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The First Three Books Every Linux User Should Read

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the time-to-edu-macate-yerself dept.

133

lessthan0 writes "Anyone proficient with Linux had to climb the steep learning curve. Part of getting over the top for me was reading a hundred different Linux and Unix related books. From that list, three books stand out as the most useful and influential. I can't promise easy sledding; it will take some work, but mastering this material will demystify Linux and make you appreciate it more."

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133 comments

but first, buy Kernighan/Pike (5, Informative)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#15380880)

Disclaimer: I have no financial or other motive of profit in recommending this book.

The recommended books are good choices, but the underlying principles guiding Linux originate from Unix. The first sea change influential Unix book for me was The Unix Programming Environment [amazon.com] by Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike.

This book is a must read, and a must have. Unix at my office was a mere curiousity, an available "time share" (not kidding, that's what people at my office called it) that noone used (we were mostly a COBOL/mainframe shop).

I tinkered with this new and interesting world and immediately saw something unique(s). And, Kernighan/Pike lit the fire under me. By page 50 or so they've described Unix philosophy dead-on (they should know), and I couldn't start creating in the Unix environment fast enough.

The first thing I did was create an on-line self updating corporate documentation system (the old one was paper and microfiche), and I never looked back.

Add this book to your collection, read it! You won't be sorry.

Re:but first, buy Kernighan/Pike (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381198)

There's was the bible for learning Unix and still is as far as I can tell. That's how I taught myself Unix in college; my copy is now almost twenty years old but it's still relevant and helps me with the brain farts I still get while working in Unix and Linux.

Re:but first, buy Kernighan/Pike (1)

drdanny_orig (585847) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382353)

This was also the watershed book for me, way back when. Nothing I've seen since has had more impact, and every lesson in it is still applicable.

Poor Grandma (3, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#15380898)

...Though there are no illustrations...

...There is excellent coverage of the GNU utilities, a guide to TCP/IP and networking, Apache, DNS, NFS, email, databases and more...

...The one glaring omission is the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS)...

...Learning the BASH Shell...

...You need to understand shell scripting to understand the system...

...Learning BASH will make you more productive and at ease managing a system 1000 kilometers away...

... If you were not lucky enough to work with Ken Thompson, and didn't cut your teeth on Unix, the system may seem chaotic...
 


The author's conclusion?

Anyone can learn Linux

Me: "Here Grandma. These three books will make you an expert sysadmin so that you can use your own Linux box!"

Grandma: "What kind of idiot are you, boy? Your old grandma just needs something that works, not something that takes an associates degree from CalTech to use! You kids these days have it so easy that you think you can waste time on learning everything there is to know about a computer before you use it! Why, in my day we were too busy walking uphill both ways through a snowstorm to waste time with these neutered Enuich computers!"

Me: "But Grandma! Bash is so easy..."

Grandma: "BASH?! You want BASH?"

* Grandma whacks me over the head with her cane.

Grandma: "There's your BASH, boy! Now hurry up and get Grandma a computer she can use!"

Me: (sheepishly) "Like a Mac?"

Grandma "Yes, like a Mac, you dolt!" *mutters something about genes from the wrong side of the family*

(Disclaimer: The above is well-intentioned humor. Do not attempt to argue with it or grandma will bash you over the head with her cane.) :-P

Re:Poor Grandma (2, Interesting)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 7 years ago | (#15380967)

I do believe that an introductory book ("Linux: Where's my damn Soliatire" ) that taught transitions between the Linux and Microsoft platform would be something every Linux user should read, as not all Linux users want to be sysadmins, but an alternative.

Re:Poor Grandma (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15381847)

Men, don't you know that everyone is born with the ability to use Windows and no-one has to learn it? Or did you ever have to help someone installing or using Windows? Of course not; it's so easy that it administers itself!

Re:Poor Grandma (1)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382281)

Men, don't you know that everyone is born with the ability to use Windows and no-one has to learn it? Or did you ever have to help someone installing or using Windows? Of course not; it's so easy that it administers itself!

So what you're saying AC, is that not having to learn how to do something is better than learning? As for everyone being born how to use it, wrong. Plenty of people have grown accostom to Windows, but everyone learned how to use it, no matter how ridiculous the learning curve.

I truly hope that was sarcasm and that notion of circumventing the human thought process and further educating oneself was not a legitimate one.

