Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional
We've had a number of quite large Linux related books featured in our reviews section. The majority of those publications were complete guides and impressive penguin-centred Bibles. With today's review, we are once again covering the topics of Linux administration, as I'm taking a look at a handy pocket reference guide.
About the authors
Richard Petersen teaches UNIX and C/C++ courses at the University of California at Berkley. He is the author of four editions of "Linux: The Complete Reference" and many other books.
Ibrahim Haddad is a Researcher at the Ericsson Corporate Research division's Open System Lab. He is involved with the system architecture of third generation wireless IP networks and guiding Ericsson Open Source contributions, which promote and advance the use of Linux in the area of telecommunications.
Inside the book
The uthors start this Red Hat Linux themed guide with a chapter on basic system administration, mostly containing the information especially interesting to Linux beginners. Topics covered throughout this section vary from an introduction to the root user, over setup and usage of cron, to the tools used for analyzing the currently running system processes.
What follows next is a set of information dealing with the initial administrator task - user management. Over about 40 pages, the authors briefly cover all the major aspects of user accounts configuration, with an extra look on LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) and PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules).
The Red Hat Packet Manager (RPM) is clearly one of the most commonly used tools for packing Linux software. Because of its ease of use and the fact that this book is mainly about Red Hat Linux, RPM receives a fair share of exposure. Readers are introduced to the majority of RPM functions that they will ever need. In this software management chapter, the authors also cover installation and usage related to compressed .tar.gz archives.
The next forty pages are reserved for file system administration. Here, the authors talk about the internal files and directories organization, with a special spotlight on both automatic and manual file system mounting. As a handy add-on, readers are presented with some brief information on Linux CD burning.
If you are more serious about administering your Linux station and are in need to use multiple hard drives, the sixth chapter will come quite handy. Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks, or more populary - RAID, is a useful way of storing your data on several places at the same time. The book offers a look on initial RAID configuration (including enabling the service in the Kernel), as well as information on practical usage and the Logical Volume Manager (LVM).
After installing Red Hat Linux, or any other Linux distribution, you'll clearly want do some changes in the future. Because of that, additions of new hardware devices and Kernel modules are also covered within this pocket guide.
One of the most important parts of the Linux administrator's job is to be a good friend with your Kernel, so the last part of the book discussess the topics related to installing, modifying and tuning your system's Kernel. The authors complete the book with a 5 page appendix dealing with redhat-config-services and chkconfig service management tools.
From the security point of view, I was very happy to see that the authors had security in mind with their "security scan" notes. These brief paragraphs are meant to add a security perspective to the topics that are being actively covered. Unfortunately, as we go further inside the book, these security notes disappear. They are just embedded in one of the early chapters that deals with user management, but further administration topics, which would surely benefit from these notes, are mysteriously skipped.
The book is well organized and its structure helps easy browsing and finding desired topics. The only downside of the "Red Hat Linux Pocket Administrator" is the mentioned 'security scan' feature that is accompanying just one chapter of this helpful publication. If not giving all the chapters the same security treatment, the alternative would be to include a separate chapter that deals just with the Linux security topics. Obviously I'm subjective while talking about security, but a Linux system administration guide (even a pocket reference one) should include a decent pack of security information.
As it is always with this kind of a pocket reference type of books, you'll either love 'em or hate 'em. They don't hold enough information about the topics they are covering, but on a positive side, they provide a time-saving way to refresh your knowledge on some specific topic.
The bottom line is that the authors created a great pocket reference guide that is easy to read and contains a number of useful facts and hints that should be of interest to a variety of Linux users. "Red Hat Linux Pocket Administrator" will surely be a valuable supplement to your favorite Linux 1000+ page mammoth publications decorating your bookshelves.