Welcome!

Linux Authors: AppDynamics Blog, Carmen Gonzalez, Sematext Blog , David Skok, Andrew Phillips

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

The Linux Cookbook: Michael Stutz On Using Linux For Everyday Activities

The Linux Cookbook: Michael Stutz On Using Linux For Everyday Activities

Michael Stutz, author of The Linux Cookbook, 2nd Edition: Tips and Techniques for Everyday Use, discusses what inspired him to write this book, when he first started using Linux, and other world views.

Who is this book written for - system administrators or people new to Linux?
Admins will find the organization of undocumented tips and tricks quite useful, but it's not a technicians-only kind of book. I wanted to write a book that would also be of great value to someone who was totally new to Linux, that would show you the whole Linux culture and Linux way of doing things from the ground up.

It's the kind of book that you could use in a hands-on Linux course, but that would actually be useful enough so that the students would keep it as a daily reference afterward, instead of selling it right back to the college bookstore when the class is over.

This isn't a Linux for Total Fools in Five Seconds type book; it's not cutesy or trendy, and the purpose is not to enable someone who couldn't care less about the subject to cheat his way through, but to elevate the user by showing him how to use Linux for real.

You don't need a book to tell you how to fake it with a GUI, anyway. The only way to really know Linux is to learn the language of the command line. You'll save a lot of time in life by knowing that, and that's what this book is for.

What kind of feedback have you been getting on the book?
It hasn't been out very long but happily people seem to love it!

That's been reassuring because a lot of time and effort went into making it. With all due respect to Krispy Kreme, computer books nowadays are plopped out quicker than hot glazed doughnuts, but the Linux Cookbook wasn't like that at all. It's not a series book and it wasn't written for hire; it was only written because I had grown utterly dejected at the thought of how everyday people were using their computers. It really made me sad to see this mass inefficiency. People had these horrible time-wasting methods pushed on them when I knew they would be so much better off running Linux.

What's your background?
Computers were always inherent - this is the Internet Age, after all - but I'm a programmer or technician only by amateur or theoretical inquiry, not by trade. My background is literature and philosophy, which has brought the advantage of perspective. The secret that most people don't seem to know, because of what our culture has become in recent decades, is the fundamental idea that computer software is not, strictly speaking, technology at all. A program is just a literary work; it's a kind of technical literature. I talk about this in the introduction.

Forty years ago the United States was the greatest producer society in the world. What happened in that interval and how does it relate to Linux? Part of that transformative shift was the adoption of the view that computer programs were objects that you bought at the store, that they were somehow new "technology" to bank on. This obscured what they really were - written works to be published and examined and read, as well as performed by the hardware. When you remove that from the culture and only sell it as a sealed object in the box, you have a fairy-tale economy and a culture that is sliding into irrelevance, decadence, and decay. Linux is a return to the old tradition, to the individual inventor-scientist and industrial entrepreneur as the productive member of an educated populace. That's what so exciting about it.

How did you come to learn about Linux?
I heard about it on the newsgroups back when it was being invented. At first I thought, "Hey, this will be great," but I knew it would be some time before it would actually be useful as an everyday OS. Those were the days when Linus said he wasn't going to support the SCSI bus. Then after a few years I came back to it when the first distributions had come out. I got a copy of Slackware Linux, where you had to make an install set of about 42 floppy disks. I've never run another OS since. It looks very different today, of course, but the core of it - what is taught in The Linux Cookbook - is the same.

What's your favorite Linux program?
That's like asking a poet what his favorite word is; it's all in how they go together.

Is there anything you need to run Windows for?
Yes, there is an area affecting business and home use where Linux is greatly deficient, and I see no solution coming at all. I refer to the area of e-mail viruses - they just don't make them for Linux like they do for Windows. Same with a lot of those crippling meltdowns and system errors. If you want a blue screen of death freeze-up, you pretty much have to run Windows to get it. You won't be able to run those trojan horses that steal all your passwords and copy your files out to the Internet, and you're out of luck with all those funny attachments that wreak havoc in the workplace - there isn't any Linux compatibility here at all.

Do you think that Linux has enough applications that people can completely leave Windows behind?
Absolutely. If you don't need the viruses and freeze-ups, by all means go with Linux. Linux is loaded with applications, everything you need. Some distributions give you hundreds and hundreds of programs. The quality is high, too; the best minds in software today are working with Linux and have been for years.

On a practical and theoretical level, there's really no need for running anything else, if maximum efficiency is desired. I haven't run a proprietary OS in over a decade. This is true for the workplace as well as the home. The smart business today is the one that uses Linux.

Speaking in general terms, if you need to use a computer to get something done fast, you're going to be a step ahead by using Linux. That's the fundamental idea behind The Linux Cookbook; it describes how to use the system for the everyday activities of the average user, and not just the technical operations.

What would your advice be to someone who is just learning Linux? What's the best way to learn it?
The way to learn anything on computers is to sit down and do it. That's the only way - trial and error.

