Linux for non-geeks (Based on Fedora)

Rick Grant
No Starch Press
20 Chapters 296 Pages with index
(This book is in the WLUG library.)

Review done by Gun Caundle


Rickford Grant goes to a lot of bother to explain how to use Linux in a non threatening way for inexperienced Linux users. Although the author gets into some very technical stuff, that is the nature of Linux, not the book. He does very well generally of de-geeking the technical stuff that needs to be covered to make the reader a practical Linux user. Ideally for Linux newbies, not computer newbies.

Uses the Gnome GUI

Chapter 1 - What is Linux and its background?

This is well explained with no jargon but the reader needs to be an experienced computer user to understand.

Chapter 2 - Installation

Clear step by step instructions with good screen shots to ensure you stay on track. However there is nothing to get you back on track should some other event happen.

Chapter 3 - Desktop explained: Nautilus and Gnome

Again good screen shots on what Nautilus is and what it does. Has an explanation on using Gnome, including a practical project.

Chapter 4 - Using Internet

Describes, different ways of connecting. Has some jargon/technical content for setting up a modem. It couldn’t find my ext modem and no KPPP, the internet dialer present. It explains how to use Mozilla web browser and Evolution email application and describes their features including downloading, messaging and chat.

Chapter 5 - Customizing the desktop

This includes creating user accounts and a project which takes the reader through changing wallpaper, Window borders, screensavers, sounds and themes.

Chapter 6 - Printing

Finding a printer happened exactly as explained with what to do if something doesn’t happen. What Windows calls “Add a printer” Fedora calls it “Add a print queue” working in this area is intuitive for a Windows user and this helped to print a test page as there was no ‘project’ to take you through this aspect.

Chapter 7 - Working with data

Gives background information on storing data. Explains clearly that the floppy drive needs to be mounted and how to do it. Then it explains the reading and writing process. The next section on formatting a floppy would have been better before the section on reading and writing. While the instructions were easy to follow when I got an error message “Error formatting track #0” the text gave no mention of this. Reading data and audio CD’s happens exactly as described and works through burning a CD.

Chapter 8 - RPM

Gives background and explanation on RPM’s including some geek speak but of no consequence. The project was on downloading and installing RPM’s. While the instructions are clear, the execution is beyond the inexperienced when it came to the dependencies.

Chapter 9 - The command line

The author goes out of his way to make the reader feel comfortable and encourages him/her to at least try to work from the command line/terminal Window. Although some ‘geek speak’ is used, it is made understandable to the non-geek with the use of analogues. A practical example shows the reader what to use the terminal Window for and give examples of non-geek friendly commands. I got lost using the file manipulation commands but by clicking back to the folders window I could see where I was. I found it much easier to create, move and remove folder in the Window than from the command line. The project requires an internet download using the command line. Although the chapter is well written and the terminal window exciting to use, it is an arcane science. Having cut my teeth on Windows, this chapter didn’t convert me to being a command line user.

Chapter 10 - Using APT to install RPM’s

Very geekish. Includes a project to download and install APT including using the command line to download and install ‘Synaptic’ the graphical front end for APT. Another project using Synaptic to download and install a music player (M Player).

Chapter 11 - Source code (for the adventurous)

Good explanation on what source code is and how it works with a project that takes the reader to, install and compile source code in clear step by step instructions.

Chapter 12 - Accessing USB devices and Windows partitions

Locating the USB drive using the hardware browser was easily understood with a detailed explanation on setting the USB drive up for use. For using the command line, previous exercises in using the terminal Window gives the reader confidence in ‘mounting’ and ‘unmounting’ the USB drive and worked exactly as described, including locating Windows partitions.

Chapter 13 - Ripping Audio CDs

The author gives an excellent background on the evolution of audio files for computers. It explains how to use the music copying applications ‘Grip’ and ‘Sound Juicer’. This chapter gives information on anything to do with music using Fedora. Including ‘Rhythm box’, ‘XMMS’ and ‘Real One’ players ‘Audacity’ for manipulating audio files.

N.B. - The last seven chapters weren’t worked through using Fedora, as the previous chapters were, but summarized.

Chapter 14 - Graphics

Describes how to create and view graphics including the bitmap applications, ‘Gimp’, ‘Linux Photoshop’ and ‘TuxPaint’. ‘SodiPodi’ for vector graphics and ‘gthumb’ for viewing. Includes a section on using digital cameras.

Chapter 15 - ‘Office’ Applications

Chapter concentrates mainly on ‘Open Office’ with good explanations on each feature. Includes a project using ‘F-Prot’ for virus checking.

Chapter 16 - Fonts

It includes a project for installing TrueType fonts and creating fonts with fonts from a Windows partition and customizing fonts.

Chapter 17 - Configuring languages

Describes how to set up and use Fedora in languages of your choice such as Korean.

Chapter 18 - Wireless networking

This describes how to set up a wireless network including hardware requirements.

Chapter 19 - Rounding off

This chapter is in four Sections.

  • System Settings
  • Using KDE GUI
  • Keeping the system up to date
  • Odds and Sods that didn’t fit elsewhere

Chapter 20 - Problem Solving

The author describes how to develop a pragmatic attitude for dealing with problems that can (and will) arise from using Linux. This chapter lists some common problems with their solutions.