September 2, 2008

Book review: <i>Ubuntu for Non-Geeks</i>

Author: James F. Koopmann

Ubuntu has experienced its share of success, but it's still relatively unknown amongst non-technical people. Many aren't aware that an open source operating system actually exists, and those who are lack the education required to move comfortably from Microsoft Windows to a Linux-based desktop. Ubuntu for Non-Geeks: A Pain-Free, Project-Based, Get-Things-Done Guidebook, by Rickford Grant, introduces non-Linux users to the world of Linux and shows them how to be productive in a complete Linux environment.

The book's layout and presentation allow you to easily find the material you're looking for. The language is clear and the topics pointed, making it a non-technical book that you can follow even if you've never touched a Linux or Unix environment. Technical readers who want to get to the point might have difficulty reading every word, but this book is for non-geeks, and Grant likes to make it entertaining; if you want to captivate a non-geeky mother-in-law, this book could keep her attention for a while.

While this book is aimed at a non-geek, it still assumes the reader understands certain terminology. This could possibly throw off those who have never touched an operating system before. A glossary in the back of the book might solve this problem.

After you get past the fun but uninformative chapter titles and start reading the subtitles, you will find well-organized and orderly information on just about any topic any Ubuntu newbie will want to research. Even though this book is marketed as a non-geek user guide, more technical types who haven't installed, used, or set up a Linux environment will get some benefit from it as well. It includes more than 30 projects that take you step by step through various tasks to build your knowledge of the Ubuntu and Linux environments. From customizing the GNOME Panel in Chapter 3 to virus scanning with avast! antivirus in Chapter 18, you'll have plenty to experiment with.

With its project-based approach to building the reader's knowledge, this book is truly a guidebook. In fact, it should almost become required reading to use Ubuntu. It cuts through the mess and ambiguity of using an open source Linux distribution. You can get a closer look at the book on the No Starch Press Web site, and download Chapter 3 for free to get a feel for the layout of the book.

Ubuntu is great for getting Linux into the hands of those not easily convinced to throw away Windows just yet, but one of the biggest challenges in getting Linux to the masses is actually getting the operating system and viable software installed on a computer. Books like Ubuntu for Non-Geeks can help.


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