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Ubuntu on a Dime 531

AussieNeil writes "If IBM had adopted Unix for its Personal Computer and supported open source so *nix desktops were the now the norm, how hard would it be to convince the population to switch to Microsoft Windows? In Ubuntu on a Dime — The Path to Low-Cost Computing, James Kelly shows how easy it is to build a computer and install a complete software suite for US$200 excluding monitor, keyboard, and mouse. You can't even buy the operating system and anti-malware protection for Microsoft Windows for that, let alone have any money left over for hardware and productivity software! Then when you install the software, you have the paradigm of having to restart the computer to complete software installation and you have to learn how to practice safe computing while budgeting for annual anti-malware software license renewals!" Read on for the rest of AussieNeil's review.
Ubuntu on a Dime
author James Floyd Kelly
pages 280
publisher Apress
rating 9/10
reviewer AussieNeil
ISBN 1-4302-1972-6
summary takes you on a tour of the very best, but low-cost hardware, while only using zero-cost software in each of the many categories that matter to the typical PC user.
Alternate histories aside, Ubuntu on a Dime is a tribute both to the skills of the author and to the decades of effort by those that have developed user friendly software and hardware, so that this 280-page book gives anyone with a reasonable level of self-confidence the recipe to build their own computer, install all the software needed for common activities, and quickly become productive.

James Kelly, spends just 30 pages in the first chapter explaining how to purchase the required computer parts and assemble a Ubuntu PC or "U-PC" computer and does it in a relaxed, easy-to-follow style. Mind, the task is simplified by choosing a motherboard with integrated sound and video, but that is exactly what you'll find in the standard corporate office PC. (Personally, I would have recommend purchasing a SATA hard drive to avoid the not-touched-on master/slave complications of using a shared IDE cable for the hard drive and CD/DVD drive.) The book is illustrated throughout with frequent, excellent screen shots as the author steps you through hardware assembly, then operating system and application installation, configuration, and use.

In chapter 2, the author explains how to install the Ubuntu operating system and keep it updated. Wisely, he has chosen the Long Term Supported 8.04 version, but has omitted mention of the different Ubuntu support periods. He has also missed an opportunity here to expand on the growing list of Ubuntu variants, in particular Kubuntu, which I would see as an easier migration choice for those familiar with Microsoft Windows.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to a definition of what the author means by "free software" and covers the costs (including the relevant security risk costs) associated with the four software categories; Pay-to-Use, Open Source, Cloud Computing, and Freeware. The remaining 9 chapters look at how to use free software — software either included in the default Ubuntu installation, or available via cloud computing — to complete common computing tasks.

In chapter 4, email using Evolution is covered and word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations using the OpenOffice.org suite is covered in chapters 5 to 7. The Cloud Computing Google Docs Office Suite alternative, with the advantages of everywhere access to your documents and collaborative working is covered in chapter 11. Web browsing using Firefox is covered in chapter 9, with most of the chapter dedicated to finding and installing useful add-ons. Google gets another couple of chapters when photo management with Picasa is covered in chapter 8 and Google Email and Calendar configuration and use are explained in chapter 10. The last chapter looks at a few other useful applications found in Ubuntu: Calculator, Text Editor, Notes, Disk Burning, Movie Playing, and Music Playing. The three appendices cover the computer parts list, three ways to obtain an installation disk for Ubuntu, and finally a bibliography of web sites, books, and must-have apps so you can extend the use of your new Ubuntu PC. The 9-page index is fairly comprehensive, considering the wealth of illustrations throughout the book.

I liked this book because it covered tasks seen daunting by many (PC building, operating system and software installation, configuration, and upgrading) in an light, easy-to-follow manner, supported with excellent illustrations. Further, the author covers a lot of ground without overwhelming the reader, taking you to a level where you can start using your computer productively and showing you how to use help files and online resources to extend your use of your excellent hand-built investment. While extolling the benefits of open source software, he hasn't labored the point. Vendor lock-in costs associated with proprietary office suites aren't mentioned, nor are the lower security risks associated with open source usage.

If you are looking for a way to reduce your computing costs, or know someone that would appreciate a gift that can help them achieve this, then Ubuntu on a Dime is well worth considering — particularly for anyone that gets satisfaction from learning via do-it-yourself.

You can purchase Ubuntu on a Dime: The Path to Low-Cost Computing from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews. To see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.


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Ubuntu on a Dime

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  • by hessian ( 467078 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @02:42PM (#31820334) Homepage Journal

    Windows persists because it's designed to be a desktop operating system. Linux is an adaptation of a server operating system. All of the software is there in Windows, and it has the nifty interface and a company backing it up by writing professional documentation, hordes of device drivers, and being there to issue updates in a timely manner.

