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Keywords: Linux, open source, operating systems
Title: SUSE Linux 10 Unleashed
Author: Michael McCallister
Publisher: SAMS Publishing
Media: Book, DVD
Like a lot of people, my first introduction to Linux was via a big chunky book with an attached CD. This was in the days when 56k dial-up was as good as it got, and the idea of downloading an ISO was pretty much fantasy. So, the idea of getting a big book and a CD was pretty attractive - in this case a copy of Red Hat 6.0. Now, many years later, does the idea of a big book and CD make any sense? With plenty of bandwidth and countless distributions and support sites, why pay for a something that you can download for free? 'SUSE Linux 10 Unleashed' provides a pretty good answer.
First off, the single CD has been replaced with a DVD, in this case rather obviously carrying a copy of SUSE Linux 10. Even with broadband it's very convenient having the DVD rather than having to download gigs of data. As a package it's also a lot more user friendly then a book that's bulked out with three or four CDs. But there's more to it than just convenience, the content of the book itself is where the real value lies.
While the book is aimed at the Linux beginner, it's certainly not aimed at those who don't know one end of an operating system from another. It's not the sort of book to recommend to friends and relatives who aren't computer literate (but then there are plenty of other books for them, such as Marcel Gagne's Moving To Linux).
Organised into six sections, the book starts off with four solid chapters on installation and configuration. This includes the obligatory history of Linux introduction and then on to chapters which focus on planning, doing and then further configuring an install. Dual booting with Windows is covered, along with the use of YaST2 and SaX2 to really tweak the install to match your hardware.
The second section of the book is about Using Linux. It's a 100 page fly-by of Linux, the desktop and the major classes of application. For first timers there's a chapter on finding your way around the KDE desktop, a quick intro to the different shells, a choice of office suites, printing and then some media burning, sounds, video etc. While none of this stuff goes into incredible levels of detail, the writing is clear and well presented and the choice and ordering of topics makes a lot of sense. For someone wanting to find their way around Linux for the first time this is really useful. It's way better than depending on man pages or a printed manual.
The Internet gets the third section of the book. Rather than sticking to the basics of web browsing and email, there are also chapters on web site creation, management of mail servers, wikis, mailing lists and more. This is more than simple end-user computing and starts to stray into sys admin territory. The extra material means the book remains useful long after you've been walked through an install and been given the guided tour.
The next two sections of the book look at basic and advanced system administration. As you would expect these two sections really move the reader from beginner to intermediate level. There's coverage of Samba, managing Apache, security, backup and restore as well as more mundane topics like file and user management.
Finally, the last section of the book looks at SUSE Linux as a platform for development. This means Perl, Python, PHP, MySQL and so on. There's even room for C, C++, gcc, Java and Eclipse.
In all this is a solid and useful book to have around. It scores highly in terms of convenience, range of material and readability. If there's a complaint it's that there are times when it's clear that this is an update to a previous edition that covered SUSE 9.x, and so the text and graphics don't exactly match the fact that the book contains a DVD (and not a set of CDs), and that it's SUSE 10 not SUSE 9.x. But these are relatively minor complaints. Overall this is a book that we can recommend.