Book review: The Official Ubuntu Book <i>by Benjamin Mako Hill, et al</i>

The quality publishing around Ubuntu these days cannot be ignored. Another excellent book sits here beside me now, pages flagged with many points of interest. I wasn’t anticipating doing so much detailed reading with this one. After all, I just reviewed another Ubuntu book before this one. How much new information could be in there? But before the chapters even began, I found myself interested in learning about the authors and the development style used in putting together this book. From the preface, “.. The Official Ubuntu Book is not a typical book at all”. Contributions were sought directly from the community. And, just like the software itself, the collaboration has resulted in excellence.

Credited on the cover though, are five authors. Benjamin Mako Hill is a member of the Ubuntu Community Council. He also works on a project that I find fascinating, the One Laptop per Child project. Jono Bacon works for the United Kingdom’s government-funded OpenAdvantage center in England. He has authored more than 400 articles and is the co-creator of the LugRadio podcast. Corey Burger is a member of the Ubuntu Documentation Team and the Laptop Testing Team. Jonathan Jesse holds a day job as a Microsoft Windows Network Administrator. Though not a programmer, he found a way to give back by joining the Ubuntu Documentation Team. Ivan Krstic is also involved in the One Laptop per Child project and serves as an administrator for the Ubuntu Server Team. While not a complete resume by any means, you can see that this book has some serious horsepower behind it.

The book’s cover

Ubuntu has captured me. My Mac iBook sits quietly waiting for field trips. My Windows XP partition only gets booted to replicate problems my friends and clients are having. Ubuntu on my desktop does everything I need. My primary applications are: OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird. Oh, and one game—Sudoku.

So what did I find useful in this book? Well, to start with, Chapter Two covered choosing an Ubuntu version. There are many options available and they are explained quite well. Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu. They are all Ubuntu, just filled with different applications for different purposes. I’ll be looking to switch to Edubuntu in the future. Setting up the software is not only described but demonstrated through numerous screen captures. Personally, I love screen captures and this book is full of them. Once the software is installed, Chapter Three will walk you through your applications. Sometimes the names of GNU/Linux applications can be—well—unique. Having names like Blender, Beagle, and Bluefish explained will surely be of benefit to some. Chapter Four covers adding and removing software, updating software and upgrading to the next release. Chapter Five is 31 pages devoted to the Ubuntu Server. Ubuntu Server offers the “Big Iron” kernel as an option to the standard kernel. The tips on how to decide if you need this kernel are hilarious! Turns out, I won’t be running the “Big Iron” kernel any time soon. Chapter Six covers support and typical problems. For those of you supporting Ubuntu, or about to in the near future, this chapter will be worth the cost of the book all by itself. I found the format of “How do I..” or “I can’t _”, followed by a couple paragraphs of discussion on the solution, to be very practical and useful. Kubuntu is covered in great detail and calls Chapter Seven its own. The Ubuntu community and many Ubuntu projects are also covered in the remaining two chapters.

This is a book to keep beside you while working

The contents

All this useful information just fits into 412 numbered pages. Add in XXXIV for the preface and introductions and you’ll get the grand total. It is a typically sized book at 7x9-1/4 inches. Simply a good book to have around. Perhaps it is that “Official” word in the title that brings confidence and status. Perhaps it is that Mark Shuttleworth wrote the forward, lending unassailable credibility to the work. Whatever it is, you will feel good about owning this book. I imagine it will spend more time open on a desk than sitting in a bookshelf.

Who’s this book for?

Anyone who wants to know more about Ubuntu will benefit from this work. Whether you are just getting ready to try a GNU/Linux distribution for the first time or you are responsible for maintaining Ubuntu workstations throughout a company, this book will hold something useful for you.

Relevance to free software

Ubuntu is going to be the first distribution many people will ever use. It has the ease of use that most people demand. Since this book covers everything from installation to applications to the community, it is a great book to insure that any questions about free software, and Ubuntu, are answered clearly and completely.

Covers more topics than expected in just one book


It does have that “official” status. As any proponent of free software will tell you, community input does make a difference. The benefits are clearly demonstrated in the quality of information selected for use in this book.


Different people will buy this book for different reasons. But I didn’t find anything to complain about while studying it.

Title The Official Ubuntu Book
Author Benjamin Mako Hill, Jono Bacon, Corey Burger, Jonathan Jesse, Ivan Krstic
Publisher Prentice Hall
ISBN 0132435942
Year 2006
Pages 448
DVD included Yes
FS Oriented 10
Over all score 9

In short


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.