Ubuntu: Up and Running

Reviewed by Major Keary

The purpose of Ubuntu: Up and Running is to provide new Linux users with a guide to getting Ubuntu—as the title says—up and running. I recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in learning Linux in general and, of course, Ubuntu in particular. Everything one needs to know in order to 'get up and running' is here. The author does not pretend to offer a definitive guide that explores every nook and cranny, but focuses on detailed explanations of the essentials and other information that will help Linux newcomers graduate to power user.

There is a need to provide a bridge for those wanting to cross over from a proprietary operating system to Linux, but who carry with them an addiction to some nanny vendor's preconceived view of what end users should want. Proprietary operating systems have a heavy overburden that does lots of things for the user, but also does things to the user: t impossible for end users to control unwanted behaviour. Ubuntu has achieved a increasingly painless transition from proprietary software to open source, providing users with a choice of ready-to-run operating systems tailored to particular needs.

The book requires the reader to "understand the basics of computing and be familiar with an operating system such as Windows or OS X"; its sub-title, A Power User's Desktop Guide is indicative of the intended audience. In short, this is not a primer for computer novices, but readers are not expected to know anything about Linux.

A companion live DVD contains a ready-to-run copy of the main release, ubuntu-9.10-desktop-i386; also on the DVD are ISO files for some other Ubuntu distributions:

  • Kubuntu, uses the KDE desktop
  • Xubuntu, runs on systems with old or resource-limited hardware
  • Mythbuntu, configured to run as a standalone Myth TV Personal Video Recorder
  • Ubuntu Netbook Remix, enhanced specifically for running on Netbook PCs

These distros are all version 9.10; the book covers features introduced in version, 10.04, and there are instructions for upgrading from an earlier version. The gestation period for companion CDs and DVDs can be quite long, making it impractical to match the publication date of a book with the very latest version of software that may be its subject—especially Ubuntu, which releases a new version twice a year.

There are some fifty Ubuntu distributions, details of which can be found at http://wiki.ubuntu.com/DerivativeTeam/Derivatives. Some are mentioned in Ubuntu: Up and Running:

  • Edubuntu (created to fill the needs of children)
  • Ubuntu Netbook Edition (replaces Netbook Remix 9.10)
  • Ubuntu Server Edition
  • Ubuntu Studio (audio, graphics, and video editing capabilities)
  • Eeebuntu (designed to run on Asus Eee PCs, and comes in three flavours)

An introductory chapter provides some Ubuntu and Linux background. The book then moves on to installing, configuring, and upgrading Ubuntu. There is an extensive discussion of virtual installation options, including wubi.exe (software on the DVD), which is "a powerful program that creates a virtual hard disk under Windows and runs Ubuntu from there as part of a dual- or multi-boot operating system". Running Ubuntu on a virtual machine has advantages and Robin Nixon presents a lucid explanation of the installation and use of virtual machines. A number of free applications for the purpose are discussed.

Chapters cover the desktop (it features, and how to run applications); the file system (attributes and permissions); the Nautilus file browser; installing and removing software; system maintenance and security; networking; the Internet; multimedia; and an OpenOffice tutorial (which uses example files on the DVD). Wine, which enables many Windows-based applications to run under Linux, is described in its own chapter.

The command line can be confusing to users who have never ventured outside a graphical interface. There is an excellent chapter that reveals its mysteries with clear explanations, examples, and illustrations. This part of the book is a valuable on-going reference.

One of the most informative texts on Ubuntu that I have seen. It is exceptionally well produced: clear language supported by screen shots, well organised, and the usual high standard of typographic design one expects in an O'Reilly publication. For many users it will be all they need; for those who want to advance their knowledge it should provide a sound foundation. An essential library acquisition.

Robin Nixon: Ubuntu: Up and Running
ISBN 978-0-596-80484-8
Published by O'Reilly, 437 pp., RRP AU$ 72.95

Woodslane. This title can be purchased from the Australian distributor at


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