Book Review: LINUX Web Server Toolkit

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A review of the LINUX Web Server Toolkit, a book that takes the reader completely through the procedure of building a web server.
Part IV: Adding Advanced Features

A very brief (eight page) introduction to Java and JavaScript is given in Chapter 15. Version 1.0.2 of the JDK is provided on the CD, but a list of related web sites would have been helpful as well. Those interested in Java and/or JavaScript will want to look for books on those specific topics. Almost as brief, but more detailed, Chapter 16 discusses gateways (such as e-mail and database) and provides lists of sites for gateway software. The novice will be able to learn enough about gateways to understand what they do and whether one is required. The next chapter gives a quick overview of application programming interfaces (API) for Fastrack and Apache. APIs allow the user to extend the capabilities of the server. More detailed documentation will be required by those wishing to actually do this.

Chapter 18 concerns the all-important issue of security. It begins with a summary of types of attacks, both generic and web-specific. A checklist of tests to try and files to check gives the novice a good starting point for reviewing site security. This is followed by a brief discussion on firewalls. The reader is then pointed to an on-line firewall FAQ and http://www.yahoo.com to search for more information.

The remaining chapters deal with issues of web maintenance, backup and Linux package upgrading. Chapter 19 includes a list of HTML validation tools and recommends HTML Analyzer for automated checking of your web site files. The book finishes with a description of the CD-ROM files in Appendix A.

CD-ROM

The CD included with my copy of the book contained complete, but somewhat dated, software. For example, it installs kernel v2.0.29, Apache v1.1.1 and v1.0.2 of the Java Development Kit. However, this book is hardly unique in this respect—users will generally buy or download the latest releases elsewhere. The important issue is the CD provides all the software necessary to install and set up an Apache server on a Linux 2.0.x kernel. Some additional tools are included on the CD including (much to my surprise) Xemacs. I would like to see Xemacs included on more CD sets.

Conclusion

The book provides a reasonable overview of the issues and mechanics relating to implementing a web server. The target audience is beginner to intermediate-level users. If you are computer literate but a web novice, this book contains sufficient detail to enable you to set up a web server. The depth is such that more advanced people will also find the book useful, but it will not make someone an expert on Apache or Java. Throughout the book, URLs are provided so the reader can obtain more information, documentation or software related to the specific topics being discussed. This is especially useful given how quickly a printed book can become dated. If you're interested in what is involved in setting up a commercial web site, this book is a very good place to start.

Keith P. de Solla, P.Eng is an underemployed VLSI CAD Engineer, currently masquerading as a Linux guy. When not doing computer stuff, he can be found engaged in the politically incorrect (but really fun) activity of action pistol shooting. He can be reached via e-mail at kdesolla@cyberus.ca.

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