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This book is divided into four parts. Part One, "Background", covers some of the basic issues related to Linux systems, such as the nature of free and open source software, and some general aspects of what goes into a Linux distribution. Part One will give you a healthy introduction to the "Zen" of the Linux world.
Part Two, "Linux Distributions", introduces the notion of a "Linux distribution." After outlining the nuts and bolts of a distribution, I discuss three actual sample distributions in detail. These chapters in Part Two illustrate different approaches, techniques, and solutions to the problem of constructing a Linux system. Part Two will help you break through the surface of a Linux system and sink your teeth into the meat below. If you read it all the way through, you will be substantially familiar with the details of some of the most popular Linux distributions, and you will be well equipped to deal with any other Linux (or even any Unix-like!) system you encounter in the future. You'll also be able to quickly understand any changes made to the existing distributions down the road as new versions are released.
Part Three, "Installing Software," builds on the material in Part Two to teach you how to install software on your system. That is, while Part Two teaches you the nuts and bolts of the system, Part Three teaches you how to tweak and customize the system, within the constraints of the distribution. The examples in these chapters in Part Three demonstrate most of the common techniques for installing software, so if you read and internalize them all you should be ready to start bending your system to your will, so that you can get real work done with the software you need.
Part Four, "Case Studies", in turn builds on the material in Part Three and demonstrates several different case studies of Linux systems. Each chapter in Part Four discusses an actual, real-world usage of a Linux system. These chapters really illustrate where the rubber meets the road, by showing how the same stock system can be customized to fit a wide variety of needs. If you read or skim these chapters, you will have gone a long way indeed toward mastering Linux systems.
So, what will you learn? Well, if you really think about it, you're building a house of knowledge. Part One surveys the lay of the land, Part Two builds the foundation, Part Three frames in the walls and ceiling, and Part Four installs the details and makes the house into a home. At least, that is the intent. I hope you'll agree!
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