Beginning Red Hat Linux 9
by Mirko Zorz - Tuesday, 13 January 2004.
Authors: Sandip Bhattacharya, Sandip Bhattacharya, Mark Mamone, Kapil Sharma, Deepak Thomas, Simon Whiting and Shishir Gundavaram.
Pages: 570
Publisher: Wrox
ISBN: 0764543784

Available for download is chapter 1 entitled "Installing Red Hat Linux 9".


I've had the pleasure to review several books about Red Hat Linux. Some were comprehensive guides while others concentrated on a specific topic like security. Due to the big popularity of Red Hat among Linux users, it was basically a matter of time when a book about this distribution would get into my hands.

As you may have guessed from the title, this book is aimed at first time users. Let's get moving and find out whether beginners will find it a valuable resource.

About the authors

This is one of those titles where listing all the seven authors extensive credentials would take too much space. They are all very skilled when it comes to open source, some are holders of certifications, all have much experience when it comes to Linux and some have written other computer related books. All in all, a perfect crowd to write a book like this.

Inside the book

The book starts where it should because of it's target audience - the installation of Red Hat Linux 9, a chapter you can read in PDF format above. The entire process is depicted in detail and backed up by a myriad of screenshots that will make this process simple for you to go through. The authors did a good job on covering every step of the installation so it's unlikely you're run into problems.

The system is all setup and you login into your brand new OS for the first time. What's next? The authors familiarize you with the system by showing you how to find your way around the desktop, use the terminal, understand the file system, manage hardware and processes, etc. As every chapter in the book, this one is complemented by many screenshots which have been chosen pretty well to show the most important details.

The majority of you is certainly going to connect to the Internet. To help you achieve this task quickly, the authors dedicate a chapter to the subject. First off you learn how to connect to the Internet and identify some of the problems you may encounter in the process. To make the story complete, you get information on the configuration and usage of various software titles that you need in order to browse websites, transfer files, communicate with people, etc.

As other Linux distributions, Red Hat comes with a plethora of software for various purposes. This, however, doesn't mean you won't be interested in learning how to install software on your own. The authors explain the Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) in detail. Briefly noted is the ability of RPM to check the signature of a package when querying, installing or upgrading it. This is one of those security related details that's very good to learn right from the beginning and start using it right away.

Depending on what's the main purpose of your computer usage, there are applications you use on a daily basis. The authors have taken into consideration an average computer user and have devoted a chapter to the description of various tools. This part kickstarts you Linux experience as you discover how to accomplish some common tasks related to multimedia, office, the system, etc. This is where both new computer users and those switching from another operating system get exactly what they need.

Although as a beginner you're probably going to stick to the Graphical User Interface (GUI), you should get acquainted with the shell. I'm certain that with time you'll see the benefits of typing in commands and accomplishing tasks quickly. Chapter six introduces you to the shell and shows you commands that you should try while reading the book. You also learn how to configure the shell, manage tasks and write basic shell scripts.

What follows is a large section dedicated to everything related to the file system. Covered here are the various file and directory attributes, the location of useful programs, the maintenance of the file system, and more. You learn a lot here - how to search and navigate the file system, manage drives and partitions, and more.

If you share your machine with other users, than chapter eight is a must read as it deals with managing user accounts. First you learn about the purpose of having different user accounts and then the Red Hat User Manager is introduced. Very clearly explained is the way that Linux stores account information. More details on user accounts are presented, including working from the command line.

As we move on, you learn the basics of building networks and the topic starts with an introduction to Linux networking where the benefits of Linux are highlighted. During this chapter the authors show you how to setup a web server, an FTP server, a print server, a file server, etc.

Since we're approaching the end of the book, I think the authors believe that if you worked while reading the book, you got pretty proficient when working with Linux. This is why they present some 30 pages dedicated to advanced system administration. Some of the tasks illustrated here are very important, and because of the clear way they are described I'm sure you'll be analyzing log files and backing up your system in no time.

The book continues with an introduction to the Perl programming language where you learn the advantages and disadvantages of Perl and how to install it. The authors then proceed to teach you the basics of managing your system with Perl: automating common tasks and managing log files.

A good book on Red Hat Linux couldn't exist without a chapter on security. The authors identify the potential threats and provide a bit of information on each, teach you how to choose strong passwords and keep your software up-to-date. Introduced is Tripwire that will help you maintain system integrity. You also learn about network services and firewalls. All in all, a good addition to the text that gives the novice user some firm fundamental knowledge on the topic.

The last chapter provides a short list of online resources and mentions some applications that can make your life easier when it comes to system administration and application development.

My 2 cents

The many authors managed to squeeze into this title the most important facts for a novice user and point him into the right direction.

Along with the book comes a copy of Red Hat Linux 9 on two CDs that will enable you to try out the stuff in the book right away.

Clearly written and amply illustrated, this book is truly an amazing resource for the Red Hat Linux beginner.


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