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the joy of linux (book)

first published on oilzine.com

The Joy of Linux? Can joy be gained from an operating system, or is that just a nerdy fantasy? Well I'm yet to be convinced. According to Joe Brockmeier, a contributor to Linux Magazine, The Joy of Linux "takes the reader beyond the technical aspect of Linux and celebrates the culture that makes Linux more than an operating system." This is true, but it does so not very interestingly. Basically, my main problem with this book is that it's boring.

Linux (pronounced like 'i' from big and 'u' from put) is an operating system like many others. "What makes it different?" I don't hear you say, well it's (usually) free, gratis, or at least nominal, and Open Source, ie people living some Utopian* dream where everyone shares resources and helps each other. Unlike other systems where you shell out ús and get no real support. Linux was written by Linus Torvalds and has been improved upon by countless number of people around the word. It is so popular because of its exquisite architecture and constant reliability. It is very good actually.

This book gives an overview of the history and evolution of Linux (if you're interested), from the rudimentary operating system to the OS preferred by over 10 million users around the world.

Interspersed with cartoons, it tries to be an encyclopaedic guide to its different topics, including what Linux is, where it came from, what you can do with it etc. But in reality, it never succeeds: it's not really a reference guide. It does answer the "whys" of Linux and gives insight into communities necessary to Linux, and gives nice explanations that there is more to life than Windows and Mac OS. It also, in true egalitarian style, tells you about available sources if you need to know about x, y, or z.

I found the book to be good initially, but later it got very technical and a bit boring - if you're already technically minded then you'll be OK, if you're not, then you've got problems. And this from a book aimed at non-nerds. It did help with my understanding of the background of Linux, and increased my dislike of Microsoft. But did seem to have an overly big bee in its bonnet about Bill and co. This book may not fuel your desire and passion for the subject, but will definitely improve your experience of using Linux. You may well be entertained, and gain a lot of useful information, you may even find the cartoons entertaining and (God forbid) funny. However, more than anything I think, like me, you will find it a bit bland. They also make too much of their one joke: the title sounds a bit like The Joy of Sex. (Chapter 9 "You Want To Put That Where?" Ooooooooh, they could be talking about dirty business!!!!!! says the basin-head, exploding with sexual tension.)

The books is supposedly designed for both techies and non-techies, but doesn't really help either as much as it should. It kind of falls in the middle. True it does have some useful information, no arguing with that, but gets too involved for the novice, and maybe doesn't include enough info for the more advanced user. It is, however, ideal for guys who otherwise would be sat in their bedrooms dreaming of Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science

*Utopia (n) an imagined perfect place or state of things, NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH
Utoxeter (n) a town in Staffordshire.

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