The arrival of Mark G. Sobell's "A practical guide to Ubuntu Linux"
a few days ago prompted me to try living in Ubuntu for a day. I'm
a Mac guy (or have been since OS X anyway), but that's because of Unix
more than anything else, so I could just as easily use Linux as my
The first challenge was installation. I have a spare box I could
use for this, but I'm a fan of virtualization, so why not use it
on the MacBook? Indeed, why not, but Parallels let me down: for
the first time in all the Linux installs I have done, the latest
Ubuntu could not initiate an X session to install from. That
was surprising, because I've installed older versions of Ubuntu
under Parallels - why is this different? I futzed with it a little,
but got nowhere, so decided to try it under VMWare Fusion.. that
went without a hitch and very soon I had a brand new 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon
running under VMWare.
First things first: I needed to get a connection to this website.
That would require getting the .ssh/id_dsa from the MacBook. I
scp'ed it over and was able to login. Firefox of course was easy to
get running, but then I hit my first usage glitch: on the Mac, I'm used
to CMD-TAB moving me between running applications.. I'll need to
retrain to use ALT-ESC to switch application windows (ALT-TAB is nice
for quick switching between just two windows).
Boy, the temptation to abandon this and go back to what I'm
familiar and comfortable with is hard to resist. Oops, there's something
I do not like: the Update Manager just stole focus from me. Windows
shouldn't steal focus. Not ever. There's no argument that will ever
convince me that is civilized or acceptable. Leave me typing where I
am typing, thank you very much! That seems so basic to me I'm doubting it
really happened.. did it??
Mark's book is too big. At over 1,000 pages it is two inches thick -
clumsy to handle. However, it definitely covers its subject matter and
then some.. but who is its intended audience? If you know Linux, you
don't need this level of handholding and will probably be annoyed and
bored by the detailed attention to the basics. But if you need all
that tutelage, how likely are you to be trying out Ubuntu anyway and if
by chance you
are, isn't this giant book going to scare you? I don't know..
Hmm.. no spring loaded folders in Gnome.. oh well, I can live with
I also wonder whether it's wise to include a DVD as this book does.
Obviously it adds to the cost, and if someone doesn't have a good
Internet connection to download a current .iso or dvd image, it's
quite possible that they still have a CD reader rather than a DVD..
the old box I could have used instead of installing under virtualization
only has a CD..
Because Mark covers so much, some of it gets pretty techy.. that
worries me too because someone new to Linux that is not a geek
type will pick this up in a bookstore and flip to the middle and
surely freak out.. so again, the people who will appreciate
the more technical stuff don't want the basics and vice versa.. I
just think its a bad idea to try to do both, at least in one volume.
Wouldn't it be better all around to split this into an "Introducing
Ubuntu" and a companion "Getting the Most from Ubuntu" (just my idea
of appropriate titles, of course).
There is a class of user this would be idea for: someone pursuing
Ubuntu certification. That's when you want to cover everything under the sun,
including the basics, just to be sure that you are ready for any
sort of question on the exams. This book would be perfect for that.
I used Ubuntu the rest of the day.. if I didn't have a Mac, this
would be fine. There's really nothing I do that I couldn't do
just as well in Ubuntu. No great surprise for me there, but I suspect that
your average Windows user would be surprised: I imagine they'd think
that if they had to leave Windows, Mac would be a softer landing.. that
might have been true once, but I don't think it is now.
Tony Lawrence 2008-01-29 Rating:
Index by Subject
- Mark G. Sobell
- Prentice Hall
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