Unix has a reputation for being cryptic and difficult to learn, but it doesn't need to be that way. Think Unix takes an analogous approach to that of a grammar book. Rather than teaching individual words or phrases like most books, Think Unix teaches the set of logical structures to be learned. Myriad examples help you learn individual commands, and practice problems at the end of difficult sections help you learn the practical side of Unix. Strong attention is paid to learning how to read "man pages," the standard documentation on all Unix systems, including Linux. While most books simply tell you that man pages exist and spend some time teaching how to use the man command, none spend any significant amount of space teaching how to use the content of the man pages. Even if you are lost at the Unix command prompt, you can learn subsystems that are specific to the Unix flavor.
Jon Lasser is a Unix systems administrator with six years of Linux and Unix experience and is responsible for several hundred Unix-based systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He speaks at numerous conferences on the Bastille Linux Project, for which he is development coordinator. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This book is not for Dummies. This book works best with people, as I may have indicated above, who Would Have Figured It Out by themselves. But while you may pretend to enjoy a rugged hike through the steeper parts of the learning curve, Mr. Lasser's book is like strapping on a jet-pack.
The book is conversational, sometimes funny (though it helps if you spend a lot of your time in front of computers), and extremely direct. If you are just curious about what this Unix thing might be good for, read the book slowly, learn a lot, and gain a solid foundation for becoming the captain of your computing destiny. If you have something you need to get done, read it quickly, learn-- well, a lot, and get where you're going in a hurry.
One caution: this book does expect that you will read it. It is not a ready reference, it is not designed for index-backward utilization. It is a short course in the skeletal framework of Unix, and not a hypertext instruction manual. If you are unaccustomed to reading as it was practiced before computer self-help books arrived to chaff the bookstores of our nation, you will not derive the maximum benefit from this book.
I recommend this book to (prospective) users of unix systems who take pleasure in reading, and need to learn a great deal very quickly.
This book gives an overall understanding of the underpinnings of the Unix (and therefore the Linux) operating systems. It provides a broad-brush overview of how and why 'nix works the way it does, from file structures to manual formats.
It does not provide detailed instruction in setting up or operating a system, in administering security programs or protocols, or even in programming.
But if you learn like I do (actually, like most people do...) your learning cycle is greatly shortened if you first get a broad-brush overview. It provides a foundation for all the details that come later.
If your intent is to learn *nix, my suggestion would be to buy or download a distribution (heck, some 'detail' books even come with one). Then go through the pain and suffering of installing it. (Hint: this is the reason to buy a book or distribution; the manual is very useful!) Then, buy this book to understand what your new system is doing - and why. Once you have, you'll be able to use the detail books, the 'bibles,' far more effectively. You'll even be able to use the documentation that comes with the system - or is readily available on the web - the way it is intended to be used.
It was been noted in a previous review that there are a number of technical inaccuracies and typos in the book. I suspect this is the price to be paid for the rapid release of technical books we see these days. I, for one, would rather put up with some errors that an on-line errata clears up than have to wait until a book is perfect, but completely out of date and useless.
If you think about it, having the problems corrected quickly via on-line 'patch' is the business model of the modern world!
Again, a strong recommendation for this one. It's a very useful document to have, know, and refer to!