One Million Registered Users on the Ubuntu Forums!

What a milestone! It has been a privilege to be a part of the Ubuntu Forums since April 2005, first as a member of the general population (user number 17635), later as a part of the staff, and most recently as a part of the Forum Council and Admin team. It has been a wonderful ride so far and I look forward to welcoming the next million.

Many thanks to fellow Ubuntu Forums staff member Joe Barker for catching the event with a screenshot.

Interviewed for Ubuntu UK Podcast

My friends at Ubuntu UK Podcast posted the most recent episode of season two on their site today. I was privileged to be interviewed by Alan Pope about my travels, writing books, and the Ubuntu Forums. Several friends get a mention including Benjamin “Mako” Hill and Ryan Troy. I did make one error in the interview. The Ubuntu Forums do not have about 850,000 users, we have more than 973,000 forum members!

The interview appears in this podcast episode starting at about 36:45 and ends near 55:41.

UDS Accents

I had one of my European colleagues say to me last night that he feels like he has picked up many aspects of the American accent while here in Dallas. I have spent a large amount of time with my British, Irish, Australian and other European friends and it seems I have picked up a few of their vocal mannerisms and accent quirks. That’s kind of how community works, isn’t it? We each give to and take from one another, ending up with a conglomeration that is mutually comprehensible and beneficial.

An Amusing Observation

I am sitting at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Dallas and I had a sudden realization. No one knows the “correct” way to pronounce “Ubuntu.” Everyone, community members, developers, Canonical employees, Mark Shuttleworth, Jono Bacon, we all pronounce it a little bit differently. I’ve heard eww-boon-too, eww-bun-too, yoo-boon-too, yoo-bun-too, oo-bun-too, oo-boon-too and a few more that I can’t figure out how to phoneticize.

Linux in a Nutshell, sixth edition

Years ago I purchased a copy of Linux in a Nutshell, fourth edition. That book has been well used and is looking a bit shabby. When O’Reilly offered me a free review copy of Linux in a Nutshell, sixth edition, I jumped at the chance. Some of the thoughts that follow will apply to either edition (as well as the not-reviewed fifth edition, which I don’t have), but I will point out some of the more important or obvious updates to help others who also own older editions to determine whether the changes are sufficient to convince them to buy the new version.

This book is not intended as a tutorial, but rather as a quick reference. While the irony of titling a 900+ page book “… in a Nutshell” is not lost on me, like all of the books in O’Reilly’s Nutshell series, this book is a fabulous resource for finding out the details of a specific command or concept rapidly.

Let me start with the foundation for my opinion that this book is one of the most useful and important books for anyone who uses Linux from the command line on a regular basis or wants to be able to or plans to do so. Any command you should desire to use is listed in chapter 3, with the command’s syntax and options. This gives you one place to look that does not require an internet connection or the patience to scroll up and down reading man pages for commands. This is a book about Linux as it was originally conceived and intended: a powerful operating system based directly upon and consistent with the philosophy and design of Unix, but free for anyone to download, install, copy, modify, share and use.

This book is not about how to use Linux on the desktop, and in fact, the sixth edition does not cover the Linux desktop at all. What you do find are discussions, descriptions, and definitions of all of the main tools and tricks a person needs to get work accomplished using Linux as a platform–not the specific programming languages like C, Java or Python, but the underlying tools such as commands from the GNU project and BSD, editors like vi and emacs, using the bash shell, source code management using subversion and git (both new to this edition, replacing a discussion of CVS), and great introductions to Linux system and network administration. In addition, we have a wonderful new chapter on virtualization command line tools that covers all the main options such as KVM, Xen and VMware.

I am amazed that my description thus far has only scratched the surface of the book. I haven’t yet mentioned the chapters covering sed and gawk, the discussion of software package management, the chapter detailing LILO and Grub boot loaders, or the lovely section on pattern matching which should save a lot of people a good amount of time.

My disappointments in the book are a bit niggly. While the book was written and tested using each of the main Linux distributions (Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and SUSE), there have been a couple of updates to software covered in the book that were not available when the book went to press. Since I know how long it takes to write and prepare a manuscript for printing, it is kind of silly for me to want a book that was published in September 2009 to cover Windows 7 (although dual booting with earlier versions is covered), ext4, or Grub2, even if these are all current in late October 2009 (the latter two being included in Ubuntu 9.10).

The positives are that this is a clear, well written and edited (disclosure: I worked with one of the editors, Andy Oram, on VMware Cookbook), and filled with valuable information with an easy to use index and table of contents with a tighter than previous focus on the internal bits of Linux without the earlier distractions of trying to mention GNOME and KDE or a wider variety of shell options while only covering each with too little detail to be useful. This edition expands the content on the things it does cover to a very useful level of detail while making the hard decision of what to omit to keep the book within a bindable number of pages.

In any edition, this book has a permanent place on my shelf for reference. If you own an older version, the decision to buy the latest edition will depend on whether you want or need the absolute latest info on specific commands (this stuff doesn’t change often, but it does change) and whether you are interested in the new or expanded material covered in this edition as outlined above. If you never use the command line in Linux, the book might not interest you. Otherwise, I can’t imagine using Linux without having a copy nearby.

Disclosures: I bought an earlier edition, but was given the sixth edition free by O’Reilly as a review copy, I write for O’Reilly, and I have worked with one of the editors who also worked on this book.

The Official Ubuntu Server Book

I had the privilege of helping out with one chapter in The Official Ubuntu Server Book–I didn’t do enough to earn an author’s credit or get a mention on the cover or anything, but Kyle Rankin was kind enough to mention me in the Acknowledgements on page xxiii. Thanks for the chance to contribute, Kyle and Mako!

Check out the Amazon page for the book. If you run Ubuntu on your server or are considering doing so, you are likely to find the book both interesting and useful.

EDIT: It’s a great read, and would be without my small contribution.