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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2008
Finding a single book that encompasses what you want to learn can be difficult. Most cover a few portions of a subject in depth and skim over (or omit) others. Other books will cover each topic at about the same level: high enough to give an impression of what can be done, but not with enough depth to do it without a lot of effort. Mark G. Sobell's "A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux" is a single volume that gives the reader enough information to effectively install, configure and run workstations and servers using Ubuntu Linux. He has come the closest I have seen to containing all of the necessary information without being too shallow. A DVD with the Gutsy Gibbon release of Ubuntu in a directly bootable form is included with the book.

With over two decades of experience related to Unix and Linux, Mark G. Sobell has authored almost two dozen books on the subject. I had previously read and reviewed his book "A Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux: Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (Second Edition)" and found it the highest quality book I had yet read on Linux. This, his latest book, bears many similarities to the other text, including its high quality. The overall structure is like that of a textbook, providing a summary and exercises at the end of each chapter, as well as copious cross-references.

"A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux" is broken up into five parts containing 27 chapters in all. Each of the chapters provides Jumpstart sections to help you install and configure each server quickly, and enough detail to handle the more common configuration changes. Part I uses two chapters to provide an overview of, and step-by-step instructions for, installing Linux. The step-by-step chapter goes into great detail on each step of the process, using both the graphical and textual installation paths. Part II provides higher-level information that shows newer Linux users what they can do. Part III uses another four chapters to dive deeper into the Bourne Again Shell (BASH), the GUIs, and networking. Starting with Part IV, Mark describes how to perform the more common configuration tasks. Using seven chapters and over 200 pages, Part IV provides a great deal of detail regarding system administration. The final section, Part V, uses nine chapters to go into depth on set up various servers and use their clients. OpenSSH, FTP, exim4 (for mail), NIS, NFS, Samba, DNS/BIND, the firewall (firestarter and iptables), and finally Apache.

Overall, "A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux" by Mark G. Sobell provides all of the information a beginner to intermediate user of Linux would need to be productive. The inclusion of the Live DVD of the Gutsy Gibbon release of Ubuntu makes it easy for the user to test-drive Linux without affecting his installed OS. I have no doubts that you will consider this book money well spent.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2008
Usually, when I read through a book of this size, I find that it's full of "fluff". What really struck me on this book is there is just page after page after chapter after chapter of genuinely useful information. I have seen other readers reviews about how comprehensive this book is but you really don't know the magnitude until you actually have read through it.

As a systems administrator, I naturally gravitated toward the chapters that deal with that kind of thing (chpts 13+). I found the information to be clear and correct and not at all too technical sounding as books dealing with such subjects can quickly become. So impressed was I by the read that I went back through all the early chapters as well. There is a plethora of really useful information there, something for everyone no matter what level of Linux user you may be.

While this book is written primarily for Ubuntu users, and even includes the installation media, the vast majority of the information can be applied to any Linux, save for package installation. This is well written, clear, comprehensive information for the Linux user of any type, weather trying Ubuntu on for the first time and wanting to know a little about it, or using the book as a very good reference when doing something more complicated like setting up a server. This book's value goes well beyond it's purchase price and it'll make a great addition to the Linux section of your bookshelf.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2008
If you've decided on Debian/Ubuntu Linux as your distribution and you're not already a Linux expert then do yourself justice and purchase a copy of this book. It's thorough and comprehensive; all the while it's insightful and intriguing. The author does a competent job fleshing out concepts while not drowning the reader in distribution specific jargon (which is a real weakness in some Linux texts). The chapters are logically structured working up to more advanced topics and the author never insults the readers intelligence.

