Book Review: Apache Cookbook
The Apache Cookbook is clearly written. Material that I found particularly well written are the Troubleshooting section (which was put in Appendix B instead of receiving a chapter of its own, for some reason) and Chapter 11, "Performance". Both brought together in one place some advice I'd seen in various locations and some tips I didn't know. Other people may particularly appreciate Chapter 5, "Aliases, Redirecting, and Rewriting", which has 18 recipes for mangling and massaging URLs into shape, and Chapter 6, "Security", which has 28 recipes.
In a few recipes, the authors answer a question with "It's not possible." One example is the question, "Can you log users by their MAC address?" This sort of answer is to be commended, as many authors prefer not to share bad news even to frequently asked questions.
The length of the book is appropriate for general browsing and skimming. The recipes are generally short enough to allow you to skim a chapter in an hour or under, which is good.
As for the bad, cross-referencing between recipes is not as good as I would like. Many recipes have See Also sections, but they sometimes seem to miss natural comparisons that would be useful for the skimming reader. For example, Recipe 5.13, "Denying Access to Unreferred Requests," uses mod_rewrite, while recipe 6.5, "Restricting Images from Being Used Off-Site," uses FilesMatch and SetEnv as well as mod_rewrite to accomplish the same thing. Each has a unique See Also section that does not refer to the other. Similarly, recipe 9.1, "Handling a Missing Host Field" and recipe 12.6, "Handling Missing Host Header Fields" don't refer to each other.
In a few situations, concepts could have been explained earlier or with more detail. Chapter 11 describes how to use different MPMs without defining MPM or explaining that Apache 2.0 provides different swappable models for handling threads and processes. Recipe 6.20 talks about proxy security without introducing proxies or mentioning that they are the topic of Chapter 10. These are minor complaints, but they make the book less effortless to use in its paper version.
On the whole, the Apache Cookbook is a good addition to the Apache administrator or programmer's library. For the $29.95 US cover price, the paper copy is a reasonable investment. It also is available on Safari if you don't want a paper copy. Considering the cross-referencing difficulties, that format might be easier to use.
August 27, 2015
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