I checked out the book Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux by Rickford Grant and Phil Bull (No Starch Press). With any book like this, the trick is matching it to the correct user. If you are the kind of person inclined to install the latest version of Ubuntu on your computer, you probably have already done enough with Linux to not need this book. If you are the kind of person who believes the trash talk about how bad Linux is, or who is frightened of the idea of stepping away from Windows or your Mac for any reason, run away now. This book is not for you. But, if you are the kind of person who has been thinking about installing Linux on that second or older computer you’ve got sitting there and want to do it in a relatively painless way, then this is a good choice. You can get all the info you need off the internet, but then you have to deal with snarky self aggrandizing technogeek obfuscation which is annoying.
I happened to be in need of a new installation of a Linux system when this book arrived; I had just gotten a new Solid State Drive and wanted to try it out in an old laptop. Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux comes with a Ubuntu install disk, like in the old days when computer books always came with disks. Just for the heck of it I pulled out the disk and tried installing the most current version of Ubuntu Linux on the system free laptop. That worked fine, and I had Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin up an running.
I think I should mention that I may be one of the few people you’ll ever meet (if you meet me) who has Pangolin on his computer and has eaten pangolin. But I digress.
The newer Ubuntu systems have a new desktop environment called Unity. When Unity first came out, I, like may others, hated it. I prefer, and probably still prefer, the older Gnome 2.0 style desktop. But, since I had Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux in hand I went through with the process of using the text to inform me about using Unity and I actually changed my mind. I still hate it .. in particular, I hate the way Unity has ruined the functionality of menus and scroll bars, two of the most important things in any desktop environment. But, I also like it now in certain ways. In particular, I like the fact that I can press the “Super” key (formerly known as the Windows key) and then type in a string of text that corresponds to a known piece of software and run it. This is using the Heads Up display which at first I thought I would not like but now realize is cool. In the near future, I will attempt to install a heads up display on a more traditional version of gnome
In general, one of the things you’ll find most valuable about this book is the tutorial on how to navigate among your software and stuff on the Unity desktop. A little time with that will save a lot of time later. this includes using software like MyUnity (chapter 9) to fix up the Unity desktop more to your liking.
Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux also guides you through the use of the standard software, not just the system, such as the various office and graphics applications as well as Shotwell, the only photo management software I’ve ever let near my real photographs. (In this book I learned about Phatch Photo Batch Processor which looks like a functioning and very nice version of some of my own bash scripts I’ve had to write.)
I’ve always ignored Linux games, but the chapter on games in Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux included a lot more than I remembered ever being there and I may have to revisit that activity. Overall, you’ll get a summary of some of the software in each category of possible software, and if you are installing Linux for the fist time you’ll want to sample in each area. Installing software in Linux is very easy. If someone tells you it is not, that “compiling from source” and/or “dependencies” will make it difficult, ignore them they know not of what they speak. That’s like saying “Windows is hard because all the software is written in C++ and that is hard to program in” or “driving a Subaru is difficult because it was really hard to engineer that balanced drive train thingie they are famous for.” Yes there are hard way to run any OS. Just don’t do it the hard way. The book will help here.
All books I’ve ever read about setting up Linux have a fair percentage of the text devoted to running you through some of the more esoteric (to the average person) functionality that you will probably never use, but is mainly only easily available on a Linux machine, like programming in Python or using vim as a text editor, etc. etc. This book has some of that but much less than other books. As with any system or software guide, you simply have to give yourself permission to skip some of the chapters. Having said that, do work your way through the chapters on using the command line because it is easy, fun, and sometimes useful.
Go ahead and try installing Linux, using this book as a guide. Just remember, Linux is not for everybody.