Ubuntu Made Easy
A project-based introduction to Linux
by Rickford Grant with Phil Bull

July 2012, 480 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-59327-425-2

Grant and Bull attempt a gargantuan task - a overview of Linux - in a single volume under 500 pages. It strikes me as a task much like attempting to provide a quick overview of a continent -- "What is Asia really like?" or "Tell me all about Europe."

Such a broad subject can be way too much to cover and do it justice, yet even on a whirlwind tour you can see enough to discover that you're not in Kansas anymore. That is what we have here in "Ubuntu Made Easy" a whirlwind tour of the spectrum of applications available for Linux as packaged in the Ubutu distribution (a.k.a.,"distro").

The first several chapters deal with the administrative side of an operating system - installation, configuration, connectivity, upgrading or installing software packages and the like. Then the tour really begins to pick up speed showing us software for Linux across a breadth of topics: business, art, music, gaming and more.

Grant and Bull travel across much territory, often only flying over and merely pointing out the sites. The 5 sentences on Blender (3D modeling package) are barely enough to describe the software, the one screen shot doesn't begin to do it justice, but at least now you've heard of it.

Spending only 1.5 pages on GIMP, an elaborate image manipulation program, is way too brief -- yet they manage to describe two of the tasks for which I most frequently use GIMP.

For travel to familiar sites - does any tour book do justice to a place that you know well? For me, that's the command line; (for more on that topic I recommend my "bash Cookbook" from O'Reilly). Still, it is nice to see they have included my favorite topic though I would have chosen a few different commands as examples.

Perhaps the best part of travel is discovering unfamiliar places. Grant and Bull have a chapter on setting your system to handle foreign languages ("Polyglot Penguins") and one on video applications ("Couch Penguins") and the chapter on integrating ipod/ipad/iphones and devices with Ubuntu. Even a well travelled pro can find an interesting item or two.

Travel is wonderful but not without its difficulties. You know the downside to travel, the hassles in the airport, the plane ride, the jetlag. Grant and Bull must deal with the difficulties in transporting you to another Operating System, those difficult but necessary topics of installation and printer and network configurations. Once past those topics, like leaving the airport at your destination, the city is yours to explore. Music, sound, video and other applications await you in Linux and several are mentioned in each of several chapters.

It may only be a bus ride tour past the scenic spots but now you know they exist; you know to plan to see these again.

Maybe you'll be tempted on a return journey to spend more time and linger in these interesting corners of the world of Linux and Open Source Software. Until then enjoy the tour book that is "Ubuntu Made Easy".