According to the 2007 Desktop Linux Survey, 30 percent of the respondents are using Ubuntu, and this makes it the most popular desktop Linux distribution. With such a large user base, there's always need for books that explore every aspect of a distribution for both novice and knowledgeable users. "Ubuntu Unleashed" is a huge title packed with a ton of content, but does it deliver? Read on to find out.
About the authors
Paul Hudson is a recognized expert in open source technologies. He is a professional developer and full-time journalist for Future Publishing. His articles have appeared in Internet Works, Mac Format, PC Answers, PC Format and Linux Format.
Andrew Hudson is a freelance journalist who specializes in writing about Linux. He has significant experience in Red Hat and Debian-based Linux distributions and deployments.
Inside the book
This book covers a massive amount of data, from the basic stuff like burning DVDs and installing games to the tricky subjects like managing the Kernel and server administration. It undoubtedly covers topics of interest to the complete newbie while also delivering more obscure material aimed at an experienced audience. Since the Help Net Security audience is surely interested in topics that go beyond the very basics I'll focus more on them in this text.
The material dedicated to system administration, among other things, deals with managing users, system monitoring tools, network connectivity and remote access. When it comes to a crucial thing such as backup, the authors provide you with enough options to make sure your data is safe.
In case you've intended your Ubuntu-powered machine to be used as a server, you'll be glad to know that "Ubuntu Unleashed" covers Apache management, administration of database services, FTP, handling e-mail, proxying and LDAP. Needless to say, the text does not go into great detail, but that's understandable given the fact that the illustrated topics have gigantic books on their own. In any case, there are enough particulars to get you underway.
Computer security gets only ten pages which is quite disappointing given the importance of the topic. I don't understand the logic behind choosing to cover a plethora of topics yet giving one of the vital ones just a very basic overview. Come on, even PHP and Perl get more coverage!
Although modern Linux distributions make sure you can do almost everything using the GUI, the command line is still the quickest way to work on various tasks. "Ubuntu Unleashed" covers the basic commands and shows you why you should learn to work from the command line.
The sections that seem completely out of place in this book are those related to writing PHP scripts, Python and C++ programming tools. If you're a knowledgeable user, you certainly already own reading material about those topics, and if you're a new Linux user you're certainly not getting into programming while wondering how to change your desktop background.
The overwhelming majority of the material presented in this book is not strictly related to Ubuntu but to Linux distributions in general. This means that "Ubuntu Unleashed" is a good choice if you're the user of basically any Linux distribution, but it also means that it doesn't have 900+ pages of Ubuntu specific information as the title may imply.
What puzzles me regarding this book is the decision to cover EVERYTHING. While this can seem as a good idea, it makes the book an overkill for newbies and filled with too much basic information for advanced users. For example, if you're a new user that needs to learn how to burn a DVD, do you really need a book with information on how to manage software projects with RCS and CVS?
The audience of this book are the technically inclined that want to kick-off their Linux learning experience with a book that contains a little bit of everything. Whether you'll enjoy this book depends on your learning curve and your preference on the amount of data a single book should contain.
One thing is certain, despite its vast page count, "Ubuntu Unleashed" is not the only Linux book you should have on your bookshelf.