Linux 's Missing Manual Coming to a User's Group Near You

by Tom Adelstein

Would you like to get your hands on "Linux System Administration" and have Bill Lubanovic or me show up to your local LUG or UNIX User group meeting? Then you should contact Marsee Henon at O'Reilly. Of course, if you would rather have another author and another book she can handle that too. Marsee works with various groups around the country to make sure they have books and speakers.

Publishers have handed out books for free for some time now. They only ask you to write a review. That seems easy. You pick up a $50 book and agree to write a review - nothing to it - right?

If there's nothing to it then how come so many people take the book and fail to write a review? Do you think it has something to do with the decline of morality in America? Does everyone want something for free and not want to do anything in return - and then gripe about it?

This is one of those "who knows" questions. It's one of the great mysteries of life. Solve this mystery and you get a Pulitzer and a Nobel prize.

I'm a little baffled by the attitudes of some users of Free Software. You have probably heard the famous turkey call:

"Hey, how come my Ubuntu doesn't do ......".

Of course you can fill in the blank. He or she gets the operating system and an incredible number of applications and takes issue with the guys that gave their time, effort and money to make Free Open Source Software available to them. Again, this is one of the great mysteries of life.

What has Linux done for me lately?

Back when UNIX owned the server market, you would have to pay around $20,000 for a Sun Workstation with Solaris 2.4. That's correct. Those Sparc 5 pizza boxes you can get for around $100 on eBay used to cost as much as a college education. Oh, and if you wanted to become a UNIX administrator, then you'd have to lay out a bunch of money for that too.

So, here comes Linus and the kernel team, the Free Software Foundation and the next thing we know, we have a UNIX type OS for free. Plenty of UNIX admins and programmers learned their stock and trade on Linux.

Now, in addition to the teams that brought your Linux, let's not forget Tim O'Reilly types. Many people I know and with whom I speak credit Tim with boosting Linux during infancy. I remember seeing those books with odd looking colophon covers like the one with the llama on the cover of "Learning Perl".

I always wondered about those animal books. Then I read this little snippet: "Our look is the result of reader comments, our own experimentation, and feedback from distribution channels. Distinctive covers complement our distinctive approach on technical topics, breathing personality and life into potentially dry subjects."

I can testify to the statement above. Someone has to breath personality and life into dry technical subjects. People need inspiration to keep going. Sometimes the only inspiration a free software developer gets is the satisfaction of doing a great job - finishing what he or she started - bring a dream into reality.

Who will do the decent thing and at least acknowledge the people who work for you for nothing? I believe they deserve our admiration instead of our stinking comments. Think of the contribution so many people have made to our lives.

Now, I hope you contact Marsee. If you wind up with one of her books, remember to pay for it by following through with your promise. Oh yes, one more thing. If you owe a review from earlier times, then how about writing it now to keep your honor? Or if you won't do a review, send money.