I have used Unix/Linux off and on since 1999 and this book brought me back over to Linux. I've never been a particularly advanced user and I always hated searching online for hours trying to figure out how to do things in Linux. Now I just reference this book, which remains on my desk at all times. This is THE book to own for ordinary users and systems administrators alike.
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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2009
I am hardly a newbie to Linux, having spent 20 years as a system and network administrator, taken three years of courses on Unix and Linux administration, and run Linux desktop systems and servers at work for a number of years. But now my perspective on Linux has changed: I have purchased for my personal use a netbook running Ubuntu Linux. Because I had used Sobell's books on Unix, Linux, and Macintosh OS X for years at work, I ordered his Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux as my reference to that OS. From the perspective of one who "just wants it to work," as the users at my jobs always have, I am quite disappointed not in Ubuntu but in Sobell's Ubuntu book. I want to use Ubuntu on my netbook exactly as I use my two Macintosh laptops: at home, for personal use, on a combined wired and wireless network at home, wirelessly in public places, for e-mail, Web-surfing, online ordering, and so on. For these purposes, I have no interest in using the command line, although I am totally familiar and comfortable with it from a professional perspective. Sobell seemingly is obsessed with the command line and pays little attention to the GUIs Ubuntu offers (GNOME, KDE, and, in the case of my netbook, Remix). His "Tour of the Ubuntu Desktop" is cursory at best, and his screenshots don't show what I see on my system even when I switch from Remix to the Classic (GNOME) desktop, and yes, I have a correct version of Ubuntu for this edition of his book--8.04. He mentions OpenOffice, with which I and presumably other users will spend a great deal of time, only in passing--twice in 1200 pages. I don't need a complete review of networking, with which I am thoroughly familiar from my work, but information on how to get my Ubuntu netbook working on a protected wireless network. And so on and so on with every subject I look up in his book.
This is a fine book for an administrator but not so fine for an everyday user, which is what I want to be with my Ubuntu netbook. Indeed, it seems to me that Sobell has simply transferred huge chunks of his earlier books to this one with little heed for what his audience for this book might be. Practical this book is not, for the likes of me in my new incarnation as an everyday user of Ubuntu Linux. Fortunately, there are plenty of other books that take this perspective, and those are the ones I will end up consulting regularly, not Sobell's.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2008
I bought instead of the "Unleashed" publication because this while this book does go in depth, but it does so in a plain-spoken voice. It's not written from one techie to another. Previous comments about the book's size shouldn't be take too seriously -- remember, this is Linux that you're learning and quite frankly after trying to install Red Hat almost a decade ago (all text and no GUI-handholding) and feeling quite defeated, this book is a breath of fresh air. Both textual and graphical content of the book is easy to understand without the nonsensical stuff you get in the "Dummies..." -- series sometimes it (...for Dummies) works and sometimes the intended humor gets in the way. So far, I've installed Ubuntu on my old Inspiron 8000 laptop and written some line commands with ease. So far, so good. It appears to work faster than Microsoft and I intend to abandon Micro$oft altogether. This seems like to project to do it. Not to get political, but even Operating Systems need change: Yes, we can! (Well...I'll write again when I've done and understand more of Linux.) I purchased the book it with the intention of learning Linux/Unix for work and to also leverage the knowledge to understanding Unix as it is on on Mac OSX.
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42 of 51 people found the following review helpful
There is no doubt that this book contains very complete coverage of Ubuntu.

My only question is, who wants it?

The new user, never exposed to Linux before, is going to be scared off by the more technical parts of the book. The more experienced user who wants to find out about Ubuntu is going to be bored and annoyed by the coverage of basics (that coverage is very good, byt the way, as is the more technical stuff later).

I think the only person who'd truly treasure this would be someone seeking Ubuntu certification.. for that purpose, this would be perfect.

My feeling is that this should have been split into two books.. it's too darn big and clumsy anyway, and I just don't feel that you can successfully mix basics and advanced configuration and usage.

However, if none of that bothers you, if you are the type who wants it all, baby steps right on up to full administration and beyond, well, this is your book for sure!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2008
Just what I was looking for -- lots of technical content in a very readable and usable style. Not the right book (too much) for a beginner who just wants to do the usual "office like" PC activities, but I wanted to know more about how it works and feel more in control, yet did not wish or need to become a Linux geek just for the sake of it. Thus probably also not the best book for the hard core "system administrator", but for me it was just right.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2009
Despite it's length, this book avoids (for the most part) degenerating into a concatenation of man pages. The text is concise and accurate, as far as I can tell, and examples are short and to the point.

I was a bit surprised that even though such a large book wouldn't seem attractive for beginners, some of the basics (e.g. file systems) are discussed in great detail, but without much technical depth.

The book also spends a lot of space re-documenting various tools, instead of focusing more on giving a good overview of what tools are available for what purpose, and how to choose the most appropriate one.

For example, I don't need a comprehensive discussion of Apache configuration directives (can go to the Apache documentation for that or read another, more specialized, book). But I do want to know Ubuntu-specific configuration file locations (discussed), and why I would be using Apache rather than e.g. lighthttpd (not discussed).

In summary, the main audience for this book must be people who are not too familiar with Linux yet, but have just accepted an admin position on a remote island without Internet (or just have an aversion to reading documentation online).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The author has done a very good job at clarifying such a detail-oriented operating system. I have extensive Unix and Windows experience and this text does an excellent job at bridging the gaps between Linux, Windows, and Unix. I highly recommend this book to both 'newbs' and experienced users. Great Job !
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2008
This tome of a book is worth every penny it cost; in some ways it actually undervalued. The author as a brilliant ability of taking an intimidating topic and breaking them down till each topic is clear and understandable. If you use Ubuntu, I'd say it is a must have for the bookshelf, and I doubt it will be collecting dust there.
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