A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux

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9780132360395: A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux

A new edition of this title is available, ISBN-10: 0137003889 ISBN-13: 9780137003884



Praise for A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux®


“I am so impressed by how Mark Sobell can approach a complex topic in such an understandable manner. His command examples are especially useful in providing a novice (or even advanced) administrator with a cookbook on how to accomplish real-world tasks on Linux. He is truly an inspired technical writer!”

–George Vish II, Senior Education Consultant, Hewlett-Packard Company


“Overall, I think it’s a great, comprehensive Ubuntu book that’ll be a valuable resource for people of all technical levels.”

–John Dong, Ubuntu Forum Council Member, Backports Team Leader


“The JumpStart sections really offer a quick way to get things up and running, allowing you to dig into the details of his books later.”

–Scott Mann, Aztek Networks


“Ubuntu is gaining popularity at the rate alcohol did during prohibition, and it’s great to see a well-known author write a book on the latest and greatest version. Not only does it contain Ubuntu-specific information, but it also touches on general computer-related topics, which will help the average computer user to better understand what’s going on in the background. Great work, Mark!”

–Daniel R. Arfsten, Pro/ENGINEER Drafter/Designer


“I read a lot of Linux technical information every day, but I’m rarely impressed by tech books. I usually prefer online information sources instead. Mark Sobell’s books are a notable exception. They’re clearly written, technically accurate, comprehensive-and actually enjoyable to read.”

–Matthew Miller, Senior Systems Analyst/Administrator, BU Linux Project, Boston University Office, of Information Technology


“I would so love to be able to use this book to teach a class about not just Ubuntu or Linux but about computers in general. It is thorough and well written with good illustrations that explain important concepts for computer usage.”

–Nathan Eckenrode, New York Local Community Team


Praise for Other Books by Mark Sobell


“I currently own one of your books, A Practical Guide to Linux® . I believe this book is one of the most comprehensive and, as the title says, practical guides to Linux I have ever read. I consider myself a novice and I come back to this book over and over again.”

–Albert J. Nguyen


“Thank you for writing a book to help me get away from Windows XP and to never touch Windows Vista. The book is great; I am learning a lot of new concepts and commands. Linux is definitely getting easier to use.”

–James Moritz


“I have been wanting to make the jump to Linux but did not have the guts to do so-until I saw your familiarly titled A Practical Guide to Red Hat® Linux® at the bookstore. I picked up a copy and am eagerly looking forward to regaining my freedom.”

–Carmine Stoffo, Machine and Process Designer to pharmaceutical industry


“I am currently reading A Practical Guide to Red Hat® Linux® and am finally understanding the true power of the command line. I am new to Linux and your book is a treasure.”

–Juan Gonzalez


The Most Complete, Easy-to-Understand, and Useful Guide to Ubuntu Linux Desktops and Servers


Ubuntu Linux is a state-of-the-art operating system, and you need a book that’s just as advanced. Along with being the most comprehensive reference to installing, configuring, and working with Ubuntu, A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux® also provides extensive server coverage you won’t find in any other Ubuntu book.


Best-selling author Mark Sobell begins by walking you through every feature and technique you need to know, from installing Ubuntu–using the DVD included with the book–to working with GNOME, Samba, exim4, Apache, DNS, NIS, firestarter, and iptables. Sobell’s exceptionally clear explanations demystify everything from system security to Windows file/printer sharing.


Sobell presents full chapters on using Ubuntu from the command line and GUI; thorough system administration and security guidance; and up-to-the-minute, step-by-step instructions for setting up networks and every major type of Internet server. Along the way, you’ll learn both the “hows” and the “whys” of Ubuntu. Sobell knows every Linux nook and cranny: He’s taught hundreds of thousands of readers and never forgets what it’s like to be new to Linux. Whether you’re a user, administrator, or programmer, this book gives you all you need–and more.


Don’t settle for yesterday’s Ubuntu Linux book...get the ONLY book that meets today’s challenges and tomorrow’s!


This book delivers... 

