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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So-so as a tutorial, pretty good as a reference
Mark Sobell's "A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming, Second Edition" follows a number of other "Practical Guides" that Sobell has authored on different flavors of Unix and Linux. Its title is quite descriptive, as it does not contain any material on GUIs, networking, printing, and so on.

The Good: this is basically two books for...
Published on June 5, 2011 by Alexandros Gezerlis

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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beyond frustrating
I really wanted to like this book as I am now a regular linux desktop user and want to learn shell/perl scripting. Unfortunately this book has been a tremendous letdown. The presentation of topics and the code examples do not build on one another and the ordering too often seems haphazard.

Readability of code samples is hindered by not numbering lines of code...
Published on May 7, 2010 by Nizdobs


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So-so as a tutorial, pretty good as a reference, June 5, 2011
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This review is from: A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
Mark Sobell's "A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming, Second Edition" follows a number of other "Practical Guides" that Sobell has authored on different flavors of Unix and Linux. Its title is quite descriptive, as it does not contain any material on GUIs, networking, printing, and so on.

The Good: this is basically two books for the price of one. The 300-page reference section toward the end of the book is very good: it contains tables of command arguments in a visually pleasing layout, specific notes, and on top of that it also includes exactly what the man pages sorely lack: detailed examples! Thus, the command reference in Part V alone is worth buying the book for. Sobell covers 100 utilities, ranging from one-page pointers (e.g. cal, renice, strings, wc) to mini-tutorials (e.g. find, grep, make, pax, sort). The early part of the book is 600 pages long and is intended to be both a tutorial and a reference. Sobell is explicitly trying to be novice-friendly: he has included chapter summaries, exercises (with answers to even-numbered exercises provided on his website), a glossary in an appendix, as well as numerous tables summarizing lessons learned (or about to be introduced). Such tables are scattered throughout the text and in the case of a few chapters (notably the ones on vim and emacs) they are also repeated in the form of very useful chapter summaries. Sobell is very good both at cross-referencing material and at collecting all the relevant information in one place. The first 5 chapters deal with the basics of interactive shell usage and are pedagogically sound, probably more so than the chapters that follow. After that, the author covers two different text editors and two different shells. Though Sobell doesn't seem to favor vim over emacs (or vice versa), in the case of shell programming he is unambiguous: "Do not use tcsh as a programming language ... If you are going to learn only one shell programming language, learn bash." (p. 350). On a different note, Sobell also includes various asides which are perhaps not necessary but are fun to read about, e.g. on the tee or the pstree utilities.

The Bad: this book tries to be two things at the same time, tutorial and reference, and succeeds more in the latter than in the former. This is unfortunate: this volume is too elementary for advanced Linux users, yet it may be too difficult for those with limited experience. A few examples of suboptimal pedagogy: a) Sobell seems to have a mix-and-match approach to writing new books, e.g. in chapter 4 the use of fstab and mount comes out of nowhere and is never really explained -- though it is explained in chapter 12 of Sobell's book on Ubuntu. b) Chapter 6 is nominally about the vim text editor, but in reality it's lacking pretty basic stuff (e.g. gg). Sobell seems to be more interested in old-school vi, ignoring vim capabilities like folding, keyword completion, and (most importantly) vim's visual mode. c) The organization of the material is not always sound: e.g. to understand the introduction to bash in chapter 8 one has to read portions of chapter 10 on bash programming. Unfortunately, the same also holds for the first half of chapter 10 itself, in which Sobell repeatedly uses concepts that are introduced in the second half. d) When the author introduces a new tool from scratch (see chapters 12, 13, and 14 on awk, sed, and rsync, respectively) the results are underwhelming: pages upon pages of tables and definitions with all examples postponed until later. e) Even though the book contains a number of errata, as of this writing none of them have been corrected on the author's website. Some of these are potentially grave: for example, on p. 305 Sobell describes (()) by saying that it expands an arithmetic expression, but then on p. 461 he includes a tip box highlighting the distinction between arithmetic expansion, $(()), and arithmetic evaluation, (()). What's even worse, using this book as a reference is also somewhat complicated: since it's purportedly aimed at beginners it is far from complete (e.g. Sobell has nothing to say about the printf builtin), but that doesn't change the fact that one still has to lug around a 1000-page volume.

In a nutshell, this an OK introduction to interactive shell usage, but not to shell programming. O' Reilly's tutorial volumes "Learning the bash shell" and "Classic shell scripting" (both of which can be read linearly) are much better when it comes to programming. Even so, the meticulous cross-referencing and the abundance of tables make Sobell's book a decent reference. All in all, 3.5 stars.

Alex Gezerlis
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beyond frustrating, May 7, 2010
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This review is from: A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
I really wanted to like this book as I am now a regular linux desktop user and want to learn shell/perl scripting. Unfortunately this book has been a tremendous letdown. The presentation of topics and the code examples do not build on one another and the ordering too often seems haphazard.

Readability of code samples is hindered by not numbering lines of code. It's a lot easier to read when the text says "Line 24 specifies the variable...." instead of trying to find the line referenced by "The third say statement specifies the variable....".

