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Review Ubuntu 7.10 Linux Unleashed, 3rd Edition

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

    Authors: Andrew and Paul Hudson
    Format: Paperback, 840 pages
    Publisher: Sams; 3rd edition ( January 7, 2008 )
    ISBN-10: 0672329697
    ISBN-13: 978-0672329692

    Review by James Pyles
    April 6, 2008

    You may be wondering why I'm reviewing a book on Ubuntu 7.10 ("Gutsy Gibbon") on the advent of the release of Ubuntu 8.04 ("Hardy Heron"). If I've waited all this time to review the Hudson and Hudson book (released last January), why not wait until 8.04 is released, and the 4th edition of this book is written and published (as I write this, there are 18 days to go until the 8.04 release date)? Good question. Originally, I had given serious thought to just that course of action. Then something changed.

    I primarily "earn my daily bread" as a technical writer. Most of the time, my jobs are temporary contract work, so I don't stay at any one place for very long (on the order of months, usually...though I'm always in search of the "job of my dreams" that will keep me forever). Most of the time, I'm hired by a "Windows shop" and find myself working on a Windows XP machine (no Windows Vista yet, thank goodness). I usually adapt to the tools I'm provided and make suggestions where I can. Recently though, I was hired to work in a different kind of environment.

    It's not unusual for me to work with software developers. It is unusual for me to work with software developers who develop on Ubuntu (even the Linux developers I've worked with in the past have traditionally used Slackware). While the type of work I've been asked to do isn't really much different than other jobs, the tools I've been provided with are a real eye-opener...especially for someone whose primary home desktop is Ubuntu 6.06 (never found a reason to upgrade so far).

    Realizing that I'd never worked with Gutsy Gibbon, I thought it might be a good idea to get familiar with it. With that thought in mind, I spotted the Hudson and Hudson book in one of the stacks on the floor of my home office. An idea was born.

    I thought I could get a jump on things and spend the weekend working with Gutsy Gibbon and the various applications that I'll need to get to know as part of my current job. The SAMS book comes complete with an installation DVD. Why not give it a shot and review the book at the same time?

    I fired up VMWare Workstation, got the DVD out of the book and decided to get to work. Wait! What about the book? I might as well see what it says about the installation and configuation process ahead of time so I could compare my experience with what the book predicts. The DVD would have to wait a bit.

    I reviewed the previous edition of this book as well as other "Unleashed" books and I find them to be generally quite good, if a bit long. Of course, they are supposed to be comprehensive, so they're long by design, but I don't often need to read an "Unleashed" book cover to cover to get the information I require. This book is designed for the person new to Ubuntu and who will be trying out Gutsy Gibbon for the first time. If you're familiar with Ubuntu from previous editions, you'll be looking for the features that are new with 7.10 and not be quite so concerned with Ubuntu as a brand new experience.

    Having taken a look at what I should expect with this version and with the target audience in mind, I took the installation DVD out of the book and slipped it in my lab machine. The installation experience is within the context of VMware Workstation 5.5, but I don't anticipate that the basic process will be any different than installing it directly on a PC. As predicted, there weren't any surprises, either with the actual installation or with the instructions contained in the book (although, if you don't start the installation right away, a browser window opens, offering you some options in the GUI).

    While you might expect that a book with "Ubuntu" in the title would have a lot of "Ubuntu-centric" material contained within, it's important to remember that the Linux kernel is the Linux kernel. A great deal of Ubuntu is common to Linux in general. Also, the origins of Ubuntu can be found in Debian, so if you are a Debian person, much of what is under the hood will already be familiar to you when you read about it in this text.

    Since I'm familiar both with Ubuntu and with at least one prior edition of this book, I'd have appreciated a section in the front matter that explained what's new in this book and where to find it. I don't want to have to thumb through over 800 pages, trying to find something new in Gutsy Gibbon that didn't exist in Dapper Drake.

    As with all "Unleashed" books, you get it all, including the kitchen sink. This is good and bad, of course. The table of contents and index will help narrow things down if you are looking for something specific, but if not, you can follow the steps outlined in the first 2 chapters to install and configure Gutsy Gibbon and then take your time with the rest of the book, working through Ubuntu in all the ways you can. In fact, if you want to use your installation as a server, Part IV of the book introduces you to the options available (though there is a separate Ubutnu server product you can download and install).

    I thought Part V "Programming Linux" was actually pretty cool. There are chapters available for working with Perl, Python, PHP Scripts, and more. If programming isn't what you'd planned to do on your Ubuntu installation, you can safely ignore these chapters (and I suppose the chapters under Part IV if you won't be needing to use a web, print, or other server type). The book could have been sufficient for the home or small office user without those "extras" but it's nice to have them for those of us who do occasionally want to go beyond the "typical".

    That said and despite the book's size, it might not contain everything you want to know about Gutsy Gibbon, depending on how you want to use it and how in-depth you want to go. For instance, while there are sections of the book that cover wireless networking (and generally, Ubuntu WLAN capacities handle very well), if you run into a specific problem, you may find yourself turning to other resources to troubleshoot the issue. I'm not sure if I want to call this a problem with the book or not. On the one hand, it is annoying to try to find an answer in such a large tome only to discover it wasn't included. On the other hand, I don't want to have to lift this thing with a crane. No book "has it all". The trick is to write a book that has what the majority of the readers want and need.

    Is that Ubuntu 7.10 Linux Unleashed? Yes, I think so. I don't know if I'm going to drag this book into work on Monday morning, just so I have it on tap in case I have a question about Gutsy, but it's nice to know that it's available as a back up should I run into a situation where I need such a resource...plus, I have my own Gutsy system running as a VM at home to play with.
    Certifications: A+ and Network+

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