Linux Pocket Guide - A Review
Tuesday, March 29 2005 @ 12:48 PM EST
Contributed by: xdavidx
Written by Daniel J. Barrett
Published by O'Reilly
200 pages, $9.95 US, $14.95 CA, £6.95 UK
Reviewed by David A. Redick
As the title suggests, this book is just a pocket guide, a compact reference manual. It's just under 200 pages, but it's still full of useful information. As an experienced *NIX user/developer, I'm not the target audience of the author but I still remember the hurdles I had to jump over, so hopefully I'll do a good job of reviewing the Pocket Guide.
The Pocket Guide is not a general introduction to GNU+Linux, like most starter books. There are, however, 11 pages in that cover the basics but the Pocket Guide is more like a collection stripped down man pages. Stripped down meaning that the Pocket Guide lists only the most commonly used arguments and parameters.
The Pocket Guide is also Fedora Linux specific, though I don't think it needs to be. Basically the only thing Fedora Linux specific is a short paragraph that gives a brief history of Fedora and a program entry for rpm. Another "user friendly" distribution could have chosen without having to rewrite the book. I suppose Fedora is as good a choice as any.
The table of contents is very user friendly. Instead of listing each program and a page number, it arranges the programs into categories. Starting with the most useful programs and ending with the rarely-used programs. Also the index looks to be very thorough and cross referenced.
Perhaps the most surprising thing I've found was a nearly complete tutorial on shell scripting. It is roughly 20 pages, which is a lot of space to devote to a single topic in this book. Compare that with one of my other tomes, Linux: The Complete Reference, in which the shell scripting section is just two pages (in a book just under 1,000 pages). The Pocket Guide covers just about every thing you need to write a shell script. Well... If you've never wrote a program before it would still be difficult but at least you have the information at hand.
The Linux Pocket Guide may be small but it appears to pack one hell of a punch. I highly recommend getting it over the huge tomes that have "For Dummies" on them. Not only will it be less intimidating to new users but it's also light and cheap!
- The guide is short, small and compact.
- Lots of programs are listed in the guide.
- Intro to bash scripting is covered in the appendix.
- It's extremely well organized, both in terms of the order of introduction to programs and the layout of the program entries.
- It gives both an overview and a example run with output for each program.
- Too shell focused. I know that the book has to cover the "essential commands", but perhaps there's a better way?
- Sometimes it was a little too much like man pages, with no additional information added.
- Even though most programs are command line, there are several GUI programs are covered. GUI programs rarely take command line arguments. Couldn't these pages be used in a better way?
- A few things could have been explained in more detail. For example the -exec argument for the find program.
- Fedora Linux specific.