Learning Red Hat Linux

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9780596004699: Learning Red Hat Linux

The Linux success story is well known: firmly established as an operating system in widespread use, its worldwide installations are still increasing at phenomenal rates. Much of this success has been on the server side, but more and more PC users are turning to Linux on the desktop, as well. For those grounded in Microsoft Windows or older versions of Apple's Macintosh OS, the first look at Unix-style operating system can be daunting. Learning Red Hat Linux provides a clear, no-nonsense introduction to the popular Red Hat distribution of Linux.The third edition of Learning Red Hat Linux will ease into the world of Linux, guiding you through the process of installing and running Red Hat Linux on your PC. Written in a friendly, easy-to-understand style, this book contains all you need to get started, including the complete Red Hat 8.0 distribution on CDs. With new tutorials covering OpenOffice Tools and the desktop, this book is excellent for first-time Linux users who want to install the operating system on a new PC or convert an existing system to Linux.Highlights of the book include:

  • Preparing your system for installing Linux
  • Installing and configuring your Linux system and the two popular desktop environments, GNOME and KDE
  • Linux fundamentals: understanding the basic concepts
  • Using Linux productivity tools like Open Office
  • Configuring and administering a multi-user Linux system
  • Connecting to the Internet
  • Burn CDs and sync a PalmPilot
  • Setting up a networked workstation
  • Setting up Internet services
  • Understand and write shell scripts so you can peek under the hood and extend the power of Linux
Since the release of its first edition, Learning Red Had Linux has guided many a PC user into the world of Linux. By the time you've finished this book, you'll have set your computer to create nicely formatted documents, spreadsheets or even graphically appealing presentations, integrated your computer into your local network, set up your e-mail, and even accessed the Internet using the ISP of your choice. You'll need nothing else to get started.

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Review:

The economics of the free software business has taken another football bounce with the release of O'Reilly's Learning Red Hat Linux, a guide to the most popular distribution of the freely redistributable operating system. The bounce is this: for the typical tech-book list price of $35, you get Bill McCarty's beginners' survey and Red Hat 7.2, a $60 value at Red Hat's own retail price. McCarty's introduction claims that the two-CD set, printed with the O'Reilly logo, contains "everything you need to install and configure your own Red Hat Linux system." But is it really Red Hat 7.2? Yes, according to one Red Hat official, but like batteries, support is sold separately for $20 a month. Economics militate in favor of purchasing the book as well as a separate support contract from Red Hat, if needed. The book is, then, the freebie, and consequently a good deal.

McCarty follows his nose through the installation procedure and annotates each step with do's and don'ts; e.g., do use the "custom" install mode rather than "server" or "workstation" if you don't want to lose existing data on the hard drive. He intuits just what the new Linux user will want to do: configure X11, connect to ISP over a modem or LAN, use e-mail, run Samba over the network to read a PC hard drive, configure and start an Apache Web server, and configure a basic firewall. His chapter on RPM, the Red Hat Package Manager, is brief but useful, and his one-page discussion of the Red Hat Network $20-a-month support option is far too brief to be useful, but contains enough hints to allow a new member to keep expectations modest.

Brevity and velocity are the book's strengths, as McCarty glides from the highlights of one configuration protocol to another. Error recovery is ignored in favor of tips and hints on error avoidance. Larger issues in system administration strategies are unevenly treated: partitioning theory, dual booting, and backing up are skipped. Loading kernel modules dynamically is not discussed, and neither is kernel compiling, and the ubiquitous DHCP client is introduced only after the rather advanced DHCP server is discussed. To round out the knowledge base, I recommend Matt Welch's peerless Running Linux as the entry point for serious Linux system administration.

In his hurry, McCarty blurs distinctions between Linux distributions, leaving the reader wondering why Red Hat is singled out for book-length coverage. But his single biggest omission is an introduction to linuxdocs.org and the indispensable world of HOWTOs. Rather, reference to HOWTOs is relegated to an appendix on the boot process.

Ultimately, Learning Red Hat Linux should be viewed as an inexpensive way to obtain legitimate CDs of Red Hat 7.2, with installation documentation that exceeds the norm. Once the installation has either succeeded or failed, however, readers will want to move along to linuxdocs.org or Running Linux. --Peter Leopold

About the Author:

Bill McCarty is associate professor of management information systems in the School of Business and Management of Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, California, and was previously associate professor of computer science, in which capacity he taught for ten years in Azusa Pacific's Master of Applied Computer Science program. Bill holds a Ph.D. in the management of information systems from the Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California, and worked for 15 years as a software developer and manager.

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