March 3, 2003

Beginner Linux Book Review: "Linux for the Rest of Us" by Mark Rais

- By Konstantin Klein

Dear PC owner: You have the right to choose an Operating System to your liking. You
are allowed to pay for a single license (no copies, please!) of the OS
as well as of any application program you might need. After you paid for
all these licenses, you are entitled to an easy installation, a colorful
user interface and - probably most important for you - easy file exchange
with others in your business or personal neighborhood.

Of course, you could have everything for a lot less money, but you knew
that already, didn't you? You've heard of open source software, you've
heard of Linux, and maybe you are even about to make The Switch - but you've
also heard horrible stories of people stuck in Linux hell.

Be not afraid, dear PC owner, be not afraid. Today's Linux flavors
(or "distros", as they are called) are easy to install, easy to configure
and easy to use. Yes, they are more configurable than any version of Windows,
and you can tell a Linux computer to do things a regular Windows box doesn't
even know of. The problem here is: Linux users know all this stuff already,
or they at least pretend to, so sometimes very little advice is provided
to the unsuspected user.

This is where Mark Rais comes into the picture. "Linux for the Rest
of Us" tells you things even those, who try to market Linux to the novices,
keep forgetting to mention. He tells you how to set up a system that works
under both Windows and Linux - a re-assuring concept for those who won't
give up on Windows yet. He tells you where your new Linux OS might run
into trouble during setup - and what to do about. And to make sure you're
not just a regular computer user with a different desktop look, he even
introduces you to some basic features of the Linux world - such as Basic
Linux commands that might be useful when you have to troubleshoot, and
might introduce you into the more powerful, but also more abstract world
of Linux computing.

To make things less abstract again, Rais introduces us to his Granny,
apparently a computer-savvy nice little old lady who just is tired of paying
a lot for upgrades of programs she is not totally happy with to begin with.
Between apple pies, Granny tells us how to dump MS Office in favor of StarOffice
(in fact, this very article was written with, the open source
version of StarOffice - and you couldn't tell it from something written
with MS Word, could you?) and how she uses The Gimp to produce graphics
others use PhotoShop to make - for a lot more money. And Mark himself tells
a story everybody who has more than one computer might know already, a
story of making two Windows computers talk to each other. Surprise: Since
Linux was written as a networkable operating system from scratch, it has
a lot less problems with networking than older basic versions of Windows.

"Linux for the Rest of Us" is a small book, just over 100 pages. So
don't expect to know everything about Linux there is to know; probably,
even Linus Torvalds, the man who started the Linux project, doesn't know
everything, although he knows a lot. Rais's book makes for good reading
for the first time you are reading it; after that, just keep it handy next
to your new Linux box - you might be thankful to have it for a quick reference.


More details:  "Linux for the Rest of Us",
108 pages, by Mark Rais, published through Eagle Nest Press, ISBN 0-9726790-0-6,publisher web site link

Konstantin Klein is a freelance television news correspondent and the editor-in-chief of


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