  • Deeper coverage of the command line and the GNOME GUI, including GUI customization
  • Coverage of important Ubuntu topics, such as sudo and the new Upstart init daemon
  • More practical coverage of file sharing with Samba, NFS, and FTP
  • More detailed, usable coverage of Internet server configuration, including Apache, exim4, and DNS/BIND
  • More state-of-the-art security techniques, including firewall setup using firestarter and iptables, as well as a full chapter on OpenSSH and an appendix on security
  • Deeper coverage of “meat-and-potatoes” system and network administration tasks–from managing users to CUPS printing, configuring LANs to building a kernel
  • A more practical introduction to writing bash shell scripts
  • Complete instructions on how to keep your Linux system up-to-date using aptitude, Synaptic, and the Software Sources window
  • And much more...including a 500+ term glossary, five detailed appendixes, and a comprehensive index to help you find what you need fast

Print book includes DVD! Get the full version of the Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) release.


"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Mark G. Sobell is President of Sobell Associates Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in UNIX/Linux training, support, and custom software development. He has more than twenty-five years of experience working with UNIX and Linux systems and is the author of many best-selling books, including A Practical Guide to Red Hat® Linux®, Third Edition; A Practical Guide to Linux® Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming; and A Practical Guide to UNIX® for Mac OS® X Users (coauthored with Peter Seebach), all from Prentice Hall, and A Practical Guide to the UNIX System from Addison-Wesley.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Book

Whether you are an end user, a system administrator, or a little of both, this book explains with step-by-step examples how to get the most out of an Ubuntu Linux system. In 27 chapters, this book takes you from installing an Ubuntu system through understanding its inner workings to setting up secure servers that run on the system.

The Audience

This book is designed for a wide range of readers. It does not require you to have programming experience, although having some experience using a general-purpose computer, such as a Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, or another Linux system is certainly helpful. This book is appropriate for

  • Students who are taking a class in which they use Linux
  • Home users who want to set up and/or run Linux
  • Professionals who use Linux at work
  • System administrators who need an understanding of Linux and the tools that are available to them
  • Computer science students who are studying the Linux operating system
  • Programmers who need to understand the Linux programming environment
  • Technical executives who want to get a grounding in Linux


A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux® gives you a broad understanding of many facets of Linux, from installing Ubuntu Linux through using and customizing it. No matter what your background, this book provides the knowledge you need to get on with your work. You will come away from this book understanding how to use Linux, and this book will remain a valuable reference for years to come.


If you read A Practical Guide to Linux® Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming, you will notice some overlap between that book and the one you are reading now. The first chapter, the chapters on the utilities and the filesystem, and the appendix on regular expressions are very similar in the two books, as are the three chapters on the Bourne Again Shell (bash). Chapters that appear in this book but do not appear in A Practical Guide to Linux® Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming include Chapters 2 and 3 (installation), Chapters 4 and 8 (Ubuntu Linux and the GUI), Chapter 10 (networking), all of the chapters in Part IV (system administration) and Part V (servers), and Appendix C (security).


While this book explains how to use Linux from a graphical interface and from the command line (a textual interface), A Practical Guide to Linux® Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming works exclusively with the command line. It includes full chapters on the vi and emacs editors, as well as chapters on the gawk pattern processing language and the sed stream editor. In addition, it has a command reference section that provides extensive examples of the use of more than 80 of the most important Linux utilities. You can use these utilities to solve problems without resorting to programming in C.

This Book Includes Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon (7.10) on a Live/Install DVD

This book includes a live/install DVD that holds the Gutsy Gibbon (7.10) release of Ubuntu Linux. You can use this DVD to run a live Ubuntu session that displays the GNOME desktop without making any changes to your computer: Boot from the DVD, run an Ubuntu live session, and log off. Your system remains untouched: When you reboot, it is exactly as it was before you ran the Ubuntu live session. Alternatively, you can install Ubuntu from the live session. Chapter 2 helps you get ready to install Ubuntu. Chapter 3 provides step-by-step instructions for installing Ubuntu from this DVD. This book guides you through learning about, using, and administrating an Ubuntu Linux session.

DVD Features

The included DVD incorporates all the features of the live/install Desktop CD as well as the Alternate and Server CDs. It also includes all software packages supported by Ubuntu. You can use it to perform a graphical or textual (command line) installation of either a graphical or a textual Ubuntu system. If you do not have an Internet connection, you can use the DVD as a software repository and install any supported software packages from it.

