Red Hat Linux
by: Howard Carson, send
by: O'Reilly & Associates Inc., go
to the web site
10 hours of free time
Red Hat Linux is meant to guide new Linux users
through the detailed data preparation, installation
and use of this 'free' operating system that is
causing so much stir in the software business these
days. The book attempts to describe and teach Linux
in terms familiar to Windows users and is supplied
with a recent CD-ROM release of the Red Hat Linux
distribution. Built around the supplied CD-ROM,
the book takes the reader step-by-step through
the process of installing and setting up the Linux
version which is supplied. The reader needs nothing
else to get started. Author Bill McCarty is associate
professor of management information systems in
the School of Business and Management of Azusa
Pacific University in Azusa, California.
Windows and MacOS users the world over are experimenting
with Linux by the hundreds of thousands. The problem with
learning Linux however is that it does not rely on the familiar
Microsoft Windows(R) design paradigm. Linux, according to
many of its adherents, is a user friendly version of Unix.
As such, it is unfamiliar to most typical computer users.
In fact, Linux is nowhere near the mainstream of computer
desktop operating systems. For typical desktop use in home,
SOHO, and small business environments, the lack of such niceties
as drivers for most desktop printers and other popular hardware
devices will prevent anyone from taking Linux too seriously.
But Learning Red Hat Linux is designed for people who've
already made the decision to try Linux.
Walking through the preparation and installation of the
Red Hat Linux version supplied on CD-ROM was a reasonably
uneventful task right up to the moment our test PC locked
up. The book had suggested staying away from some AMD Pentium-class
processors. We started over using a PC with a Intel Pentium
II/266 processor and actually got excited about the whole
process (again) when a configuration error was discovered.
Once again, we were locked out of the PC and had to restart
the whole process from scratch. Between hardware incompatibilities
and Dumb User Errors, we managed to achieve success on the
fourth try. The book was never at fault though.
I should mention that we also blew an older monitor after
configuring the X Window System. We inadvertently set the
refresh rate unusually high and burned the guts out of the
poor thing. A Linux experience, proper instructions or not,
can sometimes turn out to be an expensive experience.
The book's coverage of the Linux subject is impressive.
It covers preparation, installation, configuration, the X
Window System, the X and GNOME desktops, finding and installing
Linux software, networking with Linux, Internet access using
Linux, Linux- based servers, and understanding and writing
shell scripts. Keep one thing in mind though - the book is
recommended for new Linux users, not new computer users,
so the instructions and references in the book assume at
least an intermediate level of general computer hardware
and software experience.
Being an instructional text, we hoped for perfectly worded
as we moved through the preparation and
installation process. We tried to put ourselves in the place
of a genuine new Linux user. Unfortunately, the instruction
on page 38 to place the "Linux CD-ROM diskette in your
CD-ROM drive" is likely to leave at least a few new
users baffled. The book does not contain any flow charts
or diagrams, things which really help explain processes far
more clearly than the reams of text presented by the author
(Windows and Mac users have to be transitioned to the text-
based traditions of Linux, rather than dragged there). In
other words, the author (and the O'Reilly copy editor) have
failed to fully define exactly who their target readers are.
Witness the following paragraph: "The Linux printer
driver claims all available parallel ports. If you want to
access a device other than a printer attached to a parallel
port, you must instruct the printer driver to reserve only
the ports associated with printers. To do so, use the 'lp'
boot argument which takes as its options a list of ports
and IRQs use to support printers." A command line argument
then follows (which is useful). It's just too bad the initial
instruction is confusing.
Pros: Somebody had to write this type of book. With Red
Hat's wildly successful IPO and shares still a hot commodity,
O'Reilly is smart to capitalize with this publication. The
book is well organized and contains more than enough information
for a potential Linux enthusiast to get rolling. If you're
experienced enough to install and configure Windows NT, this
book will be a worthwhile Linux guide for you. You'll need
it too, because Linux is anything but intuitive.
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