Linux Made Easy—The Official Guide to Xandros 3 for Everyday Users, by Rickford Grant ISBN 1593270577

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, September 2005
Published by: No Starch Press
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$34.95, CDN$47.95

Regular readers of Kickstartnews reviews know that the editorial staff and several reviewers are huge fans of the Xandros Linux distribution. In our view and in the opinion of hundreds of thousands of users, Xandros is also by far the easiest Linux to install and is also supplied with one of the most comprehensive collections of up-to-date device drivers. We're fans, no doubt. Xandros includes an extensive user manual with every retail version of it's home and business versions, but the documentation, while thoroughly accurate, is not the kind of thing that novice computer users or people for whom Linux is completely new, will necessarily find easy to read and use. For all of those legions of current and potential Xandros Linux users, two books are absolutely essential, in my view, to reach alternate operating system nirvana: a) Moving to Linux—Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye, by Marcel Gagne, and b) the subject of this review, Linux Made Easy—The Official Guide to Xandros 3 for Everyday Users, by Rickford Grant.

I hate giving away the punchline too early, but there you have it. I really like this book. I'm not a Linux newbie and I'm certainly familiar with Xandros Linux, but author Rickford Grant captures an energy and enthusiasm for Xandros Linux (and Linux in general) that is clearly instructive, enlightening and enthusiastically energetic. Installing any Linux distribution is a rather quick process taking somewhere on the order of a tenth of the time it takes to install Windows XP. Linux Made Easy's step-by-step jog through the Xandros installation process seems to make it go even faster. Can't beat that. What's more, Grant has found a way to explain what's going on during the installation which manages to impart some technical foundation about how Linux is structured. He makes good use of this introduction to help build greater technical skills later in the book.

Grant doesn't stop there. A cunning devil he is who uses his guile to lead readers inexorably through ever more complex applications within Xandros Linux, all the while imparting more and more detailed training in the fundamental power under the Linux hood. The transitions to ever more complicated and powerful Linux applications are gradual, well managed and sneak up on unsuspecting readers as they walk through the configuration and use of the primary utility and productivity software bundled into the Xandros installation. Grant proves beyond any doubt that the free version of Xandros Linux bundled with the book is equal in power to any desktop version of Windows, supplied with several orders of magnitude more utility and productivity software than any version of Windows, and vastly more stable and forgiving than most versions of Windows. Better than this you can't get unless you take the massive leap to Mac OS X on an Apple computer. Even then, you're jumping to Apple's flavor of UNIX, which is only a hop, step and a jump from Linux.

Linux Made Easy above all else makes it clear that moving to Linux can be almost completely painless using a process that is informative and encouragingly productive from the outset. The book covers all major aspects of Xandros Linux including reasons to consider Linux in the first place, installation, the Internet, file management, using storage media and optical drives, configuring every aspect of Linux, expanding and updating Linux, installing and using programs of all kinds, installing and using peripherals such as printers, scanners, PDAs and cameras, review and use of audio, video, graphics, office and a brigade of other programs, gaming, education, and last but not least, the infamous Linux Command Line (for the truly adventurous). Comprehensive it is, and the whole thing is capped off by an appendix of technical settings, a thorough glossary and a reasonably detailed index.

Cons: The content is near perfect; no Cons there. The book is also generally well printed—No Starch Press is a decent marque for sure—but I've got to make some suggestions to them about some of the layout details. First and foremost, please don't place running text (chapter number and chapter title) on the same running footer line with the drop folio (page numbers printed at the bottom of each page). It's visually distracting and besides that, the point size chosen for the running text is too small and lightweight to be of much use. If you're using a drop folio, place running text in a readable point size at the top of the page instead, in a running header. The Dewey Decimal System is distinctly absent from the table of contents and body. I think that's a bit of a mistake mainly because logically numbered section and subsection lookups are much easier to perform than text scanning when you're in a hurry to find something.

Pros: The book CD contains a full (and predictably excellent) distribution of Xandros Linux. You'll also find a Linux version of the Skype VoIP software along with a coupon for 120 minutes worth of free SkypeOut calling (which lets you call a standard land line anywhere in the world via Skype on your PC—major cool). I can't say enough about Grant's palpable enthusiasm for Xandros Linux. It's infectious and presents the superb Xandros product in an inimitably positive and inviting light. For that reason alone, the book stands on its own as a must-have companion to any novice, beginner or even intermediate-level Windows user who is about to install and use Linux for the first time. More than that, Linux Made Easy contains a wealth of information of immense value to many people who may have already tried Linux and stumbled on some part of it that was not readily understandable. One way or another, you'll be doing yourself a real service by having the book at your side when your first (or next) foray into Linux begins. Highly recommended.

Feedback? Letters to the Editor? Send them here!





© Copyright 2000-2006 All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | forums | about us | search | store | subscribe


Hot News Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe