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Linux Annoyances For Geeks 445

Taran Rampersad writes "Every now and then, someone comes up with a fun title. 'Linux Annoyances for Geeks' is a definitely fun - and accurate - title for this book. While some people have been fiddling with Linux since it first came out, the majority of Linux users haven't been. I started using Linux in the late 90s, and my work schedule didn't allow me to go to meetings, or track down people who knew things. And the first time you do an install on a machine, you may be disconnected from the very information that gets you connected. Been there, done that. So this book attracted me because despite being an advocate of Free Software and Open Source, there are times when I still type very naughty things on the command line. Read the rest of Taran's review.
Linux Annoyances For Geeks
author Michael Jang
pages 484
publisher O'Reilly
rating 8/10
reviewer Taran Rampersad
ISBN 0-596-00801-5
summary Answers to intermediate questions for Linux users.

Most of the time, I had fiddled with a previous install and gotten it the way I wanted it to work — when I had to do it again with a different install, I'd forgotten how I did it in the first place. There have been times, honestly, where I didn't even know. Fortunately, life has become better. There are books now. Some even come with Linux distributions, and there's plenty of documentation online that you can print out in advance when you go install things on your only connection to the Internet.

But there aren't that many books that really deal with the things that are annoyances, because the annoyances usually come from the late phone calls or the unanswered emails on a list. That's what this book is supposed to be for.

In reading this book, I caught myself nodding a lot. Not to sleep, mind you, but the, "I've seen that before" nod. The descriptions of the desktop environments, GNOME and KDE, started me nodding. Here's an idea of what the book covers:

Configuring a Desktop Environment: There's a great section on KDE and GNOME in here that starts the book off with a bang. Custom login menus, configuring standard backgrounds, desktop icons, oversized desktops and undersized monitors, Naughty mouse syndrome, Naughty users mess up the desktops, the infamous 'broken CD/DVD' problem, No GUI Syndrome, user downloads causing problems and ... sound. This chapter isn't one that I really had personal use for, but when people start asking questions — this is where they start. Great reference material here for desktop-finicky users.

Configuring User Workstations: Backing up data with rsynch and cron explained (where was this in 1999?), 'lost' files, 'lost' data... this chapter is one of my favorites, because people keep asking me about stuff like this. And dealing with Windows folks who complain that there's no ZIP — well, I wish I heard more of that.

Optimizing Internet Applications: I think that optimizing Internet applications is probably one of the largest problems out there, but I haven't really heard anyone ask about any of this. It's very strange. I think the world would be a better place if people read this chapter — from getting Firefox to work properly, sorting email into folders (yes, you can do that...), this covers a lot of ground in a very short space. My personal favorite was converting data from Outlook, which I have never done. Hidden in there are some tips on dealing with Microsoft Exchange Servers.

Setting Up Local Applications: This chapter focuses a lot on getting that irate I-am-new-to-Linux-and-I-want-my-toys person happy. It's filled with converting goodness, PDF inoculations and points you at the cure. And for those users who want movie players, there's something in here for them as well.

Installation Annoyances: This is probably the part of the book that will see the most use. There's a quote in here that I love: "Any A+ certified technician can list the hardware components on a computer. A Linux geek can cite the compatible components, such as the chipsets associated with a specific wireless card. He can use this information to compile the most efficient kernel for his system." So true. This chapter points you at the right resources and walks you through planning an installation. Which is priceless, even as a reminder for geeks.

Basic Start Configuration: Long boot times, bootloader issues, the ever-present dual-booting problems, the 'boot reboot repeat' problem, and my personal favorites, "I lost the password for Root!" and "My Server is So Secure that I can't log in as root". This chapter is pure gold.

Kernel Itches and Other Configuration Annoyances: Kernel upgrades, recompiles, kernel panic, 'file not found' boot error, NFS and Samba directory walkthroughs, and the infamous 'regular users can't mount the CD/DVD. Let's not forget dealing with Microsoft formatted partitions.

System Maintenance: Corrupted Partitions, emergency backups when the hard drive is knocking, small /home directories, slow hard drives, Update Repositories (not to be confused with User Suppositories), Dependency Hell solutions with yum and apt... platinum chapter for the troubleshooters out there.

Servicing Servers: Service Options, enabling downloading of files and , email issues when it is down, 'lost-printer syndrome', the BIND and growing network issue and the 'Windows Computers aren't on the network' issue. All rolled up here in Chapter 9.

User Management: Just about everything you would need to know about administering users, from special groups to keeping former employees from accessing the server, to securing the user (without duct tape).

Administration Tips: A lot of good things here for administrators; my personal favorite being configuring the Linux Gateway. Lots of great stuff in here.

For the life of me, I don't know why Chapter 5, Installation Annoyances, isn't Chapter 1. That seems to be where I've spent the most time helping other people out. The good news is that because it is where it is, the book stays open by itself here. Still, I think that might scare someone walking in while you're troubleshooting an installation. They might wonder what the 173 pages before installation problems was about. In fact, that could be funny... That's about the only thing that I could say I think is a bit off about the book, but perhaps that's by design. It's not a bug, it's a feature!

One of the things I liked most about this book was the fact that the chapters aren't named for the solutions; they are named by the problems. So when you're having a problem, you can find the solution.

Overall, this book meets the criteria for being next to my monitor, for quick reference in helping people out (including the worst one, me!). I haven't had the opportunity to use it's contents yet for Ubuntu, but since the book's solutions include Debian, they should work fine. As the author says in the preface, "The solutions are designed for three of the more prominent Linux distributions: Fedora Core, SUSE, and Debian." It would be interesting to see how it does with the Mandriva distribution.

In the Linux world, there are those that read and there are those that bleed. Those that bleed write what others read. This book was written in blood. It allows the leaders, the bleeders and the readers a means of finding their way around some of the annoyances that crop up. It does so in a well written manner which is well thought out, and amusing when you'll need to be amused.

( Original review on

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