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Operating Systems Books Media Software Book Reviews

A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux 2nd ed. 85

stoolpigeon writes "One thing I love about Linux is the rapid development and frequent updates that allow me to run the latest versions of all my favorite software packages. My favorite distributions make it simple to always have the latest and greatest. In fact, the distros themselves roll out new versions regularly, and I am always excited to see what new packages and features will be included. For book publishers this must be a little less exciting. Anything tied to a specific product that is under active development is going to quickly be behind the times. Mark Sobell's A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux managed to avoid the worst of this by providing a lot of information that is useful for any Linux user running any distro. But still things move forward and almost exactly a year later we have A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux 2nd ed. I was very pleased with the first edition and I think they've managed to really improve what was already a solid resource." Read below for the rest of JR's review.
A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux 2nd ed.
author Mark G. Sobell
pages 1244
publisher Prentice Hall
rating 9/10
reviewer JR Peck
ISBN 978-0-13-700388-4
summary an improvement on what was already a solid resource
Let's kick things off with a rough diff on the two editions. There have been improvements made in content and some added tools to rapidly get at what one needs. With the size of the book and the amount covered, these rapid access improvements are significant. The inside of the cover on the second edition has a utility index, so that a reader searching for help with any specific utility can find it quickly. This is followed up with two tables of contents, one a brief summary and the second much more detailed and taking up twenty-two pages. The new edition is about sixty pages longer than the first, but is slightly thinner and shorter. It is still a beefy book, but this is a nice direction to move.

After the tables of contents there is a list of JumpStarts. These are new to the second edition. They are short guides to getting started with key clients and servers. They come at the beginning of sections that will deal with the topic in more detail, but up front the focus is just on getting things up and running. The JumpStarts cover APT, CUPS, OpenSSH, FTP, exim4, NFS, Samba, DNS, firestarter and Apache. These are nice, as often just getting things going is the biggest hurdle and fine tuning is rather easy once that is past.

Like the first edition a DVD is included. As I mentioned Linux is a quick moving target and the dvd contains Ubuntu 8.1. It can be used as a live dvd or to do an install. Last time I checked the Canonical store, this was still the most recent version available on DVD. Ubuntu and Kubuntu 9.04 are available online and on CD. I did an install from the book's dvd and the upgrade to 9.04 was completely painless. I don't really see the DVD as a necessary addition but it could be a nice plus for anyone that wants to get Ubuntu up and running but can't get the bandwidth to download it.

The section Programming the Bourne Again Shell has been removed from the Digging Into Ubuntu Linux section and placed in its own section, Programming Tools which also includes a new chapter on Perl. The chapters on Linux utilities and the Linux file system have also been extended. Coverage of ufw was added to the firewall chapter. The appendices remain the same but three new indices have been added to cover JumpStarts, the file tree and utilities. The main index is huge, offering excellent access to everything in the book. This book shows excellent forethought from start to finish aimed at making it a natural choice to grab from the shelf whenever an Ubuntu user has a question.

This did leave me wondering though, why no database server is included in the coverage. It seemed odd to cover Apache but not the rest of the LAMP stack. Installing MySQL and PHP are simple with Ubuntus package manager, but knowing the basics of caring for them is just as important as it is with Apache, which is also easy to install. I realize that the book is already large, but I'd have liked to see this included. That said, configuring services is covered and indexed in multiple places. This means if one did install MySQL, PostgreSQL or some other database and were looking for how to go about starting, stopping, etc. the information is there.

As before, this is still a nice guide to Linux in general. While it is most applicable to Ubuntu, much of the information is accurate regardless of the distro in question. The style is understandable and there are many examples with code or illustrations as appropriate. This entire book is a real boon to any neophyte that does not have a solid handle on getting their own answers. That group is the one that I think will benefit the most from A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux. Random access is easy, but reading cover to cover would also give one a nice foundational understanding of getting the most out of their machine and even enough guidance to get their feet wet in the sysadmin world. Anyone thrown into owning an Ubuntu server may find this to be a handy lifeline. More experienced users, even if they are moving from another distro may find that there is just too much material that they don't need and already know. This really is a basic Linux guide first and an Ubuntu book second.

I thought the first edition was a solid value and the second edition offers welcome improvements with no real missteps. That they managed to put more in, not take a lot out and get it into a smaller package is quite a plus. I don't think anyone will be throwing this in a bag and carrying it with them any time soon, but it's a great office shelf resource for a quick refresher or getting launched. This is the kind of guide that can make the difference between frustrated failure and passion for anyone just starting out with Linux.

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A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux 2nd ed.

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  • Mandatory: Let me Google that for you []...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by poetmatt ( 793785 )

      In all honestly, a lot can be learned from ubuntu by just searching through search engines.

      I'd suggest dogpile as a practical engine if not google itself.

      Both ways, every problem I've ever had from being a really basic ubuntu noob to being slightly more experienced (I'm far from a pro) all started with the ubuntu forums [].

      • by Fozzyuw ( 950608 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @03:31PM (#28457157)

        There can be. The problem with search is knowing where to start. If you're really a beginner, that can be the "hard part".

        I have the first edition of this book. I got a lot out of it. There's a LOT of information. However, I found a lot of times some rather important information, like a specific command, was just mentioned in passing, instead of being called out clearly with examples. I would have liked to have seen more with that. Otherwise, it was a good book.

        Not to mention, I didn't have a web enabled computer near by to use when I was setting up Ubuntu, making the whole "google it" thing rather hard to do.

        • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @04:27PM (#28458011)
          Unfortunately, when you get off the beaten path, you tend to be ignored. If you do a general Google search you get overwhelmed with false positives due to the large user community which also happens to be web wise. They really need a good community 'help' system that flags 'unresolved' issues and keeps them at the top of the list. I'm not referring to bug reports as they have a good system for that, but rather general user help. Forums are fine for a common question but anything off the beaten track is quickly buried under newer posts.
          • by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @04:45PM (#28458335) Journal

            Have you never heard of a forum with a search option?

            I found lots of old and new stuff as I worked my way through issues with gaming on linux and learned how to use apt, learned how to compile source, make/make config/make install, learned about sudo, synaptic, all of that.

            That stuff is what, 7+ years old? However, there are still both a: new people asking as it is the first time they have encountered it and b: old posts that are easily found via search on said same obscure questions.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by DJRumpy ( 1345787 )
              Exactly. 7 years of old information to go through. Not what I would call effective. When you want to track open 'questions', it's not useful. I'm not talking about genera how-to. I'm talking about something specific to getting problems resolved. A forum's "new post to the top" just isn't useful for that, nor does it track when an question is resolved and can be ignored or when an question is still open and someone needs help.
  • Ubuntu needs an icon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by russlar ( 1122455 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @03:07PM (#28456775)
    Seriously, /., it's about time they get their own icon.
  • 1244 pages (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tcopeland ( 32225 ) <tom@thomaslee[ ] ['cop' in gap]> on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @03:27PM (#28457081) Homepage

    I sympathize with the author on the decision on what to include in the book... no doubt he cut a fair number of things but still ended up with a prodigious book. Reminds me of the "Java in a Nutshell" books - the last one I bought was almost square.

    These days I'm finding more value in books like Rich Bowen's The Definitive Guide to Apache mod_rewrite []. These smaller more focused books go digging deep into parts of various utilities that don't Google answers as easily. I can find 100 tutorials on installing Apache, but not so many on using RewriteMap. And they seem to have a longer shelf life; that mod_rewrite book is a couple years old but still very relevant and useful.

  • That should be Ubuntu 8.10, as in 2008-10, the release month.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      it's true. OP clearly does not know about ubuntu naming conventions :P

      ubuntu versions are the number of years since 2000 and the number of the current month.

      6.06 = June 2006
      7.04 = April 2007
      8.10 = OCTOBER 2008

      you do not reduce because it isn't a real decimal value.

      • Thanks for the info. My issue is probably due to the fact that I'm a long time Fedora user - integers seem sufficient for us.

      • 6.06 = June 2006
        7.04 = April 2007
        8.10 = OCTOBER 2008

        you do not reduce because it isn't a real decimal value.

        Perhaps we should replace the dot with a slash? (couldn't help myself)

        I'll be here all week....

  • One thing I love about Linux is the rapid development and frequent updates that allow me to run the latest versions of all my favorite software packages.

    Though not a Linux geek, I see the same thing on a smaller scale when Firefox keeps offering to update my plugins. I should probably turn this feature off, because every once in a while I get an update that breaks the whole browser.

    Not a big fan of automatic updates. Bad idea to upgrade something without analyzing the benefits and risks.

    Incidentally, my name appears in the "Thanks" section of this book. Which doesn't mean I actually contributed anything to it. Many years ago (don't recall how long, but the

  • A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux 2nd edition

    I think Ubuntu got past its second edition long ago... aren't they up to 9.04?

  • an ancient African word for "Can't install Debian".
  • The main Disadvantage of Linux is the rapid development and frequent updates.
    • there are plenty of distributions that don't have fast update cycle, only do patches for years. how slow do you want to go? you don't have to follow the developers, for craps sake
    • The biggest disadvantage of Linux is, it's so good you feel unworthy of using it.
    • The main Disadvantage of Linux is the rapid development and frequent updates.

      I haven't used Linux in years but I think that's an advantage not a disadvantage. Just because an update is available that doesn't mean it has to be installed. When I used Windows I didn't install all the updates, and I don't install all of them on my Mac now. It's nice they're available but I check to see if I need each one before installing them.


    • So does that mean that is also a disadvantage that Microsoft provides updates to Windows just about every Thursday? And if they didn't, would you then be accusing them of being lax in security for not releasing frequent security updates?

      • Yes and no. I have rarely thought about how I upgrade windows as it is pretty seamless for me (I don't use windows unless I have to). And if security updates for Linux happened the same way I'd have less of a problem. Perhaps Ubuntu has solved some of this but when versions of the apps are as important as versions of the OS and you have to make sure you got the right mix and match of libraries etc. Well it becomes a disadvantage. Even if this is not 100% true there is a perception that this is true and
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Totally, I HATE how those open source people update quickly and fix bugs so fast. What is this a race? Slow the fuck down. Some of us have high blood pressure!

      Another thing about linux: It boots up too damn fast. When I was using windows, it took 7 minutes before I got to the desktop, and I used that time to make coffee. Now that linux loads so fast, I don't have time to. Thanks for ruining my morning, linux.

      And I HATE how all these linux programs can be downloaded at no cost. Before linux, I used to make

  • ASP.NET (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alarash ( 746254 ) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @06:03AM (#28464415)
    This wasn't mentioned in the review so I suppose that's already an answer, but I figured I'd ask anyway. Is there any topic that covers running ASP.NET (through the Mono Project) under Ubuntu Server? Is there any Database-related topics, specifically for PostgreSQL? I don't need 300 pages books for these topics (not yet anyway), so that kind of "Jack of all trades" book is interesting to me.
  • a chapter telling how to cure an Ubuntu install infected with Mono.
  • really? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Odinlake ( 1057938 )
    Myself I dread all the broken dependencies and conflicts that I inadvertably get with a major upgrade.

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.