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Linux Server Hacks: Volume 2

William Von Hagen and Brian J Jones
Published by O'Reilly Media
478 pages
£ 20.99
Published: January 6, 2006
reviewed by Mike Smith
   in the June 2006 issue (pdf), (html)

I don't believe it: I knew I'd reviewed the original Linux Server Hacks book for the newsletter, but didn't realise it was nearly three years ago! How time flies.

As the name suggests, this second volume is not a 2nd edition, but a completely new book. To set the scene, for both the book and this write-up, the authors explain in the preface that they both owned the original work so my expectation is for more interesting and more advanced hacks in this volume. This volume also has nearly twice the number of pages of the volume one.

The book is split, in the usual way, with chapters on various different topics including (but not limited to) authentication, remote access, services, storage, security, troubleshooting, monitoring and recovery.

I've read a few chapters now and, lets get to the point: I don't like this book.

I have a feeling I've said this before in a review -- a hack is something clever; a combination of techniques and tricks to come up with something new. So far I have found this hacks book to be just a set of simple HOWTOs.

Even worse, there are a couple of ``hacks'' that tell you how you should 1) go about getting Linux introduced into your (corporate) environment, and 2) prioritise your work (by writing lists, and stating when you need to get something done, no less). What have these activities got to do with Linux server hacking?

There are even ``hacks'' that talk about setting up remote printers in Windows and OS/X -- in a Linux Server hacks book for heavens sake. I think they've really lost the plot. (Yeah, okay its related to CUPS, but come on.)

Some of the HOWTO-like activities are: installing DHCP (using up2date, apt-get etc); using PAM; configure Kerberos (not possible in the couple of pages given to the task); lock an account by using an asterisk in /etc/shadow (!); stop all logins with: touch /etc/nologin (!!).

Some of the recommendations are: use VNC; setup ntp; use macros in VIM; remove files to free up space (wtf?).

There may be something useful, but if there is I'm not going to find it as I've given up -- it's a disappointing book.

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