4-in-1: Mini Book Reviews

by Pat Eyler

Over the past month, I've read four books that I wanted to review for you: Linux TCP/IP Network Administration, Open Source Web Development with LAMP, A Practical Guide to Red Hat 8 and The Practice of System and Network Administration. This month also marked a first for me, one of these reviews was requested by a reader. If you'd like me to review a book, let me know, and I'll do my best to get it on my reading pile.

In addition to a short review of each book, I also rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. (Tens represent something pretty close to life changing, so don't look for them too often.) I hope these review help you get the most out of your books.

Linux TCP/IP Network Administration

Title: Linux TCP/IP Network AdministrationAuthor: Scott MannPublisher: Prentice HallISBN: 0-13-032220-2

Linux TCP/IP Network Administration weighs in at 829 pages and 16 chapters. It is reasonably well organized and covers a great deal of material. Some of the material is a bit dated (for example, Red Hat 6.2 is one of the distributions covered and ipchains is given extensive coverage), which confused me a bit given the 2002 copyright date. Once I discovered that a first edition was published in the summer of 2001, things made a bit more sense.

While I wouldn't recommend this book for an absolute novice, it is approachable for less experienced readers. A great deal of information about the basic protocol stack is available, and pointers to additional documentation are found at the end of every chapter.

I liked Scott Mann's writing, and the diagrams he uses are clear and useful in understanding the text they support. This is a book that I'll keep on my shelf for reference. I'm giving it 7 stars.

Open Source Web Development with LAMP

Title: Open Source Web Development with LAMPAuthors: James Lee and Brent WarePublisher: Addison-WesleyISBN: 0-201-77061-X

Open Source Web Development with LAMP is a pretty good book for the person just staring with into web development in a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP) environment. I was happy with the authors' statement that "The purpose of this book is to introduce you to [the] 20 percent...that opens up the most functionality, and to make you aware of the remaining 80 percent...."

In addition to the standard LAMP bits, the book also gives some coverage to WML, mod_perl, Embperl and Mason. These chapters offer the reader some insight into the tools needed to maintain a higher end web site. The Resources section at the end of each chapter is quite useful, and the bibliography is a plus as well.

The writing is clear and fun to read (except when the authors try too hard to be funny), the layout is easy to navigate and the content is approachable by most beginners. I'm going to start my 14-year-old on it as her next computer book. I give this book 7 stars.

A Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux 8

Title: A Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux 8Author: Mark G SobellPublisher: Addison WesleyISBN: 0-201-70313-0

Mark Sobell has written a massive book (1,447 pages, excluding the index and glossary) that covers a vast amount of material of interest to the Linux newbie--and even to some folks who have been kicking around Linux for a while.

In some ways, the very size of the book works against it. It is so big as to be intimidating to the beginner. And, its encyclopedic scope works against the more advanced user who is more likely to be happy with a lighter volume dedicated to only one topic. A second problem (more likely to bother more experienced readers) is this book covers Linux breadth first and doesn't reach the depth a lot of people might want on the areas that interest them. This problem would be easier to overlook if there were pointers to further resources.

Mark has put together a solid book for the beginner, but I'm not sure it would be my first recommendation to anyone. I'll give it 6 stars.

The Practice of System and Network Administration

Title: The Practice of System and Network AdministrationAuthors: Thomas A. Limoncelli and Christine HoganPublisher: Addison-WesleyISBN: 0-201-70271-1

It took me a bit of effort to get into The Practice of System and Network Administration, but once I did I found that I really enjoyed it. At 743 pages (31 chapters and 3 appendices), it's heftier than it appears. All of the space has been put to good use.

The book is laid out well and holds up well if you want to read straight through in one sitting. Each chapter also is capable of standing on its own, though, if you prefer to use the book as a reference.

I really found myself appreciating the chapter layout. Each chapter contains three sections: the Basics, the Icing and a Conclusion (with exercises). The idea is you should at least be doing the basics and then you can move on to add the icing. The exercises are sets of thought-provoking questions that should help you better understand how to apply the ideas Thomas and Christine have explained.

If I ever end up managing systems administrators again, this is one book I'll want to give to each of them. I'm giving it 8 stars.

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