Re:Poor Grandma (1)

Homology (639438) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382038)

I do believe that an introductory book ("Linux: Where's my damn Soliatire" ) that taught transitions between the Linux and Microsoft platform would be something every Linux user should read, as not all Linux users want to be sysadmins, but an alternative.

Potential OpenBSD users should read the book "OpenBSD: Why 'man 6 hack' is useful".

Re:Poor Grandma (5, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381075)

My favorite was what the article refers to as "the somewhat contrived recursive title" of Rute User's Tutorial and Exposition. Yeah, that's definitely part of Unix that needs to be demystified -- the notion that godawful recursive names are hilarious and just keep getting hilariouser with each new atrocity.

Scott Adams should have put an end to that (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381925)

He ridiculed that naming convention mortally when Dilbert was assigned a new task and christened it TTP. TTP, The TTP Project.

Nevertheless... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381494)

Nevertheless, the old LIGS (Linux Installation and Getting Started) guide is still (although now decidedly dated) a useful guide. The emphasis here is on Linux rather than Unix. There are differences, and in this day and age, probably the majority of Unix (read BSD) heads approach it only after some exposure to Linux.

Re:Poor Grandma (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382342)

But if Grandma decides she wants to become an expert sysadmin on the Mac she still can use these three books!

Re:Poor Grandma (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383039)

Your old grandma just needs something that works, not something that takes an associates degree from CalTech to use!

I just wanted to note that Cal Tech only offers an associates degree (AA) in Cosmetology, not in Computer Science. I have a friend that studied robot manicures there.

Eheh, and now for the other grandma (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 7 years ago | (#15384036)

The grandma that worked with the first computers out there. Who thinks vi is just for kids that can't hack ed. As for vim well, she is a grandma and she loves all her grandchilderen even the "special" ones.

The simple fact is that computers ain't new anymore. Think of it like this would you dare suggest that a young adult of today is a better car operator then someone who has managed a jeep all the way through WW2?

Reminds me of a family trip ages ago to england with the ferry. Cousin was being all protective and telling grandpa that it was perfectly safe and all. Neatly forgetting that grandpa had actually been on convoys in WW2. A channel ferry crossing wasn't exactly going to be a trill ride was it now?

Long before you had Windows, long before DOS secretaties have had to deal with computers and type letters on systems their bosses couldn't figure out.

In many ways we are unlearning some of these lessons. Just as kids of today don't have the programming exposure that kids who grew up with home computers like the C64 had, kids today are no longer learning how to deal with programs that don't hold you hand all the way.

I seen kids stumped by older versions of windows because they only know XP and lack any kind of skill in just being able to figure things out.

So be carefull when you question your grandma's capabilities. You might find you don't compare very well.

Oh and a final note. Stupid grandma's have stupid grandchilderen. Now I ask you again, what kind of grandma do you got?

Re:Eheh, and now for the other grandma (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#15384675)

I find it interesting how you feel that a Grandma without advanced computer knowledge == a "stupid" Grandma. The Grandma I (humorously) portrayed is a smart enough woman to know what she needs. She doesn't want to putz around learning things she doesn't need to know. Apparently, you think that makes her "stupid". IMHO, that makes her as smart as a couple who get a family sedan to haul their kids and groceries around in instead of the Ferrari that won't meet their needs AT ALL. i.e. Very smart and intelligent indeed.

A stupid grandma would let her grandson push her around and get her something that doesn't work for her. Have you forced your grandma to use Unix?

Keep Running Linux Free (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#15380916)

I agree with these book selections though I think that it's wrong to say "these are must-haves for the Linux/Unix user" if they cost money. That's because Linux should be free, you shouldn't 'need' to drop $200 to be proficient in it. You need to invest time but not money.

Perhaps there [oreilly.com] are [sourceforge.net] free [linuxnewbieguide.org] resources [freetechbooks.com] out there.

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (4, Insightful)

Hacksaw (3678) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381119)

Let's think about this, shall we?

Let's say I am a software author. I wrote some program to scratch my own itch. Now I need to write a manual for it.

How well am I going to do at this? It's going to be terse and assumptive, because I'm already an expert on my program.

So lets say a friend becomes and semi expert on the program, and expands the manual some. Hey, we're good, right?

No, because the manual still sucks, because neither of them are technical writers, and don't possess the skills.

