Linux has come a long way in a short time. Computing itself is still relatively young by any standard; if the era of modern computing started with the invention of the microchip, it's still less than 50 years old. But Linux is a youngster compared even to this; it has been around for only 13 of those years.
In that brief time span, a one-time student's personal project has grown and gone on to run a great deal of the world's computers. It has rampaged through the computing industry, pushing aside alternatives from the likes of Microsoft Corporation and toppling long-held beliefs about the way things should be done. This is all by virtue of the fact that Linux is simply better than every other choice out there. It's more secure, faster, and—the kicker for most people—free of charge. Yes, that's right. It doesn't have to cost a penny. It is one of the computing industry's best-kept secrets.
I was bitten by the Linux bug in the mid to late 1990s. I was introduced to it by a friend who sold it to me as a kind of alternative to DOS. At that time, I tapped a few commands at the prompt and was greeted by error messages. I must admit that I was put off. But shortly afterwards, I revisited Linux and quickly became hooked.
Yet getting used to Linux wasn't easy. I read as many books as I could but, in my opinion, all of them fell significantly short. They were usually overly complicated or simply irrelevant. To start off, I didn't want to know how to create a program that could parse text files. I just wanted to know how to copy and delete files. I didn't want to set up a web server with PHP functions. I just wanted to know how to play my MP3 tracks and browse the Web.
This book is my answer to that need for a fundamental, authoritative, and down-to-earth guide to Linux, done in the context of one of the most popular flavors of Linux in existence today. It's a book that is desperately needed in our modern world, especially as Linux becomes more and more popular and enters homes and workplaces.
Beginning SUSE Linux purely and simply focuses on what you need to know to use Linux. It's concise and to the point, aiming to re-create under Linux all the stuff you used to do under Windows. But don't think that this means Beginning SUSE Linux cuts corners. Wherever justified, we spend time examining the things you need to know in order to gain a complete and comprehensive understanding. For example, you'll find a hefty chapter looking at the command-line prompt—arguably the heart of Linux and the element that gives Linux most of its power. There's also an entire chapter discussing (and illustrating) how to initially install SUSE Linux on your computer. Beginning SUSE Linux really is the complete guide.
Most versions of Linux are broadly similar, but in this book, we focus specifically on SUSE Linux. This is one of the premier distributions of Linux available today. Some would go further and say that it's the absolute best. It's a professional product, which delivers the best of the Linux world to its users.
Novell bought SUSE GmbH in 2003, giving SUSE Linux the kind of push that only a multinational corporation allows. SUSE Linux is being snapped up around the world for use in corporate and home environments. SUSE partners with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and many other computer manufacturers around the world as one of their distributions of choice.
This isn't without reason. SUSE Linux has managed to pull off the seemingly impossible feat of being both easy to use and also extremely powerful. It overcomes one of the standard criticisms of Linux—that it's hard to configure—by providing the YaST2 tool. Uniquely in the Linux world, this offers access to just about every aspect of Linux configuration, from setting up your printer to installing new software, and much more besides. Users of Windows might think of it as being like the Control Panel on steroid-enhancing drugs. But Windows doesn't even come close to providing an alternative.
The comparison with Windows is apt because SUSE Linux manages to pull off another seemingly impossible feat: it's easy to use for those coming from Windows, yet retains its own independent look and feel. Virtually everyone in the Linux world agrees that SUSE Linux has the best user interface around, and this is clearly something SUSE Linux's software engineers spent a long time developing. SUSE Linux is a luxury product in the often rough-and-ready world of Linux.
These same engineers were also aware of what most users need. Out of all the versions of Linux currently available, SUSE Linux is the best at handling multimedia such as video and audio. Its hardware support is also excellent, meaning that installing it is a breeze. It's ideal for every level of user, and the desktop user in particular.