Peter van derLinden's Guide to Linux
This is a smooth and easy to read guide to a somewhat controversial Linux distribution. Oh, sure, much of it would be valuable for any Linux, but its focus is Linspire (nëe Lindows), the distro that sometimes attracts sneers and strong censure from more sophisticated Linux users. This is the Linux that is installed on the cheap PC's you can buy from Walmart, Fry's and other retailers. Part of what causes the dislike is Linspire's Click and Run (CNR) subscription service; a $49.95 yearly fee promises to make it easier for you to download and install applications, but of course most of us raise our eyebrows and ask "So what's so hard now?". A more serious problem is Linspire's encouraging running as the root user, but perhaps they'll change that soon. Unfortunately, this author also suggests that running as root is acceptable. That's bad, but is really the only serious fault I can find.
But never mind that or the fee. It's not such a horrible fee, and there are people who have difficulty with installing Linux programs. My personal feeling is that such people should buy a Mac instead, and at some level the author of this work agrees: he recommends Mac to people who want all inclusive, hardware through software support AND a trouble free OS. Perhaps there's a middle ground here that Linspire and CNR fill for those adventurous enough to want to use Linux but not entirely confident in their ability to do so.
This book certainly is a confidence builder. A chatty and informative style leads the new user through everything they need to know and is careful to touch on those little things that might be worrying them. It's also packed with a large number of asides that talk about history, behind the scenes activities, origins of words and so on. There's nothing dull about this: there's even a cut-and-fold three dimensional paper Tux penguin included!
But this is far from just fluff and fun digressions. There's a lot of really good technical and how-to advice packed into its 575 pages. What I reviewed here was a pre-release copy that still had a few (very few) minor typos. Due out in August of 2005, the final version will include a Linspire live CD, so it could be an excellent gift for that friend or family member who doesn't understand why you don't use Windows.
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