Author: Mike McGrath
Publisher: In Easy Steps, 5th ed, 2010
Aimed at: Beginner to Linux
Pros: Attractive presentation
Cons: Introduces some difficult ideas for a beginner
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead
Many newcomers to computing are choosing Linux rather than Windows as it is free. Will this book help them get started?
This is a very slim introduction to using Linux and it is very basic. It starts off with an overview of Linux and different distributions. Then it chooses Ubuntu version 10 to install and use for the examples. The only problem is that it uses Ubuntu 10.4 and the current version is 10.10 - however as long as the reader is happy coping with the changes needed to make the instructions work there should be no real problems.
The book explains how to install Ubuntu including adding a hard disk and partitioning. What it doesn't suggest or explain is using a virtual machine instead of dual booting Windows/Ubuntu. Perhaps this would be too complex - but if this is the case so is adding a second hard disk.
The second section is about exploring the desktop. It ranges from the very simple, launching applications to slightly more advanced ideas such as using multiple desktops. All explained in a few pages at most.
There are few deep ideas covered here and this is probably how it should be. From here we move onto the file system and this is something that most novice users find difficult. My guess is that after reading this they will still lose files and wonder where things are but it's an attempt to educate that is well worth making.
Section 4 deals with using Open Office. - clearly in a book on using Linux this is not going to be deep or extensive. It's more tour of what is available. However I'm not sure that the section on running macros should have been included - it seems at an inappropriate level. Section 5 continues the look at applications with short sections on web browsing, instant messaging and other media topics.
The next three sections are probably out of place as they deal with using the shell. Beginners working at the level of the previous sections are probably not going to want to get involved with the shell. Even so the introduction is gentle and if it doesn't frighten the reader off it might even be useful. But some of the topics are esotric - such as using the vi editor and the grep regular expression utility.
On balance the final part of the book probably does go too far for such a slim introduction and the space would have been better spent on more general topics. On the other hand if you know you would like to start to use the shell and its commands this might not be a critisim to take seriously.
Overall this is a good but very simple and very limited introduction to Ubuntu Linux. If you need such an introduction then its recomended as a non-threatening starter.