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Red Hat Software Books Media Businesses Software Book Reviews Linux IT

Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux, 2nd Edition 86

norburym (Mary Norbury-Glaser) writes "If you own the first edition of this book, then it's probably dog-eared and well thumbed-through, so now's a good time to upgrade to this extensive volume, Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux: Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, second edition. This book covers Fedora Core 2 (2.6 kernel) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 3 (2.4 fork version with 2.6 kernel features) and includes Fedora Core on four CDs, which comprises the complete release. Mark G. Sobell accomplishes what many fail at: he has successfully crammed a huge amount of information into one volume in a compact, perfectly readable manner. This second edition serves two audiences, the end user and the administrator, and consequently combines two topics that easily could have filled separate books: Fedora Core and Enterprise Linux." Read on for the rest of Norbury-Glaser's review.
Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux: Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (2nd Edition)
author Mark G. Sobell
pages 1136
publisher Prentice Hall PTR
rating 9
reviewer Mary Norbury-Glaser
ISBN 0131470248
summary Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux: Fedora Core and RHEL

The book is separated into parts: Installing Red Hat Linux, Getting Started with Red Hat Linux, Digging into Red Hat Linux, System Administration, Using Clients and Setting Up Servers, Programming, and Appendixes. Each part is further divided into chapters including Linux Utilities and Filesystem, GUIs, Shell, Networking/Internet, Files, Directories, Downloading/Installing Software, Printing with CUPS, Rebuilding the Linux Kernel, Admin Tasks, Configuring a LAN, OpenSSH, FTP, sendmail, NIS, NFS, Samba, DNS/BIND, iptables, Apache, Programming Tools, Regular Expressions, Security and many others. Clearly, Sobell takes great pains to address every aspect of Linux that the end user or admin would encounter. Sobell has also taken several steps to make sure the book works as a reference work: he's structured the layout with identifiers (Fedora or RHEL) to enable the reader to identify the OS he or she is mainly interested in, optional sections with more difficult concepts that can be skipped until the reader is more competent to address them, caution boxes that provide warnings about troublesome areas, tip boxes with interesting information or alternative suggestions, security boxes, many practical examples, chapter summaries, review exercises, resources, GNU tools, pointers to online documentation and URLS. There is also a glossary with cross-references to other terms and chapter page numbers.

After a Welcome To Linux chapter that introduces the reader to the history of Linux/Unix, GNU and why everyone should use Linux (an understandable inclusion, but probably of little interest to current Linux users), we move quickly into a brief overview of installation. A scant 50 pages is dedicated to installation, but Sobell covers the necessary particulars with sufficient depth that even a beginner should feel comfortable with these instructions. I approached this book from an administrator's perspective so felt the time and detail devoted to installation was completely appropriate; neither too much nor too little information presented. Experienced users can easily skip this section and not feel they've lost any significant amount of their investment by doing so; at over a 1000 pages, this book has plenty for everyone. It's interesting to note that the author chooses to lead the user through installing KDE instead of GNOME, Red Hat's default desktop manager, although both are addressed in detail in Part III.

Part II introduces the reader to Red Hat, Linux utilities (ls, cat, rm, cp, grep, head, tail, sort, diff, echo, script, mcopy, gzip, gunzip, zcat, tar, which, whereis, apropos, who, finger, write, talk, vim), the Linux filesystem (mkdir, cd, absolute and relative pathnames, rmdir, mv, cp, access permissions, hard links, symbolic links) and an intro to the Shell (the author's choice is bash). Both graphical and command line utilities are discussed; system admins in particular should become familiar with the command line choices.

Part III covers Linux GUIs (xwindow, startx, remote computing, GNOME, KDE) and more bash (basics, separating and grouping commands, redirecting standard error, parameters and variables) in depth, and gives an introduction to networking and the Internet (types of networks, network protocols and utilities, ping, traceroute, host and dig, distributed computing, usenet). This leads smoothly into Part IV, System Administration. This is a meaty chunk of the book, with well-written core information (core concepts, files, directories and filesystems, downloading and installing software, printing with CUPS, rebuilding the Linux Kernel, Admin tasks and LAN configuration). Sobell introduces the reader to installing and updating using Red Hat's RPM system and updating via Yum and Apt. An especially nice addition here is Chapter 15 on Rebuilding the Linux Kernel. Often glossed over or ignored completely, this is an exercise that should be included in any decent Linux volume and Sobell doesn't disappoint.

Part V continues the administration learning curve on Using Clients and Setting Up Servers. Chapters include OpenSSH, FTP, sendmail, NFS, Samba, DNS/BIND and Apache. Probably every advanced user to administrator should take some time over the OpenSSH chapter; it contains great information, start with, but more importantly is positioned as a prerequisite to further secure network communication instruction.

