THE MAGAZINE

New in Plaintext

By Peter Piazza

While the majority of the world's computers run some version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, there's another giant out there as well: the open-source operating system known as Linux. To the uninitiated, the thought of installing the Linux operating system is akin to--and at the same level of complexity as--putting a new engine into a perfectly good car.

While Linux has a reputation as being for only the most technically adept computer users, that's a perception that is going to change, thanks to a new book by Rickford Grant called Linux for Non-Geeks. Grant's book is described on the cover as a "hands-on, project-based, take-it-slow" approach to understanding, installing, and using Linux, and the book delivers on this promise, leading readers slowly and without jargon through the world of Linux. The book even comes with a free distribution of Linux known as Fedora that provides an easy-to-use graphical user interface that can compete with Windows. Users can have both Fedora and Windows running on the same machine.

So why bother to install Linux? Grant explains its benefits, including a range of free software that can do anything its Windows counterparts can do, from browsing the Web to creating word-processing documents and spreadsheets that are compatible with Office documents. It's fairly secure even without doing anything additional. And new software is easy to get online.

Linux is not perfect, as Grant points out, in part because some peripheral devices--video and sound cards, for example--still aren't Linux-compatible (though this situation is relatively rare). But if you're interested in an alternative to Windows, and you've been nervous that Linux isn't meant for you, this book may be just what you've been waiting for.

The book is available through online vendors such as Amazon.com for about $24. It comes with a working version of Linux on two CDs.

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