|summary||An excellent book on setting up and configuring all aspects of Fedora Linux.|
Coinciding with the release of the latest version of Fedora, O'Reilly brought out the new book titled Fedora Linux authored by Chris Tyler. The book is divided into 10 chapters spanning over 600 pages with each chapter catering to a particular topic. Like all books of this genre, this book also starts by explaining how to install Fedora on ones machine. But what is different regarding the Fedora installer is that it provides a lot of flexibility, variety and finer control over the install process. Not surprisingly, the author has dedicated two chapters for explaining the various ways in installing Fedora. The first chapter titled "Quick start: Installing Fedora" covers the basic installation from start to finish. Where as the 10th chapter titled "Advanced Installation" covers the advanced features of the installer such as creating logical volumes and Raid during installation, automating the installation process using the kick start file, installing from locations other than a CD/DVD such as NFS and PXE boot as well as a detailed coverage of the Grub boot loader. This chapter also has a short section explaining how to install and use Xen virtual machines.
At a first glance, one might be tempted to bundle this book with the rest of the books available on this subject. But on close scrutiny, I discovered a certain method to the madness. That is each topic that is covered in the book is divided into 4 broad sections. There is a section titled "How do I do that?" which explains the nuts and bolts of accomplishing the given task. The next section titled "How does it work?" gives a good understanding of the theoretical concepts if any behind the topic, the third section titled "What about...?" introduces potential configuration bottlenecks and any additional tasks related to the topic and provides solutions to them. And lastly, there is a section titled "Where can I learn more...?" which provides a bunch of resources on the web and pointers to the respective documentation which will provide further insights about the topic being discussed. It is really refreshing to see this book take such a unique structured approach to explaining the concepts.
The 2nd chapter titled "Using Fedora on your Desktop" apart from covering details about Gnome and KDE Desktops also provides information about additional topics like configuring the XServer, adding new fonts and configuring sound and printing to work with Fedora. There are topics like partitioning a flash drive which makes this particular chapter quite interesting.
The third chapter titled "Using Fedora on your Notebook" explains how to configure Fedora to handle laptop specific features such as power management, mobile networking and configuring touch pad. This chapter also gives a firm introduction to configuring the networking interfaces be it the ethernet or wireless. One thing which holds Fedora in good stead over its peers is the good set of GUI front-ends available to configure each and every aspect of Linux. And configuring networking is no different. But the author does not limit himself to explaining the GUI way of configuring but also explains how to do it the command line way.
No book on Linux is complete without an in depth coverage of the basic commands used for system maintenance. The fourth chapter titled "Basic System Management" is one of the largest chapters in this book where the author explains all the important commands one might be expected to know to keep Fedora Linux in ship shape. Apart from the ubiquitous commands, I also found detailed pointers in enabling secure remote access to Fedora using SSH.
Package management forms the basis for the fifth chapter. Fedora has a great set of tools which aid the user in a variety of ways in installing, removing and upgrading packages. Fedora uses the software management system called RPM Package Manager. But with popular demand, it has also incorporated an apt-get like tool called Yum which automatically resolve dependency issues. I found this chapter to provide an in-depth coverage of all the tools related to package management in Fedora. For example, the author explains how to roll back the installation of a package to a state 10 minutes ago or for that matter to a previous date using the RPM tool. There is also a section which explains how to create ones own RPM packages.
The chapter titled "Storage management" gives a broad explanation of Logical volume management and setting up Raid. Fedora comes with its own LVM administration tool which makes it a snap to set up and manage logical volumes. The author after explaining how to accomplish creating, resizing and deleting logical volumes using this GUI tool, goes on to describe how to do it the command line way too which makes this chapter really useful. All along the chapter, I found useful tips on tasks such as creating backups of the disk and how to go about doing it, stopping a raid and so on.
But the one chapter which I found really comprehensive was the seventh chapter titled "Network Services". Here the author explains how to setup the gamut of network services including but not limited to DHCP server, BIND, CUPS print server, MySQL server, sendmail and more. This chapter spans around 100 pages. There is also a short section providing tips on analyzing the web and ftp logs.
Lets face it. Even though Fedora is a community supported venture backed by Red Hat, it has all the characteristics which propel it to the enterprise level. One of the notable characteristics is the extensive integration of SELinux (Security Enhanced Linux). SELinux controls what a program is and is not allowed to do, enforcing security policy through the kernel. Fedora has very good support for SELinux and has even developed GUI front-ends to make it much more easier to configure. In the 8th chapter, the author explains in detail the steps needed to configure and fine tune selinux on Fedora. This chapter also contain sections which explain the pluggable authentication module as well as other security related features such as configuring a firewall and using access control lists.
The unique structure in which the chapters are layed out makes it more suitable to be used as a reference more than a cover to cover read. The author is eloquent in his narration of the topics and has done a good job of explaining the concepts. I found this book to be an ideal resource for coming up to date with all the system and network administration tasks that can be accomplished in Fedora Linux.
Ravi Kumar maintains a blog where he shares his thoughts related to GNU/Linux, Open Source and Free Software at linuxhelp.blogspot.com. He has also reviewed in a concise way the history of GNU/Linux.
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