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Ubuntu Linux Bible (Book Review)

By Kat Tanaka Okopnik

ULB.RVW 20070419
%A   William von Hagen
%C	 Indianapolis, IN
%D	 2007   
%G   0-470-03899-3
%I   Wiley Publishing, Inc.
%O   http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470124547.html 
%P   904 pages
%T   "Ubuntu Linux Bible"


This massive, 2-inch (5cm) thick tome showed up on our doorstep (maststep?), just in time for my transition to Ubuntu. Somewhat embarrassingly for a staff member at LinuxGazette.net, I'd been using an aging Win2k machine for some time until it died, and then inherited our Editor-in-Chief's system running Debian unstable. That was perhaps not the best choice for a somewhat frazzle-prone computer user. Happily, Ubuntu lives up to its reputation as "Linux for people", and the Ubuntu Linux Bible carries on in this tradition.

Organization is Everything

The Ubuntu Linux Bible is aptly named - its four sections cover everything from the very basics to advanced topics:

This neatly separates major topic areas, so that the reader isn't burdened with sorting through portions that are below or beyond his or her current needs.

Each part is well-organized, with mini-indexes included throughout. Between the table of contents, the index, and various page titles, I had no problem finding the information I needed at any point. The boldface notes were pertinent, and reassuring; and the section headings were clear and easy to find. Skipping to the bullet points on any page generally gave a good overview of relevant commands.

I spent most of my time in the Desktop User chapters. I liked the layout of general introduction, followed by usage guides for individual applications, with a brief exploration of other application options. This went a long way toward helping me sort through the firehose of application possibilities that open source tends to offer.

The text is written in a precise but friendly manner, explaining concepts without engaging in either patronizing or overly aloof tones. Author William von Hagen and his editor have done a fantastic job of getting the necessary information on the page. Overall, it's like having a friendly Ubuntu guru close at hand to give general guidance.

Category: Documentation
In the end, the online Ubuntu community is so thorough and helpful that I found myself using the ULB as more of a yellow-pages guide to what was possible and available, rather than as an end reference.


The only criticism I have of ULB is the typesetting. Despite (or perhaps because of) being 900+ pages long, the type is small and grey and thin, and even my jeweler-trained eyes were straining to read the text. Also, some of the screenshot images (I noticed figs. 14.15 and 14.17 on pp.422-423) were illegible. These all seem to be cost-cutting choices, or perhaps they didn't look quite so bad in the proofing stages. I hope that this is resolved in a future edition, because otherwise the book is quite useful.


If the heft doesn't put them off, I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a suitable companion for the Linux newbie who has aspirations of doing more than checking e-mail, browsing the Web, and playing games. I'm looking forward to needing the more advanced topics, and it's nice to think that I'll be able to ask more clueful questions if I do my homework by reading more of the Ubuntu Linux Bible.

In the end, the online Ubuntu community is so thorough and helpful that I found myself using the ULB as more of a yellow-pages guide to what was possible and available, rather than as an end reference. For that purpose, the extreme breadth of materials covered was quite helpful, and I appreciated the shallowness of each point, knowing that I could get more detail if necessary from various Ubuntu fora.

The book comes bundled with a CD-ROM, but unfortunately the copy we received at LG had errors, and I was unable to review it.

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Bio picture

Kat likes to tell people she's one of the youngest people to have learned to program using punchcards on a mainframe (back in '83); but the truth is that since then, despite many hours in front of various computer screens, she's a computer user rather than a computer programmer.

When away from the keyboard, her hands have been found full of knitting needles, various pens, henna, red-hot welding tools, upholsterer's shears, and a pneumatic scaler.

Copyright © 2007, Kat Tanaka Okopnik. Released under the Open Publication License unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 138 of Linux Gazette, May 2007