Ubuntu for Non-Geeks

Reviewed by Major Keary

I am impressed by the support being given to Ubuntu by No Starch Press, especially Rickford Grant's books that have been keeping up with Ubuntu's regular releases. The third edition of Ubuntu for Non-Geeks covers Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Herron) and comes with a CD that can be used in 'live mode' (that is, you can run Ubuntu from the CD without affecting the existing operating system).

The book shows how to install Ubuntu as the operating system (a process that gets easier with every new release), how to install Ubuntu to run in dual-boot mode; or how install Ubuntu to run within MS Windows. The last of those options—Linux within Windows—is a recent development that employs the Wubi installer, which is incorporated in the companion CD. More information about Wubi is available from http://wubi-installer.org.

The thing that makes Rickford Grant's books stand out is his project-based approach. He neither sets out to provide a kindergarten introduction to Linux, nor a comprehensive, all-singing-all-dancing reference. His non-geeks books are designed to be "an introductory guide that will provide new [Linux] users with some hands-on experience in order to get them up, running, and comfortable with .. Ubuntu ...". The operative word is 'comfortable'; laying out a collection of step-by-step instructions is not likely to provide new users with understanding, which is a key element in feeling comfortable with an operating system. The author's project-based approach presents the reader with a series of practical projects, such as getting to know the Linux terminal and command line by hands-on exploration.

A chapter deals with the terminal in sufficient detail that should enable the new user to find command line solutions for many problems. The book shows how to do a number of simple things using 'non-toxic' commands (they can't do any harm), and suggests a game that provides a fun way to develop one's skills.

Downloading and installing software (including system updates) can appear to be complex to the new user. The way software is obtained and installed under Linux is quite different from the way it is done under MS Windows. The book contains detailed information about the process and walks the reader through a real-world example. There is also information on the topic elsewhere in the book.

The book's overall coverage is surprisingly comprehensive. There are discussions and related projects on--among other things--using an iPod under Ubuntu, installing multilingual software, font and printing issues, playing video and DVDs, installing MP3 support, and working with digital images. Also included are useful tutorials on applications such as OpenOffice.

Those who work through the projects should come out as competent Linux users well equipped to expand their respective knowledge of Linux.

Rickford Grant: "Ubuntu for Non-Geeks" 3/e
ISBN 978-1-59327-180-0
Published by No Starch Press, 336 pp + CD, RRP $59.95

No Starch Press books are distributed in Australia by Woodslane <www.woodslane.com.au>

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