Customizing and Upgrading Linux

by Glen Otero

I was not disappointed. The sequel, Customizing and Upgrading Linux, is an excellent guide to some of the more advanced and frustrating Linux tasks that typically intimidate newcomers.

Wisely, the book begins by overlapping and expanding upon the installation tutorial found in the final chapter of the first book. The first four chapters of Customizing and Upgrading Linux explain disk partitioning and Linux installations, via CD-ROM and NFS, in a clear, straightforward manner.

Jumping around a bit, chapters 6 and 7 review printer configuration and package management using printtool and the Red Hat package manager (RPM), respectively. The examples cover the configuration of both local and remote printers, something lacking in many other books. Likewise, package management with RPM is covered thoroughly and concisely, using an upgrade of Xfree86 via RPMs as an example.

However, chapters 5 and 8 through 10 are the reasons why this book is essential reading for those new to Linux. Chapter 5 is the E-ticket ride that alone is worth the price of admission. Entitled "Configuring the Video", chapter 5 is simply extraordinary. Before embarking on the road to customizing the X Window System using Xconfigurator, the authors do an incredible job describing how video cards and monitors work together to generate the images we see. The reader is privy to an unprecedented video tutorial that clearly defines the terms color depth, resolution, video mode, refresh rate, dot pitch and sync pulse. Also included is an explanation of the simple equations used to generate the values for these terms. "Configuring the Video" vaults this book head and shoulders above other texts that include a waltz through Xconfigurator as the only explanation of Linux and X. The authors are to be commended.

Chapters 8 through 10 are the icing on the cake. These chapters provide an exhaustive tutorial on kernel modularity, configuration and compilation. Various approaches to building, patching and installing kernels via RPMs and new source trees are thoroughly explained and walked through, one command at a time. These final three chapters offer succinct advice to first-time kernel compilers that goes a long way in demystifying the kernel upgrade process.

This book follows the successful format of the first one by including comprehensive examples, exercises and quizzes for the reader to test their knowledge. Answers to the quizzes are found in the appendices.

Customizing and Upgrading Linux is the sensational slam-dunk following the well-timed alley-oop provided by Installing and Administering Linux. This most recent offering from Gearhead Press demonstrates serious follow through and commitment to the Linux community. But that's not all. The publisher has informed me they will be releasing a book on constructing Linux firewalls later this year. Should be fun, so stay tuned!

Glen Otero has a PhD in Immunology and Microbiology and runs a consulting company called Linux Prophet in San Diego, California. He can be reached at Surfing, in the ocean that is, is his favorite pastime.

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