Features of This Book

This book is designed and organized so you can get the most out of it in the shortest amount of time. You do not have to read this book straight through in page order. Instead, once you are comfortable using Linux, you can use this book as a reference: Look up a topic of interest in the table of contents or index and read about it. Or think of the book as a catalog of Linux topics: Flip through the pages until a topic catches your eye. The book includes many pointers to Web sites where you can get additional information: Consider the Internet an extension of this book.

A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux® is structured with the following features:

  • Optional sections enable you to read the book at different levels, returning to more difficult material when you are ready to delve into it.
  • Caution boxes highlight procedures that can easily go wrong, giving you guidance before you run into trouble.
  • Tip boxes highlight ways you can save time by doing something differently or situations when it may be useful or just interesting to have additional information.
  • Security boxes point out places where you can make a system more secure. The security appendix presents a quick background in system security issues.
  • Concepts are illustrated by practical examples throughout the book.
  • Chapter summaries review the important points covered in each chapter.
  • Review exercises are included at the end of each chapter for readers who want to further hone their skills. Answers to even-numbered exercises are available at www.sobell.com.
  • The glossary defines more than 500 common terms.
  • The chapters that cover servers include JumpStart sections that get you off to a quick start using clients and setting up servers. Once a server is up and running, you can test and modify its configuration as explained in the rest of the chapter.
  • This book provides resources for finding software on the Internet. It also explains how to download and install software using Synaptic, aptitude, the GNOME Add/Remove Applications window, and BitTorrent. It details controlling automatic updates using the Update Notifier and the Update Manager window.
  • This book describes in detail many important GNU tools, including the GNOME desktop, the Nautilus File Browser, the parted and gparted partition editors, the gzip compression utility, and many command line utilities that come from the GNU project.
  • Pointers throughout the text provide help in obtaining online documentation from many sources, including the local system, the Ubuntu Web site, and other locations on the Internet.
  • Many useful URLs point to Web sites where you can obtain software, security programs and information, and more.
  • The comprehensive index helps you locate topics quickly and easily.

Key Topics Covered in This Book

This book contains a lot of information. This section distills and summarizes its contents. In addition, “Details” (starting on page xli) describes what each chapter covers. Finally, the table of contents provides more detail.


The book:

  • Describes how to download Ubuntu Linux ISO images from the Internet and burn the Ubuntu live/install Desktop CD, the DVD, or the Ubuntu Alternate or Server installation CD.
  • Helps you plan the layout of the system’s hard disk. It includes a discussion of partitions, partition tables, and mount points, and assists you in using the ubiquity or gparted graphical partitioner or the Ubuntu textual partitioner to partition the hard disk.
  • Explains how to set up a dual-boot system so you can install Ubuntu Linux on a Windows system and boot either operating system.
  • Describes in detail how to install Ubuntu Linux from a live/install Desktop CD or the live/install DVD using the ubiquity graphical installer. It also explains how to use the textual installer found on the Alternate CD, the Server CD, and the DVD. The graphical installer is fast and easy to use. The textual installer gives you more options and works on systems with less RAM (system memory).
  • Covers testing an Ubuntu CD/DVD for defects, setting boot command line parameters (boot options), and creating a RAID array.
  • Covers the details of installing and customizing the X.org version of the X Window System either graphically using the Screen and Graphics Preferences window or manually with a text editor.

Working with Ubuntu Linux

The book:

  • Introduces the GNOME desktop (GUI) and explains how to use desktop tools, including the Top and Bottom panels, panel objects, the Main menu, object context menus, the Workspace Switcher, the Nautilus File Browser, and the GNOME Terminal emulator.
  • Explains how to use the Appearance Preferences window to add and modify themes to customize your desktop to please your senses and help you work more efficiently.
  • Details how to set up 3D desktop visual effects that take advantage of Compiz Fusion.
  • Covers the Bourne Again Shell (bash) in three chapters, including an entire chapter on shell programming that includes many sample shell scripts. These chapters provide clear explanations and extensive examples of how bash works both from the command line in day-to-day work and as a programming language to write shell scripts.
  • Explains the textual (command line) interface and introduces more than 30 command line utilities.
  • Presents a tutorial on the vim textual editor.
  • Covers types of networks, network protocols, and network utilities.
  • Explains hostnames, IP addresses, and subnets, and explores how to use host and dig to look up domain names and IP addresses on the Internet.
  • Covers distributed computing and the client/server model.
  • Explains how to use ACLs (Access Control Lists) to fine-tune user access permissions.

