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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

One of the realities of computer software and hardware development is that companies do not immediately upgrade to the newest releases or adapt the most recent innovations. The often quoted “if it isn't broken, don't fix it” accurately describes many environments. Most organizations opt for systems that are supported and reliable. The stability of the Solaris operating environment combined with its compatibility with earlier versions makes it a respected and desirable system for businesses. Its documentation is available in several forms: the accompanying system guides, Sun's online resources, other online information and newsgroups, and some excellent third-party books.

Beginning with an informative reference on Solaris 8, with a concentration on administration topics, a book on Solaris-specific high availability, and a performance book, I've discovered some superb Solaris references. This column includes: Solaris 8: The Complete Reference by Paul A. Watters and Sriranga Veeraraghavan (Osborne McGraw-Hill); Solaris PC NetLink: Performance, Sizing, and Deployment by Don DeVitt (Sun BluePrints: The Official Sun Microsystems Resource Series, Sun Microsystems Press, Prentice Hall); and Sun Performance and Tuning: Java and the Internet, Second Edition by Adrian Cockcroft, with Richard Pettit (Sun Microsystems Press, Prentice Hall).

Other Solaris books that I've recently reviewed in Sys Admin are: Solaris Guide for Windows NT Administrators by Tom Bialaski (Sun Blueprints, The Official Sun Microsystems Resource Series, Sun Microsystems Press, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-025854-7, $29.00, Reviewed: February, 2000.), A Practical Guide to Solaris by Mark G. Sobell (Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-201-89548-X, $44.95, Reviewed: July, 1999); Solaris Security by Peter H. Gregory (Sun Microsystems Press, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-096053-5, $39.99, Reviewed: July, 2000); Solaris Essential Reference by John P. Mulligan (New Riders, ISBN 0-7357-0023-0, $24.95, Reviewed: October, 1999); Solaris Security for System Administrators by Sandra Henry-Stocker and Evan R. Marks (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-34810- 4, $39.99, Reviewed: June, 2000); Solaris 7 Reference by Janice Winsor (Sun Microsystems Press, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-020048-4, $44.99, Reviewed: April, 2000); and the O'Reilly reference, UNIX In A Nutshell by Arnold Robbins, covers both SVR4 and Solaris 7 (Reviewed: August, 2000). This is available both individually (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., ISBN 1-56592-427-4, $24.95) or in The UNIX CD Bookshelf (ISBN 0-596-00000-6, $69.95).

Solaris 8: The Complete Reference
Paul A. Watters and Sriranga Veeraraghavan
Osborne McGraw-Hill
ISBN 0-07-212143-2
678 Pages

The Solaris operating environment offers organizations several advantages, including stability, availability, security, and scalability. Its design features a small kernel with optional components and possesses full compatibility with its previous versions. One of the advantages of UNIX documentation (in general) and Solaris documentation (in particular) is its continuity and endurance. Many of the UNIX books still frequently referenced were first printed several years ago.

Solaris 8: The Complete Reference not only addresses Solaris 8, but is also valid for earlier Solaris environments. In the Foreword, Garrett Suhm describes the book as “Spanning all the core areas of Solaris...” [Page xix]. The essential word in that clause is “core”. The commands and processes will work equally well for most Solaris releases. Watters and Veeraraghavan divided the book into four major sections: Getting Started with Solaris, System Maintenance, Basic Network Administration, and Administering Services.

The introductory section, Getting Started with Solaris, contains: an Introduction to Solaris 8, Installing Solaris, Getting Started, System Startup and Shutdown, and Process Management. The initial chapter provides a unique look at the past and the future. The authors not only explain what UNIX is, but also describe its technical history, which includes hardware architecture, kernel, commands, and version details. The authors also discuss present hardware architectures and technologies, such as Star Office, Kerberos 5 authentication, virtual private networks (VPN), and mobile computing. The following chapter, Installing Solaris, examines the installation procedures for both SPARC and Intel systems plus partitioning and other installation options, including the Graphical Installation Wizard. Getting Started, the third chapter, describes the Common Desktop of the Solaris file system. Chapters Four and Five explain the bootup process, runlevels, boot phases, system shutdown, and process management.

In the second section, System Maintenance, Watters and Veeraraghavan address User and Software Administration, Managing Devices, Basic File System Management, Advanced File System Management, and Backups. Through these chapters, the authors demonstrate maintaining device files, adding devices, partitioning, formatting, mounting (and unmounting) file systems, monitoring usage, utilizing quotas, and system accounting. They also survey backup strategies, various backup media, including tape and hard drives, Zip and Jaz disks, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and backup and restore utilities.

The succeeding section concentrates on the elements of Basic Network Administration. The individual chapters discuss the topics through: Networking Basics, which presents an overview of the TCP/IP Protocol Suite; Routing; The Domain Name Service (DNS); The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP); and the Network Information Service (NIS+).

