Unix has a reputation for being cryptic and difficult to learn, but it doesn't need to be that way. Think Unix takes an analogous approach to that of a grammar book. Rather than teaching individual words or phrases like most books, Think Unix teaches the set of logical structures to be learned. Myriad examples help you learn individual commands, and practice problems at the end of difficult sections help you learn the practical side of Unix. Strong attention is paid to learning how to read "man pages," the standard documentation on all Unix systems, including Linux. While most books simply tell you that man pages exist and spend some time teaching how to use the man command, none spend any significant amount of space teaching how to use the content of the man pages. Even if you are lost at the Unix command prompt, you can learn subsystems that are specific to the Unix flavor.
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The many variants of the Unix operating system require use of a mode of thought that's significantly different from the one that's required by simpler operating systems. Think Unix introduces readers to important fundamental and intermediate Unix commands and, in the process, inculcates them in the Unix way of thinking. It's a worthy goal in a world with more Linux users than ever, and author Jon Lasser accomplishes it. He's both a capable writer and a knowledgeable user of Unix shell commands. Lasser uses bash under Red Hat Linux in most examples--which usually apply equally well to other Unix variants--and makes asides about other shells and environments, as needed.
Like Unix itself, this book is highly literate, and rewards those who are willing to read through explanations of the command strings that pepper the paragraphs. The best strategy is to read this book from cover to cover, imagining that you're sitting through a seminar. You might know about some of the topics that are presented, but it's likely that something in every chapter will improve the depth of your Unix knowledge. A helpful pedagogical trick: Lasser has included practice problems here and there. A typical one: "Display the string 'Today's date is:,' followed by today's date." You should be able to solve these by reading the examples carefully, but you'll find solutions in the back of the book, in case you need them. This is a great book for Unix beginners. --David Wall
Topics covered: The Unix operating system and its peculiar way of allowing users to string commands together in powerful, flexible sequences. Commands and techniques are explored that have to do with files, processes, piping, shell commands, shell scripting, and the essentials of the X windowing system.From the Author:
I had to write this book: I tried not to, but there was no getting around it. Most introductions to Unix stink --- they're like phrasebooks and contain commands that you are obligated to memorize and repeat without any deep understanding.
Think Unix is like a language textbook: you learn some vocabulary (ie, individual commands), but (more importantly) you learn how to put it all together to do new things on your own.
Think Unix teaches you how to teach yourself: the first chapter teaches how to read and where to find the right documentation. Most computer people think everyone is born knowing how to interpret documentation, but it is a learned skill, though rarely taught.
If it's not obvious, I'm very excited by this approach. If it excites you too, then this is probably the Unix book for you. It assumes no prior Unix experience; if you're the sort of person who clicks through the menus in your word processor to find the feature that you want, if you sometimes click on something just to find out what it does, this is the book for you.
There's stuff in here for Unix experts too, but it's not a book about system administration. It's a book for new users who want to understand what's going on, why things work the way they do, and how to get the most out of the system: it's for readers who want to learn to Think Unix.
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