Cover V10, I09



Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month's selections vary from shell programming to administration to a Web server reference. Specifically, they include: The Korn Shell: Unix and Linux Programming Manual, Third Edition by Anatole Olczak (Addison-Wesley); Tru64 UNIX File Administration Handbook by Steven M. Hancock (Digital Press); Linux for Windows NT/2000 Administrators by Mark Minasi with Dan York and Craig Hunt (Sybex); and Apache Desktop Reference by Ralf S. Engelschall, Foreword by Roy T. Fielding (Addison-Wesley).

The Korn Shell: Unix and Linux Programming Manual
Third Edition
Anatole Olczak
446 Pages
CD-ROM Included

One of my favorite aspects of UNIX systems administration is shell programming. According to a recent issue of Sys Admin, many readers share this interest with me. Whether it is an affinity for the programming itself, or for the streamlined procedures it creates, the advantages of the shell are well worth learning. In the Third Edition of this Korn shell programming manual, Olczak has updated the text to reflect changes in "Korn Shell 93". He presents the basic ksh commands and interface, demonstrates how to program shell scripts, and includes coverage of pdksh for Linux.

The first chapter introduces Korn shell and describes where to get it and how to access it, both automatically and from the command line. In the succeeding chapters, Olczak addresses Korn Shell Basics, Variables and Parameters, Editing Commands, Job Control, Performing Arithmetic, The Environment, Writing Korn Shell Scripts, and Miscellaneous Commands. The Appendices contain A) Sample .profile File; B) Sample Environment File; C) C Shell Functionality; D) Sample Korn Shell Scripts; E) Korn Shell Man Page; F) Pdksh; G) Pdksh Quick Reference; and H) Pdksh Man Page. The Accompanying CD-ROM includes a .pdf file of the book, a 90-day evaluation copy of U/Win (which provides a ksh-like environment within a Windows 9x/NT system), an upgrade to U/Win, pdksh (the public domain version of the Korn shell, frequently used on Linux systems), and an informative text file.

The Korn shell is a versatile utility; it provides an interface to the operating system, a scripting and programming tool, and command-line editing capabilities. Olczak effectively describes each of its features, presenting each concept with any applicable options, variables, operators, or examples in a straightforward and well-written style. The inclusion of the ksh and pdksh man pages (as well as the pdksh quick reference) furnishes a valuable resource for the user. Olczak's superb approach and explanations coupled with the software and Adobe Acrobat version of the book make The Korn Shell: UNIX and Linux Programming Manual, Third Edition, an excellent resource. This is an ideal choice for anyone learning ksh, upgrading to the Korn Shell 93 Standard, or simply wishing to know more about shell programming in general.

Tru64 UNIX File Administration Handbook
Steven M. Hancock
Digital Press
ISBN 1-55558-227-3
533 Pages

Each variant of the UNIX operating system has some of its own unique terminology (i.e., HP-UX's SAM versus AIX's SMIT). In some cases, administration procedures may also differ slightly. The Compaq Tru64 UNIX system (a.k.a. Digital UNIX) is an excellent example of this trend. In the Tru64 UNIX File System Administration Handbook, author Steven Hancock, who is also a Compaq Tru64 UNIX support engineer, explains the processes that this system utilizes, emphasizes the concepts administrators need to know, demonstrates how the Tru64 UNIX file system works, and discusses some of the advanced techniques implemented by Compaq's TruCluster.

Each chapter begins with an introduction, presents several major concepts or practices, and ends with a summary and notes. Each concept is further divided into smaller sections. For example, UNIX File Types contains Regular Files; Directories; Symbolic Links; Device Special Files; Named Pipes; and Local Sockets. The individual sections contain a description and an example, when applicable. Hancock begins the book with a preface and Introduction, which outlines the definitions and terminology as well as some UNIX commands and UNIX File Types. The following chapters examine: Storage and Device Management; Logical Storage Manager; Tru64 UNIX File Systems Architecture; UNIX File System; Advanced File System: The Basics; Advanced File System: Advanced Topics; File Systems Configuration and Tuning; and File System Troubleshooting and Recovery. The Appendices contain A) Freeware Tools; B) Advanced AdvFS Commands; C) The fsck(8) Command Operation; and a Glossary.

