Interview with Mark G. Sobell, author of "A Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux 8"
by Mirko Zorz - Thursday, 3 April 2003.
That depends on where you want Linux to go. Linux is doing well in the server arena. I guess the big question is when/if Linux will be ready for the desktop market. Not just you and me, but corporate HQ. GNOME and KDE are just about ready for prime time, and there are a number of good office packages out there. But there is a world using MS products and formats. To win in this arena Linux must connect to these systems and work with data from these systems flawlessly. For example, when you talk about running Word under Linux or working with Word files using a Linux word processor, you must mean a very recent version of Word and include all of the format features. I admit I have not worked in this area for a while, but it always seemed to me that there was a feature missing when I imported a MS document and when I exported a MS document it never looked quite right when it was opened again under Windows. That will not cut it.

Great strides have been made in the area of MS compatibility and interoperability and Linux is starting to appear on more desktops in more offices, but I think we still have a way to go.

What advice would you give to new Linux users?

a. Do not run as root/Superuser except when you absolutely must, and go back to being a regular user as soon as possible.

b. Experiment (except when you are running as Superuser). Play with the system! Do not be afraid to try things on the system. Experimenting is the best way to learn.

c. Know where you can get help. There are some places on your system (info and man pages). Help is also available with your distribution (Red Hat provides a documentation CD) and on the Internet via search engines and newsgroups. Your last resort should be posting to a newsgroup. Look through newsgroup archives. Doubtless, someone has already answered your question.

d. Have fun! If you're not having fun, hang it up.

What are your plans for the future? Any exciting new projects?

I want to do more work on Web-based and online documentation. I think these areas hold the key to turning books into much more useful documents. Aside from the obvious advantage of being able to keep the material up-to-date, I believe that the material can be accessed more easily. An index is useful but it can be frustrating; being able to do a full text search on multiple documents could be more fruitful. In my books I suggest that the user sit in front of a computer and try the examples as s/he reads the book. How much nicer to have the examples come alive as you read them.


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