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Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!

A resource for the uninitiated

Considering Linux as a desktop operating system? Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye! guides you through the process and even includes a bootable CD mastered by author Marcel Gagné.

As I read Marcel Gagné's Moving to Linux I was conflicted. In many ways I was envious because this is the book I wish I had written. On the other hand I wished I could add a little more detail here and there. However, without a doubt this is an excellent resource for the uninitiated Linux desktop user. I enjoy Marcel's conversational style and subtle humor, which make this book more interesting than the many Linux books that aim to supplement readers' existing Linux knowledge rather than start them on their journey into the Linux desktop.

The book makes some choices for the reader because of the sheer volume of options available to the Linux desktop user. The focus of the desktop environment is decidedly KDE. Though the author keeps the focus on KDE he makes a point to refer to alternative solutions. In fact, every chapter is followed by a list of Web links to additional supporting information. While there are references to other environments and distributions it's obvious which configuration Marcel prefers, or at least recommends. The only shortcomings of the book, in my opinion, are that it lacks a detailed discussion of the Linux distributions available to new Linux users and features that may or may not appeal to them, and the fact that little attention is paid to the GNOME environment. However, including these would have added significant content to the book and may have confused a new reader. Also, Marcel makes the point that he is distribution-agnostic, leaving the choice of distribution to the individual rather than pointing the user in one direction or another.

The focus of the desktop environment is decidedly GUI-based, which is good. I think more and more Linux desktop users are getting by with just the graphical environment and tools. However, throughout the book are examples of how to work on the Linux command line, called "Shell Outs," and an appendix dedicated to "taking command" of the Linux command line. In addition to "Shell Outs" there are "Quick Tips," which offer additional advice and alternative ways to complete the task at hand. I like this depth of information as it indicates the flexibility of Linux and helps introduce novice users to more powerful ways to work with their operating system.

What adds significant value to this book is the inclusion of a bootable Linux CD mastered by the author to give readers a no-risk way to try out the methods discussed in the book. The variation of Knoppix's Live Boot CD, WFTL Edition Knoppix, allows readers to pop in the disk and work along with examples in the book. I think that this Linux trial is great as many people are turned off by the Linux install process or fear commitment to Linux without at least a test run.

I had the opportunity to speak with Marcel about the book; he says that his initial inspiration for this project came as he helped his parents with their first computer, which ran Linux as the operating system. With the release of KDE 2, he felt strongly that the Linux desktop was finally mature enough for the home PC user. When asked why the home PC user may be a good candidate for Linux adoption, Marcel said, "Home users and hobbyists try new things all the time, just for the pure pleasure of it. Once they try Linux and discover its power, security, stability, and major fun factor, I'm confident they'll be kissing the blue screen of death goodbye permanently."

In summary, Moving to Linux is the first book I have seen that I feel would be of significant value to the Linux desktop "newbie." Moving to Linux offers a thoughtful, easy-to-understand guide to taking your first steps toward the Linux desktop. I highly recommend this tome as a good reference for those considering Linux as a desktop operating system.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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