The quick review is “if you plan to run Linux you must have this book”. This book is a product of the Linux Documentation Project and Matt Welsh is the coordinator of that project. What may sound strange is that this book is free but, once you understand the spirit of the Linux community, it makes sense.
Matt released version 1 of this book in August, 1993. Version 2 was just made available on January 14, 1994. The major revision was to make it generic for most any Linux distribution. The previous edition was somewhat specific to the SLS distribution.
The following appears on the cover of the book and is a reasonable explanation of why the book exists and who should read it.
“This book is an installation and new-user guide for the Linux system, meant for UNIX novices and gurus alike. Contained herein is information on how to obtain Linux, installation of the software, a beginning tutorial for new UNIX users, and an introduction to system administration. It is meant to be general enough to be applicable to any distribution of the Linux software. Anyone with interest in installing and running Linux should read this book first.”
The book starts with an introduction to Linux including history, features, design and hardware requirements. The next chapter covers obtaining and installing Linux. How to get Linux from the Internet as well as other sources is covered. The section on installation problems covers many if not most of the questions that are regularly asked on the Linux newsgroups on Usenet.
The third chapter is a Linux tutorial. While not differing much from a standard Unix tutorial it covers the basics that a newcomer to Linux (or Unix) will need to know. It starts very basic but covers pipes, wildcards, file permissions, job control and the vi editor.
Systems administration is covered which includes routine stuff as well as disaster recovery. The final chapter is an introduction to the advanced features of Linux including X Windows, TCP/IP networking, E-mail and Usenet news.
Appendices cover other documentation, linux distributions, a Linux BBS list where you can get Linux files and even a tutorial on using ftp to get Linux off the Internet.
All in all, a thorough job of writing what needs to be said to get people started. If I had to find shortcomings it would be in the appendices talking about other sources of information and Linux distributions. The other books list mentions quite a few of the O'Reilly books (which are Unix-specific) but leave out what I would consider important books such as The UNIX Programming Environment by Kernighan and Pike (Prentice-Hall), The UNIX System by Stephen Bourne (Addison-Wesley), Introducing the UNIX System by Henry McGilton and Rachael Morgan (McGraw-Hill) and SSC's series of Unix pocket references and tutorials. The list of distributions covers MCC, TAMU, Nascent, Slackware and Trans-Ameritech but leave out major players such as Yggdrasil. Also, the information on Slackware is out of date but, as the change only happened 30 days ago, I can't be overly critical.
The final word: well worth the price which, as I mentioned is free if you have Internet access. It can be found on SunSite (sunsite.unc.edu:/pub/Linux/docs/LDP/install-guide) as well as all the other standard mirror sites. It is available as LaTeX source, a dvi file and in PostScript. If you don't have Internet access (or just would rather buy paper) SSC has agreed to make a comb bound copy available for $15 plus shipping ($3 in the U.S.).E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206)527-3385 for details.