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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month's column highlights an outstanding networking book, a classic fourth edition, a premier book about an editor, a survey of a dictionary, and some notes of interest. Specifically, I reviewed: Networking: A Beginner's Guide by Bruce Hallberg (Osborne/McGraw-Hill Network Professional's Library); DNS and BIND, Fourth Edition by Paul Albitz and Cricket Liu (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.); Vi IMproved-Vim by Steve Oualline, Foreword by Bram Moolenaar, Creator of Vim (New Riders, Open Publication License); and the Dictionary of Internetworking Terms and Acronyms by Cisco Systems Inc. (Cisco Press). I also have included Notes on Secrets & Lies: Digital Security In A Networked World by Bruce Schneier (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) and the Linux Journal 2001 Buyer's Guide (Linux Journal, Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc.)

Notes: Secrets & Lies: Digital Security In A Networked World by Bruce Schneier (ISBN 0-471-25311-1, $29.99), which was reviewed in the November, 2000 issue of Sys Admin, recently received the 11th Annual Jolt Productivity Award by CMP's Software Development magazine. Schneier's book highlights the new risks that accompany Internet business developments and how to securely manage them.

I seldom review magazines, but the Linux Journal 2001 Buyer's Guide (Linux Journal, SSC, Inc., $5.00, is well worth reading. It presents five features about current Linux trends, including a comparison chart of the Linux distributions and how to select your distribution. Most of the guide surveys the products available for the Linux platform, including software, hardware, publications, and services. It also lists a complete vendor directory. Although it is virtually impossible to publish a magazine that is completely current, the Linux Journal 2001 Buyer's Guide provides a good reference with product descriptions, reviews, and vendor information.

Networking: A Beginner's Guide
Bruce Hallberg
Network Professional's Library
ISBN 0-07-212226-9
365 Pages

One of the most popular attractions at the spring Comdex was SOHO networking. Many homes now have two or more computers and want to network them to share phone lines or printers. Small businesses are also utilizing networks to share peripherals and file access. In Networking: A Beginner's Guide, Hallberg demonstrates why networking knowledge is important, recognizes the middle-ground reader who is neither a computer novice nor a networking guru, and addresses professional computer users throughout the book. He divides the topics into two major sections: Networking Ins and Outs and Hands-On Knowledge.

The first part features networking concepts, hardware implementations, protocols, and design issues. The first chapter, Understanding Networking, presents an overview of Peer-to-Peer and Client-Server network philosophies plus their accompanying benefits and disadvantages. Hallberg also describes basic networking capabilities and details the OSI reference model. The following chapters examine the physical setups, installations, and primary considerations (i.e., security) through: Understanding Network Cabling; Understanding Network Hardware; Making WAN Connections; Understanding Network Protocols; Learning About Directory Services; Connections from Afar: Remote Network Access; Securing Your Network; Network Servers: Everything You Wanted to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask; and All About Client Computers.

In the second part of the book, Hands On Knowledge, Hallberg illustrates the practical considerations and necessary configuration and administration tasks for NetWare 5, Windows 2000, and Linux. The individual chapters include: Designing a Network; Installing and Setting Up NetWare 5; Administering NetWare: The Basics; Understanding Other NetWare Services; Installing and Setting Up Windows 2000 Server; Administering Windows 2000 Server: The Basics; Understanding Other Windows 2000 Server Services; Installing Linux in a Server Configuration; and Introduction to Linux Systems Administration. The author also provides a Glossary. A special illustration of bus, ring, and star topologies plus the OSI networking model are visually represented in the center of the book in an insert called Blueprints.

In Networking: A Beginner's Guide, author Bruce Hallberg presents an exceptional analysis of network designs, concepts, and techniques. His clear explanations are interspersed with extensive notes and personal administration experiences appropriately named "author's notes". Hallberg carefully differentiates among similarly named terms with very different definitions. This combination of descriptions, explanations, definitions, and processes make this book an effective and valuable reference. It is a useful resource for anyone who is an experienced computer user and wants to learn more about designing and implementing a network.

Fourth Edition
Paul Albitz and Cricket Liu
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 0-596-00158-4
601 Pages

The implementations of DNS (Domain Name System) and BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) have become indispensable for administrators and users alike. Administrators install and configure the utilities so that users can type or instead of or to access the respective Web sites. Administrators can use DNS and BIND in several ways, including subdividing domains, load sharing among servers, forward and reverse mapping, and securing the server. Albitz and Liu illustrate how to utilize DNS and BIND to accomplish these tasks and more.

