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Preface to "The Official Ubuntu Book, 8th Edition"

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This chapter is from the book
The authors of the 8th edition of The Official Ubuntu Book describe what's changed in the latest edition to keep up with the changes with Ubuntu itself.

We hope you enjoy The Official Ubuntu Book. There are many changes we made for this edition, which we believe takes an already good book to a new level.

Because Ubuntu has increased in popularity and is better known, we have expanded the intended audience from pure beginners to also include those who know a bit about Ubuntu but who want to improve their skills and become power users. These individuals are not necessarily focused on becoming programmers or systems administrators, but regular people who want to make their day-to-day use of Ubuntu more efficient or who want to better harness Ubuntu’s potential.

In 2011, Ubuntu received the first wide release of the new Unity interface. This has been refined to become more elegant, more powerful, and more useful. These changes are outlined in this book. While the first release was exciting but incomplete, we believe you will find that the 14.04 Ubuntu edition of Unity delivers a new and exciting standard for human-computer interaction.

Finally, a large part of this book has been rewritten—not because the earlier editions were bad, but because so much has happened since the previous edition was published. This book chronicles the major changes that affect typical users and will help anyone learn the foundations, the history, and how to harness the potential of the free software in Ubuntu.

As we write this, it has been several years since we penned the first edition of The Official Ubuntu Book. Over that time, we have seen Ubuntu continue its explosive growth. Updating this book drives this fact home in striking ways. For example, the numbers of users and posts in the Ubuntu Forums have nearly doubled since the last edition of this book a year ago. Again.

Once again, we feel blessed that The Official Ubuntu Book has been able to benefit from, and perhaps in a small way even contribute to, that success. Ultimately, that success paved the way for several subsequent editions, and now the eighth edition, of the book that you’re reading now.

In the process, this book, like Ubuntu, continues to mature. Our job as authors, like that of the Ubuntu developers, now involves more updating and polishing than it used to. Distributed under a free license, a once-risky book on a once-risky operating system is, just a few short years later, as close to a sure thing as an author, publisher, and, if we have done our job well, a reader could hope for.

And yet with success comes responsibility to our readers and to our users with high expectations. Ubuntu’s success is built in part of maturity and excellence, and it cannot sacrifice these qualities if it will succeed. We cannot either. Our job as writers is complicated because we need to accurately reflect and represent both qualities while catering to an increasing and increasingly diverse group of users.

As we’ve noted in the prefaces to previous editions of this book, being Official has carried with it a set of rights and responsibilities. Our book’s title means that we must attempt to reflect and represent the whole Ubuntu community. While we, as authors, are expected to put ourselves into the book, it is understood that it can never be to the detriment of the values, principles, technologies, or structures of the Ubuntu community.

Doing this has been complicated as Ubuntu has grown. In each edition, we have added new information, because the Ubuntu community has grown to include new projects. In each revision of this book, we have needed to add to the list of related projects, tools, and community initiatives. As the Ubuntu community grows, it is impossible to give a complete accounting of what Ubuntu has to offer. Creating a summary requires some hard decisions. At the end of the day, we are constrained by page count and our own limited schedules.

Meanwhile, as with earlier editions, we needed to write this book about a new release of Ubuntu while that version was under active development and was being redesigned, rethought, and rebuilt. Every day, Ubuntu grows in different, unpredictable ways, and this growth has increased exponentially with the size of the community and the diversity of the user base. Our book’s development process had to both match and track this process as our content was crafted, rewritten, adjusted, and allowed to mature itself.

As in the previous edition, the contributors to this book go well beyond those listed on the book’s cover. Invisible to most readers, dozens of members of the community left their mark on different parts of the text of this book. Although this degree of participation led to a writing process that was as hectic, and at times frustrating, as the process that builds Ubuntu, we hope we can remind readers of the level of quality that this process inspires in our book’s subject. In the places where we achieve this, we have earned our book’s title. With that goal in mind, we look forward to future versions of Ubuntu and editions of this book wrought through the same community-driven process.

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