Cover V09, I01


Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

Traditionally, January is Sys Admin's Linux issue. It is an excellent way to begin a year, and it is particularly enjoyable this year. Enthusiasm for Linux and for the Open Source community has never been as widespread as it is currently (perhaps with the exception of a certain area in Washington state). There are many excellent books to choose from, no matter what Linux distribution you choose to install. The books reviewed in this column include: User Friendly by Illiad (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.); Red Hat Linux 6 Server by Mohammed J. Kabir (M&T Books); The No B.S. Guide to Red Hat Linux 6 by Bob Rankin (No Starch Press); and Linux: Installation, Configuration, and Use, Second Edition by Michael Kofler (Addison-Wesley).

User Friendly
By Illiad
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-673-0 122
Pages $12.95

It seems extremely appropriate that a column devoted exclusively to Linux book reviews begins with a glimpse of the comical, irreverent, and hilarious User Friendly book. A whimsical snapshot of the Linux and Open Source problems and practices, its characters portray the Open Source community at its best and worst, with and without caffeine. Dust Puppy, Erwin, Greg, Stef, Pitr, A.J., Mike, Miranda, The Smiling Man, et al. experience the frustrations of providing tech support, the popularity of Quake, the failings of Microsoft, and the essentials of a computer geek's diet. Illiad's keen insights create a wonderfully entertaining and often side-splitting diversion for the professional computer geek. (After I picked myself up from laughing several times, I found myself rereading the selections and finding nuances I hadn't previously noticed.) Illiad's ability to target and distill everyday routines make User Friendly THE Open Source comic strip. This collection is the perfect gift and stress reliever. Buy this book and read it often!

Red Hat Linux 6 Server
By Mohammed J. Kabir
M&T Books
ISBN 0-7645-3337-1
785 Pages
CD-ROM Included

Server installation requirements differ from the more casual workstation installation. The hardware also varies from server to server, depending upon its intended use. In Red Hat Linux 6 Server, Kabir details server installation, configuration, and maintenance in a well-organized and comprehensive volume. He approaches the topics through eight major sections, including: Getting Started; Working as a Superuser; Managing Users, Processes, and Networks; Setting Up Intranet/Internet Services; Setting Up Office Services; Securing and Monitoring; Tuning for Performance; and Running X Windows. In Getting Started, the author details Why Red Hat Linux? and Installation and Basic Configuration. The first chapter also briefly looks at Caldera OpenLinux, Slackware Linux, Debian GNU/Linux, S.u.S.E., Trinux, Linux On A Floppy (LOAF), and the Linux Router Project.

Kabir discusses why he prefers Red Hat and documents how to get it. The second chapter, Installation and Basic Configuration clearly provides a step-by-step guide to installation, with screen shots of the setup procedure. Part II, Working as a Superuser, features chapters on The Bootup and Shutdown Processes, Understanding UNIX Files and Devices, and Everyday Commands. This section demonstrates what happens as the system boots up and what processes are employed during shutdown.

The Everyday Commands chapter is organized by use (i.e., File Systems-Specific Commands, DOS-Compatible Commands, Network Administrator's Commands, etc.). The following section, Managing Users, Processes, and Networks, addresses Using Linuxconf, User Administration, Process Administration, and Network administration. In these chapters, Kabir explains what Linuxconf is, its capabilities, plus how to install, configure, and utilize it. He also describes ways to control and monitor processes. The chapter on Network Administration introduces the basics of TCP/IP networking, NIC (Network Interface Cards) configuration, and both gateway and host computer configurations.

Part IV, Setting Up Intranet/Internet Services contains: DNS Service, E-mail Service, Web Service, FTP Service, and Other Popular Services. This section analyzes the installation, configuration, and maintenance of two popular and necessary programs: sendmail and Apache. (Apache is discussed in the Web Service chapter; sendmail procedures are documented in the E-mail Service chapter.) The next section, Setting Up Office Services, features Sharing Files and Printers with Samba, Using NFS File Servers, and SQL Database Servers. The author illustrates the Practical Use of Samba, how to make your Samba server secure, and the available options of a NFS server configuration. Part VI, Security and Monitoring, examines Security 101 and Network Security, while Part VII, Tuning for Performance, presents Hacking the Kernel and Building a Multiserver Web Network. The final section, Running X Windows, includes Configuring the X Window System and Using the X Window System. The Appendices contain A) Linux Resources and B) What's On the CD-ROM. The accompanying CD-ROM provides Red Hat Linux 6.0 plus the utilities discussed throughout the book: Apache, TCP/IP, Netscape Communicator, Gnome, KDE, etc.

Red Hat Linux 6 Server is an exceptional book. Kabir demonstrates the considerations, issues, and procedures specifically related to implementing a server employing Red Hat Linux. Each chapter begins with an outline and an introduction and each chapter closes with a summary. The author explains the concepts, defines the terms as he uses them, describes the implementation procedures, and explains why one technique may be preferable to another. The result is an extraordinary learning experience for the reader and user. Red Hat Linux 6 Server is one of the best and most current books specifically on server setup, configuration, and maintenance that I have read. Kabir presents all of the information in a straightforward and easy to read style. This book is a necessary tool for anyone and everyone concerned with Linux server installation and maintenance. It will become a superb addition to any Linux library.

