[Techtalk] Book recommendations for extremely novice user?

Telsa Gwynne hobbit at aloss.ukuu.org.uk
Mon Aug 13 16:24:55 EST 2001

On Mon, Aug 13, 2001 at 10:35:18AM -0400 or thereabouts, Erica Sommer wrote:
> A good friend just installed Mandrake at home, and was wondering if 
> there were any good books available for UNIX self-teaching, and 
> something for understanding Mandrake in particular.  I adore the 
> O'Reilly books, but I think she'll want something a bit more 
> handholding to get started.  She has almost no UNIX experience, but 
> she's bold and adventurous and all the rest.  Does anyone have 
> recommendations?  

I am going to make a plug for Jon Lasser's "Think UNIX" here, because
I liked it very much. It is probably not everyone's cup of tea, though.
His aim is to explain the "lots of little programs doing one thing
each" UNIX philosophy by teaching the mindset more than the exact
options for commands. Great if you want to pick up an understanding
of that mindset. Great if little historical anecdotes help you remember
things. And great if you want to be able to transfer knowledge between
UNIXes and different Linux distros. But not great if you just want
to know how to shove a disk in and look at your files you saved from
your Windows box. It's more general than particular. It's written
in a fairly personal style, and he uses a fair amount of humour, 
but it is not the awful "jolly you along" approach. It's more akin
to the occasional dry comments you find in man pages. I can't 
remember where I saw it, but I remember seeing "BUGS: The syntax
of this command resembles that of the find command" in one, and
man cdrecord observes "BUGS: has even more options than ls". 
And this is more that sort of humour than "haha, isn't this jolly!"

Also, the first chapter is about how to understand man pages, so
naturally I like it. :) 

There is very little about X, let alone about GNOME and KDE, which
are the environment first-time users are often likely to meet now.

So I don't think you'd want that as your only book to get started.
I think it would have to go in conjunction with something else. But
I'm not sure what that something else should be. A lot of the books 
I buy, I do so to fill in gaps rather than start from the beginning,
because that's what I need right now. For example, "Linux in a 
nutshell" is a great book if you already have an idea of what you're 
looking for; but it splits descriptions of commands into a chapter 
on bash commands, a chapter on sysadmin commands, a chapter on user 
commands, a chapter on sed commands and so on.  This is really 
confusing unless you already have some overall picture in your head.
I still look in the wrong section half the time. So that's not
so good when just starting out. But I'm really not sure what is

> BTW: She says that the install was incredibly easy.  :)



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