UNIX: An Open Systems Dictionary

The book includes over 6,000 entries and does a fairly good job of keeping definitions as free of jargon as possible.
  • Authors: William H. Holt, Rockie,. Morgan

  • Publisher: Resolution Business Press

  • ISBN: 0-94526414-3

  • Price: 524.95

  • Reviewer: Laurie L. Tucker

When my boss first picked up this book, he went in search of the word “Linux”. To his great surprise he found it, and then declared that this was a book worth having. After using this dictionary for the past two months, I have to agree; and not just because it contains a definition for Linux in it.

The book includes over 6,000 entries and does a fairly good job of keeping definitions as free of jargon as possible. As a result, it can be used by people with a broad range of Unix experience, from the “newbie” (not defined, but we know what that is!) to the “wizard”.

As the Assistant Editor for Linux Journal, and a fairly new sysadmin, the book has come in handy quite a few times. I've used it to figure out what POSIX really stands for (Portable Operating System Interface for computer environments (X)), and I've used it to better understand what I read in articles that are submitted to Linux Journal for publication.

The book contains such basic terms as: pop-up window (with a figure showing one), command line, directory, port, space bar, kernel (with the standard bull's-eye graphic), software, CPU, and edit. These are all described so that true computer novices can better understand computers. Lots of acronyms are included, like ASCII, FTP, TCP/IP, VMS, SCSI, RISC, MTA, and LAN.

There's information on Unix-style word processing: serif, sans serif, roff, nroff, troff, and mm macros.

Important people: Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan.

Unix operating systems: SVR, BSD, UNIX, XENIX, and SunOS.

The Information superhighway: Internet, WWW, nslookup, archie, gopher, WAIS, hypertext, T-1, PPP.

Sysadmin terms: wtmp, sendmail.cf, mountd, mnttab, named. local, /dev/null, DNS, telinit, a whole bunch of /etc/* entries.

This book even contains historical gossip about the Michelangelo virus!

What don't I like about the book? It includes pronunciations of words, like WA-BEE, SCUZZY, NAME-D, NROFF, GOO-IE, etc., listed as entnes. I think it's kind of hokey. But these pronunciations are also included with the “real” definitions, and the dictionary does a very good job of cross-referencing.

It also includes a scattering of figures and tables which enhance the text definitions.

At the end of the book there are a number of useful appendices, including references for basic vi commands, basic Emacs commands, FTP commands, lpc commands, RFS parameters, signal values (preSVR4, SVR4, BSD), Telnet stuff, and some commonly used talk-mode jargon.

Five years ago, Bill Holt decided that this was a book he needed. Since there wasn't one available, he and Rockie Morgan wrote it. That's one of the best reasons for creating something, and this dictionary is something I'm glad I have.

Laurie Tucker (llt@ssc.com) is the assistant editor of Linux Journal, cover designer of the September issue, and sysadmin of linuxjournal.com; a Linux system


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