Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
I love books. Sometimes though, books don't do the trick. I've learned many things over the years from other people's explanations faster than reading about them in a book. When it comes to Linux, many people find it hard to learn. In the introductory video the author Mark Komarinski notes that Linux is not hard to administer, only proper learning is required. This course tries to bring Red Hat Linux closer to the users.
For the purpose of this review, this interactive training course was used on an Asus A1000 series notebook running Red Hat 8.0 and Real Player 188.8.131.521. Screenshots of the training course can be seen at the end of the review.
About the author
Mark Komarinski has been using Linux since 1992, was a columnist for the Linux Journal, and maintains the Linux Printing Usage HOWTO. He works for Aurora Technologies in eastern Massachusetts.
An interview with Mark Komarinski is available here.
Inside the course
In the introductory video, Komarinski informs us about what we will find in this interactive training course. This course is based on Red Hat Linux 7.1 but it quite useful for new versions and a large portion of the material can be used applied to other Linux distributions.
The first lecture covers all the details regarding the installation of Red Hat Linux. The author introduces Linux and his advantages and provides an informal checklist of things you need before you begin the installation. Komarinski covers a few installation types from servers to desktop systems along with some pitfalls you may run across during the installation. You can see an installation of Red Hat Linux to a desktop PC made with digital video capture. This is useful for people new to Linux since they can watch the installation as it occurs.
The author moves on and examines the boot sequence and the shutdown sequence of Red Hat Linux. Here you see how you can configure LILO and hear more on runlevels. In case you encounter problems with starting the kernel or in the boot process, you'll benefit from the part where the author examines a few common problems and shows how you can fix them.
The next lecture gets you started with security. Here you learn about users, access control and using different authentication methods. The author notes that how you administer accounts varies depending on what the environment is like. Here you learn how to create users and groups of users, delete and disable user accounts, use shadow passwords, etc. Komarinski also talks about the linuxconf application that enables you to easily configure your Red Hat Linux machine.
The fourth lecture teaches you how to install new packages. Komarinski talks about the Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) and shows you how to use it in order to make your own system administration easier. He notes that you can validate the packages to see if changes have been made to the files that make up the package. This is a useful way of determining if someone accessed your system and replaced a utility with a Trojan. You also learn how to compile your own RPM files. In order to make things easier, some RPM utilities are presented.
What follows is a lecture dedicated to networking. The author provides an overview of TCP/IP and the other protocols that allow Linux to talk to other machines. Here you learn how to configure the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and a Client/Server with the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP). Here you get more on DNS and NFS as well as on how you can use a Linux server as a router to transfer data between two different networks.
Lecture six discusses printing and print sharing. After going through it you should know how to connect printers to your Linux system and connect the Linux Printer System using LPRng and Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS). The next topic is Samba. Komarinski takes you through the installation of Samba on your Red Hat Linux machine and shows you how to configure it to export shares to clients. If you prefer not to edit configuration files, you can use the Samba Web Administration Tool (SWAT). Here you also learn how to share printers to Windows clients using Samba. In lecture eight you learn a lot about e-mail. The author shows you how to setup simple mailing lists and remote connections using POP and IMAP. Also covered here is Sendmail, the most popular mail server on the Internet running on more than 50% of the mailservers.
Moving on the author teaches you how to install and configure the Apache webserver on your Red Hat Linux box. Mentioned are authentication modules and the steps needed to setup an SSL-enabled server. You will not get extensive information in this lecture, however it will be enough to get you started. To learn more you can always use the great documentation that comes with the Apache webserver. What follows is an introduction of the X Windowing System and it's powerful features. You learn how to configure X with the Xconfigurator, use the KDE Control Panel and the GNOME Configuration Tool. At the end of the lecture you'll also learn how to send windows across the network with X.
As we get deeper and deeper into this course, we reach the lecture I was most looking forward to - securing Linux. Besides network and software security, the author dedicates a part of this lecture also to physical security and to Denial of Service attacks. Some of the tools mentioned here are Tripwire, LIDS and SSH. Although new users may find this lecture as a good introduction, a lot more material should have been included.
The following two lectures deal with the kernel and system/network monitoring. The author shows you how to work with the kernel and provides information on kernel versions. He shows you how to compile it using config, menuconfig and xconfig. When it comes to system/network monitoring, Komarinski shows you how to use syslog and use tcpdump.
The last lecture deals with one of my obsessions - backup. The author notes how important a good backup strategy is. You'll learn to use tar, mt, dump and restore. Mentioned here are also different backup strategies as well as RAID and disk mirroring.
My 2 cents
This interactive course will certainly introduce Red Hat Linux to a broader audience because it's definitely fun to learn this way. What's very handy is that the end of each lecture you'll be able to test your knowledge with self-assessment questions. I can recommend this great training course to all of you that want to get into Linux but don't know where to start.
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