Ubuntu Kung Fu (Book Review)
by Alan German
scanning across the library shelves of computer manuals -
you know the ones full of books like "Computers for
Dummies" by Idiots (or was that "Computers for
Idiots" by Dummies?) - when a cute kitten waves at
me from the front cover of "Ubuntu Kung Fu".
Now, with Ubuntu in the title, and "Tips, Tricks,
Hints and Hacks" as the sub-title, this is an
eminently more promising tome than any of the
computers-for-morons series. So, haul this one home and
leaf through the pages...
You may recognize the author - Keir Thomas - as a Linux
blogger for PC World's Linux Line. His book is an
unstructured list of 315 tips for Ubuntu Linux (using
Version 8.04) although, for those requiring some
semblance of order, there is a version of the table of
contents with the tips loosely categorized by topic.
Some of the items are very promising, like Tip No.8 -
Optimise Startup for Faster Boot Times. This offered to
shave 20 seconds off a one minute bootup sequence by a
simple edit on the init.d/rc file. Unfortunately, the
change made absolutely no difference to the bootup time
for my Ubuntu 9.04 setup. But, to be fair to the author,
Canonical were supposed to have tweaked the new version
of Ubuntu in order to improve bootup times, so perhaps
the suggested change is now redundant. I didn't go any
further but, if you want to explore your system's boot
sequence in detail, the next offering, Tip No. 9 - Graph
the System Bootup Performance - suggests using the
Bootchart utility to provide a graphical display of the
boot process with time.
Playing videos in Linux has historically been fraught
with difficulties, not the least of which have been the
need to use multiple, proprietary codecs. Tip No. 65 -
Install all the Multimedia Playback Codecs You'll Ever
Need - promises to solve this problem once and for all!
Although, there is a link to information on some of the
"issues" involved with certain software! Along
the same lines, music (MP3) aficionados may find Tip No.
279 - Use a "Legal" MP3 Codec - to be of
Legal issues also seem as though they might be a concern
for Tip No. 170 - Steal the Windows (or Mac OS) fonts.
One option is to use the freely-available msttcorefonts
package; however, there are also instructions for
"Importing Fonts from Microsoft Windows" that
don't sound too Redmond-friendly! But, as usual, the
open-source movement can provide viable alternatives,
such as Tip No. 101 - Install 465 Open Source Fonts, and
Tip No. 280 - Use Look-a-Likes of the Microsoft Fonts.
Not all of the tips are serious. How about Tip No. 245 -
Have a Cow Talk to You, or Tip No. 304 - Turn Your
Computer into a Egg Timer? And, Tip No. 114 - Play Emacs
Games - must have been specially written for Don
Chiasson. (It must be so - he's the only user of Emacs
that I know!)
But, there are also many very useful items in the book's
pages. For example, have you ever wanted to rename a
whole set of digital photographs with file names like
IMG_1048.JPG, IMG_1049.JPG, etc.? If your directory
contains tens - or hundreds - of files, this can be quite
a chore to complete manually. And, who knows the complex
sequence of terminal commands to automate the process?
So, Tip No. 230 - Rename Many Files at Once (aka Bulk
Rename) - to the rescue! The Purrr (yup, that's three
r's) utility will allow you to specify a name template,
and include a sequential counter, so that your file names
can be rather more descriptive of their actual content
than what is provided by your camera's naming process.
Some other intriguing options are Tip No. 194 - Do Math
at the Command Line, Tip No. 220 - Use a Macintosh OS
X-like Dock, and Tip. No. 256 - See the Size of
Files/Folders on the Desktop.
So, even though my initial foray into the book's goodies
failed to provide an increase in boot speed, perhaps one
(or more) of the other 314 tips will pay dividends.
Ubuntu Kung Fu - Tips, Tricks, Hints and Hacks
The Pragmatic Programmers, 2008
Originally published: October, 2009
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.