Book review – “LINUX SERVER HACKS”

Posted by Bill Bradford on Mar 10, 2003

I recently read Linux Server Hacks, written by Rob Flickenger and published by O’Reilly and Associates. I dont normally read “Linux specific” books for review here, but this was an exception. Read on for the review.

My first thought when I saw this book was “what a cheesy title”. In addition, unlike the rest of O’Reilly’s computer books, which feature an animal on the cover, the “Hacks” series (also consisting of Google Hacks and Mac OS X Hacks) features an image of a hand tool on the cover of each book. For Linux Server Hacks, the image is an axe, rather appropriately.

The book is rather slim compared to other O’Reilly books, at 210 pages of content (not counting the introduction or indexes). However, its a very informative 210 pages. Content is separated into sections such as “Server Basics”, “Revision Control”, “Backups”, “Networking”, “Monitoring”, “SSH”, “Scripting”, and “Information Servers”, each section broken down into subtopics.

Some of the content (such as kernel and system tuning and networking/firewall configuration) is Linux-specific, but this book should be of use to any administrator of a modern UNIX system. Topics such as using RCS and CVS for system configuration revision control, remote backups using SSH, system monitoring, and effectively using SSH can be applied to any system.

Most of the book consists of quick “how-tos” explaining how to configure a service or facility (such as BIND 9 or MySQL, or Apache with SSL). The sections are short and quickly give you the information you need, leaving out a lot of extraneous facts that would just “get in the way” when you need to know how to do something *right now*.

The book has the feel of a “cookbook”, with the “Hacks” referred to in the title being the old definition of “hacks”, as in someone who finds interesting, imaginative, and useful ways to solve a computer-related problem.

The new “Hacks” series from O’Reilly could very easily have been released as part of their “Cookbook” series, as companions to other books. However, I like the new look and feel (in addition to the normal ITC Garamond font used in other books from O’Reilly, this title also uses Helvetica Nue), the idea behind the series, and am impressed with the content so far. I’m looking forward to receiving copies of the other books in the series soon, and will post reviews of them as well.

In short, even if you dont have a Linux server around to “hack” on, this is a useful book for any UNIX system administrator who wants to know how to get critical tasks done quickly, and make day-to-day maintenance easier.

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