The No B.S. Guide to Red Hat Linux 6
By Bob Rankin
No Starch Press
ISBN 1-886411-30-1
422 Pages
CD-ROM Included

As the number of Linux-related news stories and features increases, more interest is generated among computer users. Those new to Linux simply want to install and use it on their machines with a minimal amount of research, planning, and troubleshooting. In The No B.S. Guide to Red Hat Linux 6, Rankin presents the basic, bottom line instructions for installation, configuration, and use. (This is what you need to do, how to do it, and how to use it after you've installed it.) He explores the various topics in the following sequence: Installing Linux On Your PC; GNOME: The Linux GUI; Connecting To The Internet; Living In A Shell; The Linux File System; Important Linux Commands; Text Editors; Slicing and Dicing: Rolling Your Own: Linux Programming; Managing Your Email; Compression, Encoding, and Encryption; Linux Does DOS And Windows; Tweaking Linux; Updating Your Linux System; and Learning More About Linux.

The Appendices contain: A) What's On The CD-ROM?, B) Table of DOS and UNIX Equivalencies, and C) The GNU General Public License. The accompanying CD-ROM features the Red Hat Publisher's Edition, which possesses Red Hat 6.0 and 600 software packages. Rankin lists them within six major categories: Amusements, Applications, Development, Documentation, System Environment, and User Interface.

The No B.S. Guide to Red Hat Linux 6 is an entertaining guide and an easy to follow reference for installing Linux. Rankin has distilled the installation process to a basic ten step process, which he presents and discusses in the first chapter. He has updated and modified the previous edition to reflect the changes within Linux. New chapters include GNOME: The Linux GUI, Tweaking Linux, and Updating Your Linux System. Rankin's expertise and informal style make this an ideal choice for the beginning Linux user and an excellent reference for the more experienced user.

Linux: Installation, Configuration, and Use

Second Edition
By Michael Kofler
ISBN 0-201-59628-8
772 Pages
CD-ROMs Included

The latest edition of Kofler's Linux book reflects both the changes in Linux and the changes within the Linux community. The author presents four distinct segments: Installation, Configuration, Internet, and Application. The first section, Installation, discusses What is Linux? -- Installation, Linux quick start, and Online documentation. This section provides the fundamental installation procedures regardless of distribution (some distribution-specific directions appear in the appendices). It also examines the most used editors, the traditional man pages, the hypertext info help, Linux online documentation, FAQs, HOWTOs (How Does That Work?), the LDP (Linux Documentation Project), kernel documentation, and help for both the KDE and GNOME desktop environments.

Part II, Configuration, illustrates Linux fundamentals, Configuration and administration, Xfree86, and X user interfaces (fvwm, KDE, and GNOME). This section concentrates on accessing your Linux operating system and individual configurations, such as your printer, modem, network, and the X server. It also demonstrates how to set up your selected desktop environment, including fvwm (Virtual Window Manager), KDE, and GNOME. The third segment, Internet, describes the different possibilities for connection (Internet services, telephone, TCP/IP, etc.) plus Email and News configurations. The concluding section, Application, reviews some of the applications available and how to use them. This encompasses The bash-a modern command interpreter, bash programming, Command Reference, Tools and utilities, Emacs -- king of all editors, Emacs configuration and programming, LATEX, LyX -- LATEX made easy, and GIMP -- the Photoshop alternative. The Appendices detail A) Debian GNU/Linux 2.1; B) Red Hat 6.0; C) S.u.S.E. 6.1; and D) The Enclosed CD-ROMs. The two CD-ROMs contain the Publisher's Version of Red Hat 6.0, the packages missing from the Publisher's version, all updates available (at the time the book went to press), the most recent kernel, and packages that are required for some of the programs presented in the book.

Kofler's enthusiasm about Linux is evident throughout the book and is also contagious. He successfully demonstrates a generic installation procedure for most types of Linux distributions and describes specific installation directions for Debian GNU/Linux, Red Hat 6.0, and S.u.S.E. 6.1. The author illustrates configurations for almost every type of basic computer setup and details where supplementary configuration information may be found. Additionally, Kofler provides a section on applications under Linux, including LATEX and GIMP, so that the user may do something productive with his or her newly installed and properly configured system. He explains Linux concepts and procedures clearly and skillfully, noting what techniques may be more suited with certain configurations. Kofler also includes extensive information that is often neglected or overlooked. Linux: Installation, Configuration, and Use, Second Edition is an excellent book and a superb reference. It will be a welcome addition to any Linux user's or administrator's library.

About the Author

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 13 years. She is currently a UNIX and C consultant, and one of her specialties is UNIX education. In addition to her computer science background, she also has a degree in English. Her writing has also appeared in Linux Magazine, Performance Computing, and Network Administrator. Elizabeth can be reached at: