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Customer Review

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Close to outstanding, but omissions hurt, November 15, 2009
This review is from: Beginning the Linux Command Line (Expert's Voice in Open Source) (Paperback)
Some day learning Linux will be painless. Truly painless dentistry is like to arrive first.

Linux is an extravagantly rich environment. The more I penetrate its mysteries, the more I comprehend why Linux fanatics are fanatics: Linux is beautiful, Linux is stable, Linux is overflowing with useful features and tools, Linux is stable, Linux is free.

But for the newcomer, Linux is overwhelming, especially at the command line. "Linux In A Nutshell", the bible of all Linux commands, runs to hundreds of pages, each filled with arcane language.

Many authors have attempted to make Linux more readily accessible for the beginner. Often such books are merely lists of the commands needed to get started, accompanied by brief explanations. Some, on the other hand, attempt to be encyclopedias of Linux. Others, like "Beginning the Linux Command Line" try to convey what the beginner most needs - just enough information to make them comfortable in a Linux environment, just enough commands to get them started on various tasks and just enough explanation so the reader understands what they are doing and, more importantly, why.

"Beginning the Linux Command Line" is one of the more successful entries in this genre. It begins with a concise, but substantial history of the development of Linux, what he command line environment is and why it is often better, what the shell is, how commands entered at the command line are executed, what MAN pages are and how to use them. That last point about MAN pages becomes the Achilles heel of the book, but more on that later.

Par for the course, "Beginning the Linux Command Line" presumes that the user will be administering a system, which I guess is true even for a desktop environment. The progression of topics is logical, though some might disagree with the precise order. Performing essential command-line tasks; administering the Linux File System; working with text files, managing partitions and logical volumes; managing users and groups; managing permissions; managing software; process and system management; sysem logging; configuring the network; configuring a file server; working with the kernel (which is an excellent chapter) and an introduction to Bash Shell scripting. This is a lot more information than the very new, very basic user needs at the outset and can be intimidating just by a perusal of the table of the contents. I would suggest that the authors would have been better served by breaking the book into sections, i.e. "for the beginner", "intermediate users" and so on.

The writing is excellent. Technical issues are dissembled in clear English with few diversions or distractions. Straight-forward examples are abundant. The author has a touch and seems aware of when less will do and where more is needed. Sander van Vught is an outstanding technical writer.

However, the book has a failing, a significant one in my eyes, but definitely not a showstopper. The author sometimes omits information that I feel should be in the book. For example, in an otherwise highly detailed explanation of the MOUNT command, the author inexplicably decided to omit discussion of the -o options which, in my opinion, are extremely important and easily misunderstood by the beginner. Instead the reader is referred to the MAN pages. MAN pages are often incomprehensible to the newcomer.

Choices like that keep "Beginning the Linux Command Line" from being a standout in my opinion. Even so, the book is an excellent introduction to using the Linux command line.

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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 21, 2011 9:42:42 AM PST
karpodiem says:
Very thorough review, thank you. Can you recommend a resource online that would help fill in the holes that you mentioned?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2012 9:24:30 AM PST
Google is your friend. I'm not being snarky - that's what I do whenever I need specific knowledge. I haven't the perfect "has it all" site.

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