And a good writer might be interested in writing a better manual for it, but what do they have to gain if they aren't passionate about the program, if they aren't allowed to publish it for money?

You can't buy groceries with accolades.

I mean, good on the author and his friend for realesing the code in to the wild, and helping out everyone, but they got the program they wanted. It's free because it costs them nothing to make it free.

The good writer has to spend time doing the writing, as opposed to earning money some other way.

This is why so much OSS has crappy manuals, and why companies like RedHat and Novell are so important: they pay the writers.

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (1)

955301 (209856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382108)

And a good programmer might be willing to review your code and increase the quality if they were paid. A good support person might help you assist your user base, and a good artist might help you come up with a mascot.

What makes you think the programmers effort is *less* deserving of the authors time? It's amazing that you would suggest it cost them nothing to make it. Time is arguably the most valuable thing we have to give.

If they write a crappy manual and open it up to corrections while responding to feedback and rewarding those that give, I suspect the quality of the manual would increase like the software did by getting a larger user base.

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (2, Insightful)

Hacksaw (3678) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382366)

I didn't say it cost them nothing to make it, I said it cost them nothing to give it away. Their value is derived by the fact that they made a tool to solve their particular problem. They are paid in the problem being solved.

If they write a crappy manual and open it up to corrections while responding to feedback and rewarding those that give, I suspect the quality of the manual would increase like the software did by getting a larger user base.


This makes the assumption that those offering corrections have the skills to make a good manual. While not impossible, historically, I haven't seen this to be the case.

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (1)

955301 (209856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383068)

The assumption I'm making is that given even the smallest amount of continous feedback and an accept-corrections-and-not-further-errors filter, the documentation will approve.

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (2, Interesting)

Homology (639438) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382370)

Let's say I am a software author. I wrote some program to scratch my own itch. Now I need to write a manual for it.
...
This is why so much OSS has crappy manuals, and why companies like RedHat and Novell are so important: they pay the writers.

Those programmers that care about quality writes good documentation as well. The OpenBSD developers write very good, complete and relevant documentation. So companies like Redhat and Novell are important for Linux userland because the documentation is of such low quality.

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (1)

himself (66589) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383174)

So let's say I'm no programmer, a fair-to-middlin' writer, but a fan-freakin-tastic editor & proof-reader (*and* humble as all get out). Where do I find the clearinghouse where I can select a project who wants help with their docs?

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383343)

"Where do I find the clearinghouse where I can select a project who wants help with their docs?"

Ignore the ones who want help and force yourself on those who need help (and probably don't realise it) whether they want it or not. :-)

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (1)

himself (66589) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383369)

Oh, trust me, proof readers are *tops* on every guest list to begin with...

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385070)

Are you trying sarcastically to imply that pointing out the shortcomings and failures of others will not endear you to them?

And shouldn't that be "...a project *which* wants help with their docs?" :-)

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#15384379)

Let's say I am a software author. I wrote some program to scratch my own itch. Now I need to write a manual for it.

Doing it that way is like writing your unit tests after you've got a working program. Unit tests and good documentation help you write the program in the first place. They should not be an afterthought.

Oh, and being able to communicate decently via email is about all the writing skill you need to write decent documentation. If you can't do either, I'm amazed you can program at all, and you'll almost never work on a project larger than yourself. I'd have to write an extensive reference manual as a process of simply understanding your code.

Now, does this make for tutorial-level documentation -- the kind of documentation that allows a normal person to learn, say, Bash? No, and I'm not sure quite how such documentation evolves, but I'm never at a loss for finding enough.

But one thing about open source -- you get out of it what you put into it.

Re:Keep Running Linux Free (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381585)

Thanks for posting that link to the FreeTechBooks site - I was unaware that it existed and there's a lot of great stuff there.

And then... (2, Funny)

Hacksaw (3678) | more than 7 years ago | (#15380942)

After you have read these books, start with section 1 of the manual pages, read through to section 8 or 9 if it exists.

Then start with the Gnome and KDE help pages, and the info pages, and swear and swear and swear at the rotten uncooperative bastards that can't agree on one documentation format, so I have to go searching all over the place to figure out how to use anything.

Oh, yeah, and then buy everything O'Reilly publishes, and sprinkle in most of Addison Wesley.

Re:And then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15381787)

I thought the next step would be to watch "March of the Penguins" so that one might get indoctrinated with the furry, flightless bird then sign up for the Penguinistas.

Re:And then... (1)

rizzo420 (136707) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382725)

penguins are not furry. in fact, they have absolutely no fur. they're birds, they have feathers like all other birds.

The First Three Books Every Linux User Should Read (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 7 years ago | (#15380972)

I may not like or trust books, but it's too late to recommend me the first three books I should read!

Those books are nice... (4, Funny)

goofyheadedpunk (807517) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381013)

but there's really no substitute for learning a new operating system like being 16, being in a special school for gifted kids that completely stiffles any socializing after 8PM, being without a lady friend, having the drive to learn new things, and having the intense desire to show that really annoying kid two floors up that he's got shit for brains.

Everyone has their own method, I suppose.

My picks (2, Interesting)

SWroclawski (95770) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381019)

My take is that the initial reads should be practical, then slowly they should move into theory.

Therefore my first pick is the book that got me started:

Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours (first edition)

It's a very pragmatic guide to learning the Unix command shell and system layout.

My second pick is Think Unix by Jon Lasser, which covers using Unix systems but also gives a bit of background and teaches the lesson on how to learn.

Lastly, to go into the pure theory, Eric Raymond's The Art of Unix Programming is a wonderful guide on explaining *why* things are the way they are in Unix (and by extension, GNU/Linux).

My list (4, Funny)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381040)

Rede these:
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The UNIX Programming Environment by Brian W. Kernighan and Rob Pike

and you'll never be lost on any Unix-like system. Trust me.

Huh...? (2, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381047)

The "man" command doesn't work anymore? I know "man woman" definitely does not work. :P

man man (1)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381136)

The "man" command doesn't work anymore? I know "man woman" definitely does not work. :P

Try "man man" first, to understand how it works.

Re:Huh...? (2, Funny)

Khyron42 (519298) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381566)

A past lover went by the nickname "Cat." She had me install an alternate man page for cat that a previous boyfriend had written, including such tidbits as both of the command-line options chocolate and sex were required for cat to function normally. Also mentioned that any problems with cat were the fault of the user.

Sadly, there was no -q option, nor were there any debug features. I had to remove the program after a few months.

Re:Huh...? (1)

ReluctantBadger (550830) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383572)

"She had me install an alternate man page for cat that a previous boyfriend had written..."

Ladies and gentlemen, if you would kindly gather your personal belongings and leave by the nearest exit, Slashdot has finished scraping the bottom of the barrel and this site is now closed.

man porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15381859)

I once had a system that understood 'man porn'.

Re:Huh...? (1)

Al Dimond (792444) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382368)

I used to set up all my systems so when you tried to "man $foo" it would print "Real men need no directions on $foo!" You had to type "woman $foo" to get the manpage. It got really annoying after a while. For some reason, people thought it was funny when I said, "woman gunzip". They were probably the same people that buy those "Girlz and Gunz" videos.

There are books about Unix and Linux? (0)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381083)

"Anyone proficient with Linux had to climb the steep learning curve. Part of getting over the top for me was reading a hundred different Linux and Unix related books."

I remember my start in the *nix world (circa 1993) was a half-page typed command reference. One of the commands was "man". Another got me onto the new-fangled newgroups where every other question I needed answered was. It might just be me, but most of the Linux gurus I know picked up the environment a bit quicker than a "couple weeks"...without any books.

First three? (2, Funny)

Limburgher (523006) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381127)

Mine were Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, The Tawny Scrwany Lion, and The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook. Learning the Bash Shell seems a bit high-level for young children. . .

Re:First three? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15381181)

"Today's list of files is brought to you by the letters 'l', 's', and the key ''enter!""

Re:First three? (1)

weeboo0104 (644849) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382460)

I'm still waiting for "Curious George and the Man with Yellow Dog", "Everybody Segfaults", and "Where the Wild Unix Admins Are".

Politics of the Movement (4, Insightful)

shrapnull (780217) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381154)

I understand that TFA is about learning Linux, but I would hesitate to encourage people to join up as a simple hobbyist without doing some homework about the free movement as well.
The Cathedral and the Bazaar

In the Beginning, There Was the Command Line

Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution

Once you understand what you've become a part of, you're more likely to contribute in some way.

While not every user has to be a zealot, and not everyone is willing or capable to participate, the opportunity to become a part of something that will last longer then yourself is something people should be aware of in using GNU/Linux and GPL'd software.

I don't think it's enough to just use it because it's free. You need to have some sort of understanding as to why it's important, how standards empower the consumer, and that free information is the only way to go to keep our technological advances moving forward instead of getting stuck in a freeze-frame induced by patent lawyers and litigation that explicitly deters education (DMCA).

Knowing the goals of Open Source has often made members more forgiving of its present-day shortcomings, because the notions of freedom to use, freedom to change, freedom to learn and freedom to share outweigh some little compatibility nuances that exist today, but continue to improve through the contribution of the community at large.

Re:Politics of the Movement (2, Insightful)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383691)

I don't want to join a movement, or even learn about a movement. I want to use my computer. Your idea, while nice, doesn't really work for people who just want to know how to use things.

Suggestion (and a lament) (1)

kallisti777 (46059) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381160)

In a thread on this topic a couple of years ago, I recommended Think Unix by John Lasser (ISBN: 078972376X) as the best intro to *nix. Although countless forests have been chopped down to produce yet more manuals, I still think it is the absolute best place to start.

My lament is that we seem to be having conversations in circles. Next week, I'm sure some other talking head will declare 2007 to be the year of Linux on the desktop, then in a month the designers will blog about how usability lags behind commercial OSes, then we'll all make our own distros for our grandparents, then...

I fear we have forked. Score an entire year of posts -1, Redundant

Start with the historical texts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15381170)

I would start with the First Testament of the Holy Bible. Move on to the Qur'an and Goddard's A Buddhist Bible. Now that you've dealt with historical texts you're ready for more modern religious material, like man1-8 and Kernighan and Ritchie's 'C Programming Language.' The truly devout might want to consider leafing through rms' 'EMACS' manual, though be aware that even just reading the text exposes one to higher Carpel Tunnel risks. Zealots are encouraged to grep through the kernel source tree for hilarious examples of expletive use.

HAHAHAHA!!!

*cough*

Every Linux User? (3, Insightful)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381180)

Not every Linux user needs to become a Unix guru to use Linux. For me, reading a bit in the Ubuntu wiki took care of what I needed to use Linux on a daily basis. For my less tech-savv friend all it took was a Mepis cd. It was a live/install combo, and I told her to mess around with it until I had the chance to install it for her. By the time I had the chance, she already had it installed and she was happily using OpenOffice/Firefox/Gaim (which is all she ever used Windows for). I taught her how to change themes and how to install programs, and now she has more puzzle games then she'll ever need and even stupid desktop pets.

Really, I fail to see how every Linux user needs to read complex sysadmin books and learn everything about the command line.

Re:Every Linux User? (1)

sloth jr (88200) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383006)

Really, I fail to see how every Linux user needs to read complex sysadmin books and learn everything about the command line.


Good point.

As a syadmin, I live and die in the command line, and there's enough cool shit out there on the command line that every now and then I'll just sit back and sigh happily....

Been doing this so long, it's hard for me to think of Linux as user apps (though I use them).

sloth jr

Armadillo book. (1)

Optic (6803) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381192)

Essential System Administration, O'Reilly.

The K&R.

and maybe the Camel book, Programming Perl, O'Reilly.

Re:Armadillo book. (1)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381546)

Essential System Administration, O'Reilly.

I agree about the armadillo book it is really the only general purpose book to get. The other 2 should be decided on based on what you want to do. For example, if you want to setup a samba server then get TCP/IP administration (the crab book) and the O'reilly Samba book.

The common denominator with Linux/UNIX books is O'reilly, you can't go wrong with their stuff.

Re:Armadillo book. (1)

Tet (2721) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382078)

The common denominator with Linux/UNIX books is O'reilly, you can't go wrong with their stuff.

Sure you can [oreilly.com]. As a general principle, I agree with you. But not everything they've published is high quality.

Books? Bah! Magazines I say! (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381209)

Okay, though books are a good source of information, I've had better luck with my friends/family upgrading from Windows/Mac to Linux by using the following list of periodicals.

Tux Magazine - A Free e-zine geared towards the Linux Newbie. http://www.tuxmagazine.com/ This comes out approximately once per month in PDF format and is VERY good. It is published by Nicholas Petreley, who is well-regarded in the *nix world. He apparently has a book of his own out now - http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/linuxdeskhks/ - I have not seen or read it so cannot comment.

Linux Magazine Pro - http://www.linux-magazine.com/ - Note for those in the US - this comes as a pricey ($100/year) subscription but is WELL worth it!

Linux Magazine - http://www.linux-mag.com/ - more technical in nature but still very interesting.

The FIRST three books? (1)

bugg (65930) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381403)

The FIRST three books?

I surely hope by the time someone has become a Linux user, they've read way more than three books. I started with Dr. Seuss.

My Three (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381415)

First, there's The Songs of Distant Earth, by Arthur C. Clarke. GNU/Linux is a mix of old concepts and new, a quest for purism in an environment hobbled by legacy technologies and ideas. That, in many ways, the clash of the old, impure, and the new pure and perfect, is what Songs is about, and it's a real mind opener.

The second is Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson. This may seem an odd choice, but the fact is that Free Software, and GNU in particular, constitution new territory that requires revolutionary ideas to push forward, and resistance from the usual conformist powers that impose the old status quo on the new. Red Mars will get you into the right mind-set for the inevitable fight.

The third is The Naked Sun, by Isaac Asimov. There is an insular quality to much of GNU/Linux development, which needs to be overcome, at all costs, if you're to do the job right. If you're afraid of the open spaces, of the new territories you need to enter to create bang-up, top-notch, software, then you're liable to let your fears dictate your direction, and inevitable end up making mistakes again and again and again until you can overcome those fears. Asimov is in top form as he demonstrates the folly of claustrophobic thinking.

Avoid anything by Heinlein, and if you want to read some Niven, avoid the Pournelle collabs, they're likely to get you screaming for business-driven proprietary solutions.

Re:My Three (1)

vga_init (589198) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382591)

GNU/Linux is a mix of old concepts and new, a quest for purism in an environment hobbled by legacy technologies and ideas. That, in many ways, the clash of the old, impure, and the new pure and perfect, is what Songs is about, and it's a real mind opener.

And might I also suggest the works of Marx and Hegel.

This may seem an odd choice, but the fact is that Free Software, and GNU in particular, constitution new territory that requires revolutionary ideas to push forward, and resistance from the usual conformist powers that impose the old status quo on the new.

Also try the works of Lenin, Mao, and Trotsky.

Before interpreting this as a joke, it is useful to note that these items are relevant and have historical significance. Most of us are aware of both the positive and negative impacts of communist theory, and understanding these ideas in a real world context is no less useful than having them presented through fiction. They might even help you to be a better programmer. :)

A better starting place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15381430)

The Story About Ping [amazon.com] might be a better place to start. It's kid-friendly as well.

Getting "over the top" of the learning curve? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381499)

The learning curve has a top? As in, once you hit that point you start to get DUMBER? I had no idea.

Re:Getting "over the top" of the learning curve? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15385326)

That's how it works for Windows Users. Many of them used to use a typewriter, and by the time they've learned to use Windows, they can't handle anything with more than 3 buttons.

what I don't want ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15381519)

I can't tell you what book or books to use for general purpose Linux use, but what I hate is when there are 30 pages about the history of Unix and Linux and GNU and the FSF in every book I buy. I know the history well enough to spot errors in many books' version of it, and don't want to pay to read it again. The first taste of Linux books can keep this section, but it should be left out of the other books. Who buys a book on Linux kernel, device driver, or systems level programming without having a pretty good idea and knowing where to look for more details on this?

You don't need books. (0)

matt me (850665) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381520)

You don't need to read books to learn linux. On the contrary, I'd say any book is going to be irrelevant to 2006, your distro, what you want to accomplish.

How I got here: man, online documentation, and helpful community forums. Don't play down that last one. If you don't have a linux geek friend or brother to call on, forums will save you time and time again. Thanks y'all.

Here's my suggestions (1)

mentaldingo (967181) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381543)

  • The very hungry caterpillar
  • The cat in the hat
  • Green eggs and ham


Err... You did say the first three books, right?

Stupid learning curve analogy rears up again... (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381746)

if you plot knowledge gained (vertical axis) against time taken (horizontal axis), then a steep learning curve is the best to have as you learn a lot quickly...

Re:Stupid learning curve analogy rears up again... (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#15381954)

The learning curve is not "knowledge gained (vertical axis) against time taken (horizontal axis)"

It's knowledge required (vertical axis) vs. usability (horizontal axis).

Usability is defined by the software, be it gameplay or the ability to produce a useful spreadsheet. So, a "steep learning curve" means that much learning is required to get to the point of using the foo.

Re:Stupid learning curve analogy rears up again... (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382322)

It's knowledge required (vertical axis) vs. usability (horizontal axis).
bollocks... here's a proper definition [msn.com] that even wintrolls cannot dispute...
learn.ing curve (plural learn.ing curves)

noun
Definition:

1. rate of learning: the rate at which a new subject or skill is learned

2. graph plotting learning outcomes: a graph that shows the relation between the rate at which knowledge or a skill is learned and the time spent acquiring it

so a "steep" learning curve is one where knowledge is mastered quickly...

Re:Stupid learning curve analogy rears up again... (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382457)

Foot, meet mouth. My bad.

Originally, the learning curve was unit cost vs. total units produced -- see wikipedia.

But I think that the 'steep learning curve' meme that we see so much is based upon the incorrect concept that I believed (until now).

"UNIX philosophy" is outdated (1)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382238)

Examples:

1. Perl/Python/Ruby: They attempt to provide every feature under the sun, with no pretense of doing one thing well.

2. Firefox: Okay, you could say the one thing it does well is "browsing the web," but that's far and away from clasic examples of how the UNIX philosophy is supposed to work. Firefox is not a collection of 20 small programs.

3. Inkscape, Sketch-Up, Blender...any big app, really.

Re:"UNIX philosophy" is outdated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15384305)

For a meaningful example of the "UNIX Philosophy" (the 1 program, 1 task bit, not the everything a file one) then I always give File Roller. It's task is to provide an interface for commands which each de/compress one type of archive (apart from bloody 7zip). I think this is a good example as file compression programs are among the top downloads for Windows, because each tries to do everything and fails in some way. As far as Firefox goes, it is more UNIX-like than the Mozilla Suite (which no longer needs features galore, as it is no longer commercial) but has been adopted by loads of Windows users, who have got it playing movies and music, downloading files through Bittorrent and what-not because in their philosophy it is better because it is all in one package (and decreasing dependence on Explorer is usually popular). To me I hate the idea of a web browser replacing my desktop, as it is not designed for the job. By using Epiphany which relies on external apps people often say "Why not just use Firefox to play the videos you click on", at which point I ask them why they have 7 media players installed but play everything in Firefox. Anyway, that's my outlook.

I recommend Ulysse (1)

Hwyman (840955) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382390)

If you are able to make your way thru James Joyce's Ulysse and more importantly understand what you just read, you will be able to understand Linux/Unix.

Alternate 3 books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15382697)

Interesting list of three books. Here is my list.

"Unix for the Impatient" by Abrahams and Larson
"A Practical Guide to {Unix varient}" by Sobell
"Essential System Administration" by Aeleen Frisch

The first two books are how I learned Linux back in '91/92, in fact it was primarily the 1st Ed. of "Unix for the Impatient" that I used. I find any dirt cheap copy you can pick up of Sobell to be good enough. I have two copies sitting here, and both are ancient (one has a picture of an S-100 card), but still useful (these days I only refer to them when I'm forced to use 'vi').

Limiting yourself to three books is pretty rough, but I couldn't figure out which of the above three to drop in order to add:
"TCP/IP Network Administration" by Craig Hunt

Z.

The FIRST? (1)

Kuukai (865890) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382734)

I think for me they were Goodnight Moon, Hop on Pop, and Cat in the Hat, but whatever floats your boat...

Article summary author? (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382752)

Did lessthan0 write the article, or just the article summary? It's in the first person, so it appears that he wrote it, but I can't tell.

If he didn't write the article, then it looks like he's taking credit for it.

The Linux books that I found most helpful when learning Linux were... oh wait, this Ubuntu live CD is still sitting on my desk. I'll have to get around to that sometime...

- RG>

bootstrapping your linux skills (1)

sloth jr (88200) | more than 7 years ago | (#15382974)

Not sure a book is the best way to go... most linux boxen have enough on there that you could bootstrap yourself into linux mastery without too much difficulty. Start with these commands:
cd
ls
mv
rm
chmod
chgrp
man

Learn about the command line switches via man. When you think you've got a handle on that, add these:
bash
find
grep
sort
uniq
vi|emacs|nano (not touching this one editorial-wise - use whatever editor rocks your boat, I've got my favorites, you'll have yours)

Then top it off with one or more of the following:
awk
perl
python

and for network, try:
netstat (many many options here)
traceroute
ping
route
ifconfig

That's pretty much the shit you'll use most days if you're larking around linux. Then start browing around with man.

sloth jr

overgeneralization (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383073)

> Anyone proficient with Linux had to climb the steep learning curve.

Even ignoring the bad metaphor (a "steep" learning curve is one where learning occurs quickly), this is simply not true. Anyone who (like me) was already familiar with Unix before encountering Linux--in my case, before Linux was created--will find learning Linux a fairly trivial task. Or, to be more precise, learning GNU. (My proficiency with the kernel and its obscure interfaces is quite low, but my proficiency with GNU and the layers above is very high.)

There's also the question: do you need to become proficient with Linux or GNU/Linux? Most people who use Windows are not proficient with it. In fact, it is nearly impossible to become truly proficient with Windows, since so much of it is deliberately hidden and opaque. The only version of Windows that I can claim even the faintest proficiency with is Win3.1, and even there, I barely scratched the surface (although I was a DOS guru). What most people do is become proficient with various apps, and that one can do with a Linux-based system just as easily as one can with a Windows-based system without ever understanding Linux (or GNU/Linux) or Windows.

Most people will only need proficiency with Gnome and/or KDE, and then they will be free to use Linux or BSD or Solaris or any of a host of other systems, free or otherwise. Some (like me) may need or want proficiency with POSIX and/or GNU, and again, they will be ready and productive with a variety of systems. Only the tiniest handful actually need proficiency with Linux, and they are the ubergeeks! :)

In any case, I think the point here is that gaining "proficiency in Linux" depends both on where you start and where you want to end up. I haven't read the first of those books, but the second strikes me as a somewhat dubious recommendation (it is possible to use Linux without ever touching bash--it's even possible to run Linux without having bash installed). And the third is a fine book, but not necessarily one I would recommend to the average office user.

First book I read (1)

neclimdul (252554) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383285)

First book I read and the first book I suggest to any computer savy friend interested in linux is the Gentoo Handbook [gentoo.org]. I'm not trying to start a distro flamewar but is does a really good job of explaining nearly everything you are putting into your system as you install it. Plus you end up with a working linux install which is a definite plus. Then if you aren't burned out any of the books above will give you a better understanding of why everything works the way it does and how it varies from system to system. Most users don't care about the later though. That's my $0.02 for what its worth.

There is one book they should read before.. (1)

lelitsch (31136) | more than 7 years ago | (#15383680)

Three nice books, but I'm still in favor of starting everyone out with Learning the UNIX Operating System [oreilly.com]. Anyone can do it in a few hours and it will save days of frustration down the road. It's probably the only one that gives you just about all the information you can absorb in one go. And with no fat or carbs added.

3 books for USERS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15384009)

Mod me down but... How is Linux going to go really mainstream if every user has to read 3 books first?

Good places for free docs (1)

FCD1 (617835) | more than 7 years ago | (#15384182)

The Linux Documentation Project ( http://tldp.org/ [tldp.org] ). The HOWTOs and FAQs are the most valuable resources. Caveat: some of the information may be outdated, look at the date of the last update. Beginners should always read the accompanying documentation of their distribution first. It is the easiest way to get started. Once you feel familiar with your distro, you can go on gaining deeper insight into the inner workings of Linux by reading the HOWTOs and the kernel documentation (part of the kernel sources). There are a lot of other documents already installed with almost every distro. The man and info pages are the place to go to learn about a specific command. Also look for directories called "doc", like /usr/doc. Another good source for info is the homepage of your distro. For example, if you use openSUSE, check out the SDB (support data base) at http://opensuse.org/SDB [opensuse.org]. In any case, when installing Linux for the first time, the first thing that you should get working is your internet connection and a web browser. That way you have access to all the online documentation as well as the discussion boards. Google Linux ( http://www.google.com/linux [google.com] ) is another good place to find specific info. You can find lots of free information if you know where to look.

I needed one realbook. (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 7 years ago | (#15385065)

Linux for Dummies. The rest I learned from man pages and the PDFs that came bundled with me early distros.

LK
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