|Moving to the Linux Business Desktop|
|summary||Very valuable guide for business user of Linux.|
M. Gagné, a writer for The Linux Journal, does not assume you're going to use any specific distro for Linux. He gives instructions and examples for the most common ones: Fedora (Red Hat), Mandrake, SUSE, Debian, etc. KDE is the primary desktop, but GNOME is covered fairly well, too. I have to admit that, as a long-time Red Hat user, I was well entrenched in the GNOME world. However, after reading Marcel's book, I've make KDE my default environment, and I've been very happy with it.
This book is broken up into three major parts: Getting to Know Linux, Administration and Deployment, and The Linux Business Desktop. Each part is packed with information in an easy-to-follow format. In fact, I found it hard to just read and not fire up my Linux to follow along.
Part One (Getting to Know Linux) covers the essentials of installing Linux and customizing your desktop. As I remarked earlier, Marcel covers multiple distros. He includes instructions on how to install using Mandrake, Fedora Core 1, and SUSE. For those of you who just can't wipe Windows from your hard drive completely, M. Gagné covers setting up a dual-boot environment clearly enough that you will be able to have the best of both worlds.
The second part (Administration and Deployment) assists in setting up a fully functional business environment. In Chapter 7 (Installing New Applications), Marcel covers the various installation programs available across the distros. SUSE's YaST2 installer, Mandrake's urpmi, Kpackage (from the K Desktop Environment), rpm (the shell program), dpkg (Debian's package manager) and apt-get are all covered. In addition, he gives a clearly written explanation of how to build from source (The Extract and Build Five-Step -- page 124) that dispels any anxiety a newbie to Linux might have.
The next chapter covers the device support in Linux. When I started using Linux, device support was spotty at best. Now it's tremendously improved. Marcel shows you the basic of Linux's support. He then goes on to explain about network and Internet connections. Unfortunately, there is one major piece of errata in this area of the book. During his explanation of the difference between Class A, B, and C IP addresses, the information for class A was inadvertantly switched with the class C info. I've been informed that the errata is corrected on his website (www.marcelgagne.com) and in future editions of the book. Outside of that one unfortunate error, the rest of the book is pretty clean.
Later chapters dig into the topics of Backup and Restore (the most important and most underutilized functions), printing, email, web servers, file sharing (both Windows-like with Samba and Unix-like with NFS), thin clients (server-side and client-side) and desktop remote control. He even includes a chapter on installing and configuring LDAP (something rarely written about, but becoming more and more important).
The third and final part of the book covers the usual business applications. Email, arguably the "killer app" for office environments, is addressed first. Focusing on KDE, Kmail gets the lion's share of the coverage, with Evolution following behind. Desktop organizers come next, with Korganizer the favorite and Evolution (again!) nipping at Korganizer's heels.
The web-browsing chapter focuses on Konquerer, KDE's jack-of-all-trades application, and Mozilla. Most notably, significant coverage is given in the next three chapters to OpenOffice and its basic applications Writer, Calc, and Impress. For working with images, digital cameras and USB scanners are covered, with The GIMP as the preferred image editor. On-demand contact via instant messaging and video conferencing rounds out this marvelous book. Kopete and GAIM are discussed in depth for the IM arena, and GnomeMeeting for the VC work.
As with most Linux books, a CD is supplied. However, this book does not give you a specific distro for installation. Instead, Marcel chose to include a branded copy of Knoppix, the CD-bootable Linux. The idea is to let you play around with the various aspects of Linux using Knoppix before committing yourself to the actual installation.
All in all, this is a valuable book, covering most of the areas a business user wants to address. Notably lacking was coverage on how to try to run Windows applications under Linux. At the top of the review, I mentioned I keep trying to steer away from Windows as much as I can. Unfortunately, I usually have a couple of applications that I need but don't come in a Linux version. Even though VMWare, Win4Lin, and Wine were mentioned briefly, I would have liked to have read some examples of running a Windows application using them. In addition, the major snafu with the IP address space marred an otherwise excellent book.
You can purchase Moving To the Linux Business Desktop from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.