System Administration

The book:

  • Explains how to use the Ubuntu graphical and textual (command line) tools to configure the display, DNS, NFS, Samba, Apache, a firewall, a network interface, and more. You can also use these tools to add users and manage local and remote printers.
  • Goes into detail about using sudo to allow specific users to work with root privileges (become Superuser) and customizing the way sudo works by editing the sudoers configuration file. It also explains how you can unlock the root account if necessary.
  • Describes how to use the following tools to download and install software to keep a system up-to-date and to install new software:
    • The Software Sources window controls which Ubuntu and third-party software repositories Ubuntu downloads software packages from and whether Ubuntu downloads updates automatically. You can also use this window to cause Ubuntu to download and install security updates automatically.
    • If you do not have an Internet connection, you can use the Software Sources window to set up the DVD included with this book as a software repository. You can then install any software packages that Ubuntu supports from this repository.
    • Based on how you set up updates in the Software Sources window, the Update Notifier pops up on the desktop to let you know when software updates are available. Click the Update Notifier to open the Update Manager window, from which you can download and install updates.
    • The Add/Remove Applications window provides an easy way to select, download, and install a wide range of software packages.
    • Synaptic allows you to search for, install, and remove software packages. It gives you more ways to search for packages than does the Add/Remove Applications window.
    • APT downloads and installs software packages from the Internet (or the included DVD), keeping a system up-to-date and resolving dependencies as it processes the packages. You can use APT from a graphical interface (Synaptic) or from several textual interfaces (e.g., aptitude and apt-get).
    • BitTorrent is a good choice for distributing large amounts of data such as the Ubuntu installation DVD and CDs. The more people who use BitTorrent to download a file, the faster it works.
  • Covers graphical system administration tools, including the many tools available from the GNOME Main menu.
  • Explains system operation, including the boot process, init scripts, recovery (single-user) and multiuser modes, and steps to take if the system crashes.
  • Describes how to use and program the new Upstart init daemon, which replaces the System V init daemon.
  • Describes files, directories, and filesystems, including types of files and filesystems, fstab (the filesystem table), and automatically mounted filesystems, and explains how to fine-tune and check the integrity of filesystems.
  • Covers backup utilities, including tar, cpio, dump, and restore.
  • Describes compression/archive utilities, including gzip, bzip2, compress, and zip.
  • Explains how to customize and build a Linux kernel.


The book:

  • Helps you manage basic system security issues using ssh (secure shell), vsftpd (secure FTP server), Apache (Web server), iptables (firewalls), and more.
  • Covers using firestarter to share an Internet connection over a LAN, run a DHCP server, and set up a basic firewall to protect the system.
  • Provides instructions on using iptables to share an Internet connection over a LAN and to build advanced firewalls.
  • Describes how to set up a chroot jail to help protect a server system.
  • Explains how to use TCP wrappers to control who can access a server.

Clients and Servers

The book:

  • Explains how to set up and use the most popular Linux servers, providing a chapter on each: Apache, Samba, OpenSSH, exim4, DNS, NFS, FTP, firestarter and iptables, and NIS (all of which are supported by Ubuntu Linux).
  • Describes how to set up a CUPS printer server.
  • Describes how to set up and use a DHCP server either by itself or from firestarter.


The book:

  • Provides a full chapter covering shell programming using bash, including many examples.


Chapter 1 presents a brief history of Linux and explains some of the features that make it a cutting-edge operating system. The “Conventions Used in This Book” (page 17) section details the typefaces and terminology this book uses.

Part I

Part I, “Installing Ubuntu Linux,” discusses how to install Ubuntu Linux. Chapter 2 presents an overview of the process of installing Ubuntu Linux, including hardware requirements, downloading and burning a CD or DVD, and planning the layout of the hard disk. Chapter 3 is a step-by-step guide to installing Ubuntu Linux from a CD or DVD, using the graphical or textual installer. It also shows how to set up the X Window System and customize your desktop (GUI).

Part II

Part II, “Ge...

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