Book Reviews

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Linux Books

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Red Hat Linux 9 Unleashed
Title:Red Hat Linux 9 Unleashed
Author(s):Bill Ball and Hoyt Duff
ISBN:0-672-32588-8
Publisher:Sams
Reviewer:Chris Marsh

Weighing in at a rather daunting 912 pages (excluding appendices and index) this book promises "the most comprehensive coverage of the latest version of the most popular Linux distribution in the world". Although aimed at intermediate to advanced users, readers making the transition to Linux from other operating systems will also find value in this book.

If Red Hat is your provider of choice then this book is for you, users of other distributions after a generic guide to Linux should look elsewhere.

Organised into five parts spanning 27 chapters in total and bundled with two cd's, containing the Publishers edition of Red Hat Linux 9, this book seems like the perfect companion for my first venture into open source operating systems and as a desktop companion to the more experienced user.

Okay, so it's not my first time with Linux. I've managed to get through the install a number of times before, subsequently losing whatever impetus I had and leaving the computer to gather dust before later binning it. Now having a book to guide me on my journey, and the need to write a review, I was suddenly out of excuses.

Skipping the introduction (all the usual what, why, who) we move swiftly onto the first (of five) part, installation and configuration. Made up of six chapters (193 pages) we kick off with a brief discussion of the Red Hat distribution, the publisher's edition on the companion CD (for Intel based PC's) and how Linux is increasingly chosen in enterprise, small businesses and for personal desktops.

The book then runs through planning and requirements and preparing your hard drive. As well as links throughout, each chapter finishes with a list of links to online information and resources, though some of the links are now outdated which is to be expected.

Bill and Hoyt then guide us through a generic install (there are many ways of installing Linux depending upon the role you want the system to perform) and post-installation tasks. The section finishes with a look file structure, a hand-hold through your first steps using bash (the shell) and the X Window system.

Anything to do with managing files, users, services, safeguarding data and general administration is covered in the second part of this book. Throughout the book the convention is to start the discussion of a topic with a look at the available command line tools and then the graphical ones. This seems fair as it isn't necessarily a book for beginners. Newbies need not be afraid though, the book still points you in the direction of how to do something, and you can then come back and learn the command-line way when you're ready.

In the third part we move onto more in-depth services management. A collection of 9 chapters covering administration of print, network, domain name services, net connectivity, web, database, FTP, mail and news services. Of particular interest to me were the web and mail services, so I thumbed through the rest of the chapters, which, following the convention (seemingly), covered common tasks for each service, first using the command line and then the graphical interface.

The book covers managing the Apache server, stopping it, starting it, access control, logging and content, then using the graphical interface. Though not an exhaustive guide by any means, it's a good grounding with pointers to further information.

The fourth and last proper section (section five is the appendix) looks at programming, productivity and multimedia applications within Linux. There are brief introductions to C/C++, Perl and shell scripting and how to use them with Linux, again with numerous links to websites and newsgroups to take you further.

All in all, this book is a useful desktop reference for intermediate and advanced users. Beginners will be able to gain some knowledge from it, and then refer back to it as and when they need. Readers will gain a good grounding in installing using and maintaining Red Hat Linux 9, and some pointers to more information.

- Chris Marsh, © December 2004