It doesn’t matter if you’re new to open source or a long-time user, there is always more to learn about. We scoured the Web for the best open source books. All of these are free books that can be downloaded and shared.
The LinuxStarter Pack (LSP) is an ideal primer for Linux newbies. Produced by Linux Format magazine, LSP is a collection of features on everything a Linux first-timer could want to know. The guide focuses on the Ubuntu desktop as the default installation with examples of performing basic tasks to creating new users, upgrading and installing new software to customising the desktop. Although heavily focused on the Ubuntu desktop the Linux Starter Pack provides more than enough information to get all users started on Linux.
Keir Thomas, author of a number of Linux how-to books as well as Ubuntu-specific guides, has released a new book called Ubuntu Pocket Guide. This compact 166-page guide covers all the basics of using Ubuntu Linux for users both new and experienced. Whether you’re a first-time user trying to get a scanner working or a more experienced user trying to set up a firewall the guide is concise and informative.
3 – tuXlabs Cookbook
In the early 2000s in South Africa The Shuttleworth Foundation sponsored a school Linux project called tuXlabs. Over its relatively short-lived life the programme set up more than 200 schools with Linux-based computer laboratories, doing so with a combination of volunteers, parents, teachers and learners willing to learn. While not all of the school laboratories survived the next couple of years many did and the project raised awareness, got free software to schools and developed a solid map for rolling out school Linux projects. The result is this book which is well worth reading for anyone who is planning a community-driven project.
4 – Free Culture
This is not strictly a book on open source software, but as far as the open concepts go it is a book everyone should read. When Lawrence Lessig published this book in the early 2000s he not only wrote a very readable book on the “culture of free” but he also started the movement called Creative Commons. Most of the books on this list are published under a Creative Commons licence which means that they are mostly free to share and, in some cases, free to adapt into new works. You won’t learn a new programming skill with this book but it is worth reading to get an insight into the ideas that shaped free culture, a movement very closely aligned with free software philosophy.
Another book in which you’re unlikely to learn programming techniques but still a book worth checking out is Free as in Freedom. The book is a history of the free software movement as viewed by Richard Stallman. Stallman is the founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of many of the core applications used on Linux. The book can’t be downloaded but is available in full online at the O’Reilly website.
One of the areas where Linux and open source software has made inroads, but is often least known, is the film and animation arena. One of the stand out projects in this market has to be Blender, an open source 3D animation application, which has been used to produce short films such as Elephants Dream. If you want to learn how to use Blender then The Blender Basics book is a must-have. At 120 pages long it is both useful as an introduction to Blender as well as an advanced guide. The Blender Basics Book can be downloaded in both chapters as well as a complete PDF.
Despite an obvious social and financial advantage for developing nations, open source software has been largely ignored on the African continent. Despite this there are many free software advocates that have successfully deployed FOSS throughout Africa, learning many valuable lessons along the way. FOSS4D is a book documenting exactly this: deploying free software in Africa and its related challenges. The book documents the challenges African FOSS advocates still have to overcome as well as carving a path for future developments.
8 – Ubuntu Manual
Given Ubuntu’s popularity it’s unsurprising that there are many books on getting the most out of this Linux version. One of the newest is the Ubuntu Manual project which plans to release guides to the various Ubuntu releases. The first of these is Getting Started with Ubuntu 10.04, the current release. The guide is a comprehensive beginner’s guide and covers all the core tasks a user will want to do. There is information on things such as surfing the web, listening to music and scanning documents. The various chapters move from the basics of using Ubuntu to more advanced tasks so readers can scale up their skills over the course of the guide.