Section 1.1. About This Book

This book provides an overview and guide to Linux as a desktop and a back-office system. We present information on topics to satisfy novices and wizards alike. This book should provide sufficient material for almost anyone to choose the type of installation they want and get the most out of it. Instead of covering many of the volatile technical detailsthose things that tend to change with Linux's rapid developmentwe give you the information that helps you over the bumps as you take your first steps with popular distributions, as well as background you will need if you plan to go onto more advanced Linux topics such as web services, federated identity management, high-performance computing, and so on.

We geared this book for those people who want to understand the power that Linux can provide. Rather than provide minimal information, we help you see how the different parts of the Linux system work, so you can customize, configure, and troubleshoot the system on your own. Linux is not difficult to install and use. Many people consider it easier and faster to set up than Microsoft Windows. However, as with any commercial operating system, some black magic exists, and you will find this book useful if you plan to go beyond desktop Linux and use web services or network management services.

In this book, we cover the following topics:

  • The design and philosophy of the Linux operating system, and what it can do for you.

  • Information on what you need to run Linux, including suggestions on hardware platforms and how to configure the operating system depending on its specified role (e.g., desktop, web server, database and/or application server).

  • How to obtain and install Linux. We cover the Red Hat, SUSE, and Debian distributions in more detail than others, but the information is useful in understanding just about any distribution.

  • An introduction, for new users, to the original Linux/Unix system philosophy, including the most important commands and concepts still in use.

  • Personal productivity through slick and powerful office suites, image manipulation, and financial accounting.

  • The care and feeding of the Linux system, including system administration and maintenance, upgrading the system, and how to fix things when they don't work.

  • Expanding the basic Linux system and desktop environments with power tools for the technically inclined.

  • The Linux programming environment. The tools of the trade for programming and developing software on the Linux system.

  • Using Linux for telecommunications and networking, including the basics of TCP/IP configuration, PPP for Internet connectivity over a modem, ISDN configuration, ADSL, cable, email, news, and web accesswe even show how to configure a Linux system as a web and database server.

  • Linux for fun: audio, video, and games.

Many things exist that we'd love to show you how to do with Linux. Unfortunately, to cover them all, this book would be the size of the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary and would be impossible for anyone (let alone the authors) to maintain. Instead we've included the most salient and interesting aspects of the system and show you how to find out more.

Although much of the discussion in this book is not overly technical, you'll find it easier to navigate if you have some experience with the command line and the editing of simple text files. For those who don't have such experience, we have included a short tutorial in Chapter 4. Part 2 of the book is an exploration of system administration that can help even seasoned technicians run Linux in a server mode.

If you are new to Linux and want more system-oriented information, you'll want to pick up an additional guide to command-line basics. We don't dwell for long on the fundamentals, preferring instead to skip to the fun parts of the system. At any rate, although this book should be enough to get you functional and even seasoned in the use of Linux, you may have requirements that will take you into specialized areas. See Appendix A for a list of sources of information.

Part I: Enjoying and Being Productive on Linux
Part II: System Administration