Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!

Author: Marcel Gagne
Pages: 368
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
ISBN: 0321159985

Available for download is chapter 17 entitled “Multimedia”.


Have you ever asked yourself what do I have to do to get Linux as my operating system? I did. And now, I have this book in my hands and I am thinking about Windows and how I feel secure with Windows because I know a lot about that operating system. I know what is good and what can go wrong, I have service packs installed, and I use the Microsoft Knowledge base to solve problems. But, I am curious about Linux. Why do people talk so much about Linux? Well, I’ve decided to try Linux with the help of this book. Read on to see what I found out.

About the author

Marcel Gagne is best known as the award-winning author of the Linux Journal “Cooking with Linux” series, for which he received the Readers’ Choice award for favorite column two years in a row. He is also the author of the highly acclaimed book “Linux System Administration: A User’s Guide“.

An interview with Marcel Gagne is available here.

Inside the Book

The journey begins as I open the book and start reading the introductions. Gagne has really done the job. He knows that the people who will read this book know nothing or very little about Linux and so he starts with a bit of Linux history. The best introduction is the explanation on what do we gain and what do we lose with Linux. You can also find some resources for Linux documentation and user groups.

As we move on your Linux adventure begins for real. This is the part where you must have a copy of Linux. Gagne explains the ways of getting your Linux copy, but if you get this book you will also get a CD containing Knoppix. If you want to preserve your old operating system and your data, you will have to do a dual boot, and that also is covered in this chapter.

Next you learn about the installation. First, you read hardware considerations to avoid any problems. Again, justified, dual boot is presented so you can keep your old operating system, and still have your Linux installed on a separate partition.

Getting your hands dirty is the name of the fourth chapter. The author brings up some of the desktop environments you can use with your Linux system, but the KDE desktop is presented in detail. You can run the KDE personalizer and change some properties which are demonstrated screen by screen. Also, you meet the application starter and one absolutely great feature – virtual desktops. Furthermore, the author gives some serious stuff. Gagne mentions Konqueror, the KDE file manager that lets you work with files and folders. He also conducts a polite introduction to the command line, which is, according to Gagne, the land of the Linux system guru.

After starting with all the window parts, over file and directories structure, the reader learns basic commands used to select, create, copy, move, rename and delete files and directories. Here you get a first glance at Linux security at the file or directory level by changing their permissions.

In the sixth chapter the reader has a chance to learn how to make the Linux system really his own. You learn how to change your background, your screensaver, move your icons or taskbar over the screen, change your desktop theme, etc.

What follows is a discussion on installing software. Because there is a great number of Linux software titles, this is the part of the book where it’s advisable to pay serious attention. Gagne describes how to use source code and how to build source packages.

When you know how to install your software, now is time to learn more about hardware. This situation may sound familiar – you buy a new gadget and you want to install it, but you can’t find the right drivers or even worse, some other weird problem occurs. The author provides the URL for the Linux HCL, tips for handling PCI devices, USB devices, printers and modems. The printing function is specially described through CUPS and LPD spoolers and the whole process of installation is demonstrated with screenshots.

By now you have some basic knowledge about Linux. Chapter nine is a step forward; it will connect you to the Internet. After you adopt the way of connecting to the Internet with a modem, cable or DSL, you’ll be able to communicate with the world and some software titles are introduced.

Since Email is the number one method of communication over the Internet it’s only natural it’s discussed in this book. You learn about the Kmail and Evolution email clients and Gagne teaches you how to configure them to send and receive email.

When it comes to surfing the Net, the first thing you learn is how to use Konqueror as a web browser. Beside the explanation on how you can define your home page, this chapter is full of tricks, so here are some great stuff like speed searches, cookie alerts or the possibility to ban pop-ups forever. Beside Konqueror, Mozilla is represented.

Nothing is perfect. In the Linux world, updates and patches are also common. If you want to keep your system up to date, there are some guidelines about how it’s done on Mandrake, Red Hat or SuSe.

The next topic is word processors. With your copy of Knoppix you get the Writer. A whole chapter covers some basic operations word processors can offer: how to type, save and print your work. You can take a look at the application options as well.

If and when you want to organize your data into a table, you can start the Calc application. The author leads you from opening a new spreadsheet, through basic math, charts, and graph functions, until you decide to save your work. To encompass all the applications OpenOffice offers, Gagne presents Impress, an application to make presentations with.

If you’d like to work with your digital camera you must first see if it is supported, then how to transfer your pictures to the machine. Once again you will see Konqueror in action because that is the easiest way to get pictures from your camera. On the other hand, if you scan your photos, you must check the existence of your scanner and then do the scanning with Kooka, a part of KDE program that is both a scan and OCR program. There, when you want to do some professional art, you will use GIMP that is presented with basic possibilities.

Playing music on your Linux system is only the beginning of the multimedia experience. The following chapter covers some of the popular multimedia tools for Linux: the KDE CD Player, XMMS, and Noatun. Besides just playing music, this chapter covers ripping and burning songs with Grip and K3b.

The default KDE installation comes with a number of games. You have all sorts of things at your disposal. Pick your favorite game: Tetris, Kpoker, KBattleship, or maybe some educational games such as Kstars, TuxTyping or even something like FlightGear from the 3D acceleration group of games.

In appendix A of this book you find a copy of the GNU General Public License while in the appendix B you can get deeper into working with the command line. Gagne presents the extended section of the book for users that really want to know their Linux systems.

About the CD-ROM

As mentioned before, this book includes a CD-ROM that contains a WFTL Edition Knoppix, a Debian-based distribution that runs entirely from your CD-ROM drive. You can run Linux without having any changes made to your existing system. Beside Knoppix, the CD contains great software, some of which is covered in this book.

My 2 cents

I tried all the mentioned commands, software and games and I must say it was not a problem at all. When you open your copy of the book, and start Knoppix, you’re entering a new world. Gagne leads the reader through all the topics in an easy and funny way.

What’s interesting in this book is the constant comparison of Windows and Linux. This enables the reader to slide from one system to another without any fear that he is leaving something familiar and going into the unknown.

If you decide to give Linux a try this is the best way of doing so. After reading this book you’ll know for sure what you’re dealing with.

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