|Sams Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours, 4th Edition|
|rating||7.5 of 10|
|reviewer||Kevin H Spencer|
|summary||The fourth edition of Dave Taylor's "Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours" should remain on the top of the buy list for computer users in need of a strong Unix reference where they may find themselves managing or using the subtle variants of Unix flavors.|
The format of this Sams book, as with other books in this "Teach Yourself...In 24 Hours" series has not changed. The book content does favor Windows or Macintosh users when describing, comparisons and contrasts of Unix tasks to those popular operating systems. Unless the reader has been a fan of very little-used operating systems in their past and somehow managed to avoid Mac OS, Windows or Linux, absorption of what is needed for each chapter shouldn't be difficult.
Each chapter is technically noted as a one-hour lesson, although the author acknowledges that many may need more than one hour to absorb some material and should take as much time as they need to understand what they need to know. Chapters include the Unix basics such as using text editors such as vi, moving and copying files, viewing file contents and locating files in the operating system, and topics scale upward to advanced shell programming and even Perl programming. Generally, most readers need not read from beginning to end, chapter to chapter. Despite the lesson-like mode of the book, "Teach Yourself Unix" is a reference.
The "Teach Yourself" books are not advanced reference books, however, and "Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours" is no exception. As someone that's used more and more Unix commands in the background of Mac OS X to make things easier or to circumvent limitations or flaws of the Mac OS X Finder, the previous editions of "Teach Yourself Unix" were handy references when I needed a quick and certain process to accomplish a task. Sometimes it's too easy for graphical interface users to moan and while when the Windows Explorer or Mac OS X desktops stick and slows to a crawl when managing something as simple as copying a file, forgetting that there is another way. This book contains the basics to manage these tasks without being too basic of a reference.
The author's breadth of knowledge in many Unix-derived systems such as BSD, Solaris, and Linux continue to extend themselves well in the lessons. Each chapter contains explanations and examples to aid those that need more information. Most Slashdot readers might find this level of detail a bit plodding, but some newbies to Unix may need this since Unix is not inherently a graphical operating system that's easy to understand by sight, so things need to be literally spelled out. Peppered throughout the book are sidenotes that keep the reader apprised of exceptions or proper etiquette when handling, discussing or pronouncing Unix tasks and terminology.
There's a marginally useful amount of back matter on the book, consisting of two appendices, one on frequently-asked Unix questions, and another more useful appendix on managing the Apache web server from a command line. The back cover has a simple command-line reference that's not bad, however, being Unix, the amount of commands and versatility seem a bit limited, so the command-line reference lacks a bit of punch. Some chapters seem a bit archaic and probably need to be reconsidered in a future edition--very few of us may have a need to send mail from the command line in this age of Yahoo Mail and the sheer number of mail services available on computers in schools, businesses, homes, and even from cell phones for jotting off a quick note to a comrade for quick answers. Full-time conversing by mail in Unix isn't something I feel anyone but the most hardcore Unix user will relish--and those users aren't the audience of this book.
This book is designed for new Unix users, but intermediate users will find "Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours" a handy reference when having to workaround GUI pitfalls or failures. This book's previous versions have saved my bacon in reinforcing my previous experience and skills at the command line when the Mac OS Finder seizes, leaving no graphical way to complete a task. Unfortunately, given the volume of information I must remember in using both Mac OS X and Windows XP, I, for one, can't remember every nuance of Unix needed, particularly since it's not as easily remembered as icons or menus. Perhaps the author may find that a fifth edition will need information on the long-awaited Windows Vista in the event it contains Unix parts and pieces."
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