A recurring theme of the book discusses storage, backup, and recovery of large amounts of data or hard drives -- one of the purposes of the Advanced File System, which was specifically designed for 64-bit file systems. Tru64 UNIX File System Administration Handbook is an exceptional addition to existing UNIX/Linux systems administration references. Steven Hancock takes the time to thoroughly explain what you need to effectively administer a Tru64 UNIX system and why you need it. He also addresses some problems facing the Tru64 UNIX administrator (and UNIX administrators in general) and the best ways to solve them. This is a superb book on a topic seldom addressed for administrators.

Linux for Windows NT/2000 Administrators
Mark Minasi with Dan York and Craig Hunt
ISBN 0-7821-2730-4
526 Pages
CD-ROM Included

The most effective way to explain anything starts with a common denominator. It's important to describe it in terms that both sides understand. Finding that shared vocabulary is the most challenging part of the process. It is particularly difficult when the other person understands the underlying concepts, although not in the same language. This is the essential problem facing Windows NT or Windows 2000 administrators trying to learn Linux. They are familiar with many of the procedures, but not the individual commands that Linux uses.

Minasi, York, and Hunt solve this problem by demonstrating where Linux procedures differ from the Windows NT/2000 techniques and by showing how Linux handles the same tasks that NT and 2000 can also achieve. After Minasi's Overview, the authors address the following topics: Why Learn About Linux?; What's in It for Me?; What Do People Do with Linux?; How the Linux World Operates; Getting Linux on Your System; Linux Hands-On: Doing Basic Things with Linux; User Accounts and File Permissions; Desktop Linux: Handling Graphics and GUI Applications; Setting Up Linux's Server Services; Linux/Microsoft OS Interoperability; and Conclusions: Linux versus Microsoft, Linux and Microsoft. The Appendix lists various types of Linux resources. The accompanying CD-ROM includes Linux-Mandrake 7.1 plus additional server and workstation applications.

The amount of information contained in this book is amazing. The authors not only delve into installation procedures, basic Linux commands, installing new applications, and recompiling the kernel, but they also present some of the history, the essence of Open Source, plus how to use DNS, Apache, and FTP, to mention just a few of the topics.

Linux for Windows NT/2000 Administrators (subtitled The Secret Decoder Ring) is an extremely well-written book. Minasi, York, and Hunt address the essential topics in a clear, straightforward manner, utilizing numerous examples. This is a helpful book for any administrator who needs to learn Linux or for a Linux administrator faced with the task of integrating systems. Linux for Windows NT/2000 Administrators will provide an excellent reference for any administration library.

Apache Desktop Reference
Ralf S. Engelschall
Apache Software Foundation
Foreword by Roy T. Fielding
ISBN 0-201-60470-1
184 Pages

The Apache Web Server is unsurpassed in its popularity and reliability. Anyone who installs, configures, or troubleshoots Apache installations and configurations will discover that Engelschall's book an indispensable tool. My initial reaction to this book is that I wished I had it when I first installed Apache. However, Engelschall included more than the configuration directives within this slim volume. He begins with an Introduction that includes its history plus a description of the Apache Group. Succeeding chapters explore Apache Functionality; Building Apache; Configuring Apache; Running Apache; and Apache Resources. Ideally, after reading this, you will know its history and architecture, how to build and install it, how to configure any and every directive and module, and where to look for the most current references. Realistically, you will know where to look to find all of the above information.

The Apache Desktop Reference is a superbly written and well-organized book. The reader will know exactly where to look for a specific topic, module, or directive without assistance from the Index or Table of Contents. Engelschall's side notes are humorous, informative, and insightful. If you are in charge of maintaining an Apache configuration, or want to set one up, get this book! It is an extraordinary guide to the Apache Web Server and the essential instruction manual to any Apache configuration.

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: