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Learning a Little More
If you've been using Linux for a while, you're probably at the point where you want to see what it can really do. That's where The Linux Cookbook by Michael Stutz comes in. As the title implies, The Linux Cookbook is a set of "recipes" for carrying out a number of tasks.
Tasks like manipulating text and files, printing, working with images and sound, using the Internet, and more. The techniques are simple, and revolve around software that's either bundled with Linux or which is easy to get and install.
One of the main criticisms of the book is that it focuses heavily on the command line. For many Linux users who've jumped ship from Windows or Mac OS, the book's lack of focus on graphical tools could be seen as a negative. But if The Linux Cookbook teaches you anything, it's that the command line is your friend and it can complete a number of jobs quickly and efficiently.
Another book to check out is Linux Desktop Hacks by Nicholas Petreley and Jono Bacon. This book contains 100 tips (called "hacks") for customizing Linux and making it work the way you want it to. There are hacks for encrypting email, viewing Word and PDF files at the command line, modifying the KDE and GNOME desktop managers, using Mac and Windows fonts, and changing your cursor. Most of the hacks are easy to implement. Some, like the ones for compiling the kernel (the heart of Linux) and working with hardware demand some technical know-how. Still, this book is great for both knowledgeable users and those not-so-tech folk who are willing to get their hands dirty.
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Advanced, More Technical Topics
Many of the more advanced Linux books out there focus on programming, scripting, and administration. While I'm not a developer or an administrator, I've found the next two books very useful.
The first is Linux Shell Scripting with Bash by Ken O. Burtch. A shell is an environment you can type operating system commands -- one of the more popular of them is Bash (Bourne Again Shell). Scripting enables you to combine and run commands in useful and novel ways.
This book takes your through the basics of shell scripting. It shows you how to use basic shell commands, and how to include them in Bash scripts. From there, you learn to pull these elements together to manipulate files, use scripts to combine multiple commands, and use those scripts to maintain and administer your system. For the techie, there are chapters on using scripts with Web services and databases.
Linux Administration: A Beginner's Guide by Wale Soyinka is another useful book for the advanced user. While I generally look for Linux books that don't focus on a particular distribution, this book is an exception. It covers Red Hat Linux, but the techniques it presents can be applied to other distributions.
The author explains how to install Linux, as well as set up and manage user accounts. On top of that, you'll learn how to configure and manage various Internet services, set up a Web server, configure network sharing, and even how to get Linux to talk to Windows. There are even instructions on setting up and maintaining firewalls.
All of this sounds pretty technical, and it can be. But, Wale Soyinka does a good job of making the content of the book easy to follow.
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Going from zero to functional in Linux isn't hard. But taking the next steps can be. The books outlined in this article can help you get there.
Essential Linux Books: Digging Deeper
While there's a lot of information floating around the Web about Linux, sometimes nothing beats a good book. And that's what this series of articles looks at. Some of the best printed and electronic books on Linux that will take you from zero to a higher level of expertise.