‘Ubuntu Made Easy’, a book published earlier this year, makes a bold claim with its title – but does it deliver on it?

Before I answer that I need to confess something: I am a card carrying, self-proclaimed, direct-debit paying member of the cynical brigade when it comes to books that claim to ‘make something easy‘. One hint of a how-to title and my eyebrow cocks in cynicism, and I mutter a patronising ‘yeah, sure‘ under my breath.

I’m like this because I’ve been burnt in the past by books with similar intentions.

“HTML & CSS Made Easy” promised one; “Java Programming In 5 Quick Steps” assured another; and, like a bagain hunter in an IKEA sale, the offer of “Conversational Swedish in Five Days” lured me in instantly.

Sadly, I sit here today no more skilled in programming Java or prettifying websites than I am in speaking conversational Swedish.

But ‘Ubuntu Made Easy’, by Rickford Grant with Phil Bull and published by NoStarchPress, has left me with a dilemma: it actually succeeds in what it claims to…


For most of us our journey with Ubuntu starts off bumpy. We wrestle with WiFi cards, encounter dodgy drivers, and get confused by the sheer variety of software to choose from. In short it’s intimidating.

Ubuntu Made Easy has been written precisely to help those at this juncture.

Amongst the topics it walks readers through are:

  • How to install Ubuntu
  • Using Unity
  • Connecting to the Internet
  • Installing apps and updates
  • Basic Terminal primer
  • Working with Ubuntu’s default apps
  • Linux Gaming
  • Trouble-shooting section

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never used Ubuntu before; everything that needs to be explained is explained, and things that don’t aren’t.

“…everything that needs to be explained is explained.”

Obviously this means that some sections and concepts aren’t as in-depth as the more eager reader might want. But the result is a book boasting simplicity and straightforwardness in an oft-intimidating topic.

One thing that is important to note is that the book is focused on Ubuntu 12.04 – the Long Term Support version of Ubuntu. As it was written before the release of 12.10 you won’t find any references to Unity Previews, Web Apps or other, newer, features.


Striking the right tone in an ‘introductory’ book like Ubuntu Made Easy is vital. Most books on computing tend to be either heavy, patronising or both.

Thankfully this is neither.

Rickford and Phil present information in digestible chunks and write in a conversational style. Diagrams and screenshots are used to great effect, and there are plenty of step-by-step instructions along the way to reinforce what is presented.


At 244 pages long there is plenty of useful stuff to be gleaned from the book, beginner or otherwise

The Troubleshooting chapter will, in particular, prove to be an indispensable source – introduction and after; the appendix documents additional installation tips (64 bit, manual partitioning, etc); and there’s an entire section dedicated to getting involved in the Ubuntu community – both as a developer and as a user.

Minor Niggles

Personally, the penguin-themed chapter titles don’t quite do it for me.

For example “MORE THAN WEBBED FEET” is a chapter on setting up your Internet connections; “ROUNDING OUT THE BIRD” talks though installing new applications and downloading updates.

‘Chapter titles are more confusing than amusing’

Although sure to delight Linux aficionados, I suspect that newcomers will find them confusing rather than amusing.

Thankfully the contents pages are detailed wonderfully. The first set lists the bird-related chapter titles and sub-headings, whilst the second set lists the chapter titles, sub-headings and the specific subjects within them.

It makes finding a specific tip or tutorial a breeze.


Now for the big drawback: the price.

Ubuntu Made Easy is (at the time of writing) more expensive than similar books on sale. It retails for just under $35/£27, though most online retailers list it at less than this.

The physical copy is (once again, at the time of writing) $23.04 on Amazon US and £26.12 on Amazon UK. The Kindle versions are $28.79 and £17.97 respectively.

Buy on Amazon.co.uk    Buy on Amazon.com

But Amazon isn’t the only place you can buy it. Being an Ubuntu book it would be a strange omission for it to not be on sale through the Ubuntu Software Center. The .pdf version is on sale over there for $27.97.

Buy on Ubuntu Software Center

The official publisher’s website also sell the book – $34.95 for the physical copy (plus a free .pdf version) or $27.95 for the digital copy (.pdf, ePub and Mobi versions)

Publisher’s Website

Summary and Rating

Whether your wanting to learn more about your OS, or on the lookout for a gift for a family member or friend, Ubuntu Made Easy offers an excellent introduction to Ubuntu, its apps, its way of working, and its community.

Its title not only promises to makes Ubuntu easy – it lives up to it.

Now, where did I leave my copy of ‘Conversational Swedish in Five Days’… 

Ubuntu Made Easy


Ubuntu Made Easy does what it says on the tin. It’s now my de-facto recommendation for new users.

4 out of 5
Reviews books no starch press