Linux System Administration Paperback – 6 Apr 2007
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O'Reilly merits recognition for their openness. Even an experienced admin will probably find some useful stuff in here.
-- Bob Uhl, Slashdot, October 2007
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System Administration (full disclosure: I was sent a reviewer's copy).
Bottom line up front: it's a handy introduction for the beginner
GNU/Linux sysadmin, and a useful addition to an experienced sysadmin's
The book is essentially a survey of various Linux system-administration
tasks: installing Debian; setting up LAMP; configuring a load-balancing,
high-availability environment; working with virtualisation. None of the
chapters are in-depth examinations of their subjects; rather, they're
enough to get you started and familiar with the concepts involved, and
headed in the right direction. I like this approach, as it increases
the likelihood that any particular admin will be able to use the
material presented. I've been working with Apache for almost a decade
now, but I've not done any virtualisation; some other fellow may have
played with Linux for supercomputing, but never done any web serving
with it; we both can use the chapters which cover subjects new to us.
I really like some of the choices the authors made. A lot of GNU/Linux
'administration' books focus on GUI tools--I've seen some which don't
even bother addressing the command line! I've long said that if one
isn't intimately familiar with the shell--if one cannot get one's job
done with it--then one isn't really a sysadmin. Linux System
Administration approaches nearly everything from the CLI, right from the
The authors also deserve praise for showing, early on, how to replace
Sendmail with Postfix. In 2007, there's very, _very_ little reason to use
Sendmail: unless you know why you need it, you almost certainly don't.
Postfix is more stable and far more secure.
Another nice thing is how many alternatives are showcased: Xen & VMware;
Debian, Fedora & Xandros; CIFS/SMB & NFS; shell, Perl, PHP & Python and
so forth. One really great advantage of Unix in general and GNU/Linux
in particular is choice--it's good to see a reference work which
implicitly acknowledges that.
The authors are also pretty good about calling out common
pitfalls--several got me, once upon a time. It'd have been nice to have
had a book like this when I was cutting my teeth...
Lastly, I liked that the authors & their editor weren't afraid to refer
readers to books from other publishers, in addition to O'Reilly's
(uniformly excellent) offerings. Not all publishers would be so
forthright; O'Reilly merits recognition for their openness.
The book's not quite perfect, though. I wish that PostgreSQL had at
least been mentioned as a more powerful, more stable (and often faster
in practice) alternative to MySQL, and one doesn't actually need to
register a domain in order to set up static IP addressing. Still, these
are pretty minor quibbles.
I'd say that the ideal audience for this book is a small-to-medium
business admin who'd like to start using Linux, or who already is but
doesn't really feel confident yet. It covers enough categories that at
least a few are likely to be relevant. Even an experienced admin will
probably find some useful stuff in here.
Diane C. Donovan
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