Top positive review
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An Excellent Book after you have installed Linux
on January 22, 1998
With the assistance of a friend who is more familiar with computer hardware than I am, I installed Linux on my PC several months ago. After that I downloaded a whole bunch of How-Tos and started exploring the Linux System. While the How-To's were extremely useful, they were a little obscure at times. Also they didn't always answer my questions. A month later I purchased 2 Books on Linux - Running Linux by Welsh & Kaufman and A Practical Guide to Linux by Mark Sobell. Welsh & Kaufman's book deals more with Systems Programming and Hardware Issues. In fact, the two books complement each other quite well. Running Linux is also somewhat "chattier" than Sobell's book which basically just "tells it like it is". Sobell's book, although it covers Systems Administration, mainly deals with issues like shell programming, editors, utility programs and programming tools. There are chapters on the Linux utilities, the filesystem, the Shell, X-Windows, the vi and Emacs Editors. Most importantly for me, there are 2 chapters on the Bourne Shell and Bourne shell scripts. Although there is an O'Reilly book on Bash which I have not seen and which presumably deals with Bash programming even more comprehensively, Sobell's book was the most useful and useable source of information on Shell programming that I have found so far. The Command summary at the back is also well presented and useful. Sobell does make extensive use of internal references, presumably because he did not want to restate the same material. While this does lead to a bit of page turning to get an answer sometimes, it leaves more room for other material, so I can readily accept it. Given the enormous amount of possible material that could be covered in any book attempting to deal with Linux comprehensively this is probably the wisest course. If you want a book on Linux and Hardware, then buy Running Linux by Welsh & Kaufman or download the appropriate How-To's (or both). Sobell's book is for use after you have your hardware problems largely solved and want to get on with customizing your system, using X-Windows, utilizing the various compilers, learning about the the Linux/Unix filesystem and basically getting the system to do useful things. There are several small quibbles I have with the book though. Firstly, there is the overlarge Typeface on the Table of Contents starting on Page xvii and running through to xlvii (that's 30 pages for the Roman Numeral illiterate) which is FAR too many. It appears to me that the Table of Contents is also meant to be used as a sort of Reference Guide. This is fair enough but the typeface is way too big. Secondly, as I said above, any comprehensive book on Linux/Unix will have to make decisions on what to put in and what to leave out and this is fair enough. However, it would be nice if the book included an appendix saying where one can obtain information on the topics not dealt with in the book. In fact, I would go further than that. A comprehensive Bibliography of Linux/Unix in general would be a worthwhile addition. One notable Linux utility program not mentioned is Perl. A brief discussion of it in the Linux Utility Programs section would have been nice or alternatively an appendix like that for regular expressions. Admittedly Perl is a vast topic, and doing justice to it in 6 pages is possibly a bit much but some sort of reference would have been nice. The book is an adaptation of the author's two other books on using Unix. Given the nature of the Linux community, Linux users tend to be fairly knowledgeable about Mice and Keyboards already, so pictures of them are probably not necessary. Given the overall quality of the book, these are relatively minor criticisms. All in all, in my opinion, Sobell's Practical Guide to Linux is the best book available on the market, bar none, for quickly and effectively getting to use the Linux editors, X-Windows, shells and Linux Utility Programs If you have a copy of A Practical Guide to Linux and Running Linux you should be able to solve most Linux problems.