Most damning in my mind is the repeated sin of referencing material not yet covered in examples. So when I am reading page 200 there is no reason to throw out a code sample with material that won't be covered until page 450. This book is replete with examples like this! It's as if they had a general idea of the topics they wanted to cover, they wrote the text and code samples for each topic and only then decided on the order in which to present the information. I'm sorry to report that learning from this book is far more frustrating than it should be.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, authoritative, readable and educative, September 10, 2010
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This review is from: A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
Excellent book that will take your linux skills to the next level. Command line is where Linux shines and if you need to know what's under the hood, read this book, either cover to cover or just by chapters that interest you.
You'll hear many Linux enthusiasts gladly pointing to free online resources for learning Linux and although there are many, those resources are of varying quality and always fail to go into a deeper discussion accompanied by examples, end up pawing man pages or worse are just echo of somebody else's attempt at writing a Linux walkthrough.
This book is primarily practical. Although the opening chapter may seem unnecessary, dealing with history of GNU and Linux, chapters that follow dive deeper and deeper to show you just what is it that makes Linux shell so great.
The language in which this book is written makes it an authoritative source. If you ever caught yourself reading the man pages of any Linux utility, you noticed how incredibly terse and hard to understand the language of the man pages can be. The language of this book is just a notch down from the man pages language, it isn't hard on you but it will require your attention all the time as there's very little to none "filler material" and unnecessary repetition.
This is not to say that this material is dry and unreadable. The material is not only compiled information on utilities and their roles but author also shows his points in practice and makes you learn not only on how- to's but by contrast as well. I caught myself reading 30 pages at once when I noticed this book on the shelves of the bookstore, just by browsing through the pages.
Educative- if you set out to learn as many available commands with their most commonly used handles, the appendices of this book will greatly help you achieve just that since those appendices contain an impressive compilation of commands, their handles and (what most impressed me) what those handles do through examples. No other book or online guide that I've seen so far does that for its reader. Commands discussed aren't only the most popular ones, or the recommended ones for different levels, inside are explanations for commands that are used by more advanced users but explained on a very plain level and through non- trivial examples. That is way past the "hello world" level of online guides.
Although you'll probably be mostly interested in the Bash shell part, author discusses other available shells with the more advanced audience in mind (like tcsh and zsh) keeping the same level and depth of discussion, and where necessary, points out how things are done or which equivalent utilities are used in those shells as well as in Bash.
What isn't covered here is Linux networking. Everything that is explained pertains to working at an individual Linux workstation. It is assumed that you have an access to a completely configured and successful Linux installation that has all hardware and installation issues resolved. In this day and age, you'd probably want to do a virtual installation of Linux in a virtual machine thereby eliminating possible conflict due to non- compliant hardware.
This book helped me a lot while preparing for the Linux Professional Institute Certification level 1, especially for the first of the two exams (LPIC 101) that required exact knowledge of commands and their usage on individual workstations. I successfully passed that exam and those appendices with commands as well as explanations provided throughout the book proved invaluable at exam time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great if you are more than a beginner, March 5, 2013
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This review is from: A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
I purchased this book in the goal of learning more about the terminal and shell programming. I mainly use fedora but have touched ubuntu and mint. This book starts out easy to follow but quickly looses you in some chapters and you find yourself flipping around for answers or turning to Google to figure out what they are talking about. It almost seems like they are trying to stuff too much stuff into one book when it should be broken down into two books. I wouldn't recommend this book unless you are more of an intermediate user. Beginners should definately look for another book and be more familiar with the OS and terminal before jumping head first into this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only one advanced Linux command reference were to be chosen, this is among the top contenders, April 17, 2010
This review is from: A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors and Shell Programming appears in its second updated edition to provide a tutorial to the latest Linux commands and references. It's the only book to offer a primer on Perl for all system administrators, in-depth coverage of basic and advanced Linux shell programming, and tips and tricks for customizing the shell. If only one advanced Linux command reference were to be chosen, this is among the top contenders for the job.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Linux Commands are Explained - Nice Supplement to the Man Pages, October 7, 2013
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Some books you read all the way. Some books you just have as a reference for just in case. This fits very well in the latter category and can be very useful when you need to quickly glimpse a snippet of information.

One thing I did learn about when using this book recently is the Linux Command called, Apropos. I think it is the single most useful command on a 'working system' for leading you towards the commands you need.

gautiertalksopentech.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/most-important-linux-command-for-linux-knowledge
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Need some work., September 2, 2013
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This review is from: A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
Mostly codes would have liked more scripts and shell terminal information, a lot of the Perl code doen't work straight from the book in the version of Linux I'm using.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book!, February 23, 2013
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It's a good book for beginners and intermediates. I learned things from this book that I didn't know before. Well worth the price.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book., January 16, 2013
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This review is from: A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
This book was sold at a great price for a used product. It contains clear linux commands. It is easy to read and understand.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book - Can't recommend it enough. Well worth the price., January 15, 2013
Certainly one of the best (if not the best) books on the subject that I've ever seen. This was a prescribed text book for a course I did on *nix principles, and I must say that it is probably one of the best text books I've ever used for any subject. The explanations are thorough, but there is also enough summaries and quick references that make this perfect for both learning and reference. I wish all text books had that sort of dimensionality and depth.

I found the explanations to be very concise, easily readable and easy to comprehend. The way that Sobell writes is what makes the book as good as it is. He starts of very broad, but then fills in important details along the way, leaving no stone unturned. This is a shining example of how technical books should be written, and certainly the benchmark that all books on UNIX at this level should be compared against. I have kept my copy on hand as a reference, and still find myself going back to it from time to time.

This book will surely satisfy a reader of any level of expertise, looking for a step-by-step guide or something to have on hand as a reference. I cannot recommend or sing the praises of this book enough.
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A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (2nd Edition)
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