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Linux Networking Cookbook

Carla Schroder
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN: 978-0-596-10248-7
638 pages
£ 27.99
Published: 14th December 2007
reviewed by Paul Waring
   in the March 2008 issue (pdf), (html)

Ninety percent of the time, the systems I run have no networking problems, receive most of their configuration by DHCP and Just Work. However, things can and do go wrong now and then, and it's at those times when I desperately need to know why my routing tables are broken or my ethernet interface won't come up that I look around for a concise explanation of how to fix the problem. Linux Networking Cookbook claims to cover “everything you need to know to excel as a Linux network administrator”, which sounds just what I'm looking for.

The book is split into logical chapters, each of which covers a specific topic such as remote administration using ssh or setting up a Linux wireless router. In addition, the chapters themselves are also carefully constructed so that each solution follows on from the next. For example, the VoIP chapter begins with installing Asterisk from source or binaries, and the future solutions build upon this in a step by step way, finishing with more complex tasks such as connecting users on the move to the server. As a result of this structure, the reader can choose to either read the chapter from start to finish, picking up useful tips on the way, or jump straight to the solution for their particular problem if they've already got a working setup.

The chapter which I personally found to be most useful covers how to build virtual private networks with OpenVPN. Although one or two of the recipes are somewhat tenuous (e.g. configuring OpenVPN to start at boot, which is a fairly trivial task and also highly distribution-dependent), there is enough information to get you from a basic installation to having clients connect and authenticate using keys and certificates. Alas, I had already spent a significant amount of time wrestling with Google and the documentation by the time I got round to reading this book, but I cannot fault the authors for this situation!

One criticism which I will sometimes level at cookbooks is that most of the solutions within them can be found with a quick search on Google, and in many ways this is true for Linux Networking Cookbook. However, when your network card is down — particularly if it's the one in your router and/or firewall — and you need to find the right command to diagnose and fix the problem, I can see this book being a godsend.

The only minor niggle which I have with this book is that I was able to spot a few mistakes or omissions as I flicked through the recipes. Some of these were in places where I felt that a recipe had been hastily inserted in order to make up a chapter, without being properly worked out. A few other recipes seemed somewhat redundant, for example over half a page is devoted to installing a Windows program which boils down to downloading a setup file and installing it just like any other application. However, despite these defects, this is the kind of book which I expect to remain on my desk rather than my bookcase. With a bit of judicious editing and the removal of some redundant recipes, this could be a must-buy for every Linux sysadmin. Until then, it still scores a worthy 8/10.

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