Red Hat Linux 9 Unleashed, by Bill Ball and Hoyt Duff ISBN 0672325888

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, send e-mail
Published by: Sams Publishing, go to the web site
Requires: Any PC, preferably more than one for networking
MSRP: US$49.99

Linux is currently the free UNIX operating system for desktop computers. You only need to pay for a distribution fee (if you purchase a boxed retail version) or for download time over Internet. Or you can buy this book, which comes with a publisher's version of Red Hat Linux 9. The publisher's version is a subset of the full package from Red Hat. However, it still has everything you need to get started and explore Linux. This book is tailored for Red Hat Linux.

Readers who are wondering about the differences between Red Hat Linux and other Linux distribution can find product comparison matrices on the Internet. This book may mention Red Hat 8 occasionally, but the information applies to version 9 as well. The reason for this mixed discussion of versions is that the authors run Red Hat Linux 9 on IBM 390X laptop and Red Hat Linux 8 on a shoebox-sized computer, networked through a wireless connection.

This is a book designed for intermediate to advanced readers, which means it adds more details than a beginner may expect. It also assumes that readers know about the basic UNIX commands such as navigating directory tree and viewing file content. It discusses all kinds of options to install Linux, including options that assume the presence of another Linux machine. On the other hand, this book does provide detailed beginners step-by-step instruction and screen shots for installing Red Hat Linux. This book doesn't discuss upgrading from earlier versions of Red Hat Linux. It assumes that the readers want to do a clean, new installation. The entire chapter 3 "Installing Red Hat Linux" is available free online here.

To derive the greatest benefit from this book, a good approach is to pick up a subject, explore on your own using an installed Red Hat Linux, then come back to the book. In this way, you'll appreciate the detailed information provided.

The organization of this book is very logical. Starting from introduction, preparing to install, installing, post-install configuration, first steps after installation to the X Windows system, Part One provides detailed information about basic Linux environments. Part Two is about system administration, including managing services, software and resources, users, file system, backup, restore and recover. Part Three goes into more detail about system services, including printing, networking, DNS, Internet connection, Apache Web Server, databases, ftp, e-mail and news server & client. Part Four discusses programming and productivity on Linux, including C/C++, shell scripting, Perl, managing kernel and modules, office application suites, multimedia applications and emulators for other operating systems. The reference section includes links for many resources on Internet.

It is obvious that the authors attempted to cover everything a system administrator might need to install and maintain a Red Hat Linux box, with occasional programming or scripting to get jobs done. Most of the information is up-to-date, including the current Perl version. Due to its size however, some omissions are inevitable. For example, the Red Hat Bluecurve is not mentioned at all. Although shell scripting is discussed in its own chapter, the configuration files of shells are not discussed. It's nice to see a whole chapter on C/C++ programming language, but the application of the language(s) is missing. An obvious question is how to compile and replace the existing Linux operating system from source codes?

The authors have included tremendous amounts of detail in each chapter. This is a valuable contribution for people who want to learn and maintain Red Hat Linux systems. For those who want to learn generic Linux, however, there is a concern abotu whether the information in this book can be applied to other Linux distribution. It appears that many commands are specific to the Red Hat distribution and probably do not have counterparts in other Linux systems. Examples include redhat-config-keyboard, redhat-config-mouse, redhat-config-soundcard, redhat-config-nfs, redhat-config-printer-tui, etc.

The authors spent lots of time keeping the content up-to-date. The companion CD comes with Red Hat Linux 9 Publisher's Edition which saves readers the time needed to download it themselves. With so much information as well as the CD, this book is a bargain for any Red Hat Linux learner.

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