April 20, 2014

Guide Gets Readers Away From Windows Gotchas


  • September 8, 2005
  • By Ibrahim Haddad

People who are new to Linux have a wide choice of introductory books. All the major publishers have one or two such titles in their catalogs. A recent addition to the market is Peter van der Linden's Guide to Linux from Prentice-Hall Publishers. I caught up with Peter recently, and interviewed him about his book, why he wrote it, and what he sees as the important trends in Linux.

Peter is an established author of computer books. His Expert C Programming from 1994 is widely regarded as one of the two or three C classics. His Just Java tome was twice nominated for "Java Book of the Year." Peter works as a software consultant and Linux advocate in Silicon Valley. Here's what he had to say to LinuxPlanet.

Why did you decide to write Peter van der Linden's Guide to Linux book?

The genesis of the book was when my elderly uncle called to ask me for help. His Windows PC got hacked and taken over. He didn't understand what had happened or why. When I looked into it, I found that the flow of Windows insecurities over the last few years has now turned into a raging torrent. It just sweeps away anyone unwary. It's a sizeable amount of work keeping up with the patches for the Windows "virus of the week."

Running Linux (or Mac OS X) frees you from all that nonsense that accompanies Windows. Linux desktops today have a market share greater than that of Apple desktops. And the IDG industry research group predicts that Linux desktop use will double again over the next three years. It's clear that the fastest growing sector is among non-technical people. As a Linux advocate, my goal is to reach out to that group and help make their Linux experience successful. The reason I wrote this book was to help people find their way to a better more productive PC experience than they can get with Windows.

There are half a dozen or more "introduction to the Linux desktop" books--what makes yours unique?

My Guide to Linux is based on a year of working in Linux online forums, solving all the problems that novices encounter. No other introductory Linux book has that kind of pedigree. Most other introductory books don't feature any kind of troubleshooting, and handwave over unfamiliar procedures, like connecting to a closed wireless network. My approach is to explain how to do the task, and relate it to Windows features that readers are familiar with.

But that's only half the job! When you configure any operating system for some new service, there are plenty of pitfalls. I show readers how to recognize these pitfalls and how to walk around them. If something goes wrong, readers are not left hanging, but have the tools to deal with it.

But don't run away with the idea that Linux is unduly difficult to learn. Most of the text is concerned with showing how to use the numerous open source applications that accompany and complement Linux.

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