Ubuntu for Non-Geeks 4th edn.

Reviewed by Major Keary

Ubuntu for Non-Geeks is a classic introduction to Ubuntu for both raw novices and those users who are still developing their Linux skills. Rickford Grant has maintained an ongoing coverage of extended-support releases of Ubuntu; two versions are released each year—usually in April and October—and which are supported for about eighteen months. Thus, version 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) was released in October 2007 and supported until April 2009. However, every two years a Linux Terminal Server (LTS) version is released and has an extended support date. Thus, version 8.04 (Hardy Heron) was the 'platform' for an LTS version released in April 2008 and which will be supported until April 2013—support for the desktop version extends until April 2011. The third edition of Ubuntu for Non-Geeks covered Hardy Heron.

The latest (4th) edition covers V.10.04 (Lucid Lynx), which is supported until April 2013 (April 2015 for the server version). Readers may have twigged that the number following the decimal point represents the month of release: the '.04' in V.8.04 indicates an April release.

This edition of Ubuntu for Non-Geeks has an increased page count—over 100 extra pages—to accommodate new chapters and has also acquired an additional author: Phil Bull, who contributes to the official Ubuntu documentation and is a member of the GNOME documentation project. The style has not changed; the book is still, as the sub-title says, a pain-free, get-things-done guide to Ubuntu for those who are new to Linux or who are novices seeking to improve their knowledge. It is especially useful for MS Windows users who want to install Ubuntu and retain Windows on the same machine.

The book is built, so speak, around a series of projects, presented in tutorial style, that walk the reader through particular tasks. The projects explain to new users the things they want to do. For example, obtaining and installing applications, customising the desktop, manipulating menus, installing Firefox extensions, and installing fonts. Projects are grouped in chapters, each of which contains discussions of the projects and the issues involved in installation and application. There are also tutorials for the several components of OpenOffice.

The book includes topics that are not dealt with in other Ubuntu titles that I have seen, such as Asian language support and getting scanners to work. The authors comment that, "Even though scanners have been around for a relatively long time, support for them in Linux is still a bit spotty". However, Linux in general, and Ubuntu in particular, is getting better in respect of scanner support, as Ubuntu for Non-Geeks demonstrates.

Finding and installing software, and updating the operating system, are well covered, but without drowning the novice in techspeak. One of the great attractions of Linux is free software to be found on various repositories. A chapter discusses the options and explains in clear language how to use the Ubuntu Software Center and other respositories/resources.

One of the least painful ways of becoming familiar with a new operating system is by way of games. Linux has many to offer and some are described with tutorials on installation and how to use them. There are also tutorials on 'working' software, such as the OpenOffice suite. Many Windows applications can be run under Linux using wine, and Windows itself can be run inside Ubuntu using a virtual machine. One can have both Ubuntu and Windows available on the same machine, or run Ubuntu in Windows using wubi. All those options are discussed with details of how it is done.

A companion live-CD contains Ubuntu 10.04, which can be run on a computer without altering anything, or can be used to install Lucid Linux over or alongside Windows.

No Starch Press is a great supporter of Ubuntu—and Linux in general—and has brought Ubuntu for Non-Geeks to a new level of excellence with this edition. An exemplar of technical communication that maintains its focus on practicality.

Rickford Grant and Phil Bull: Ubuntu for Non-Geeks 4th edn.
ISBN 978-1-59327-257-9
Published by No Starch Press, 452 pp., RRP AU$ 50.95

Woodslane. This title can be purchased from the Australian distributor at
A discount can be redeemed by entering the following code at the checkout:


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