Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Running Linux, Fourth Edition

The Linux operating system has made a lot of progress in the past few years, and Running Linux has progressed right along with it to remain the single best general-purpose book for curious computer users who want to install, use, and enjoy Linux. The team of authors present a text that's simultaneously detailed and readable.

Coupled with an inquisitive and capable reader, that's a recipe for success with the world's most popular open-source operating system. This new edition adds coverage of the GNOME desktop environment, the Apache/MySQL/PHP server suite, and the Postfix mail transfer daemon. It also covers core capabilities and behaviors of Linux through kernel version 2.4. There's better coverage of network security (including firewalling and ADSL link configuration), and coverage of how to set up audio-related hardware and software.

Perhaps best of all, this book conveys a sense of the "Linux attitude" as the authors see it. Linux, they say, is largely about experimentation, research, trial and error, and participation in a community. This comes in welcome contrast to books that focus on recipes (follow these steps to accomplish A; do these things to make your system do B). Though the authors of this book provide lots of how-to information, it's always presented with an eye toward further exploration. In explaining how to build the kernel, for example, the authors provide six concise steps as a reference, but then go on for several pages about designing makefiles and how to deal with error messages. This book's a treat. --David Wall

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