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Apache: The Definitive Guide 3rd Edition Ben Laurie and Peter Laurie
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
588 pages
£ 28.50
Published: Not Known
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the June 2003 issue (pdf), (html)

Please take as read all the usual good stuff about O'Reilly books that I have written so often before: this book has the same production values etc. etc. and I'm sure you don't want to read that all again. So what is there to say? Well not a lot really which is why you are getting all this filler. The name of the book tells it all - this really is the definitive guide to using Apache. It isn't entirely up to date of course as the current version was 1.3.26 when it came out and it is now 1.3.27. Not a big deal. Version 2 has of course gone up a few numbers more, but, as the authors point out, hardly anybody needs or uses version 2 yet.

So what's covered? Everything from building the source to using the APIs to write modules. And, unlike a lot of ``definitive'' guides, it is not just a rehash of the Apache documentation, in most cases there is genuinely useful additional content. This may of course be because the Apache documentation is terrible, but whatever the reason, you get do get some added value here for a change. I went looking for some information about authentication and found what might be the answer (I need to do some experiments naturally) almost at once and I have previously spent ages with the Apache provided documents without finding the slightest clue.

The material on Apache 2 is also pretty good, though it does have a slightly rudimentary feel too it - the authors' hearts are really not in it. They can see the good stuff coming down the line but realise that it isn't worth getting all excited about yet. However, having had a go at setting up a version 2 system I can appreciate the material that is here - the stuff about setting up SSL is extremely useful and reassuring, as the process is entirely different from setting it up for a 1.3 server. (No, I am not still running 2, I went back to 1.3.27, mainly because PHP doesn't play nicely with 2 yet, and I bet that that is how most Apache webmasters feel. When it does, there will be a lot more installations done.)

The only downside of the book is that for most people it is too definitive. There are whole chunks that you will never look at - I for one will never (except under severe duress) look at the chapters on using Perl or Java. There is also no coverage of some of the third party modules that exist, mod_kerberos for example or mod_dav, only a minor quibble though.

You run apache? You need to understand it better? (The chapter on running a big web server is sound.) Get the book. The person who pays your wages can certainly afford it.

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