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Teach yourself Unix in 10 minutes

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I was recently asked to teach a full length course on Linux/Unix and I decided to get a few books on it to hammer out some content. I realized, using Linux for some time meant I could operate a *nix box effectively and get some help using man but teaching it was a whole different matter. So I went to a book store and got 3 books with increasing level of difficulty.

1. Teach yourself Unix in 10 minutes by Robert Shimonski
2. How Linux Works by Brian Ward
3. Professional Linux Programming

I just finished reading the first one and thought I'd pen down (or more accurately blog down) my thoughts on it. I admit, like most people I also was a little wary of books which have titles like Teach yourself in 10/24 etc. but I've grown to realize most books are ok if you read them properly. Sadly I don't have too high an opinion of this particular one.

The author has tried to fit quite a bit into this tiny book. There are 20 10-minute lessons which serve as a useful introduction to a novice. But the book gives the reader a general feeling of being incomplete. The most glaring mistake is that some commands only appear in the Summary section of a chapter. Now since I have been using Linux systems for some time, I was able to ignore this, but for a complete newbie this is a disaster.

Another bad point is that the book goes into detail of some very basic tasks like logging in, which is described in one whole chapter but topics like editing text using both Vi and Emacs is fitted into one. However, the topic of Unix is vast and I can see that the author has tried to fit in as much as he could in a hundred odd pages. Some chapters like the ones on Filesystems and X are quite useful, and taught me some new things I didn't know previously about X (I'm not an uber Linux'er). But the book is mediocre at best and one could find better titles if only one is willing to put some more time into learning Unix.

2 Comments On This Entry

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19 May 2008 - 08:27 AM
I've had issues with books like those, as well as success. I would however like to propose a project in regards to this. I know there is TONS of documentation in regards to the linux/unix os (and all of the various distro's). I am a relatively new linux user (ubuntu, hardy heron), and I am catching on very quickly about how to navigate, manipulate that system. Gcc is a nice touch, it's nice not having to install a slew of development platforms when one is already provided for you. The one issue I'm having the most difficulty with is understanding the why behind everything.

For example, what is the dma, why isn't it usually enabled automatically, and what are all of the tricks one can do with it, and the steps to configuring it should I decide to use it. This is a specific function, and I have TONS of questions regarding many of the other ones as well. I have a general outline of what each part of the linux filing system is suppose to be used for, but no idea why they were created in this fashion, or how to manipulate it. How do you make backups (just found out one method for it, but know there are plenty of others)? The project I propose is more of an evolving resource to describe how a basic linux system works, and the why behind it. Who knows, from there, it could branch out into kernel development. Would anyone be interested in working with me to try and define a website who's purpose is to educate the public about linux (without emphasizing any specific distro's). I'll post an entry in the projects section if anyone is interested.



19 May 2008 - 11:03 PM
You make a good point here. The 'why' is important once you've navigated through the very basics of usage. Infact I like your idea of the project too :) though I should admit I don't know many answers to 'why's' myself so dunno how useful I'll be.
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