Welcome!

Linux Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Mike Kavis, Carmen Gonzalez, Plutora Blog

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

Linux for Dummies, 6th Edition

Introducing Linux to the masses

Dee-Ann LeBlanc's classic Linux for Dummies takes the new user from the basics of the operating system through installing and using it. Now in its sixth edition, I talked to Dee-Ann about the book, her thoughts on the direction of Linux and how she manages to fit all of the work that she does into her busy schedule.

A sixth edition of a book on a relatively "new" technology is quite an achievement. Are things really changing that quickly in the Linux market?

As technology goes, they're changing quite rapidly, especially in the desktop space. As of the fourth edition I made an "executive decision" (with the support of my editors) to focus the book entirely on the desktop. In barely over 300 pages you just can't do justice to both desktop and server. As it is, it's difficult to do justice to the desktop!

When people tell me they tried Linux on the desktop a year or two ago and that it wasn't sufficient, I tell them that you can't compare Linux on the desktop as recently as a year ago with what it is today. Desktop Linux is growing in leaps and bounds, it's a wild and fun ride.

Without going into too much detail, how much has changed since last year's edition?

Fedora's look has changed significantly. It's gone for more of a "traditional" Gnome and "traditional" KDE, which I really like. The tools some distributions prefer have changed, which has meant that what I cover in detail has changed, and I've added three more distributions to the mix to try to cover a wider range of what people are using. In the previous edition I covered Fedora and added some Mandrake and SuSE in there. In the sixth edition I've added Linspire, Xandros and Knoppix.

Even cooler, in this edition the DVD can boot into either the Fedora installer or into the Knoppix no-installation desktop. We've also got ISOs for the other distributions so people won't have to download them. Some are full versions (Fedora, Knoppix, Mandrake and Linspire) and some are evaluation versions (SuSE and Xandros). Since even DVDs fill up we were really pushing the boundaries of what would fit.

Obviously, in such limited page space I can only cover one distribution in huge detail, and that's Fedora. However, I cover installations for each of these in as much detail as I can, and I cover how to update the systems and add software for each of them as well again in as much detail as possible.

Your opening chapter helps to dispel many of the myths of Linux. Is it true to say that many people, including IT professionals, still have misconceptions about Linux?

It's not as bad as it used to be but it's still pretty confusing out there. I talk to a lot of people because I travel so much and I teach online, and I'm constantly debunking myths. I had a student try to tell my other online students that Microsoft bought a major Linux company and was going to be the biggest producer of Linux software. I was glad it was online so I could keep a "straight face" with my response.

What I do find is that many more people have a vague notion of Linux' existence. If a cab driver or my seatmate on a plane ask me what I do, and I mention Linux, five years ago I would have gotten a glazed, blank look. Now people nod and even if they don't really understand what Linux is, they know it's out there. That I find very cool.

The Fedora Core is used throughout the book, although you also cover many of the other distributions. How do you choose a Linux distribution suitable for your needs?

Choosing a distribution is a very personal choice in a lot of ways.

Some of the distros are designed specifically for newcomers (think Linspire and Xandros). If you don't want to install anything, then something like Knoppix is great. Others are what I consider more "general purpose" that have nice desktop offerings (among those I cover, those are Fedora, Mandrake and SuSE). If you're really into technical stuff and server stuff and want to really work at a low level, then something like Debian or Slackware might be your preferred distribution.

I also like to point out to people that sometimes your best choice revolves around what your Linux-using friends know. If your friends all use Debian, and you find it too techie, you can choose Linspire, Xandros or one of the many other beginner distributions that are built on top of Debian. That way, your friends can help you with the lower-level stuff like adding apt repositories. If you don't know anyone who uses Linux, then you want a distribution that has decent support and/or a good online community. What you consider good here is more personal. Developers might like something more like Gentoo, along with those folks who are nuts about eking out the very most performance possible and are willing to wait out (nicely automated) compiling software?and figure out their not so automated installation process.

Sometimes you'll find that a distribution just does NOT get along with your particular hardware. People rave to me about Mandrake and yet it has given me problems through the 10 years I've been using Linux, so while I cover it because so many people have a good experience with it, it's not my favorite.

So, all in all, it's hard to give a cut-and-dried answer. One thing I tried to do in this edition is to let people see what's in each of them and give them a feel for what each is like to help them make that choice.

A lot of attention in the Linux arena is given to "emulating" the look-and-feel of Windows and/or Mac OS X to help adoption. Is this a good strategy?

I have mixed feelings on this topic. Xandros in particular specializes in being set up for Windows users. That's great. However, I also feel that Linux is Linux, not Windows and not the Mac. It's great to have options for people who want to set their machine up to look and work like another OS. I feel that Linux is all about choice after all, but I'm not personally interested in making my machine work exactly like some other operating system does. I suppose the end goal is a happy medium for now.

Are you a command-line or window person?

I'm command-line when it comes to dealing with moving, copying and otherwise working with files. If I have to read a text file I'll often use the command-line as well. Otherwise, I've come to use the GUI a lot on my desktop. I'm comfortable in both environments...I have to be since I teach both.

Do the top 10 lists of tools and resources in your book reflect your favorites?

Not always. They often include some of my favorites and things that I think beginners will find pretty cool and useful.

Is there any tool, web site or other resource that didn't make it into the book that you would like to have covered?

 Don't even get me started! I could easily make Linux for Dummies twice the size and still need more room.

You have a fairly hectic schedule, how do you manage to fit everything in?

Stress and chaos. In some ways I'm having to relearn scheduling, since I started doing onsite training in a big way in 2004. I have to schedule books and articles often before I know when I'll be out of town for training, so it's getting pretty "interesting" in the Chinese curse sense of the word. At the same time, some have suggested that I thrive on stress and deadlines, so maybe that's not a bad thing. I keep telling myself I'm going to slow down. Hah.

The cool thing is that I really try to do things that reinforce each other. The training I do really helps me get a feel for what people need help with when I do books and articles, not to mention what people find cool and interesting. The research for the books and articles gives me examples and experience to carry into a classroom for training. I try to always keep this in mind when choosing any project.

It's a bit dangerous as a writer not to get "out there" to a certain extent. I write so much that I don't have much time for consulting, so I have to constantly be finding out what people are doing out there in the real world. I keep a mailing list for my readers to join (see www.Dee-AnnLeBlanc.com), and use it to announce new things coming out and to ask questions. I can also poll my students and as a journalist I've always got companies wanting to tell me what they're up to, so in a way it's easier today for me to keep up than it used to be when I just wrote books. Ignoring legal battles, what do you consider the next big step will be for Linux?

That's a really good question, and not an easy one to answer. I tend to think that solidifying the desktop offerings is going to continue, and there are some gaps that need to be filled and some programs that need to be fleshed out. On the server side there are some offerings missing as well, but I understand that the big leaps in kernel development are actually slowing down, the general feel is that most of the big features are now there. This has some interesting implications to me, since if there's no 2.7 kernel tree (and there isn't right now), there's no need for developers and distributions to run on the treadmill of having to keep up with that. Those energies are going to go somewhere else. Will the software evolve faster? I don't know.

With all the work you do, how do you find time to relax, and what do you do to make the most of that free time?

Relax? What's that? I was never very good at it! It's a family problem; really, my whole family is way too wound up. I'd like to get back to doing yoga. I work on various fiction projects on the side (fantasy novels, SF/F short stories, that kind of thing), and one day will manage to get published there. I used to do a lot of stained glass work, even sold some pieces. Now I do some mosaics. I love to listen to music and have a very eclectic collection, everything from Middle Eastern to Classic Rock to Pop to Spanish Guitar.

Even in my relaxation, I'm scattered all over.

More Stories By Martin C. Brown

Martin C. Brown is a former IT director with experience in cross-platform integration. A keen developer, he has produced dynamic sites for blue-chip customers, including HP and Oracle, and is the technical director of Foodware.net. Now a freelance writer and consultant, MC, as he is better known, works closely with Microsoft as an SME; has a regular column on both ServerWatch.com and IBM's DeveloperWorks Grid Computing site; is a core member of the AnswerSquad.com team; and has written books such as XML Processing with Perl, Python and PHP, and the Microsoft IIS 6 Delta Guide.

Comments (0)

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
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 Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
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...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CodeFutures, a leading supplier of database performance tools, has been named a “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. CodeFutures is an independent software vendor focused on providing tools that deliver database performance tools that increase productivity during database development and increase database performance and scalability during production.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that prevent them from doing so. The Company is uniquely positioned to help address these challenges thro...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
SYS-CON Media announced that Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow, has launched a new ad campaign in Cloud Computing Journal. The ad campaign, a webcast titled 'Is Your Data Center Ready for the Application Economy?', focuses on the latest data center networking technologies, including SDN or ACI, and how customers are using SDN and ACI in their organizations to achieve business agility. The Cisco webcast is available on-demand.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
"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.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
“The age of the Internet of Things is upon us,” stated Thomas Svensson, senior vice-president and general manager EMEA, ThingWorx, “and working with forward-thinking companies, such as Elisa, enables us to deploy our leading technology so that customers can profit from complete, end-to-end solutions.” ThingWorx, a PTC® (Nasdaq: PTC) business and Internet of Things (IoT) platform provider, announced on Monday that Elisa, Finnish provider of mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions, will deploy ThingWorx® platform technology to enable a new Elisa IoT service in Finland and Estonia.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
As enterprises move to all-IP networks and cloud-based applications, communications service providers (CSPs) – facing increased competition from over-the-top providers delivering content via the Internet and independently of CSPs – must be able to offer seamless cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions that can scale for small, midsize, and large enterprises, as well as public sector organizations, in order to keep and grow market share. The latest version of Oracle Communications Unified Communications Suite gives CSPs the capability to do just that. In addition, its integration ...
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, shared some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, a...