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Book Review: Ubuntu Kung Fu: Tips, Tricks, Hints and Hacks by Keir Thomas

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For this review I’m going to skip all the fluffy, hook paragraphs and get right into the juicy insides of Ubuntu Kung Fu: Tips, Tricks, Hints and Hacks, because I know that’s what you’re looking for anyway, right?

So let me start by first off saying this title is a little misleading. “Kung Fu” makes me think this is the ultimate level of Ubuntu usage after which you’d be able to level up and conquer “the ultimate boss.” However, technology always moves faster than print. I doubt there’s a book out there for masters of this system except the good ol’ internet. And even if there were, Ubuntu Kung Fu is for beginning or intermediate users, someone perhaps too advanced for O’Reilly’s Ubuntu for Non-Geeks but still not versed in Ubuntu capabilities. If that’s you, keep reading. But if you’re writing the online guides, you should probably stop reading this review, and ask for a job at O’Reilly instead.

Alright, so you’ve stayed with me. You have Ubuntu booted and are able to navigate. This book will help you move past the beginning stages by providing a good overview of the different applications that can personalize your desktop and streamline your workflow. A small portion of Ubuntu Kung Fu is dedicated to a basic introduction or “crash course” into Ubuntu. This provides a good brush up of skills; however, if you’re new to this entire operating system, I would suggest backing up and reading this review instead. The overview is short and quickly diverges into the larger section devoted to the "tips."

Some tips have practical applications, such as getting your wireless card to work properly and remote controlling your computer. Because of these, this book makes a great reference guide later for times when you forget how to do certain tasks, like find your IP address or kill a crashed program. However, there are also tips on fun things, like cowsay! Overall, much of the information in this guide is extremely useful and provides insight for those who are unfamiliar with the vast sum of possibilities that accompany free software, such as major programs like Inkscape, Scribus, and Blender to name a few.

Other sections will help customize your settings and usage. Tip 237, Automate the Downloading and Installation of New Theme Components, is especially neat. I don’t think I would have found this information without this book. Likewise, tip 7, Scroll Without the Mouse in Firefox and Evolution Mail Windows, and tip 264, Never Touch the Mouse While Using Ubuntu (Well, Almost), are just a few good suggests to speed up your workflow.

The only downside is the few shallow hints and tricks that don’t provide adequate information to solving certain problems. Also, some of the information is simply incorrect, such as tip 236, Make the GNOME Terminal Window Translucent. However, any of the problems or bad information I ran across in this book was easily fixed with a quick web search.

Ubuntu Kung Fu is the next level for beginning users. I highly recommend it as a fun and practical guide to an amazing free operating system. Even if you’re not quite sure it’s for you, go pick it up. I promise the tips, tricks, hints and hacks won’t disappoint.

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