I’m very new to running Linux as a desktop OS, but I am by no means new to running Linux itself. I’ve managed Linux servers in a professional capacity for more than five years, so I have a healthy foundation on how to work with it, but I don’t know how to use it day in and day out as my entire computing experience. That being the case, I started to look for books that would help me out.

I primarily limited my search to Ubuntu books (in hindsight, maybe that was my issue). Off to Barnes & Noble I went in search of a great book to bring me deeper into Ubuntu.

I quite literally grabbed every book on Ubuntu that I could find (even the ones that were obviously just for beginners). I found a good place to sit, and then I started skimming. Much to my surprise, and dismay, most of the books covered very little that couldn’t be answered with a 10 second google. Questions such as “how do I change my desktop image”, “how do I install and use a printer”, “how do I connect to an FTP server”, etc were some of the more advanced topics that most of these books covered. After skimming through every book I found there, I left empty-handed.

Frankly, I didn’t know what I expected to find, but I definitely desired more depth. I suppose I want a book that transcends the standard obvious questions and gets to the meat of how using Linux as a desktop OS can provide a depth of experience that goes far beyond what other OSes can offer. For example, I’ve found out that with relatively small amounts of effort, I was able to create scripts that automatically mount remote shares as if they were local filesystems when my internet connection is available and removes them when disconnected. How about a really good guide on how to configure Samba for five standard scenarios in your home or office? What about making your Linux system a media hub that can serve a variety of content to thin clients?

I know that entire books exist for some of those topics, but most people would be overwhelmed by an entire book on Samba, wouldn’t be likely to purchase it, or wouldn’t know what Samba is without being directly told. I suppose that the beginner books do a good job of answering the questions that people know to ask. The intermediate books (that I haven’t found yet or don’t exist) should expose possibilities that most users haven’t thought possible.

Yes, I have found books that I would consider advanced, but these go farther than I care to. Most of these books involve coding customizations to distros in C. Even I’m not going to do that any time soon. So, we need a library of books that bridges the gap. This would help cement in the more technical users who dabble with Linux and may like Linux at first swing but then quickly think “so what?” since they don’t know the true potential.

In closing, I think that three categories of Linux books should exist:

  • Beginner – Get the user to a usable machine and tell them the answers to their most prevalent questions
  • Intermediate – Show the user the power that lay just beneath the surface that can be used to improve productivity in ways not thought of before
  • Advanced – Want to create a custom kernel? Build your own distro? Of course you do, keep reading

Back to my comment about maybe my problem is that I’m limiting my search to books specifically for Ubuntu, I think that I may have been limiting myself but could have also exposed a problem here. If Ubuntu is geared toward making it easy for people using other OSes to migrate over to Linux, why limit the amount of intermediate level books?

Imagine a person named Craig. Craig has worked as a developer for years and has always used Windows. He heard about Linux and Ubuntu in particular, so he decides to try it out. He thinks it’s a great OS but doesn’t understand what is so special about it. The Compiz thing is neat, but he wants a productivity boost. So, he goes to Barnes and Noble, picks up some books, and starts looking through them. He sees neat tidbits but nothing is compelling enough to make his go, “Wow!” So, in the end, he decides to go back to Windows since he already knows it and more or less does the same thing as far as he can tell.

Maybe if there were some books that helped expose Craig to the potential, he would have stuck to Linux and maybe even been a community-minded individual who helps the development of a distro or software for Linux. Of course this is all hypothetical, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other people out there like me who wonder were all the published material about the true power of Linux is.

I started writing this a few days ago. Since then, I realized that I had yet to look online to see what other books were available there rather than just in stores. So I looked around Amazon and ordered two books that look promising: Ubuntu Kung Fu and Ubuntu Linux Toolbox. Hopefully these books offer more than what I found while browsing around Barnes and Noble. I’ll review each book as I get a chance to go through them.

If you have any book suggestions, please leave a comment.

As for the picture, yes, I know those are not Ubuntu books. I did the best I could with what I had, which is no Ubuntu books.

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