Saturday, May 08, 2004

A book worth a look 

Here is a book worth your time.

I get on my soapbox every so often and pontificate about Linux and open source software. I did not start out in life as a hater of Microsoft. As a matter of fact I go far enough back in desk top computer history that I remember when Microsoft was the proverbial David to the Goliath IBM. Bill Gates wanted to keep the personal computer “personal” while the evil IBM wanted everyone tied to a dumb terminal attached to a mammoth mainframe computer. This may be a great over simplification of the topic but you get the flavor of the mindset of the time. My how the times have changed.

Now it is Microsoft that wants to control the world not to mention every aspect of your computer and any networks that it might connect to. The current champion of those that want their systems and keyboards to be free is the Linux operating system that is part of a movement the computer world knows as “Open Source”. For a more detailed description of what open source is all about click on this link and visit their site. http://www.opensource.org To learn more about Linux visit this site. http://www.linux.org Even better yet find a copy of the following book and read it.

In the fast paced world of computers and electronics books are sometimes not as useful as they are in other areas of life. Many times the information in a book is all but obsolete by the time it makes its way onto the shelves of bookstores. This is why you need to read magazines and other sources to stay current with particular area of interest.

There are exceptions of course. Textbooks are good examples since the laws of physics haven’t changed lately books on electrical theory hold up rather well. Likewise there are some books on software that hold up well over the course of time. I would like to recommend one such book.

If you are interested in learning about the Linux operating system take a look at “Linux Clearly Explained” by Bryan Pfaffenberger. This book deals primarily with Red Hat Linux and to make my point about “fast changing” the version that this book covers doesn’t exist any longer, at least not as a supported product from the vendor. Red Hat has elected to concentrate on the enterprise business market and has withdrawn from the home, hobby and individual market place. That is another story that I will get into in more detail at another time.

Despite the fact that this book was written Red Hat Linux was at version number 6.0 and it was at version 9.5 when support was withdrawn almost all of the information between its covers is valuable to a new person getting involved with Linux. I particularly like the fact that the author takes the time to explain not only the history behind Unix and Linux but also the philosophy of why things are done the way they are in the design of the software. Here is a little information about the book and the author.

Bryan Pfafenberger, Ph.D., is a professor in the University of Virginia’s pioneering Division of Technology, Culture, and Communications, where he focuses on explaining complex, cutting-edge technologies to the public. A UNIX user since 1989, he is the author of more than 100 works on computing.

Linux Clearly Explained
Bryan Pfaffenberger
Published by Morgan Kaufmann ( http://www.mkp.com )
ISBN: 0-12-553169-9

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