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Living In Ubuntu For A Day

A.P. Lawrence
Expert Author
Published: 2008-01-30

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The arrival of Mark G. Sobell's "A practical guide to Ubuntu Linux" a few days ago prompted me to try living in Ubuntu for a day.

I'm a Mac guy (or have been since OS X anyway), but that's because of Unix more than anything else, so I could just as easily use Linux as my daily OS.

The first challenge was installation. I have a spare box I could use for this, but I'm a fan of virtualization, so why not use it on the MacBook? Indeed, why not, but Parallels let me down: for the first time in all the Linux installs I have done, the latest Ubuntu could not initiate an X session to install from. That was surprising, because I've installed older versions of Ubuntu under Parallels - why is this different? I futzed with it a little, but got nowhere, so decided to try it under VMWare Fusion.. that went without a hitch and very soon I had a brand new 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon running under VMWare.

First things first: I needed to get a connection to this website. That would require getting the .ssh/id_dsa from the MacBook. I scp'ed it over and was able to login. Firefox of course was easy to get running, but then I hit my first usage glitch: on the Mac, I'm used to CMD-TAB moving me between running applications.. I'll need to retrain to use ALT-ESC to switch application windows (ALT-TAB is nice for quick switching between just two windows).

Boy, the temptation to abandon this and go back to what I'm familiar and comfortable with is hard to resist. Oops, there's something I do not like: the Update Manager just stole focus from me. Windows shouldn't steal focus. Not ever. There's no argument that will ever convince me that is civilized or acceptable. Leave me typing where I am typing, thank you very much! That seems so basic to me I'm doubting it really happened.. did it??

Mark's book is too big. At over 1,000 pages it is two inches thick - clumsy to handle. However, it definitely covers its subject matter and then some.. but who is its intended audience? If you know Linux, you don't need this level of handholding and will probably be annoyed and bored by the detailed attention to the basics. But if you need all that tutelage, how likely are you to be trying out Ubuntu anyway and if by chance you are, isn't this giant book going to scare you? I don't know..

Hmm.. no spring loaded folders in Gnome.. oh well, I can live with that..

I also wonder whether it's wise to include a DVD as this book does. Obviously it adds to the cost, and if someone doesn't have a good Internet connection to download a current .iso or dvd image, it's quite possible that they still have a CD reader rather than a DVD.. the old box I could have used instead of installing under virtualization only has a CD..

Because Mark covers so much, some of it gets pretty techy.. that worries me too because someone new to Linux that is not a geek type will pick this up in a bookstore and flip to the middle and surely freak out.. so again, the people who will appreciate the more technical stuff don't want the basics and vice versa.. I just think its a bad idea to try to do both, at least in one volume. Wouldn't it be better all around to split this into an "Introducing Ubuntu" and a companion "Getting the Most from Ubuntu" (just my idea of appropriate titles, of course).

There is a class of user this would be idea for: someone pursuing Ubuntu certification. That's when you want to cover everything under the sun, including the basics, just to be sure that you are ready for any sort of question on the exams. This book would be perfect for that.

I used Ubuntu the rest of the day.. if I didn't have a Mac, this would be fine. There's really nothing I do that I couldn't do just as well in Ubuntu. No great surprise for me there, but I suspect that your average Windows user would be surprised: I imagine they'd think that if they had to leave Windows, Mac would be a softer landing.. that might have been true once, but I don't think it is now.

* Mark G. Sobell
* Prentice Hall
* 9780132360395


*Originally published at APLawrence.com

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About the Author:
A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services http://www.pcunix.com

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