Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Review: Ubuntu Manual Project: Getting Started with Ubuntu 12.04

Getting Started with Ubuntu 12.04 is a comprehensive beginners guide for the Ubuntu operating system. It is written under an open source license and is free for you to download, read, modify and share.

The manual will help you become familiar with everyday tasks such as surfing the web, listening to music and scanning documents. With an emphasis on easy to follow instructions, it is suitable for all levels of experience.

The project homepage actually does a good job of describing and reviewing the manaul for me:


  • Easy to understand - our manual has step by step instructions and is jargon-free (mostly)
  • A picture is worth a thousand words - lots of screen-shots to show you how to do tasks (cool)
  • All in one place - conveniently located in one file, so you don’t have to look all over the web for help
  • Progressive learning curve - start with the basics, and learn as you work through each chapter
  • Dozens of languages - translated into more than 52 languages, including localized screen-shots
  • CC-BY-SA licensing - download, modify, reproduce and share as much as you like
  • No cost - our documents are all written by Ubuntu community members and there is no charge to use them
  • Printer friendly - we have a version optimized for printing to save the trees
  • Troubleshooting section - to help you solve common Ubuntu problems quickly
Now, the title is Getting Started. Unfortunately, the team is still committing the same error I pointed out for the very first edition. There's too much boring stuff at the beginning. Intellectually important stuff; ethically important stuff. But boring. Why does it need to be the first section? Even if you call it Prologue:
Welcome, Ubuntu Philosophy, A brief history of Ubuntu, Is Ubuntu right for you
(this I like), Contact details, About the team, Conventions used in this book (useful)

With the section on Installation, the quality begins to show through. This is a proper step by step guide with the right pictures.

The Desktop section has sidebars and definitions and illustrations and works through the things you need to know in the right order; Unity, Launcher, Dash, Managing Windows, Workspaces, file manager, searching, customising, accessibility.

Working with Ubuntu is a comprehensive (almost 50 pages) working through the standard applications. Importantly it addresses the subject of codecs for playing different media formats.

There's a section on hardware which is an area in which a lot of computer users get stuck in Driver Hell, setting up and configuring various devices.; displays printers, cameras, sound, scanning are all covered in sufficient depth to get through common configuration.

Software Management then goes through installing and maintaining the software stack on your machine, the Software Centre and the mechanics of package installs. It mentions the terminal, but doesn't go into any detail. Security is outlined as far as firewalls, permissions, users and groups goes.

There's a short but sweet section on Troubleshooting.

Finding Additional Help is a good list of sources.

At the back, where it belongs, the Open Source Licence is included. There's also a decent glossary.

Criticisms? I have very few as the Ubuntu Manual is now a mature publication. Yes, it could do with a few more pictures, if only to relieve that some of the pages are quite bland and text-heavy. The sidebar text is in far too small a typeface so you can miss some really useful snippets.

Overall I still think the Vancouver team book, Unity: Simplify Your Life strikes the best balance of style and content, but the Ubuntu Manual is the larger reference work and a good one at that. RC

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