In the concluding section, the authors demonstrate Administering Services through: Managing Remote Access, Sharing Files with UNIX Systems Using NFS, Sharing Files with PCs and Macs Using SAMBA and Netatalk, Administering Mail, FTP Administration, and Web Serving. These chapters encompass the concepts and techniques of Telnet, Kerberos, TCP Wrappers, Syslog, NFS (both as a server and a client), printing, NetBIOS, AppleTalk, SAMBA, Netatalk, Email protocols, Sendmail, mail clients, FTP, HTTP, CGI, and Apache.

Solaris 8: The Complete Reference provides a thorough resource for administrators. Watters, Veeraraghavan, and contributing author Nalneesh Gaur describe the concepts and the accompanying procedures clearly and definitively, often utilizing examples and sample output to demonstrate a process. They also furnish other references throughout the book, including Web sites, online documentation, books, and magazines. The authors explain techniques and strategies from installation and system management to security and networking considerations. This is an excellent and well-written source of information for the experienced or novice administrator.

Solaris PC NetLink: Performance, Sizing, and Deployment
Don DeVitt
Sun BluePrints: The Official Sun Microsystems Resource Series
Sun Microsystems Press, Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-026686-8
378 Pages

The Blueprints series of books from Sun Microsystems Press addresses very specific topics for systems administrators or analysts. Each book features the concepts and related techniques for various aspects of administration. This particular volume examines PC NetLink software. PC NetLink allows a Sun server to interface with a Microsoft client with a minimum of difficulty and maximum efficiency and reliability.

DeVitt begins with an Introduction to PC NetLink Software, detailing its restrictions and requirements. Any exchange of data or services between computer systems demands that the administrator is familiar with the design and terminology of both systems. In the second chapter, The PC NetLink Software Architecture, the author describes the architecture and the corresponding services for the various client platforms. Chapter Three, Tuning A Solaris Server to Use PC NetLink Software, and Chapter Four, PC NetLink Tuning Parameters, emphasize tuning procedures and strategies. The following chapter, Sizing a Solaris PC NetLInk Server, demonstrates the methodology for sizing and illustrates what factors to consider when determining the server's configuration for optimum performance. DeVitt also analyzes Transitioning to a PC NetLink Server, Server Consolidation and Resource Management, and Monitoring the Resources Used By PC NetLink Software.

The concluding chapters examine configuration and troubleshooting issues. Printing with PC NetLink illustrates how to set up a printer from both client and server configurations, how to configure a network printer or a local printer, and how to install printer pooling. He also shows how to solve banner page problems. The final chapter, PC NetLink Setup Maintenance and Troubleshooting Procedures, features backup policies and procedures, setting up alerts, auditing, system policies, roaming profiles, and user accounts. The Appendices contain A) File Service Benchmark Methodology, B) A Profile of an Average End User, and C) Man Pages and Help Files.

DeVitt provides a valuable analysis of the PC NetLink Software and how it fits into client/server relationship. He begins each chapter with a brief description of the topic and why it is important, and he also shows how the concept is implemented through examples and benchmarks. Solaris PC NetLink: Performance, Sizing, and Deployment provides clear definition of the PC NetLink software, the architectures involved, and the processes that are utilized. DeVitt demonstrates PC NetLink's capabilities from the server and the client aspects, and provides insights into both.

Sun Performance and Tuning: Java and the Internet
Second Edition
Adrian Cockcroft with Richard Pettit
Sun Microsystems Press, Prentice Hall
587 Pages

Performance tuning is often a combination of technical tasks and measuring factors (i.e. time, throughput, etc.) to determine if those tasks can be done more efficiently. Books or articles on performance tuning are a challenge to write because the author must carefully balance both topics so that one doesn't overpower the other. In Sun Performance and Tuning: Java and the Internet, Cockcroft and Pettit do an excellent job of juggling the topics. They manage to keep it technically interesting, provide solutions to administration problems, use some metrics, and discuss programming. The original edition was simply Sun Performance and Tuning. The second edition added Java and the Internet and doubled the size of the book. Fortunately, the quality of the content and the writing style remained unchanged.

In the second edition, the authors address the topics in the following order: Quick Tips and Recipes, Performance Management, Performance Measurement, Internet Server, Java Application Servers, Source Code Optimization, Applications, Disks, Networks, Processors, System Architectures, Caches, RAM and Virtual Memory, Kernel Algorithms and Tuning, Metric Collection Interfaces, The SymbEL Example Tools, and The SymbEL Language. The Appendices contain A) Tunable Quick References and B) References. The authors' approach to performance issues provides an understanding of the specific task, how efficient it is (or isn't), the system's behavior, and how to improve it. This is a unique book that can provide answers to administration issues, as well as network and system performance questions. It is one of the references that I use when researching or answering queries about Solaris systems and their respective procedures. Any administrator who needs or wants to optimize a system's performance in a Solaris environment will appreciate this valuable book.

About the Author

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 15 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: