Book review: Linux Annoyances for Geeks <i>by Michael Jang</i>

Book review: Linux Annoyances for Geeks by Michael Jang


This book provide tips, work-arounds and solutions to common problems encountered with Linux. It contains practical “under the hood” information that everyone who deals with Linux should know about. Many of the documented “annoyances” are addressed all over the internet, so let me explain what makes this book worth the price you pay...

Linux Annoyances For GeeksLinux Annoyances For Geeks

This book picks up where most books on Linux System Administration leave off by providing context into areas that those books may only give superficial treatment to. It covers three distributions, Fedora (Red Hat), Suse and Debian, and has good examples of customizations that most books on system administation will only point the reader to. While one is likely to find much of the content out on the internet already, the advantage of the book is that you have a starting point at arms length with good explanations, and good advice. The book is a treasure of valuable information, and while it isn’t the ultimate trouble-shooting tool, in many chapters it enters this arena and sometimes offers cookbook steps, or a generous illustration of steps one can take to remedy a problem. What it does do is address known deficiencies (annoyances) and contains work-arounds or steps to deal with them. In truth I found that it provided a frame of reference from which to begin looking at an issue or problem.

This is pleasure reading for some, but good information for all

The contents

Linux breaks, Linux has holes, Linux is quirky, Linux does this, or doesn’t do that, and all of this is addressed in about 485 pages. The content and structure of the book is oriented toward system administrators who would be in support of a user workstation population. This book is the extra stuff that is good to know and increases your depth of understanding, so in a sense the actual solutions can almost be thought of as secondary.

The book is valuable for those supporting Linux who are in need of deeper and practical understanding of why things function (or not) as they do. It is valuable, both for supporting professionals or the enquiring geek in their search to understand how this watch ticks.

For me that time was when I tried to get a wi-fi pcmcia card to work on my laptop under a 2.4 kernel. This is my greatest annoyance with Linux and it continues to be the single issue that occupies most of my time. The book sets my expectations on this issue, but offers nothing new in the way of work-arounds here, (at least for me) but it does offer a way for me to better understand an issue.

Some of the annoyances were incompletely addressed. One of these is the display annoyance. Sometimes you just need to lower the resolution outside of the GUI environment and you want a quick reference on how to do this. I didn’t find the answer I wanted in the book, but it gave me a starting point to resolving my problem on Google. Resolution was addressed in two sections of the book, but neither of these completely addresses some of the display resolution issues that can come up. However, reading both of these sections gave me pause to consider alternatives I hadn’t thought of before. In truth there are other quicker resources if all one needs is a quick answer, but the book added depth to my understanding.

If knowing more about system startup, the kernel, GNOME/KDE, managing users and applications sound like topics of interest, then the book is of value. If all you need is a quick answer then Google or a newsgroup is a better place to go.

Who’s this book for?

The keyword for this book is in the title. It is meant for Unix/Linux geeks, and the subject matter is specifically directed to those who are serious about getting under the hood to customize and troubleshoot the Linux environment. In short, for a true geek, this is pleasure reading.

Relevance to free software

Linux...AKA GNU/Linux. As an operating system GNU/Linux is free software. If there is any doubt here I urge one to go to the official GNU website for the formal definition and explanation.

Pros

It does provide helpful information that is aimed at Linux geeks, but its content delivers a thoughtful framework to defining annoyances. After one has worked at solving problems long enough adopting a methodology by which you approach the problem becomes as important as the problem itself. The book is a guide to those who like to frame and understand the problem before they jump to solutions just for the sake of a solution.

Cons

If all you want or need is a set of quick fixes or work-arounds, this book may provide that, but going straight to the web will be faster. This is not the “Whole Earth Complete Linux Answerbook”. The book will increase your depth of knowledge, but is not a substitute for books that focus specically on a sub-system topic.

Title Linux Annoyances For Geeks
Author Michael Jang
Publisher O’Reilly
ISBN 0596008015
Year 2006
Pages 485
CD included No
FS Oriented 10
Over all score 9

In short

Category: 
License: 

Author information

Frank Conley's picture

Biography

Frank Conley is a UNIX support engineer who is at times terrified, amazed and amused at the resiliency of Linux.