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Sat, 02 Sep 2006

Ubuntu

The Official Ubuntu Book 

Benjamin Mako Hill and Jono Bacon, et al., Prentice Hall

This book is attempting to provide several things:

A description of the Ubuntu distribution and philosophy
A set of instructions for running Linux on Ubuntu
An introduction to Linux for those who haven't ever run it.

For the first of these, the authors are handicapped a little by not wanting to trash other Linux distributions. So they can't say, "Use Ubuntu, because if you use Debian, you will be either too out of date to use any recent version of fast-moving software, or so bleeding edge that you don't dare upgrade your system." Instead, they say, "The first technical goal of the project, and perhaps the most important one, is the coordination of regular and predictable releases." If you know enough about recent linux history, these two statements are similar, but you can't find out that history by reading this book.

The second goal is pretty well realized, but it's not clear that you should buy this book instead of just using google. The fact that there's no index (although there is a quite detailed table of contents) limits the book's usefulness as a reference.

I've been using Linux almost exclusively since 1996, and participated as a developer and tester on several projects, so I'm the wrong person to judge how well they succeed on the third goal. I did loan the book to a friend who keeps asking me, "How did you learn all these Linux shell commands?" It hasn't yet inspired her to install Ubuntu and see that she too could learn them, but she's a busy woman. As far as I can tell, this is as good a book as any I've seen to give someone like that.

Laura Conrad

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