Linux in a Box for Dummies

This yellow box contains three CDs and a 128-page installation booklet.
  • Authors: John “maddog” Hall, Nick Wells, Michael O'Mara

  • E-Mail:

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  • Price: $24.99 US

  • ISBN: 0-764-50714-1

  • Reviewer: Ralph Krause

Linux in a Box for Dummies is one of the latest offerings for new Linux users from IDG, the Dummies company. This yellow box contains three CDs and a 128-page installation booklet. The CDs contain Caldera OpenLinux 2.3, StarOffice 5.1a and two e-books in PDF format: Caldera OpenLinux for Dummies and StarOffice for Linux for Dummies. Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 for Linux is also provided. For this review, I'll focus on installing the software and using the booklet as Caldera OpenLinux and StarOffice have been reviewed in more detail in other articles.

The installation booklet is written by Jon “maddog” Hall and Nick Wells and leads the reader through the installation of OpenLinux and StarOffice. The booklet provides clear instructions accompanied by numerous screen shots, which guide the reader through the installation process.

The booklet's first chapters show the reader how to determine what hardware their machine contains and how to make room for Linux if they want to share the system with Windows. Instructions for using Partition Magic CE and FIPS to repartition a Windows hard drive to make space for Linux are provided, but Partition Magic CE is not included with this package.

Once the hardware has been determined and the hard drive configured, the booklet leads the reader through the installation of OpenLinux. The installation chapter contains screen shots of Caldera's Lizard installation program in action along with step-by-step instructions guiding the reader through the install process.

Following the Linux installation instructions is a chapter detailing the programs that can be used to configure X if it wasn't configured properly during installation. The Caldera lizardx program is covered along with the XF86Setup and xf86config programs.

After the installation and X troubleshooting chapters is a chapter on using Caldera OpenLinux for the first time. It briefly covers such things as booting the computer, using the KDE desktop, adding users, changing passwords and shutting the system down.

The final chapter in the booklet covers the installation and starting of StarOffice. The chapter provides step-by-step instructions for installing and starting StarOffice but not for using it. While a brief introduction to the StarOffice applications is provided here, using StarOffice is covered in the StarOffice for Dummies e-book.

The two e-books on CD 3 are meant to provide more information for new users. In addition to more installation information, the Caldera OpenLinux for Dummies e-book contains all the chapters that could be expected in a beginner's Linux book. There are chapters on the Linux file system, text editing, the BASH shell, connecting to the Internet, getting more information about Linux and troubleshooting.

The StarOffice for Linux for Dummies e-book covers the features of the StarOffice suite. The first section of the book introduces the reader to the StarOffice desktop and applications, while the following sections cover the office applications in greater detail. StarOffice is a fully featured office suite containing the following applications: StarWriter for word processing, StarCalc for spreadsheets, StarDraw for drawing, StarImpress for creating slide shows, StarSchedule for keeping track of events, StarBase for creating databases, an address book, and web, e-mail and newsgroup capabilities. The e-book contains plenty of screen shots and examples of the applications in action.

While the e-books contain plenty of information at a minimal cost with low shelf-space requirements, they are a little clumsy to use. It is difficult to read a book page-by-page on a computer screen, and if you need to use the OpenLinux e-book to help with installation, you will either need a second computer or have to keep rebooting into Windows.

Linux in a Box doesn't include the Windows version of the reader, so Windows users might have to download it before they can view the manuals before they install OpenLinux.

Linux in a Box for Dummies provides a very capable system with OpenLinux and StarOffice along with two complete e-books. The installation booklet, while short, provides step-by-step instructions and screen shots, and the choice of Caldera's OpenLinux with its Lizard installation program makes installing OpenLinux quite easy. The e-books help new users of both Linux and StarOffice. New Linux users, who have access to a knowledgeable Linux friend, or experienced Linux users looking to get OpenLinux and StarOffice at a good price, should find this package a very attractive offering.

Ralph Krause ( lives in Michigan where he runs a small consulting company and writes. He has been working with Linux for over two years and recently started investigating the various BSD Unicies.


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