Knowing that, I designed the Cookbook to work as a textbook that can guide you at the keys by telling you what to type and explaining why you type it, starting with the utter fundamentals such as logging in and turning the computer on and off, and building up to the most complex operations you'll probably ever come up with.

Why does the book look different inside from most other computer books?
Since The Linux Cookbook is all about using Linux for everyday work, I thought, "What better way to demonstrate that than to use Linux to make the book?"

So through an arrangement with the publisher, I typeset the book using only free software on Linux. Everything you see in the book was done with the open source, free software that you get with Linux. How's that for a demonstration?

Because of computers, graphic design is no longer the domain of experts - anyone can use desktop publishing software to typeset something. But there's a paradox. If you look around, the result of this new capability is not so good; in fact, it's a nightmare. Perhaps I'm a little more sensitive to this than some, but everywhere I go I see poor typography and awful design. Who can peacefully dine in a supposedly fine restaurant when you see that the menu is slapped together with all the wrong fonts? How can you take a place seriously when you see the cheap sign out along the road? The same with books. When was the last time you flipped through a book and thought it looked absolutely great? I like the best of the books made on the Monotype and Linotype equipment of the precomputer days, and using Donald Knuth's TeX typesetting system I deliberately tried to achieve that caliber of greatness with The Linux Cookbook, to make a product that someone might actually be proud to own.

Do you think that Linux is just for home users?
No, not at all. Linux is not just an end-user system. While it's ideal for what's called "the desktop," either in the home or office - and that is the usage that I describe in The Linux Cookbook - it also excels in industrial applications. It's unparalleled there.

Many foreign governments are taking advantage of Linux for this reason, as well as foreign industries. We would do well to do the same here in the United States. The United States as a matter of policy has to get back to the kind of producer economy that we had 40 years ago, when computing was in its infancy. A tremendous shift in our culture occurred at that time, including the rejection of what we today call the open source method. We closed the factories, put the software in boxes, and called it a "post-industrial economy."

But it's no economy; that shift was a terrible mistake. Since then our production has plummeted and our culture has gone down with it. The United States is no longer a world leader in art and culture. The most popular word to describe its citizens today is "consumer." Our cities are decaying and dangerous. The implications for the younger generation are terrifying. But with Linux, we could turn all of that around!

Why is it a "cookbook"? Are there any recipes for food inside?
Doing something with a computer is a lot like making something in the kitchen, so the "recipe" metaphor lends itself to computer instruction. Don Lancaster wrote the first computer cook-books back in the early 1970s, I think, and before that in The Art of Computer Programming Knuth very clearly draws upon the metaphor. There are all kinds of computer "cookbooks" today because it's a natural way to look at the act of programming. While most computer cookbooks are for programmers and give "cookbook" snippets of program code, The Linux Cookbook uses that method for teaching the language of the command line, and I think it's very successful at that.

As for culinary recipes, there aren't any in the book. But it's not unheard of - Hemingway indulged in that, and in The Dharma Bums Kerouac tells you how trail mix is made. In Clifford Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg, a book about computer hackers, there's a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

What is your favorite cookbook in general?
I can talk all night on this subject! Generally the cookbooks I enjoy are the old ones. There was a time when America had many of the world's greatest chefs, and the greatest restaurants, and I look for that. For American cookbooks Master Chef Louis P. De Gouy set the standard, and if you can find a first edition of his Gold Cook Book it is worth it. Some say the cookbook put out by Vincent Price and his wife is one of the finest of the 20th century. Every well-appointed restaurant kitchen has Escoffier and a copy of the Larousse Gastronomique.

The Ford Motor Company used to publish excellent cookbooks featuring recipes from America's famous restaurants. When you bought a car they gave you one: "Here, go out on the road in your nice new Ford and have a look at this fine country!" Who in the world would do that today? What, to check out the Olive Gardens in Idaho? Of course it's nostalgic, since the entire nation has now been taken over by a giant franchise chain. I seek that forgotten history. Luchow's and Mama Leone's were New York institutions (with excellent cookbooks) the likes of which you cannot find in New York, or anywhere else today - Manhattan recently lost its last diner.

Even out in Columbus, Ohio, they had a gigantic world-class landmark, the Kahiki Polynesian Supper Club, worthy of a cookbook of its own. Its myriad features included an indoor tropical forest complete with thunder and rainstorm. The place was an astounding achievement, wonderfully preserved, and back in 2000 only weeks after it was voted best in the world by Food & Wine magazine, they demolished it for a Walgreen's. That's the future, for us and for all our children. Where is the outrage?

How about your favorite cartoon?
Zippy! I'll have to share my favorite Zippy strip, which relates to this discussion: zippythepinhead.com.

To conclude on a happy note, you should know that Linux has a way to display random Zippy quotes, and there's a recipe to show you how to do it in The Linux Cookbook.

