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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."

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Beginning Ubuntu Linux

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  • Free CD's (Score:2, Insightful)

    by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:38PM (#15019457) Homepage Journal
    ... far as i can remember, Yggdrasil were the first to do the 'heres a free bootable Linux CD so you can try it out' promotional trick, as early as 1994.

    sure, Ubuntu is a wonderful project, and the purpose of making Linux easier for humans is an admirable and honorable effort. But, these 'new-generation Linux distros' getting all the credit for what has been a 'traditional activity' among the Linux crowd rankles a little ire ..
  • by cabinetsoft ( 923481 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:40PM (#15019487)

    I still have the feeling that an IT specialist writing a book about Ubuntu or Debian or Gentoo is just like a sexologist writing a book about making love with his wife Jenny...

    Beside that, can someone recommend a good book about Linux / Unix in general? People ask me for this and frankly I don't know a printed book to recommend to them. For some time I recommended Tannenbaum's "Operating Systems" series.

    And I'm still planning to write a book on Gentoo tho - I'll just send all the logs from stage 1 install 'till OpenOffice compile to my publisher.

  • Why so easy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CrunchyMunchy ( 23178 ) <.gro.sbalsdrawde. .ta. .noj.> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:52PM (#15019596) Homepage
    After typing this comment I realized it could come off as criticizing ubuntu for targetting "easy", which is not my intent. I'm using Ubuntu right now to type this, and love it, not as a user friendly Linux, but as a nice barebones start for a Debian GNU/Linux desktop after a bit of customization. It's not cluttered with tons of things by default that just get in your way, but still has many useful programs either installed already or easily installable. This comment is more of a gripe about why more people aren't willing to "try" Linux, by which I mean, install, and LEARN it, rather than just failing to set a few things up for a couple minutes and then giving up. As Yoda said, "Do, or do not. There is no try".

    Does anyone have an opinion on why people seem to demand that an operating system be so incredibly simple that they could almost use it without thinking before they'll look at it? Computers are complex but extremely powerful machines, and it's not as if a modern GUI based *NIX system is so much harder to use than Windows, with powerful tools available to you if you choose to use them. These systems were created by people who needed to use them to get things done, so it's not as if you can't use them that way if you're willing to apply a little thought to how you use a powerful tool.

    People who don't want to learn to use a computer are cheating themselves out of the most amazing tool mankind has yet invented for the transmission and manipulation of knowledge. Why should the target for interface design be someone who doesn't know how to use a computer and never will?
  • by OwnedByTwoCats ( 124103 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:07PM (#15019718)
    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.
    But we do experience things that are external to our mental image of things. If I sneak up behind you and clonk you on the head, you have no preparatory mental experience of me, but you would experience cuts, bruises, and (possibly) broken bones. Fundamentally that experience is external, as you had no internal experience or expectation to which it could corresponded.

    Pathogenic Disease is another area where you have no internal states at the outbreak of symptoms, but there is an external agent causing your experiences.

    I find the whole internal/external debate to be useless and sterile. There is an external world out there, and it will affect you, whether you want it to or not, and no philosophers can change that.
  • by Hellboy0101 ( 680494 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:44PM (#15020055)
    Early on in Ubuntu's beginings, I ran it as my primary desktop mainly because it was described as a better Debian than Debian. So I ran it, and was genuinely impressed, but not overly thrilled. Yes, it has many of the pluses that Debian has namely in APT, and embraces Debian social contract, [] and then some. But I still don't get why people are losing their minds over this. After about seven or eight months, I tried it again. Better, but still not amazing. In the meantime, I had used Xandros, and eventually moved (and settled on) PCLinuxOS. Wireless worked, the browser had every plug-in I needed, Java was pre-installed, etc. In my opinion, it's clearly a better Ubuntu than Ubuntu. What permanently turned me off, is when Ubuntu refused to include KDE based apps with their distro (this is prior to Kubuntu and Breezy Badger), and when problems started cropping up regarding Ubuntu seemingly splitting off with Debian. [] Regardless of what Mark Shuttleworth has to say, I agree with Ian's comments that they are not respecting the fact they are riding on the backs of Debian's work. Just my .02.
  • Shuttleworth? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Illbay ( 700081 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:05PM (#15020222) Journal tourist Mark Shuttleworth

    I've always wondered:

    Shouldn't he change his name to "Soyuzworth?"

  • by aquatone282 ( 905179 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:01PM (#15020693)

    I recently installed Ubuntu 5.10 and FreeBSD 6.0 for use as a simple C development platform for a networking class I'm taking.

    I was pleasantly suprised at how easy the Ubuntu installation went. Still not quite as simple as a Windows XP install, but a damn sight easier than FreeBSD 6.0 (I have also installed FreeBSD 4.x in the past), and (are you listening FreeBSDer's?) Xorg configured itself CORRECTLY the FIRST TIME without requiring any hand-editing of .confg files. The Ubuntu Gnome desktop looks fantastic right out of the box.

    FreeBSD is still a great product for servers and CLI warriors, but setting up an acceptable Gnome or KDE desktop is still beyond the capabilities of semi-literate geek-wannabes like me.

    Thanks Ubuntu - if anybody knocks off Windows, it will be you guys, because you understand the secret to reaching more users is to make the experience as painless as possible.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel