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Book Reviews Books Media

The Official Ubuntu Book 139

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Craig Maloney writes "Over the long history of Linux, there have been many different distributions. One of the most famous distributions, love it or hate it, is the Ubuntu distribution. Ubuntu has come quickly from being the new kid on the block with the Warty Warthog release (4.10) to the most recent release Gutsy Gibbon (7.10). In that three year span, Ubuntu has grown from a handful of enthusiasts and developers to a thriving worldwide community. The Official Ubuntu Book is the official book from Canonical, which describes not only the Ubuntu distributions, but also the community from which Ubuntu is derived." Read below for the rest of Craig's review.
The Official Ubuntu Book
author Benjamin Mako Hill, Jono Bacon, et. al
pages 463
publisher Prentice Hall
rating 9
reviewer Craig Maloney
ISBN 0-13-235413-6
summary An excellent way to get introduced to the Ubuntu distribution and community
The Official Ubuntu Book is comprised of 10 main chapters covering various aspects of the Ubuntu project. The first chapter discusses a bit of the history of the Ubuntu project, as well as the relationship of Canonical to the project. Chapter 2 dives into installing Ubuntu from either the Live CD or the Alternative installation CD. Chapter 3 shows how to use the applications that ship with Ubuntu with some detail. Some of the more in-depth programs get more attention, like The GIMP and Firefox. Also covered are the basics of the GNOME interface, such as adding items to the panels, or logging off of the system. Chapter 4 covers basic system administration (printers, upgrades, file sharing), and package management. Chapter 5 introduces the Ubuntu Server variant, covering RAID, LVM, and more package management techniques. Chapter 6 deals with support issues in a question / answer format, and is a great place for readers to get some of their more common questions answered. Chapter 7 covers the Kubuntu variant of Ubuntu in more depth. Chapter 8 and 9 introduce the Ubuntu Community, and the tools that keep the Ubuntu project running. These chapters alone should be required reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in the Ubuntu project. Lastly, Chapter 10 covers the Edbuntu project, and demonstrates how to set up a LTSP network. The appendices include the Ubuntu related documents, a quick tutorial on the command line, and a great Windows / Ubuntu equivalent section for those who are looking for the best alternatives for certain Windows programs. All-in-all, The Official Ubuntu Book covers the main aspects of the Ubuntu project in a very thorough manner.

Included with the book is the Ubuntu 7.04 release (Feisty Fawn) on DVD. This is a solid release, and was current at the time the book was published. It still has 12 months active support even in light of the recent 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) release, and should give those looking to try Ubuntu an excellent starting point.

The biggest issue facing a book like The Official Ubuntu Book is determining a target audience. Ubuntu appeals to a wide range of people; from the newest newbie to the hardened UNIX aficionado. Making a book that speaks to both is no easy task. Fortunately, The Book does an admirable job of providing enough to keep both parties interested. New Ubuntu users will find lots of information about how to get things accomplished in Ubuntu, while seasoned UNIX user will find enough information to see what th differences are between Ubuntu and other Linux distributions. Both will find a great introduction to participating with the rest of the Ubuntu community in the later chapters of the book. Any user of Ubuntu would be well served in reviewing those chapters fora sense of what opportunities exist, and how best to participate in the community given their talents and skills. True, the chapters describing specific applications lack much depth, but the omission can be forgiven in light of the shear amount of material covered. Just learning how to navigate what is provided on the live CD could fill a tome the size of this book, leaving no room to discuss the more about the community. The Official Ubuntu Book balances between both extremes, and provides plenty of information about both the Ubuntu distribution, and the community.

The success of the Ubuntu project is due in no small part to the people who spend their time participating with other Ubuntu users. Reading the book not only gives a sense of what Ubuntu is about, but also shows how open and inviting these users are. It may not be the best tutorial for the new Linux user, but it is an excellent book for those who want to take the next step and be a part of putting together and supporting a large Linux distribution. The Official Ubuntu Book captures the spirit of the Ubuntu community well, and brings the excitement in a palpable form to the reader. I can recommend this book to new users of Ubuntu with only the caution that they may need to find other resources to learn the many new programs that ship with Ubuntu. However, I can also highly recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in getting involved with the Ubuntu project, both new and experienced. The Official Ubuntu Book, much like the Ubuntu project, is an ambitious undertaking, and similarly we all benefit from their hard work.

You can purchase The Official Ubuntu Book from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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The Official Ubuntu Book

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  • ...these things are usually obsolete in, oh say, 6 months or so.
    • by CheeseburgerBrown (553703) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @02:25PM (#21187471) Homepage Journal
      My issues of Newsweek from 1993 are practically useless now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by farkus888 (1103903) *
      it seems they are outdated by the time they hit the shelfs unless you are running the LTS version of the operating system. The massive resources on the internet are probably more useful and thorough than this book. but my real point is that I feel bad for anyone who buys the book, realizes you can't log in as root, and decides to never use ubuntu again.
      • by CSMatt (1175471)
        Exactly. It makes much more sense to write a book only for the LTS releases.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "but my real point is that I feel bad for anyone who buys the book, realizes you can't log in as root, and decides to never use ubuntu again."

        Yes, going into the User Accounts section and enabling the root account takes hours.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Obsolete in 6 months is not likely, Linux/UNIX is much more stable than that other OS.
      • I really hope that was sarcasm.. there are hardly any versions of Windows compared to hundreds of different Linux distros, each with new versions coming out all the time. Stable in terms of less crashes sure, but stable with releases????!?!?!???...
        • by Machtyn (759119)
          The issue is that a lot of the tools in the *nix universe have been in use since the 80's, a few even longer. Plus, this book gives a basic foundation for a new user or a converting user. I imagine the best use is for someone who has only one computer and is attempting to setup or troubleshoot an issue. I know when I search to solve some problems, I have issues trying to cut through the noise to find a relevant solution.
      • Ubuntu has a 6 month release cycle; the book will be out of date in 6 months (as a best case).
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...these things are usually obsolete in, oh say, 6 months or so.

      Oh, I can think of some [amazon.com] computing [amazon.com] books [amazon.com] which are just as useful today as when first published. Maybe the quality of a technology could be judged by how long its documentation goes without being superseded.

      However, any Linux guide will stand the test of time better if it explains matters through command-line tools. Graphical interfaces change too rapidly.

    • True, but that goes for just about any how-to book for any computer program. Which hasn't stopped it from becoming a huge market.
    • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @02:59PM (#21187925) Homepage

      Some things change more rapidly than others. I have a student who's trying to get started with Linux on an old machine his family had around. He's asking me questions like, "Where can you learn how to do that command line stuff?" and "What's a window manager?" The answers to those questions aren't going to change in six months.

      From my point of view as a relatively experienced Linux user, the usefulness of such a book is probably a lot less. I have a big, long set of notes on Unix that I maintain in a personal wiki, and I doubt that there's very much in the intersection of {things I need to know} & {things I don't have in my notes} & {things that are in this book}. The main thing that's kicking my butt with ubuntu these days is cups and network printing; every time I manage to get it working, it takes a couple of weekends of pulling my hair out, and then it breaks again at the next upgrade. For that, the book is certain to be useless to me because of obsolescence, and also probably because the issue with cups seems to have more to do with poor design and integration into the distro. Another big problem a lot of people are suffering from is difficulties wifi and laptop power management. (Personally, wifi Just Works for me these days, and power management Just Doesn't Work). The book won't help with those issues, because they're fundamentally related to the proprietary nature of the hardware (e.g., hardware manaufacturers not publicly documenting the registers that need to be saved when you put your machine to sleep).

      There are also certain categories of specialized, advanced knowledge that won't change anytime soon, but that most people don't need to know. For instance, I have a copy of "The Debian System" by Krafft, and although I can't recommend the book in general, it does have a reasonably intelligible and detailed discussion of the debian packaging system, which for me has turned out to be a lot more helpful than the various online descriptions (which are poorly written, disorganized, incomplete, and never up to date).

      One of the big advantages of FreeBSD over Linux, IMO, is that FreeBSD is a single complete operating system, not a kernel that's packaged in a whole bunch of different distros, so you can buy a book on FreeBSD, and it will document the actual system you're using.

      • by kavehkh (725943)

        that's kicking my butt with ubuntu these days is cups and network printing; every time I manage to get it working, it takes a couple of weekends of pulling my hair out, and then it breaks again at the next upgrade.
        You are lucky my nvidida drivers break on Debian Edgy after every restart (which is rare).
        • by tzanger (1575)

          I don't know about you, but CUPS seems to only work when you are directly connected. I cannot get CUPS<-->CUPS-->printer working at all. If I tell my kubuntu machine to use the CUPS server that is connected directly to the printer, great. If I tell my slackware machine to do the same, it works. But either one trying to use their own CUPS server to talk to a remote CUPS printer... fuggedabowdit. Protocol dumps show that it seems to be sending incorrect data, and the CUPS ipp utility program jus

      • The only Linux book I've found that approaches the usefulness of the *BSD handbooks would have to be "Linux Administration Handbook" by whoever the hell wrote it. Haven't seen the Ubuntu book yet, and I doubt I'd really be interested, judging by the review.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rk (6314)

        "The main thing that's kicking my butt with ubuntu these days is cups and network printing; every time I manage to get it working, it takes a couple of weekends of pulling my hair out, and then it breaks again at the next upgrade. For that, the book is certain to be useless to me because of obsolescence, and also probably because the issue with cups seems to have more to do with poor design and integration into the distro."

        I think you're closer to the truth regarding distro integration, because my exper

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ctr2sprt (574731)

          All I did was start the CUPS server, logged on to it, told it the printer's IP and model number, and it Just Worked(tm).

          I think you and the GP are talking about different classes of printer, here, based on the fact that yours has an IP address. It's the cheapie inkjets that you get for free with a $500 computer that don't work right in Linux.

          Pretty much any laser printer is going to Just Work(tm) in Linux, especially if you're sending it PCL or PS to its built-in, lpd-compatible print server over a TCP

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by bcrowell (177657)

            I think you and the GP are talking about different classes of printer, [...] It's the cheapie inkjets that you get for free with a $500 computer that don't work right in Linux.

            Just to clarify, I'm the GP poster, and I have a laser printer, not an inkjet. What's kicking my butt time after time is network printing, not printing locally. I think part of the problem may be that the cups developers and the Ubuntu developers are on different wavelengths about security. I keep seeing cases where the default in c

            • by tzanger (1575)

              What's kicking my butt time after time is network printing, not printing locally.

              How, praytell, did you get it to work??!! I've got a Slack 12 system with a locally-connected Pixma MP530 (GREAT printer, btw, absolutely stellar). I can print from windows to the CUPS spool just fine. I can print from the Slack server just fine. Neither of my Kubuntu machines can print to it, and neither can my other Slack box. If I tell those Kubuntu or other Slack box that their CUPS server is the Slack box with the

            • by rk (6314)
              The additional irony here is that I'M the one with the cheapie inkjet printer. It's an HP 5800 $50 Fry's special. It is sophisticated enough to have an ethernet adapter, however. Our nice laser printer went belly-up years ago.
    • ...these things are usually obsolete in, oh say, 6 months or so.
      And the real problem with this is not the short shelf life, it's the price: $23 at Amazon. For that money, I'll make due with Google.
    • by Wobble-U (1112077)
      I've got old fat "Redhat Linux Unleashed" and "Using Linux" books and most of the stuff in them are still fairly relevant, as most of it is about using the console, not the GUI. I still use them occasionally too, as some of the stuff in there is hard to find on the web.
    • I dunno, the man pages are still pretty interesting...
    • by krasicki (657432)
      Actually, no. I agree with the reviewer that this is an excellent introduction to Ubuntu and the book holds great social value as well as technical instruction.

      What I liked about this book is that any family can purchase it inexpensively, read it (and this is a very readable technical introduction, and come to understand that the Linux world is not some kind of scary place. In fact it is an operating system and family of free applications that celebrate individuality, freedom, and ease of use.

      Or it can be
  • by Huntr (951770) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @02:24PM (#21187457)
    Buy the book, get a free hard drive. [slashdot.org]

    Kidding!
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @02:35PM (#21187611)

    The success of the Ubuntu project is due in no small part to the people who spend their time participating with other Ubuntu users. Reading the book not only gives a sense of what Ubuntu is about, but also shows how open and inviting these users are.


    Finally - this book provides an antisocial way to approach Ubuntu.
  • Ubuntu Books (Score:3, Informative)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @03:02PM (#21187965) Homepage Journal
    There are so many ubuntu books [amazon.com] available - it's really quite an indication of how popular this distro has become. Though the same measuring stick would show that fedora [amazon.com] has more material out there. It has been around longer though.
     
    I work with Red Hat in my job, so I stick with Fedora but I'm seeing more folks around here running Ubuntu on their desktops.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I work with Red Hat in my job, so I stick with Fedora but I'm seeing more folks around here running Ubuntu on their desktops.

      I work w/ Red Hat on my Job, so I stick w/ CentOS :)

      • Yeah - I could go that route - or Oracle's version. But I think Fedora works very nicely as a desktop distro, and I get to play around with newer features that I would never have on my servers. So I have a similar architecture and tools, but on what feels to me, a more desktop friendly setup.
  • by garbletext (669861) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @03:54PM (#21188663)
    The official Ubuntu Book, by Mark Shutleworth. Chapter One: RTFM! The End.
    • by Devv (992734)
      I think you could get in trouble for writing the entire book there without paying someone somewhere. I do indeed believe that you could.
    • Damn ! It's been a while a Slashdot comment has not made me laughing like that :-p Thanks mate :-)
  • community (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rasputin465 (1032646) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @05:38PM (#21189901)
    ...the community from which Ubuntu is derived.

    And by "community" you mean "debian".
  • Kudos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AlXtreme (223728) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @06:30PM (#21190413) Homepage Journal
    Just wanted to say kudos to Mako for this book and his work for both Debian and Ubuntu. You're doing a fine job!
  • Personally, I found "Beginning Ubuntu Linux: From Novice to Professional" [apress.com] to be pretty good.
  • Here are two weaknesses and two strengths of this book:

    It seems to me the Official Ubuntu book is weak on helping a user figure out what she is going to do with the installed system.

    For instancce, how would a new Ubuntu user backup her Windows files to CD ? Like transporting all your email and browser bookmarks from Windows to Ubuntu? Not covered. The focus of this book fades at the boundaries of Ubuntu itself.

    Another weakness is, this book talks about Ubuntu but doesn't show a simple task like how to back
  • Not most famous, it is the most hyped. Redhat, Debian, Slackware and Gentoo could be called famous...sorry Ubuntu doesn't quite fit that title.

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