About Michael Stutz
Michael Stutz has used Linux exclusively for over a decade. He was the first to apply the open source methodology of Linux to non-software works, and was one of the first reporters to cover Linux and the free software movement in the mainstream press. His "Living Linux" column runs on the O'Reilly Network.

More Stories By Kevin Bedell

Kevin Bedell, one of the founding editors of Linux.SYS-CON.com, writes and speaks frequently on Linux and open source. He is the director of consulting and training for Black Duck Software.

Comments (14) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Karri89 02/04/05 01:09:04 PM EST

I'm a newbie to the world of UNIX/Linux and
found this book very helpful in guiding me
through what was unfamiliar territory. I have to admit
that being a former WindowsNT user, I was nervous at
first, but the Stutz Cookbook showed me that there was
nothing to be afraid of and that Linux is as
easy to operate as my trusty old NT box, if not
even easier! And he's right about the email problem.
It's GREAT not having to worry about the back-door
viruses that were so plentiful in Outlook (no matter
how recent I was on my Norton Anti-Virus load!)

The other nice thing about the book is how the author
explains the concept of OpenSource and Linux. This was
the first book I saw that actually explains WHY I should
make the big switch (to Linux).

Glen 02/03/05 01:45:22 PM EST

This article made me want to rush out and NOT buy his book. He says the book is not trendy/cutesy, but that's just what this ridiculous article is. Food recipes? Chocolate chip cookies? Are you kidding? This is more like an interview from a sappy, lame, local news channel than an IT magazine.

MERWIN, T 02/02/05 10:42:47 AM EST

MARTHA JUST TYPE IN LINUX COOKBOOK IN AMAZON

IT WILL COME UP FOR SECOND EDITION

RIGHT HERE

CompWizKid 01/25/05 02:49:11 PM EST

Your wanna-be gurus are funny. I run a 98, two XP's, one debian, one slackware, one Gentoo system, and one Mac. first of all, if you want "ease-of-use" for any media based medium(photos, video, grahpical editing), Windows is not indispnesable. Furthermore, if you want to game(ANY GAME) is written for and runs on Windows systems. The statement that society is decaying due to the ease-of-use of windows systems is plain eccentric. Lets come to one generallization; people are lazy,and people are stupid. I would rather an everyday user(non-techie) not use linux due to the fact that it would take more time to support them, which would overcast the efficency it would save. Anyone who is good at computers knows how many times friends and family ask them to "fix their computer." These computers are PCs, so think if they were linux/unix machines.

Drivers are a major problem from system to system. XP comes preloaded with alomost any driver that is possible.

Wireless technologies are becoming more of IT professionals everyday life. The time it takes to configure and startup a wireless arcitechture on a Linux based system far exceeds that of a windows system. When I am showing a demo to a potential customer, should I spend more time configuring or demoing. Furthermore if a client would like to display a concept of some sort and cant navigate, more time is wasted and causes confusion. Lastly I am extreamly mobile person(grad student). The ability to travel from AP to AP seamlessly is important to me. Also, for most new technology laptops, advanced option drivers(integrated wireless)are not available. This introduces additional costs.

A humble Linux user 01/24/05 09:00:31 AM EST

Sorry, but I must said that I've been using Linux for the last four years and yes, it ALMOST replaced Windows for all my home uses except for one: it still (well, it was not six months ago) not possible to print family photos in my deskjet with the same quality as the Windows ones. This has been acknowledged by HP support, and is, except kids games, my only reason to still boot Windows.

colin case 01/23/05 03:15:29 PM EST

martha, i got mine really cheap on amazon + free shipping...

martha 01/23/05 02:19:59 PM EST

It's nice that you linked to Zippy, but did you consider linking to some locations that sell the book.

Wally Masterson 01/22/05 07:14:39 PM EST

This is a great book on Linux - I own it and find it indispensable.

A reader 01/22/05 06:25:45 PM EST

You've got to be kidding. Linux is good and all, but this guy is on crack or something. First, I like how he says Linux maximizes his efficiency, but how he hasn't used a proprietary OS in so many years. He seems to have such a solid basis for comparison then. Or how about, "Our cities are decaying and dangerous. The implications for the younger generation are terrifying. But with Linux, we could turn all of that around!" WTF? Is this guy for real?

Sarah 01/22/05 05:55:30 PM EST

Dunno how long it lasts, but I found a 20% discount link from the publisher...

Stuart B 01/22/05 08:54:54 AM EST

I use Linux for almost everything.
The only thing I need Windows for is DVD authoring.
DVD authoring tools under Linux are worthless ... so far.

Matt 01/22/05 06:24:26 AM EST

Ron, have you heard of this thing called the internet? It's real handy. You can even look up books there. Try it, you'll like it!

bazmudi 01/21/05 07:22:51 AM EST

ron, i find publisher-page here: $31.95

amazon for best deal: $26.37

Ron 01/20/05 10:46:14 PM EST

And the publisher of this book is? And it is available where, when, for how much?

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...