|Linux in Easy Steps, 7th Ed|
Author: Mike McGrath
This is a very slim introduction to using Linux and it is very basic. It starts off with an overview of Linux and different distributions. Then it chooses Linux Mint to install and use for the examples. As a consequence it then uses the Cinnamon desktop. While many of the ideas transfer to other versions of Linux, if you are a complete beginner and use a different version of Linux then you are going to have problems. In particular, many of the steps described won't work under Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution, even though Mint is derived from Ubuntu.The choice of Cinnamon as the desktop is almost more important than choosing Mint. Cinnamon is not as commonly used as other managers, but it does have the advantage of being similar to Windows - which is an obvious advantage to most beginners.
This said, if you are not already committed to a Linux distribution, Mint and Cinnamon are a good choice for the beginner.
The book explains how to install Mint including adding a hard disk and partitioning it, which is a bit advanced for a beginner. Far better is to create a bootable USB stick, which is also described in detail. Given that creating a bootable USB stick is a great way for the beginner to try out Linux, it is a great shame that creating one is so complicated, but this is not the fault of this or any book on Linux.
The second section is about exploring the desktop. It ranges from the very simple, launching applications, to slightly more advanced ideas such as configuring menus and the Taskbar. This is continued in the third section with a look at setting preferences, managing Windows, adding printers and using Bluetooth. Some of these are likely to be things that you want to do at a later date.
From here we move onto the file system, in Section 4, and this is something that most novice users find difficult. There really isn't any way to make it seem simple and some readers might find the list of standard folders off-putting. Even so they have to at least know it exists. Things are made easier by using a file browser, Nemo, in this case. My guess is that after reading this beginners will still lose files and wonder where things are, but it's an attempt to educate that is well worth making - and at least they will know how to search for lost files.
Section 5 introduces the Internet and, as the standard web browser in Mint is Firefox, even the beginner should have no difficulties. Moving on to email we meet Thunderbird, which is the most commonly used email client if you don't use web mail offerings like Gmail. Unfortunately it doesn't cover setting up email and connecting to a service and this is probably beyond the complete beginner. IT also covers online chat using IRC, which is probably not what most beginners want to do, and using BitTorrent, which is a more attractive app.
Section 6 deals with using LibreOffice. - clearly in a book on using Linux this is not going to be deep or extensive. It's more tour of what is available. However I'm not sure that the section on running macros should have been included - it seems at an inappropriate level.
Section 7 deals with topics that the home user is going to be very interested in - media. It covers basic things like viewing photos, scanning, editing (using GIMP), playing music, watching movies/TV and sharing files. None of these is covered in any depth - it would take another book to do so. They are simply tasters for what you could use. What is more disappointing is that none of the apps, with the exception of GIMP, are really out of the box solutions to the problem that they seem to solve. For example, you aren't going to be watching any well-known TV channels after finding out about Hypnotix. The problem of turing a Linux box into something that does what most users want from a media box is a much bigger task.
Section 8 returns to using various general purpose apps - calculator, archives, note taking, screenshots etc. All handy if you need to do any tasks that need them.
The final two sections are probably out of place as they deal with the terminal and using the shell. Beginners working at the level of the previous sections are probably not going to want to get involved with the shell.However, the introduction is gentle and if it doesn't frighten the reader off it might even be useful. But some of the topics are esoteric - such as using the vi editor and the grep regular expression utility.
On balance the final part of the book probably does go too far for such a slim introduction and the space would have been better spent on more general topics. On the other hand, if you know you would like to start to use the shell and its commands this might not be a criticism to take seriously. I guess the problem for any introductory book on Linux is "to shell or not to shell". In an ideal world you would stay with GUI utilities to do everything you need and ignore the command line, but when things go even a little wrong then the command line is often the only way to solve the problem.
I think that the last two sections should be removed or reduced in favour of a reference to a separate volume on using the terminal and Linux commands.
Overall, this is a good, very simple and very limited introduction to Linux Mint. It provides a very non-technical look at getting started with Linux, which is not as easy a process as it should be.
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 04 June 2022 )|