These chapters should provide more than adequate instruction for anyone running Apache, Samba or mail services for the first time. However, somewhere in here a primer on PHP/mySQL and additional email server choices (other than the discussed sendmail) would be welcome.

Programming tools and a revisit with bash comprise Part VI. Programming in C, using shared libraries, debugging, system calls and CVS are covered in Chapter 27. Chapter 28 continues with additional bash commands and concepts (control structures, string pattern matching, filename generation and functions), utilizing many short script examples. There's an excellent section on CVS and very useful information on compilers.

The Appendixes and glossary round out the book with helpful information on regular expressions (characters, delimiters, special characters, bracketing expressions), help (finding Linux-related information, documentation, Linux sites/newsgroups/mailing lists, software, office suites and specifying a terminal) and security (encryption, file/email/network/host/login/remote access/physical security, viruses and worms and security resources).

Also included in the appendixes is the Free Software Definition, which is a verbatim copy of the original document on the GNU website, and a description of features new to the 2.6 kernel.

Since I'm in an educational environment, I found the content of Sobell's book to be right on target and very helpful for anyone managing Linux in the enterprise. His style of writing is very clear. He builds up to the chapter exercises, which I find to be relevant to real-world scenarios a user or admin would encounter. An IT/IS student would find this book a valuable complement to their education. The vast amount of information is extremely well-balanced and Sobell manages to present the content without complicated asides and meandering prose. This is a "must have" for anyone managing Linux systems in a networked environment or anyone running a Linux server. I would also highly recommend it to an experienced computer user who is moving to the Linux platform.


You can purchase Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux: Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, second edition, from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, carefully read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux, 2nd Edition

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  • Wisdom is rarely found on the best-seller list...

    - E
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:40PM (#11325651)
    Man, I ordered that and imagine my surprise when a tree and a printing press arrived at my door.
  • However, somewhere in here a primer on PHP/mySQL

    You're not the first reviewer to say that. I wrote a PHP chapter and a PostgreSQL / MySQL chapter, but they were not ready before the ToC was finalised. They should (suitably updated, of course) make it into the next edition.

    No, I'm not Mark Sobell, but I worked with him on this book, and you can find my name in the acknowledgements section after Mark Taub.

  • Part V continues the administration learning curve on Using Clients and Setting Up Servers. Chapters include ... FTP, sendmail, NFS ... Probably every advanced user to administrator should take some time over...
    Really? How useful to today's average system adminintrator is learning FTP, sendmail, and NFS? Written any sendmail.cf's lately?

    I think I'll skim that chapter and only read the Apache/OpenSSH part.
    • Really? How useful to today's average system adminintrator is learning FTP, sendmail, and NFS?

      I would say that every Linix SA should know FTP, and in my experience there are few *nix shops that *don't* run NFS. I certainly wouldn't hire a Linux SA who didn't know NFS.

      As for sendmail, Enterprise 3 and Fedora Core, the topics of the book, ship with sendmail. It would seem that the authors are being prudent by providing information on its use.

      Written any sendmail.cf's lately?

      Most of us write sendmail

    • Don't know if it covers it or not, because I tend to find everything I need to know in Google for free, but if you've ever tried to clone a few machines the same way simultaneously, you use NFS...easiest to set up, and the fastest, and is the only method that allows up to use the full GUI (Anaconda) in Redhat and Fedora through the whole install process other than from CD-ROM. If you use HTTP or FTP as your install method, you can only use the text menus. And if you want to tighten up your sendmail config
    • Really? How useful to today's average system adminintrator is learning FTP, sendmail, and NFS? Written any sendmail.cf's lately?

      Actually, yes? Well, technically anyone with any sense works mostly with sendmail.mc these days, but I admin systems running these services and many more on a daily basis. We're not all just running Linux at home you know ;-)
    • Let's see:
      • FTP: I run a Fedora mirror server; a large part of the access is via FTP. Also, most web hosting customers upload sites with FTP.
      • sendmail: I am updating our sendmail configs on our mail servers this week to improve the spam blocking. Most people use m4 macros to configure sendmail these days, but I do a lot of custom stuff in the .cf language.
      • NFS: I used NFS last week to do an automated kickstart install of Fedora to a new firewall.

      You may not need to know how to do these things, but a goo

    • For FTP: Its good to know how to securely configure an anonymous FTP session. You don't want real users using it though. scp for that. NFS is absolutely essential, especially if you are working with beowulf or mainframe stuff. Anaconda kickstart with pxeboot, wake-on lan, and NFS is an absolute GODSEND. I can completely upgrade (to a new distro) an entire cluster remotely, by issuing one command (redhat does not come with this of course, I had to write that myself). Sendmail... I thought the concensu
  • Practical? (Score:5, Funny)

    by rackhamh ( 217889 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:44PM (#11325705)
    Why must these guides always be called "practical"?

    Just once, I'd like to see a "Completely Impractical, You Will Die If You Try This At Home" guide to something.

    At least it would be original.
  • As with any Linux book, is that by the time the book hits the streets it's already outdated. Quite frankly I've got a bookshelf filled with books on old technology, stuff like Linux 9.0, Apache 1.0, Perl, etc etc. I'll bet I've got a grand tied up into all that, which is worthless now.

    That said, I'm in the process of putting together a team of consultants that will download the actual source code and perform corporate trainings based upon that. You can check it out of the latest CVS and download it to a DV
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Linux 9.0? That's not outdated, that's seeing into the future! I'd hang on to that one.
    • ...a bookshelf filled with books on old technology, stuff like Linux 9.0

      I thought we were only at Linux 2.6 ;)

      Yes, I know you ment RedHat 9.0, but if by some chance you really do have a book on Linux 9.0 that is a bookshelf living in both the past and the future.

      Kidding aside, I too have spent too much on texts which are worthless now. My purpose in purchasing texts was/is single problem/solution issues which have a high amount of urgency tied to them. Otherwise, searching the web is and reading cr

  • by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:55PM (#11325859) Homepage
    A 1200 page guide on how to use redhat is practical?

    Hey, how about this for a change,

    developers, if you want to take "pride" in your mad OSS-fu and get your street props, mad sekret stage names and the babes then write a couple COMPLETE man pages for a change.

    So many tools I've seen that may have technical merits up the wazoo but no documentation so they're useless.

    I don't mind buying books on things like flex/yacc or bash scripting [etc] since there is more to them than just "invoking the tool" but an actual language and such ...

    But how to setup X, networking, etc... shouldn't be 1200 pages and should be part of the installed man pages...

    Tom
    • You still have to know the name of what you want to see its man page. What if you don't remember or never learned ifup--you're not going to just guess it--and man networking will get you nowhere.

      (Plus even when you do have the command and man page you still have to see how it fits into the big picture to know when and why to use it--rev's man page is very accurate and comprehensive, but I've still never understood its purpose other than maybe to make writing hint files go faster.)
      • You still have to know the name of what you want to see its man page. What if you don't remember or never learned ifup--you're not going to just guess it--and man networking will get you nowhere.

        Manual pages are not intended to give the big picture : books and manual pages complement each other. A too detailed book will easily look like a printout of all the manual pages, and not much readable.

        That said, some OS (like *BSD) has better man pages than others.

    • My SuSE system has 300 megabytes of information in over 26000 files '/usr/share/doc', and 34 additional gzipped megabytes in 7000 man pages. Most of what you need is probably already there. What is really lacking is an overall unified index.

      If you go down to the computer section of any bookstore, you'll see that OSS software has no monopoly on big fat books either.

    • I have to agree. I have used RedHat off and on
      since version 4.xx, and the changes made to the
      system from version to version has been maddening.
      (Of course, being grounded in a number of unices,
      I eventually find my footing again).

      RedHat's narrowing of support for a client version
      OS has driven me back to my real linux roots --
      Slackware. Slackware has been updated often,
      but at its core it has been consistent. I look
      back with fondness at what SGI managed to do
      with IRIX 6.5.xx without completely revamping
      the
    • Quoth the poster:
      So many tools I've seen that may have technical merits up the wazoo but no documentation so they're useless.


      **cough**Slashcode**cough**
  • AGHHHHHH! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @05:20PM (#11326258)

    Since I'm in an educational environment, I found the content of Sobell's book to be right on target and very helpful for anyone managing Linux in the enterprise....

    AGGGGHH!!

  • I'm looking into getting a book so that I can learn more about Linux configuration and system administration. Does most of the knowledge in this book applies to distros other than Red Hat?

    I personally prefer Mandrake, but I want to acquire knowledge that applies to more than one distro.
  • Redhat definition : Dependancy Jungle.. Bug Central With no QA.

  • Invariably, they are basically reprints of man pages and newsgroup postings, which leaves the reader sorely missing that $50 from their wallet. I swear that there is no shortage of documentation on-line, so why do publishers keep turning out these dust collectors? Are people so naive they keep buying them?

    Save your money for good books like Solaris Internals or Design Patterns. You'll learn tons more than re-reading the man page for BIND, that's for sure!

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