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Not so "Practical" after all, for the everyday user
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.