Author: Robin Nixon
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2010
Aimed at: Beginners
Pros: Includes a CD with Ubuntu 9.10 and other versions
Reviewed by: Lucy Black
The subtitle of this book is "A Power User's Desktop Guide".This it most certainly isn't. It is more a beginner's guide than anything else and would be suitable for anyone completely new to Ubuntu.
If you have used any recent version of Ubuntu, or even any comparable desktop Linux, this book has very little to tell you.
If you have been considering moving to an open source desktop operating system, which offers the advantage of being free in most senses, then Ubuntu must come high on your list. If you are moving from Windows the good news is that most things in Ubuntu are configured to work in more or less the same way - but this doesn't mean that there aren't differences that can send you searching for the Ubuntu way of doing something that you know only too well in Windows.
This book is a very basic introduction so much so that most of the same information can be found for free on the web - see - Ubuntu Manual Project. Indeed there are many areas that the free Ubuntu manual deals with in more technical detail than this book.
It starts off considering Ubuntu's place in the Linux world and moves on to getting and installing Ubuntu. This also covers installation from a USB flash drive and setting up a virtual machine installation. There isn't very much advice on what to do if things go wrong.The same comment can be applied to Chapter 3 which deals with configuring the OS. All fine as long as nothing goes wrong. There also isn't much information on what hardware works and what doesn't. However it has to be admitted that getting hardware working with any system isn't easy if it is even slightly off the beaten track.
From here the book deals with using Ubuntu. Chapter 4 is an introduction to the Desktop, Chapters 5 and 6 are on the file system and how to use the Nautillus file browser. Chapter 7 is on the command line and while this introduces some basic commands it doesn't really get into anything interesting.
Chapter 8 will be of intrest to users moving from other operating systems because it deals with Ubuntu's way of adding and removing application packages. As long as you only want to work with Ubuntu packages this is fine but some specialized applications are only available as rpm distributions and this is not covered.
The remainder of the book continues in the same way - basically skipping from one topic to another providing overviews on the way. Chapter 9 is on maintenance and security. Chapter 10 is on networking but includes nothing about Samba and Chapter 11 on web browsing also covers instant messaging. The problem in these sections is that very little is said about interoperating with Windows or Windows systems like MSN instant messaging.
Chapter 12 is on OpenOffice and basically amounts to a guided tour. Chapter 13 is on playing games and could have been omitted. Chapter 14 deals with the media players and editors available. Again this is not much more than a guided tour but this will at least point the beginner in the right direction to find a replacement for a much used tool on other systems.
Finally we have a chapter on other Linux distributions and an introduction to Wine. Both are too short to be of much user other than to provide an overview.
There is a DVD bound into the back that contains Ubuntu 9.10 and a range of specialist editions such as Mythbuntu. This is handy but it is already out of date as the Ubuntu distribution has reached 10.04 at the time of writing. Given that download is over 600Mbytes, however, having a DVD to hand even of an older version might still be useful.
The conclusion is that this book will be useful for the complete beginner to Ubuntu and is best considered a tour of the features and facilities rather than an in depth "how-to".