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Keywords: Linux, system administration, trouble-shooting
Title: Linux Quick Fix Notebook
Author: Peter Harrison
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
Verdict: Highly recommended
On the whole here at TechBookReport we're wary of books that promise instant wisdom. Generally those books that promise to make you a guru in 30 seconds fail to deliver. So we have to admit that we didn't have high hopes for 'Linux Quick Fix Notebook'; the title is uninspiring and makes it sound like another book promising expertise without effort. But this is far from the truth and, contrary to what we expected, this is a book that can easily be recommended.
Aimed at the experienced user or IT professional, this is a book that provides a series of practical tutorials around common activities that require fixing or trouble shooting. While there's some exploration of underlying principles, the main emphasis is on getting things done. It's certainly not a book that is designed to 'teach Linux', and things like basic installation, configuring desktops, using open source office applications etc are not covered. In other words this isn't a book for someone moving to Linux for the first time. Instead this is the sort of book that would appeal to a power user, would-be administrator or developer who already has some knowledge and experience of Linux.
Furthermore the book is geared around command-line use. This neatly avoids differences between desktops (KDE vs GNOME, for example), and provides a fairly generic set of tools. The book is also fairly agnostic as to which distribution to use, though Red Hat/Fedora are the reference distributions that are mentioned most often. However, users of Debian based systems should find the book just as useful as those using RPM-based distributions.
The book is organised into three sections: Linux file server project, Linux web site project and advanced topics. Don't be put off by the 'project' headings for the first two sections of the book. The projects provide a convenient structure to cover core Linux skills in networking, file sharing using SAMBA, mail serving, FTP, controlling the boot process, security (including firewalls using iptables), wireless networking and so on.
The structure of the book is such that the topics become progressively more advanced as your work through the book. Not that it's necessary to read this one cover to cover from start through to finish. The topics are sign-posted and it's an easy process to navigate to the topic you're looking for. It makes for a great resource to have around for day to day use.
While the writing style is fairly terse, it's also very clear, easy to follow and provides sound explanations of what is going on. There are no magic incantations without explanations of what's being done and why. Troubleshooting and an emphasis on using the right tools to diagnose and correct problems is also a clear feature in all sections of the book.
The Linux book market remains a crowded one, and anyone looking for a practical book on solving problems is likely to have plenty of potential titles to choose from. However, this is a book that deserves to be high on the list, and it gets a very definite TechBookReport seal of approval.