November 30, 2000

Web review: Berger's

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
A visit to the (MUO) website is reassuring, like holding hands with your mom when you're a little kid. She'd point to the lightning and say, "It's scary, isn't it? But you're safe with me." In much the same way, Tom Berger, the webmaster and wise man of MUO, takes Mandrake disciples deftly by the hand and leads them through Linuxland.Be assured, there is a lot to learn once you've taken the plunge into an Open Source operating system. The more you learn, the more you realize that resources like MUO are vital to your sanity. After all, LUGs are great, but not everyone manages to latch on to a real live mentor who is available 24 hours a day. That's where Berger's site comes in, at least for Mandrake users (though much of the advice at MUO is applicable to other distributions).

The site is plain-Jane, something all help-seekers should be grateful for, because fancy design and frilly graphics only slow down the answers to questions. MUO has nine major topic sections: administration, connectivity, hardware, installation, gnu/linux basics, other resources, security, troubleshooting, and X. The articles, for the most part, are easy, step by step instructions for things like using root, scheduling, using bash, upgrading the kernel, installing non-RPM programs, compiling source code, and lots of other important intelligence.

Where the tutorials fail at times: jargon usage without adequate translation, and lack of newbie-geared detail. It's a forgiveable failing. When someone who is intimately familiar with a process or a culture speaks about it, he tends to overlook the fact that his listeners are clueless compared to him, and so includes specialized terms without explaining them, or leaves out elementary but essential processes. That happens a little bit here, even though Berger freely admits he's not a programmer, just a relative newcomer to gnu/linux.

MUO also provides a user forum, in case you can't find the answer to your burning question on the site, or if you have a tip to share with the world. The general discussion is the busiest section of the forum, though. It's the place to go if you want chatty conversation - and questions about how to install stuff, etc. (It seems people don't always bother to go to the correct section to post requests for help.)

MUO has a place right on the front page to sign up for the newsletter. I just recently subscribed to the weekly tome and so haven't received my first issue. There is an archive on the site that stops back in July. I hope that doesn't mean there haven't been any new editions since then, because the old ones are interesting.

Tom's 'to-do' list is posted right on the main page, too, but it looks like it's gone 'un-done' for some time. Again, I hope that this is just a temporary lapse in the upkeep of the site, because it is definitely worth keeping current.

The site is downloadable as a zip or tar file, and this is current as of early November. Included in the site files is an about page that is not linked from anywhere in the site, that I've been able to ascertain. It's a little look into the background of the webmaster and worth a read.

You'll enjoy visiting this site whether you're a Mandrake user or just a GNU/Linux generalist. Check it out.

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