Book review: Beginning Ubuntu Linux by Keir Thomas

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I picked up Beginning Ubuntu Linux, Second Edition with a sense of familiarity; I also had the pleasure of reviewing the First Edition and found the experience to be a gentle and very complete introduction to Ubuntu. It’s as though Keir Thomas wants to ensure that anyone starting out with GNU/Linux won’t feel like a worthless newb being thrown to the proverbial geeks, who will guffaw and point and weeze asthmatically and incomprehensibly. So, because I already know that I appreciate Keir Thomas’s abilities, I thought I should review the Second Edition with a slightly different goal. Would my mother, who is quite computer literate in the Windows department and is about to migrate to Ubuntu (yay!), be able to use this book sucessfully? And will her experience of Beginning Ubuntu Linux be a breeze?

The book’s cover The book’s cover

My response to my posed question, after careful consideration, is yes. Keir Thomas walks you through the whole experience from beginning to end, comforting you with a calm voice when you might be feeling a bit lost. He doesn’t just plunge the reader blindly into complex computer jargon; instead, he starts off with a little GNU/Linux introduction to give you a boost before you start. He runs through all your options about the actual physicalities of the changeover, whether you want to dual boot or just go the whole hog. He preempts the sort of questions you might have. He gets you up and running, secure, and includes a great section about Ubuntu replacements for Windows programs and explains in detail how to use them. All in all, I think mum’s going to be impressed.

Keir Thomas walks you through the whole experience from beginning to end, comforting you with a calm voice when you might be feeling a bit lost

The contents

Beginning Ubuntu Linux is a whopping great 684 pages; it’s no lightweight and if you do a lot of walking, you mightn’t want it along for company unless you’re Mary Poppins. But this really just means Keir Thomas has done a great and thourough job. I wouldn’t call any of the material in this book extraneous for this audience; when you are braving a whole new world in computing, more is more. I would even call the size of the book comforting for users.

Similar to the first edition, Beginning Ubuntu Linux is divided into seven parts (not including the appendixes), starting off with GNU/Linux in general and then getting into specifics. Part one introduces GNU/Linux in general, why it’s great, the politics, and why you would want to run it. Part two eases you through the first and scariest bit... pre-installation, installation, and any issues. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands! Part three is the realities of getting started. Booting, getting everything going, security, personalising Ubuntu, and file management. Part four introduces the BASH shell. Part five assists you with multimedia devices. Part six is devoted to the suite and how to use it, and part seven keeps you running on the day to day stuff, backing up and whatnot.

There are a couple changes in the book’s second edition. Firstly, it has been updated to take into account the release of Edgy Eft (6.10). There is also added content for extra edification; things like information on antiviral software, and repositories, which are a new feature with Edgy.

Who’s this book for?

My Mum! And anyone else who is ready to make the change, but wants to be independent about it, cautious about it, and have an almighty great reference book as their best friend. Seriously. Ubuntu in its new release is just looking so user friendly and good right now that it’s time to get it on the desktop, ladies and gentlemen, and recommending this book to newbs is how we can do it.

Relevance to free software

Completely relevant. Obviously, the whole idea of this book is that you are going to use free software.


It really is a must have for would-be Ubuntu converts with nerves. They’ll have a read and wonder what they were concerned about!


Edgy is not the latest release of Ubuntu. Feisty Fawn 7.04 is out now too. So if you want the latest and greatest Ubuntu and you want a book like this, you’ll have to wait for the 3rd Edition to come out. In the mean time, though, you can always install Edgy using the book and then upgrade to Feisty using the upgrade manager (which is explained in the 2nd Ed.)

Title Beginning Ubuntu Linux Second Edition
Author Keir Thomas
Publisher Apress
ISBN 1590598202
Year 2007
Pages 864
CD included Yes
FS Oriented 10
Over all score 10

In short



clievers's picture
Submitted by clievers on

This book definitely sounds great. When I started with Linux, I was told to start with Gentoo as you would really "learn" what's going on. Well, from my experience, please do not start with Gentoo. It was very difficult. I've done a bit of playing around with Ubuntu and it definitely seems to be my distro of choise now.

let's all play nice!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Appreciate the review of the book BUT there are other more revelant distros like Suse, Red HAt, Mandriva and others
than have more to offer than this distro.

Grumpy User's picture
Submitted by Grumpy User (not verified) on

While many distros exist and all have good and bad points the one point that will stand out is user acceptance. Unbuntu has created a user feel that allows users to feel secure about moving away from Windows. Yes I agree that Unbuntu falls short in some areas but all in all it is possibly the best place for a new GNU/Linux user to start especially if they are an average user and not a power user.

quagee's picture

you are absolutely right, The ubuntu community does make one feel accepted right from the beginning whether you are a newbie or an experienced linux user. It is one of the main reasons why I made the switch. Great community support that is gentle to the new people and a distro that is easy to install and for the most part operate.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

While I'm not sure what your qualifications are in terms of distro "relevance", I would like to point out that a SUSE version of this book is also available. A Fedora version will be available in August.

Great review!


Jason Gilmore
Apress Open Source Editor

Brian Masinick's picture
Submitted by Brian Masinick (not verified) on

I find that books like this one are necessary - and it is necessary for the first time beginner that the book or resource specifically targets and covers a specific system or application. I believe this book does this well - at the expense, of course, that information peculiar to this release is not 100% applicable to all distributions, nor is it 100% applicable to all versions of Ubuntu. The reviewer points this out clearly, and also indicates that it is possible to upgrade the software described in the book to the latest and greatest release.

It is nice to have various specific versions of books that help introduce specific systems. These books are not for everyone, though they do contain some relevant information that can be used in a general way once the specifics are taken into account.

Ubuntu, whether individuals prefer it or some other alternative, certainly has been engaging to the community and has provided a fresh breath of what community involvement and openness is all about. This book does a good job of explaining about Ubuntu and the community. It is a good book for newbies, decent for intermediate users, but probably not for advanced users unless you lack reference material, in which case it might be an option, though probably not the best one.

I would recommend O'Reilly books as subject matter references and books like this one for beginners wanting to try out a specific system. Ubuntu is a good system for beginners to try out, and this book is helpful for beginners.

Author information

Bridget Kulakauskas's picture


Bridget has a degree in Sociology and English and a keen interest in the social implications of technology. She has two websites: Illiterarty and The Top 10 Everything. She also handles accounts and administration for Free Software Magazine.

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