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Linux Cookbook Carla Schroder
Published by O'Reilly Media
592 pages
£ 31.95
Published: 3rd December 2004
reviewed by Roger Whittaker
   in the June 2005 issue (pdf), (html)

In keeping with its ``cookbook'' title, this book doesn't try or pretend to be a comprehensive Linux textbook, but offers a large number of solutions to problems (recipes if you like) grouped around various themes, each theme constituting a chapter. By doing so, in a way it gets more material covered in a useful way than many of the ``textbook'' style books out there.

I like this format, because you can pick up the book and usefully dip into it randomly. If you're looking for specific information, you can also use it as reference book, subject to the warning that it is not comprehensive.

The tasks covered are a mixture both in terms of difficulty and context: for instance, there are sections on package management (both for RPM-based and Debian systems) user management and Linux text editors (vi and joe) which are intended mainly as introductions to these topics for the new user. At the same time there are (among many others) chapters covering setting up NTP, CVS, postfix, Apache and DNS servers.

The emphasis is on the fundamentals of Linux and setting up server systems: this is not one of those books filled with desktop screenshots, and although much of its content will be useful to desktop users, it is not about running end-user applications on the desktop.

Although none of the chapters offers complete coverage of its topic, in most cases the typical tasks that you might want to carry out are covered, and the chapter gives you more than enough to get started with. For a person wanting to learn about a particular topic, the process of ``getting started'' is often the biggest hurdle. This book helps with getting over those hurdles.

The information is presented in a clear and readable way, and is far more palatable than most of the documentation that comes with the programs under discussion.

At 592 pages in 24 chapters, with four appendices, this is quite a big book, and it is well produced in the usual O'Reilly style. I found one or two tiny and insignificant errors, but the only one I'll mention here is the amusing typo ``Unbuntu'' in the preface.

The book could be useful to anyone, but I think it succeeds particularly well in its stated aim of trying to help someone with an intermediate level of knowledge to take things further. The preface describes the book as ``light on theory and heavy on how-to-make-this-go'', which is a good description, and, in my view, quite a good aim. Once you know how to make things go, you can more easily assimilate the theory from other sources.

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