With the fourth edition, the authors have updated and expanded the text to include BIND 9.10 and BIND 8.2.3 in addition to the 4.9 version. Some of the new capabilities are transaction signatures (TSIG), DNSSEC (DNS Security Extensions), IPv6 forward and reverse mapping utilizing A6 and DNAME records, and the update policy of BIND 9.1.0. The Security topic now appears in a separate chapter, and the Appendices have also been reorganized and modified. The authors address the individual topics in the following order: Background; How Does DNS Work?; Where Do I Start?; Setting Up BIND, DNS and Electronic Mail; Configuring Hosts; Maintaining BIND; Growing Your Domain; Parenting; Advanced Features; Security; nslookup and dig; Reading BIND Debugging Output; Troubleshooting DNS and BIND; Programming with the Resolver and Name Server Library Routines; and Miscellaneous. The Appendices contain A) DNS Message Format and Resource Records, B) BIND Compatibility Matrix, C) Compiling and Installing BIND on Linux, D) Top-Level Domains, and E) BIND Name Server and Resolver Configuration.

DNS and BIND, Fourth Edition remains an essential reference for systems and network administrators. Albitz and Liu describe the facets and procedures connected with DNS and BIND through a well-written and precise style. Every administrator will appreciate their thorough coverage of the new attributes and features within the newer versions plus the inclusion of the previous versions.

Vi IMproved-Vim
Steve Oualline
Foreword by Bram Moolenaar, Creator of Vim
New Riders Open Publication License
ISBN 0-7357-1001-5
572 Pages

When it comes to editing, most of us have a preferred text editor that (of course) is much better for inputting everything from the most graceful haiku or the silliest riddles to the most eloquent essays, than any other program in existence. For many of us, that program is vi, or vi improved in its latest form. Up until now, however, the way to learn how to use all of its capabilities was through online documentation. Author Steve Oualline researched, organized, and assembled the information and instructions for using the Vim editor. The result is a superb reference and guide to Vim, presented in three major sections.

The first part, encompassing chapters 1 through 17, comprises The Tutorial. The other two parts are The Details and The Appendices. The Tutorial presents the extended basic set of commands; The Details describes the advanced topics; and The Appendices contains miscellaneous information utilizing a slightly different style of organization. In The Tutorial, Oualline addresses the following topics: Basic Editing; Editing a Little Faster; Searching; Text Blocks and Multiple Files; Windows; Basic Visual Mode; Commands for Programmers; Basic Abbreviations; Keyboard Mapping, and Initialization Files; Basic Command Command-Mode Commands (yes, I typed it correctly); Basic GUI Usage; Dealing with Text Files; Automatic Completion; Autocommands; File Recovery and Command-Line Arguments; Miscellaneous Commands; Cookbook; and Topics Not Covered.

The second part illustrates the advanced commands and demonstrates regular expressions, multiple files, and windowing capabilities through: Complete Basic Editing; Advanced Searching Using Regular Expressions; Advanced Text Blocks and Multiple Files; All About Windows and Sessions; Advanced Visual Mode; Advanced Commands for Programmers; All About Abbreviations and Keyboard Mapping; Complete Command-Mode (:) Commands; Advanced GUI Commands; Expressions and Functions; Customizing the Editor; Language-Dependent Syntax Options; and How to Write a Syntax File. The Appendices contain A) Installing Vim, B) The <> Key Names, C) Normal-Mode Commands, D) Command-Mode Commands, E) Visual-Mode Commands, F) Insert-Mode Commands, G) Option List, H) Vim License Agreement, and I) Quick Reference.

The Vi IMproved-Vim book is virtually an encyclopedia for text editing, formatting, and synchronizing files. Vim can autoformat and interface with Perl, Python, Sniff+, and Tcl. The good news is that it can perform many advanced tasks; the better news is that it can also just insert, delete, change, and save your work. The Quick Reference Guide at the back of the book categorizes the commands and their functions quite neatly. Oualline first explains how to use the basic commands and then describes all of the bells and whistles that you can use. This is a superb book that demonstrates how to access all of the features of Vim, details its improvements over the vanilla vi editor, and also shows how to use the basic commands. This is an outstanding book on Vim for every level of computer user.

Dictionary of Internetworking Terms and Acronyms
Cisco Systems Inc.
Cisco Press
ISBN 1-58720-045-7
412 Pages

Researching a new topic or aspect can suddenly become confusing if it leads to an article with unfamiliar terms and acronyms. Terms that look familiar often mean something else, which leads to even more confusion. I found Cisco's Dictionary of Internetworking Terms and Acronyms by accident. The book was luckily on the wrong shelf, and I decided to look through it although I needed something more general than a Cisco-specific dictionary. This is actually a general reference with an added section on Cisco terms following the rest of the entries. The definitions are precise without being either terse or verbose, are completely current (at the moment), and easily referenced. The definitions are clearly written and the acronyms are sensibly crossed referenced. I recommend this as a complement to any networking or internetworking book.

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: