Giving off an impression as the Swiss Army knife of Linux books, “MultiTool Linux” by Schwarz, Anderson, Curtis, Murphy and published by Addison-Wesley, this book tries to solve very specific problems with Linux. Let’s see whether it succeeds to do so or not.For starters, this book is not like other Linux books. Instead of starting with the basics and chapter-by-chapter becoming more in depth, it tries to teach the other way around. The book just presents specific common “problems” or “questions” and attempts to give answers to them, involving Linux. So each chapter relates to a particular question, and there are 25 chapters in the whole book. You can download the 5th chapter free as a PDF, which details on how to configure and use Samba with Linux.
In the first chapter, you will find the “traditional” information on the history of Linux, the differences between GPL and the other open source licences, and then what a window manager is, how to compile your kernel and configure LILO. I have to say I truly dislike the first chapter. This book is about how to use Linux to solve your problems while the first chapter is clearly biased towards evangelizing Linux at the expense of fairness against Windows, and the BSD license (“objectivity is a myth” – the author writes), and it goes on at lengths on introducing RMS and ESR.
After you finish up that ‘hard to digest’ chapter though, things get better. You learn how to use VNC, how to use and configure IP masquerading, SAMBA, communication methods, undernets/groupware, SSL/SSH/IMAP/Email servers and CRON jobs that use email, cryptography, advanced Apache hacking, TripWire and other methods of advanced security tools and more.
Surprisingly, the second part of the book becomes more “common” and maybe a bit obsolete. For example, a whole chapter on how to connect to a Palm device? Or what web sites you should visit? Or how to configure WINE, or burn or rip a CD? Come on… And when it comes to music production, the authors suggest tools like Audacity (which reached its 1.0 version just a few days ago) and SoundTracker, which are known to be for amateurs and far from professional tools. There are no real high-end multimedia tools for Linux, therefore the authors should not have even proposed the ideas and included whole chapters about these (easy to figure out) applications. And when it comes to 3D applications, the only one mentioned is PovRay (which is obviously not suitable for everything and by anyone), while for video production, they cite various video players like XMMS, Real and SDL. Personally, I would have preferred the book to have been half the size and not included these last chapters, but rather taken itself more seriously and only included real questions and answers, instead of this “Learn Linux in 24 hours” style.
This book targets a wide audience and is easily understandable by most, at least by all the power users who read OSNews. While the “Questions and Answers” idea is a good one, the questions are not always what the readers need and more advanced users will get bored with the second half of the book. Overall it is an interesting and light read, but it is not quite the all-in-one tool it claims to be.
Overall: 6.5 / 10
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