Learning the UNIX Operating System
Posted: 26-Feb-2003

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: O'Reilly


Reviewer: Bill Catambay $19.95

Learning the Unix Operating System, 5th Edition
A Concise Guide for the New User

Jerry PeekGrace Todino-GonguetJohn Strang
5th Edition October 2001 
0-596-00261-0, Order Number: 2610
174 pages, $19.95 US

What the Book is About
"If you're new to Unix, this concise book will tell you just what you need to get started and no more. This fifth edition is the most effective introduction to Unix in print, covering Internet usage for email, file transfers, and web browsing. It's an ideal primer for Mac and PC users who need to know a little about Unix on the systems they visit."

O'Reilly's above description is right on the mark for what this book is all about. It describes the UNIX operating system in short concise chapters, broken down as follows:
  • Getting Started
  • Using Window Systems
  • Using Your Unix Account
  • File Management
  • Redirecting I/O
  • Using the Internet and Other Networks
  • Multitasking
  • Where to Go from Here
Target Audience
This book is intended for people brand new to Unix. It covers only the very basic underpinnings of the OS, and only briefly reviews some of the in's and out's. Those with some experience in Unix may discover some things they did not already know, mainly because they are probably things that you had no reason to know (I find that if I don't need to use a feature, I tend not to learn it). If you have a decent or better understanding of Unix, this book is definitely not for you.
What to Expect
I found the book to be well-written and easy reading. The terminology is carefully defined in most places, providing a very easy to understand perspective on the Unix operating system. It is smooth reading, although I am not sure the organization of the chapters was most effective. The book jumped from an overview of Unix directly into a chapter on "Window" systems (referring to Unix interfaces that uses windows, not the Windows OS). I didn't really find the Window systems section to be particularly interesting, and probably should have been placed somewhere in the tail end of the book as a "feature" of some Unix interfaces. Most non-Unix people (like myself) end up diving into Unix mainly to work on their web sites, and I think that gearing the book to that kind of reader would have been more appropriate. When I got to the File Management section and read that learning how to create a symbolic link to a file was beyond the scope of the book, I was disappointed. That small piece of information comes in quite useful for the novice Unix person who wants to establish links for web pages (for example, instead of creating a home.html file that "redirects" to index.html via the web browser, it is more efficient to create a home.html file in Unix that is a symbolic link to index.html). Other than a few missing tidbits such as that, the book provided a decent amount of information on Unix for those using Unix for web sites.
Highlights of the Book
What I liked most about the book is that it was an easy read. I got through it without having to stop and re-think passages due to complex terminology, and never felt any brain overload. Not all the sections were of great interest to me, but overall, the book provided an excellent overview of the Unix operating system.
Mac Guild Grade
B Really Good
Final Words
For someone not familiar with Unix, I definitely recommend this book for getting your feet wet. If you are looking for much more than that, you may want to skip this particular book and jump right into a more detailed Unix book