlename=&desc=&li=49&os=&swlink=&g filetype= [download.com]
    I installed slackware a few years ago and my friend spent like 5 hours helping me configure it to get everything to work and it still gave me problems.
    It was a pain, or else one of us just overcomplicated it.

    Once Ubuntu was installed... it just worked wonderfully. I sometimes forget I'm not using windows and any non GPL software. The install went like this: insert CD, boot off cd, go through install process, Ubuntu won't start up, switch to boot of IDE-0 in bios - Everything is perfect

    I also installed automatix, and Auto Packages
    http://www.ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=13840 5 [ubuntuforums.org]
    http://autopackage.org/docs/howto-install/index.ht ml [autopackage.org]

    I don't like computers particularly, I'm not a poweruser or a nerd, and I don't really game. Ubuntu provides me near full functionality for what I need - more than windows ever did.

    CentOS provides other options too, but why use Windows if you don't have to?
    I feel like such a subversive.
    So do what works for you.

  • by SydShamino (547793) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:51PM (#15019587)
    I built my first Linux machine with Xandros a few years ago, and I've used it as my home server ever since.

    Now, I'm looking to upgrade, and I was planning to use the next version of Kubuntu when it released next month. I have used KDE for some time and I think I prefer its interface to that of Gnome.

    My question is, if I choose Kubuntu, would I get anything at all out of this book? Or is it so different as to be not worth the purchase?

    I'm an electrical engineer, but I do hardware design. I have little interest in being an expert in operating system configuration. I like the concept of Linux, but I want easy-to-follow instructions to set up what I need, with a minimal amount of fiddling in .conf files and other settings.
  • by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc@@@carpanet...net> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:54PM (#15019605) Homepage
    Reminds me of Pirsig's rants in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance about "subject-object duality". Its right in the root of our language. I am me, as seprate from us and them.

    I never really exists sepratly from anything else though. What is my keyboard? My finger comes down and intersects a peice of plastic... there is an edge where the keyboard ends and the free space begins...

    The keyboard is not the edge, it is not the free space above it, but it never exists as a seprate entity from those things. Everything that is not my keyboard defines my keyboard by providing the contrasts of all of its properties.

    Or as one talk in some other book noted (I think it was "the 3 pillars of zen"), everything we see is just the mental representation of visual input. We don't see a chair, our eyes detect the patterns of light bouncing off the chair, and what we experience is a mental composite of that image and our thoughts and ideas about chairs. In essense, what we experience isn't the chair, but our own mental image of a chair. Fundamentally every experience is not external but internal, the chair that we see is actually as much a part of us as our arm or our leg or our thoughts.

    Of course, its not usually very useful to think that way... subject-object duality makes a very nice abstraction when you want to convey information.

    -Steve
  • by uglyduckling (103926) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:57PM (#15019633) Homepage
    Hmmm, well I'm not sure that you know what you're talking about. There are 11 national languages in South Africa, and some words do become quite universal, for instance "yebo" means both "yes" in the affirmative and also as a response to a greeting. Practically every South African would recognise it as such regardless of which language they speak. "Ubuntu" has been described as both a Zulu word and a Xhosa word - I suspect it's well-known in both languages and probably several others.

    I do know what you're getting at, but the reality is that there are concepts that are fairly ubiquitous across most of Africa, so it's not unreasonable to describe a particular word or concept as "African" just as there are words and concepts that are particularly "European" despite the size of my continent (I'm British). In fact, there are concepts that are distinctly "Western" (covering, I suppose, Europe, North America and arguably Australia and NZ) for instance the idea that every bad event must be blamed on a named individual.

  • by sydb (176695) <michael@wELIOTd21.co.uk minus poet> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:27PM (#15019907)
    the idea that every bad event must be blamed on a named individual.

    That's not the idea. The idea is that in an organised effort to achieve an objective (run a restaurant for a night, put a man in space, create a piece of software), there should be responsibility allocated for the different kinds of risks which might derail the effort. When the effort is in fact derailed in an uncontrolled manner, either the individual with responsibility for mitigating the causative risk is to blame, or the person with responsibility for identifying risks and allocating responsibilities is to blame.

    We don't blame weathermen for bad weather. We do blame them if they predict good weather and it turns out to be bad, because their job is to provide the information we need to mitigate against bad weather.
  • Re:Ubuntu just rocks (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:27PM (#15019915)
    See, that's great the Ubuntu distro works for you.

    I have to admit I sick of these kind of comments. It 'Rocks' has no value to anyone else except fanboy gratification. Ubuntu is a great distro, it's strength is in the UI layout and auto-hardware detection, BUT it's still a distro. I mean, I just tried installing 5.10 (which is a bit out of date) and Fedora Core 5 and guess what? The Ubuntu install failed and Fedora worked (due to enhancements via X11R7).

    In the end, it's about who can crank out a hard-stable distro using the latest packages and offer best support tools. Bling and fan base need not apply.

  • Contents page (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hentaidan (933903) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:35PM (#15019980) Homepage
    There's a pdf of the contents pages @ apress.com [apress.com]
  • Re:Using Ubuntu (Score:3, Interesting)

    by databyss (586137) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:42PM (#15020031) Homepage Journal
    I'm in the same boat. I just Ubuntu on yesterday after switching over my girlfriend a week ago. I used her as my guinnea pig.

    She isn't incredibly computer literate and she enjoys it so far.

    I enjoy it too. Very easy to use sets up nicely off the bat.

    ubuntuforums.org and ubuntuguide.org are mandatory references.

    Also, on the coincidence side of things, I just bought this book today for my girlfriend. She prefers the dead tree stuff to online references.

  • Re:Using Ubuntu (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:47PM (#15020078) Homepage
    I was also very impressed with Kubuntu until it started freezing on me randomly, and in ways from which I could not recover without rebooting. Based on my reading in the forums [ubuntuforums.org] it looks like the problem isn't resolved yet (sorry, can't find the thread now), and so I switched back (somewhat reluctantly) to Fedora Core. Hopefully they'll iron out more of the bugs in Kubuntu in the next couple of releases. I really like that Kubuntu does everything I would ever want in a Linux distribution, but I should never ever have to reboot my Linux box to recover from a freeze.
  • by popeguilty (961923) <popeguiltyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:05PM (#15020735)
    If you're after Windows users, simply making the switch constitutes a fairly high improvement in security in and of itself.
  • Re:Free CD's (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grcumb (781340) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:37PM (#15021012) Homepage Journal

    We were doing this for the SME Server (http://www.contribs.org/ [contribs.org]) back in 2000, when it was still owned by e-smith, inc. We shipped one CD free of charge to anyone who filled out a request form on our site.

    The effect was quite positive. It helped to build awareness of the software at a critical point in its life, and we went from a few hundred servers installed in the wild to a few thousand. Not huge, but still enough to build a really dynamic community. The server's onto version 7 now, and the community is stronger than ever.

    I think the biggest reason why Ubuntu ships their software anywhere for free is that most people who live in the developing world (including me) simply couldn't get it otherwise. It's very smart, but more importantly it shows that Ubuntu is willing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to creating an operating system 'for everyone else.'

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