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Beginning Ubuntu Linux 204

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 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:29PM (#15019401)
    Canonical isn't a South African company. It's a Manx company. Or a British one at a stretch.
  • by dustinl4m3 ( 460530 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:41PM (#15019494) Homepage
    Canonical is a global organisation headquartered in the Isle of Man, with employees throughout Europe, North America, South America and Australia. []

    Many people who have never been to the Isle of Man are not sure exactly where it is! The answer is that it lies in the Irish Sea, between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, less than 60 miles west of the Lancashire coastline []

  • by tpgp ( 48001 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:48PM (#15019561) Homepage
    Canonical isn't a South African company. It's a Manx company. Or a British one at a stretch.

    For those who are wondering what the hell AC is talking about (I know I was):

    1) Manx means 'native of isle of man' (Like the cats)
    2) Isle of Man is an Island between the British Mainland & Ireland - its neither part of the UK or the EU & certainly not british (although Britain represents them to some extent)
    3) Canonical is registered as a company there.

    I'll leave it the reader to judge whether Canonical (founded by a South African, employing people all over the world, with a heavy South African presence, but registered in a tax haven) is South African or Manx.
  • Save $6.80! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:52PM (#15019588)
    Save yourself $6.80 by buying the book here: Beginning Ubuntu Linux []. And if you use the "secret" discount [], you can save an extra 1.57%!
  • Re:Free CD's (Score:4, Informative)

    by eldacan ( 726222 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:59PM (#15019655)
    The article is not quite clear, but the point is, Ubuntu will *ship* you CDs free of charge, in any quantity you desire. I don't think Yggdrasil did this...
  • Re:Ubuntu just rocks (Score:2, Informative)

    by burner ( 8666 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:12PM (#15019772) Homepage Journal

    1) stick in CD
    2) see icon appear on desktop
    3) right click on icon, select Eject
    4) CD pops out.
  • by robin.shepheard ( 951560 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:14PM (#15019781)
    While I have not actually read the book, some of the people I have suggested 'Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!' (mainly as it was the only book I have found aimed at the beginner and that i was impressed by the quick flick in the bookstore) as a good place to start have been very impressed

    Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!
    By Marcel Gagne
    ISBN 0321159985
    Publisher Addison-Wesley Professional

    It even comes with a version of knoppix so people can try before they completely commit to linux which I have to say I think is very important.

    I was surprised to find recently when I friend of mine (complete technophobe) was given a knackered laptop that when I put ubuntu on it he was very pleased and gave less trouble than a lot of people found when changing between windows versions
  • by wolfemi1 ( 765089 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:19PM (#15019832)
    AFAIK, Ubuntu and Kubuntu are exactly the same project, with slightly tweaked default settings and, of course, the different desktop environment.

    As a matter of fact, you can change an Ubuntu install to a Kubuntu install with one command:

    sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop

    I think you can even change back by using the above and "ubuntu-desktop" instead.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:43PM (#15020037)
    If you do that, (apt-get install kubuntu-desktop), you haven't removed the old Ubuntu desktop; it's still installed. So you now have a choice between KDE (Kubuntu) and GNOME (Ubuntu) when you log in. I use it this way, and it's *very* nice for people who want to try both. You can set one to be the default, too, so it's not confusing to new users. Doesn't use too much hard drive space, either.

    It's easy to keep your Kubuntu fresh by going to and following the simple directions every time a new KDE or KOffice version is released (that is, if you want to try 'em out when they're new).
  • Re:Using Ubuntu (Score:2, Informative)

    by pAnkRat ( 639452 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @05:07AM (#15024751)
    Then you tried it "the wrong way." (tm)
    I tried it like you descibed too, and it was hard.

    Then I found the "ubuntu way":

    The Ubuntu way of sharing a folder with samba is:
    - 1 open Nautilus
    - 2 navigate to the folder you want to share with other users
    - 3 right-click the folder
    - 4 choose "share folder" ("ordner teilen" in the german translation (which reads "split folder", but thats another story))
    - 5 ...
    - 6 done

    There might be a step 5:
    If this is the first time you try to share a folder, Ubuntu prompts you how you would like to share it : NFS or SAMBA.
    You choose from a dropdown, ubuntu installs the needed packages, presto!

    A collegue and I switched from sarge to ubuntu 2 weeks ago.
    We really liked changing configs and "hackin" in sarge, but now with ubuntu we commonly say "too easy" or "boring", because it "just works" (well, most of the time..)

    If you try to do something in ubuntu, the most simple and idiotic way you can think of how to accomplish your task, will work most of the time.

    I don't blame you if you like to go back to editing config files and reading man pages, I'm still indecisive myself if I really like it this way.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger