r3lody writes "Finding a single book that encompasses what you want to learn can be difficult. Most cover a few portions of a subject in depth and skim over (or omit) others. Other books will cover each topic at about the same level: high enough to give an impression of what can be done, but not with enough depth to do it without a lot of effort. In A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, Mark G. Sobell has created a single volume that gives the reader enough information to effectively install, configure and run workstations and servers using Ubuntu Linux. He has come the closest I have seen to containing all of the necessary information without being too shallow. Granted, to include everything you would want to know about Ubuntu Linux would take several books of this size, but this particular one provides most users the best bang for the buck. A DVD with the Gutsy Gibbon release of Ubuntu in a directly bootable form is included with the book." Read below for the rest of Ray's review.With over two decades of experience related to Unix and Linux, Mark G. Sobell has authored almost two dozen books on the subject. I had previously read and reviewed his book A Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux: Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (Second Edition) and found it the highest quality book I had yet read on Linux. This, his latest book, bears many similarities to the other text, including its high quality. The overall structure is like that of a textbook, providing a summary and exercises at the end of each chapter, as well as copious cross-references.
A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux is broken up into five parts containing 27 chapters in all. After providing the now obligatory history of Linux and the GPL, Part I uses two chapters to provide an overview of, and step-by-step instructions for, installing Linux. The overview provides information about the process including how to try Linux with the Live DVD supplied, planning your hard disk layout, acquiring a newer version of Ubuntu, and the install process in general. The step-by-step chapter goes into great detail on each step of the process, using both the graphical and textual installation paths. It also throws in additional detail on how to configure the X server.
Now that you have Linux in a runnable form, Part II provides higher-level information that shows newer Linux users what they can do. Four chapters serve to introduce basic Linux to the user. Topics include how to update, install and remove program packages, how to use the command line (and some basic utilities such as cat, ls, more, less, etc.), how the filesystem is laid out, shell concepts such as pipes and job control, and where to find additional documentation.
Part III uses another four chapters to dive deeper into the Bourne Again Shell (BASH), the GUIs, and networking. First the X Window System is described, followed by the GNOME and KDE desktops. BASH is covered in two separate chapters, inexplicably separated by the chapter on networking. The first BASH chapter provides the reader with information on startup files, command history, redirection, etc. The other BASH chapter goes into depth regarding programming BASH scripts. The intervening networking chapter provides a basic understanding of network protocols and some utilities such as ping, traceroute, host and dig.
Up to this point, Mark has been showing the user how to use Ubuntu Linux with little modification. Starting with Part IV, he describes how to perform the more common configuration tasks. Using seven chapters and over 200 pages, Part IV provides a great deal of detail regarding system administration. Starting with some core concepts (running as root, sudo, startup scripts, wrappers, recovery mode, etc.), Mark then leads the reader into the nooks and crannies of the filesystem. The following chapter shows how to add and remove applications using apt, aptitude, dpkg, wget and BitTorrent. Printing using CUPS is given its own chapter next, as is the (at least to me) daunting task of rebuilding the system kernel. The last two chapters in Part IV cover the miscellaneous administration tasks of adding, changing, and deleting users and groups, backing up and restoring files, managing the various logs, and setting up your network connections (both wired and wireless).
The final section, Part V, uses nine chapters to go into depth on set up various servers and use their clients. OpenSSH, FTP, exim4 (for mail), NIS, NFS, Samba, DNS/BIND, the firewall (firestarter and iptables), and finally Apache. Each of the chapters provides Jumpstart sections to help you install and configure each server quickly, and enough detail to handle the more common configuration changes.
There are five appendices covering regular expressions, where to get help, general security considerations, the Free Software Definition, and a bullet list of major items added to the 2.4 kernel to form the 2.6 kernel. These are followed by a fairly comprehensive glossary and index.
Overall, A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux by Mark G. Sobell provides all of the information a beginner to intermediate user of Linux would need to be productive. The inclusion of the Live DVD of the Gutsy Gibbon release of Ubuntu makes it easy for the user to test-drive Linux without affecting his installed OS. I have no doubts that you will consider this book money well spent.
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