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Linux Pocket Guide Daniel J Barrett
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN:0-596-00628-4
200 pages
£ 6.95
Published: 2nd March 2004
reviewed by Roger Whittaker
   in the June 2004 issue (pdf), (html)
bookcover  

This book could be described as a ``little brother'' of O'Reilly's ``Linux in a Nutshell''. Both books consist mainly of a summary of commands, with lists of options and example usage. In my experience, the main use for books of this type is not actually to use them to look anything up while you are working (man pages and Google are quicker than walking across the room to the bookshelf, or even opening the book to the right page). Rather, by browsing books like this in odd moments, one can be informed or reminded of commands one never knew or had forgotten existed, or can pick up hints about how to do something in a better way.

There is a temptation when writing such a book to list every option to every command. Clearly there is a trade-off between completeness and readability, but personally I would always prefer to see more examples of usage and less reprinting of information direct from the man page. However, readers who want to use the book as a desktop reference will probably hold the opposite view.

While ``Linux in a Nutshell'' makes a point of being generic, this book has the words `Covers Fedora Linux' on its front cover. The publisher's ``blurb'' on the back cover states, however:

I found that statement to be accurate: in fact there are only a couple of entries in the book that are Fedora or Red Hat specific, and they are clearly noted in the text as being such. Where graphical programs are mentioned, however, they do tend (as one might expect) to be those associated with a Gnome desktop system rather than KDE. My advice to O'Reilly would be to remove that reference on the front cover: it might repel more potential buyers than it attracts, and the content is useful to everybody.

This is a straightforward, accurate and well produced command reference for the most common Linux commands, and I can recommend it, particularly to new users of Linux.

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