    No offense intended to the Ubuntu folks, but there's a reason the market often beats the volunteer efforts: it can pay for in addition to inspiring great performance. Open source can inspire great performance by individuals, but what makes a great OS is more than good code; it's good interface design, support and really boring work like driver development.

    In addition, while I use KDE and like it, I'm never going to fool myself into thinking this software matches professional level stuff. Even Office 2007 beats the pants off Open Office, Abiword, and Kwrite, hands down. There simply is no competition once you get past the "one page document" stage.

    I will always have a FreeBSD machine at home to play with. But I wouldn't want to drop it into an office. For all its flaws, Windows makes desktop computing tasks easy, fast and relatively reliable.

  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday April 12, 2010 @02:44PM (#31820372)

    Where did I claim Ubuntu was having you reboot every day? I didn't.

    That would be when you posted this:

    Every time Ubuntu updates it asks me to reboot the machine, yet in Win7 I can update video card drivers and not have to restart.

    Note your usage or "Every time" in that statement.

    I pointed out that Lucid Lynx is receiving updates almost every day. Therefore, by your original statement, I should be rebooting it almost every day.

    That is not my experience. And that is with BETA software.

  • by Useful Wheat ( 1488675 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:00PM (#31820648)

    When I went to college (4 years ago, if you were interested) we went to the salvation army and bought some massive 22 inch CRTs for $10. I bought 3. My Desktop had 2 huge screens, and I had a third over my bed that I doubled up as a TV.

    Seriously, go to salvation army for your ultra-cheap computing needs.

  • Re:IDE HDD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:06PM (#31820730)

    I'd love to, but it's not 2011 yet.

    I know a lot of people will argue, seeing as we've been using zeros for a while now, but conventionally, the 21st century started on January 1st, 2001. Therefore the 21.1st century should start on January 1st, 2011.

  • by washu_k ( 1628007 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:23PM (#31820982)
    Given that the 4.77 MHz 8088 needed several cycles just to calculate a memory address, a hypervisor being "fucking slow" is a gross understatement.
  • by alanw ( 1822 ) <alan@wylie.me.uk> on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:41PM (#31821278) Homepage

    A couple of years later, RISC iX was running on ARM.

    Ah, memories of the Unix Kernel Validation Suite project I led for Acorn, March to October 1988. We started out writing it for BSD 4.2 on a Sun workstation with a "Winchester", until an A680 was available. A long, long time ago when I asked questions such as "what is the difference between Internet + ethernet?"

  • Re:Book reviews? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMbarbara-hudson.com> on Monday April 12, 2010 @04:04PM (#31821660) Journal

    How is this a book review? It is a chapter-by-chapter summary followed by a one-liner that the guy likes the book. How about slashvertisement for a change??

    It's "Ubuntu on a dime!" or - "You get what you pay for."

    Book that's great: "Programming Perl" (and I'm not even a big perl fan).

    Book that sucks enough that I want my money back: "Design Patterns [slashdot.org]" Read the first chapter, then close it, because it goes downhill from there.

    Biggest waste of money so far: "C++ Cookbook"

    Recommended reading: "Database System Concepts"

    +5 Informative: "Compiler Design in C"

    Sci-Fi: "The Past through Tomorrow (Heinlein)"

    Try the fish.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2010 @04:14PM (#31821800)

    As an anecdotal counterpoint to your pithy and clever post: My last ubuntu/win 7 dual boot machine was far, far easier to get ubuntu up and running (and especially get the wireless working correctly) than the corresponding win 7 install, which required me to snake a 50 foot network cable through the house in order to get online and get the latest wireless drivers before it could find the network.

    Your mileage may vary, and I'm willing to bet you haven't played much with ubuntu on enough different machines in the past two years to realize that both windows and ubuntu have hardware support holes.

    Now if you'd mentioned that certain onboard video solutions (I'm looking at you, Nvidia 7025) might be completely unsupported, I might have nodded my head in sage agreement. Ohwell, you win some, you lose some.

  • by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @05:10PM (#31822654) Homepage
    Its amazing how much people leave out when they are writing histories. There's not a single mention of the best selling 68000 based Unix workstation of the 1980s in that article, TRS-80 Model 16 (aka Tandy 6000) running Xenix. But the Tandy machines were sold to accountants and small businesses. But we all remember Sun and Apollo, because Sun and Apollo sold their machines to geeks.

Due to lack of disk space, this fortune database has been discontinued.