I finally got my hands on a copy of Sander van Vugt's Beginning the Linux Command Line. It really is a book can warmly recommend to those of my readers who want to learn the basics of administering a Linux system using command line only. This is, of course, a necessary skill for anyone who intends to use Linux with an old computer that cannot comfortably run the modern desktop distributions that provide the users with point-and-click setup tools for almost every imaginable configuration option.
The author Sander van Vugt is a consultant specialized in Linux high availability, storage solutions, and performance problems. This is not his first book, as he has published several books about Linux-related subjects before Beginning the Linux Command Line. In addition to the books about Linux servers, he has written articles for several web sites and magazines such as Linux Journal and Linux Magazine.
According to the author, the book was written for anyone who wants to master Linux using the command line. This includes system administrators, software developers and enthusiastic users who are interested in getting things going from the command line.
The audience of the book is not limited to any specific distro, as the book is distribution agnostic -- everything in the book has been checked against Ubuntu, Red Hat, and SUSE. This means that the book should be useful with most of the main stream distributions. Only users of some of the more exotic distributions like Gentoo, Arch, and to some extent Slackware might be worried about the selection of the three distributions. On the other hand, the users of Gentoo and Arch probably do not need a book written for command line newbies.
In fact, the book could well be read by anyone who is not familiar with the concepts of open source and different Linux distributions as the first chapter of the book begins with the introduction of these concepts before even logging into an installed Linux system. After logging into a running system, the author starts by explaining the structure of commands and their options, piping and redirection and how to get more help with the man command and --help option.
Only after explaining the very basics, the author moves forward to system administration beginning from changing the password, working with virtual consoles and becoming another user. After this, the command line newbie learns about how to obtain information about other users, how to communicate with them and and how to move around the file system. Unlike most of the command line books, this one really does not expect any previous familiarity with the command line!
Reading the next chapters, the command line newbie will learn about administering the file system: mounting the disks, checking file system integrity, creating backups and working with links. Even the more experienced Linux users might learn something new -- for example I have never used a LVM and the fifth chapter gave me an overview of logical volumes.
The sixth chapter is dedicated to managing users and groups. More experienced Linux users might find the discussion of user quotas and authentication methods the most interesting parts of the chapter.
In the seventh chapter, the newbie learns to manage permissions. The eight chapter teaches him/her to manage software, using either .deb or .rpm packages and respective package management tools. The next chapter is about process and system management and the tenth chapter about system logs -- both are interesting reading for anyone willing to learn about basic system administering.
The next chapters are a quick introduction in using Linux as server. The eleventh chapter is about configuring the network and the twelfth chapter teaches us how to configure a file server. And if this is not enough, in the final two chapters you will learn about tuning the kernel and about basic shell scripting.
I can only recommend this book warmly for anyone who has used Linux as desktop but never bothered to look at the command line and the rich possibilities provided by it.
Even a basic knowledge of the command line is essential for those who want to use an old computer with a custom lightweight Linux installation. After reading this book, you are one step closer to being a power user who can install and use the more exotic distributions on old computers. If you belong to the target group of the book, you will certainly learn a lot from it. If you are more experienced Linux user, you might still find the chapters about servers and kernel useful.
Order the book directly from Amazon.