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Posted January 22, 2008
An excellent introduction to any Unix-based OS.
Dave Taylor has managed to produce an excellent book for everyone who wants to get to grips with not just Unix strictly defined, but any operating system of the Unix family. For some time I have been trying to find a useful book to learn the essentials of using GNU/Linux. So many books fall into two categories: (1) books that assume you already know the basics of the system, and (2) books that patronisingly assume you are not really up to understanding the system, and try to fob you off with a watered down account. Here at last I have found a book which systematically works through all the main topic areas, covering the groundwork of each very clearly. The explanations are accompanied with useful examples to work through, all of which are there to give constructive practice, not just, as in some books, because they are supposed to make it more fun. That is not to say that I did not find the book enjoyable: I did, because learning a challenging subject clearly introduced is enjoyable, not because of gimmicky presentation. Dave Taylor tells you all the essentials of the Unix file system and how to find your way around it, use of the shell both from command-line and in scripts, use of Perl, editing with vi and emacs, communications and remote login, control of printers, archiving, and more. He also provides a brief introduction to desktop GUIs, particularly GNOME. In each of these areas there is of course much more to learn than can be given in one or two chapters of a book, but in each case I feel I have gained enough understanding to get going, and am in a position to move forward if I want to know more. My one small criticism is with the title. While it would no doubt be perfectly possible to read the book in 24 hours, it is totally unrealistic to imagine that anyone could really work through properly and absorb its content in 24 hours, unless of course you already know a good deal of the material. But frankly I would not want the book if it were otherwise: it would not be giving an adequate coverage of so large a field.
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