Apache Cookbook Paperback – 28 Nov 2003
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"The range of recipes is excellent, covering ust about every task you'd be likely to throw at Apache, from complex redirects to performance tweaking and error handling... Apached Cookbook offers a pleasant, highly usable guide which should ensure the smooth, successful running of many a website" - Martin Howse, Linux User & Developer
About the Author
Ken Coar is a member of the Apache Software Foundation, the body that oversees Apache development. He is the author of Apache Server for Dummies (January 1998) and co-author of Apache Server Unleashed (March 2000). Ken has been responsible for fielding email sent to the Apache project, and his experience with that mailing list provided a foundation for this book.
Rich Bowen is a member of the Apache Software Foundation, working primarily on the documentation for the Apache Web Server. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where he spends his free time GeoCaching. He also enjoys flying kites and reading stuff by Charles Dickens and his contemporaries. Rich is a coauthor of Apache Administrators Handbook and Apache Cookbook. Rich, or DrBacchus--his handle on IRC--also spends entirely too much time on #apache. You can find him on the web at http://www.drbacchus.com/journal/.
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The book has twelve chapters, covering everything from installation and adding modules through to proxies and performance. The chapter on security is the largest, it covers the topics well. By contrast I thought the chapter `Aliases, Redirection and Rewriting' too short and could have benefited from some more `recipes', but that may be due to my own bias - mod_rewrite is not an easy topic, and as I've said it causes me a great deal of grief.
It is laid out in a similar way to the Perl Cookbook: each recipe has a `Problem' section followed by a `Solution' and then `Discussion.' In almost all the `recipes' the `Discussion' is longer than the `Solution,' and I often found it far more useful and informative than the problem and its solution.
The Apache Cookbook covers almost all aspects and all parts of the learning curve for Apache. That will either be a strength or a weakness of this volume for you; with such a large and complex piece of software as Apache a single book cannot hope to cover it in a great deal of depth. For me this book was not really a cookbook, more a good source of well documented examples from which to create my own recipes,
My biggest problem reviewing a book like this is that after several years building and configuring Apache (even on an infrequent basis) quite a lot of this volume seems simple. You may also find it the same if you are the sort of person who is not afraid to pore over the documentation, get your hands dirty and make a few mistakes. If you like some hand holding and are just starting with Apache you may benefit from all of it.
That's not to say that I didn't personally find large chunks of this volume useful. Certainly I've gone over several of the recipes and their excellent explanatory text to shed some light on previously dark corners of Apache, particularly as the authors cover both Apache 1.3 and 2.0.
O'Reilly have the usual web page with a Table of Contents and example chapter. The example chapter, on error handling is well chosen as it is typical of the others and useful but not the most useful chapter.
I have recently been thinking that tech books fall into various sorts and there is one sort I'd call `library books' - books you may not need to own, but will want to read every so often and would be good to have in your local or company library. Apache Cookbook is one of these, a book I'd recommend everyone coming to grips with Apache has close to hand, but it is not going to be constantly on your desk in the same way that Perl Cookbook might be for Perl programmers: to start off with, it's half the size and doesn't cover nearly as many topics. This one falls short of essential due to it's concentration on breadth. rather than depth. So my recommendation for this book is not that all Apache administrators should buy it, but you should have a copy close at hand.
There's good examples - you expect that with a name like "cookbook". But each example is backed-up with excellent explanations and references. The particular problems I've wanted to solve haven't matched the book's examples, but they've been close enough to adapt the solutions to what I've needed.
I've also appreciated how much this book has helped me how to *think* in Apache. Its use of examples and explanations helps to paint a top-down view of Apache, and help me analyze problems methodically instead of hunt-and-peck through a flock of random configuration parameters.
A nice combination of technical know-how, tuturial, and clear writing makes this a darned useful book for me.
Personally I think the first two chapters on installing Apache and adding modules are wasted space. Presumably by the time you're ready for this book, you've already got Apache installed on your servers and are just looking for ways to tweak it.
I would have liked to see a section on SSI (Server side includes...does anybody use those anymore?) and maybe some more mod_rewrite stuff.
This book will probably be most useful to novice and intermediate Apache administrators who are comfortable with messing around in httpd.conf, but need to refer back to the online docs now and then. Advanced Apache administrators probably won't find much new or useful in this book.
Its great to have a problem, fix type set up, and even better that some of the items solutions are "You can't do it with apache right now." Instead of searching the web because an item was left out of the book, its nice to know of some limitations. It was also helpful to get some of the people insisting that I could do things that were not possible. If its in a book, it must be true!