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Linux in Easy Steps
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2008
As a university instructor, I was looking for a simple introduction to Linux for possible classroom use. Mike McGrath's Linux in Easy Steps is the best book I have found to address these needs. It is not perfect, but it is quite good. The book includes 10 chapters:

1. Getting started.
2. Exploring the desktop.
3. Touring the filesystem.
4. Running office applications.
5. Running media applications.
6. Command the shell.
7. Handling files in the shell.
8. Performing shell operations.
9. Networking with the shell.
10 Command references.

This book has the double advantage of introducing the reader to both Ubuntu, one of the most popular Linux distributions, and to Linux command lines. The style is clear and practical with a lot of steps and visuals. Chapters 1-5 cover Ubuntu and GUI applications. Chapters 6-10 cover Linux commands.

It is a short book (192 pages), and sometimes I wish that the author would spend more time explaining specific terms (e.g., swap partition, logical partition). In addition, I would have hoped that he explains how to install fonts on page 63, use Skype as an example on page 84, and use Windows Media streaming on page 89.

But, on balance, the author focuses primarily on what a new Ubuntu/Linux user needs to know to use the OS. The "Hot tip" and "Don't forget" items in the margins provide valuable additional information (e.g., what is the ext3 file system). The chapter about the Linux file system clearly explains with nice Windows parallels the different Linux directories. I have not seen a better explanation than McGrath's in my other Linux books. The description of the sudo command is outstanding for new Linux users. Even though this book is an introduction, McGrath goes into some detail about command lines. Things like printing from the shell, evaluating expressions, and scripting for the shell are included in the book. Chapter 10 recaps all the commands discussed in the book.

Overall, this is an excellent and inexpensive book for Ubuntu/Linux beginners.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2009
While I like the book, "Linux In Easy Steps", it left some things to be desired. One big gripe I have with the book is that certain concepts aren't explored in sufficient detail, e.g. swap partitions. Another gripe I had was the lack of practice files to match some of the lessons, which is what I'll focus on now.

In some lessons, the author, Mike McGrath, has you type up simple text files for the lesson. If we had been able to do that for all the lessons, it would have been something! Yeah, it would have been a bummer to set up and type the practice files by hand, but at least the reader would have had a practice file! He doesn't have you do this, so when you go to do a lesson, e.g. on handling archives on pp. 134-135, there is no practice file to use for the lesson. He has you perform these operations, yet there's NO FILE ON WHICH TO PERFORM THEM!

There is no companion CD with the book, a la` the Microsoft Step by Step series. There is no companion website for the book, a la` the excellent Exploring MS Office Series by Robert Barber and Maryann Grauer, which provides downloadable practice files for the lessons. If either one of those options had been available, it would have been something! Unfortunately, the reader has neither option available to him. How is one supposed to learn the material without practicing it first? Learning computers and their applications is like swimming; the only way to learn them is to DO them. Without practice files to match many of the lessons, the book loses its value.

Another thing I didn't like was how the 'hot tips' were incomplete. For example, on the exercise pertaining to root passwords, one of the hot tips shows you how to lock down root access; what they don't show you is how to UNLOCK, i.e. restore, root access-duh! I had to go digging for that on an Ubuntu forum; I had to look for an item that should have been in the book already! What would a newbie have done if he weren't well versed in searching the Ubuntu forum? He would have been SOL, that's what!

Now, I know you can use the 'sudo' command to get around this, and that's what I did for a long time. I still do that, since it only allows me root access for the operation in question, thus enhancing security. However, I still didn't appreciate being told about one operation, while not being told about its companion operation. Once I found out what to do, I made a note in the book where the hot tip was. I don't think I should have had to do that; the author and/or publisher should have had this information in the book.

As for what I liked, I like the fact that it's not too hard for Linux newbies like myself. I'd contemplated the switch to Linux for a long time; when a nasty virus forced the issue and was unable to procure a recovery CD from Dell (that's a whole 'nother story!), I got an Ubuntu disk, and I haven't looked back. This book has given me the tools to really use my new OS to its full advantage. The book gave me the confidence to use Ubuntu, and use it well.

I also like the handy command reference in the back. For that alone, the book is worth purchasing. I'm new to the command line (I cut my computer teeth on Windows 3.1, so I never got acquainted with DOS, the MS counterpart to Linux's CLI), so I need to look up those commands I don't always use. It has more frequently used commands, and it has some of the more common options too-a nice touch. That reference is handy, which is why I bought the book.

In closing, while the book is a nice intro to Linux, it could have been better. While it acquaints the Linux newbie with how to use the Gnome desktop and perform common operations in that GUI environment, I found its lack of practice files, user generated or otherwise, a big letdown; I couldn't do some of the CLI exercises, because I didn't have the practice files he asks you to use-duh! Some of the information isn't complete, either; the user isn't presented with all the options and companion operations, e.g. how to lock the root account down, but neglecting to show the user how to UNLOCK it too. This book, while it's a good intro to Linux, could have been so much better. For that reason, I give it three stars. Thank you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
When I first installed Linux on my computer back in the late 1990s the whole experience pushed me to the limits of my understanding of computers and operating systems. Were it not for advices from a few of my ueber-geek friends, I would have probably thrown my hands in despair and stayed well within the Windows realm. Fortunately, I persisted with improving my Linux skills, and have benefited tremendously from several powerful software tools that are still best when used within the Linux environment.

This book aims to take out as much of a pain as possible from switching to Linux for those who are not necessarily tech savvy. The book is very nicely formatted on a glossy paper with many useful images and screen-shots. It covers most of the basic Linux functionality and focuses almost exclusively on Ubuntu distribution. Nonetheless, most of the material is applicable for most distributions of Linux or Unix.

Despite this book's accessible style and easy to follow step-by-step instructions, the fact remains that Linux (especially in its command-line mode) is not the most user-friendly operating system environment. This book manages to simplify things as much as possible, but there are still many pieces of background information that need to be understood well before one becomes more comfortable with working in Linux. However, if you are willing to expand your knowledge on an ongoing basis, then this book would be a perfect first steps on that journey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2008
This is not a highly technical reference book, or the end-all Linux Bible. It is a nice, easy introduction to Linux. The lessons are arranged in quick bite-size pieces that are easy to swallow. Walks you through a familiarization tour of Ubuntu Linux. Just what I needed for a first experience in a New World.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2012
As someone who wanted to get started learning about Linux, I'm finding this book informative and enjoyable to read. It is well laid out and includes handy lists of symbols and commands.
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on October 28, 2013
I resisted 5-stars only because I was expecting a little more coverage on the shell side, as compared to the GUI and their plentiful colored screenshots. Having said that, this was my oversight and I realize other books are available for more depth at the command prompt. I found the main (first) sections of the book around user interface pretty basic and didn't pay any attention to the little voice in my head that considered it "very elementary". The fact is: this book would suffice for someone who needs to understand the GUI for Linux is not that different from what they may be used to with Windows, generally. However, this is an excellent 'getting to know you, getting to know me' type of book for beginners and non-Linux techies. I've grown up with Windows and generally not required much exposure to Linux - until recently. My current job requires I transfer all I know about the old days of DOS and the Windows Power shell over to Citrix, Linux and other flavors of Terminal services. For the money, it's a great starter that will prep you well for the more advanced techniques.
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on April 1, 2014
When I found this Book in a Search for Linux beginner books I purchased it anyway even though it was out of date somewhat and wasn't exactly what I needed, but it was inexpensive enough. I was searching for explanations of various items before I wipe out Windows XP PRO and load either Linux Mint Mate #14,15, or 16. Just wanted more information on other types of Linux 'distro's and basic information. Those areas are covered enough for me. So Yes, it was worth my money to buy this book even though it will most likely sit in my book collection and only used as a reference from time to time 'IF' needed.
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on May 10, 2014
I'm new to Linux and I wanted to be able to use it in conjunction with exploring the Raspberry Pi. This looks like a good way to become acquainted with Linux, except it is aimed exclusively at Windows users and there are no provisions for doing the early steps on a Mac. Since the Mac has become a major platform, this seems to be a major flaw.
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