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Linux, a Unix-compatible operating system that runs on personal computers and larger servers, is valued above all for its networking strengths. The Linux Network Administrator's Guide spells out all the information needed for joining a network, whether it's a simple UUCP connection or a full LAN with a Linux system serving as a firewall, an NFS or NIS file server, and a mail and news hub.
This book, which is one of the most successful to come from the Linux Documentation Project and remains freely distributable under its license, touches on all the essential networking software included with the operating system, plus some hardware considerations. Fully updated, the book now covers firewalls, including the use of ipchains and iptables (netfilter), masquerading, and accounting. Other new topics include Novell (NCP/IPX) support and INN (news administration). Original material on serial connections, UUCP, routing and DNS, mail and News, SLIP and PPP, NFS, and NIS has been thoroughly updated. Kernel options reflect the 2.2 kernel. However, some topics covered in other books (notably Samba and web server administration) are not in this book.
The long-overdue second edition of O'Reilly's Linux Network Administrator's Guide, by Olaf Kirch and Terry Dawson, still sports the cowboy colophon, suggesting that netadmins have retained their Lone Ranger personas. While life for a sysadmin has improved over the years with the introduction of the ./Configure utility and build-less rpm distributions, network building and maintenance is still a vast prairie, in its complexity growing faster than the availability of tools and documentation to tame it. Linux document libraries are filled with disparate, obsolete, and/or redundant How-Tos for multiple Ethernet cards, bridging, cable modems, DHCP, Samba, ISDN, DSL, and laptop Ethernet card peculiarities.
Sadly, the recycling of the cowboy motif indicates a deeper problem with the second edition. While authors Kirch and Dawson have expanded and updated Kirch's original text, they give scant attention to any of the paradigm shifts that have occurred in Linux networking since 1993. Strangely, the authors have retained much material on core technologies of diminishing importance in the era of small ISP-connected networks. While PPP and Chat are still relevant for ISP connections, such protocols as UUCP, SLIP, dip, and PLIP are largely of historical interest. Discussions of packet routing are not browsable, and there is no practical presentation of the configuration of routing for multiple Ethernet cards, which the small-network Linux market needs. The showstopper is the absence of any discussion of configuring DHCP, DSL, cable modems, or Samba. When the authors blithely indicate in their preface the growing importance of these areas, one gathers that this book was written in 1997 or earlier.
Still, in the nearly 500 pages of earnest effort, Kirch and Dawson expand on such infrastructural basics as TCP/IP, NIS, and DNS. Discussions of firewalls and IP masquerading are genuinely new, and the authors include an up-to-date section featuring firewall implementations in kernels as recent as 2.4. Such tried-and-true utilities as SMTP and Sendmail are covered in detail, although out-of-the-box implementations haven't posed serious problems for years. The five chapters on reading and serving network news are positively excessive.
Perhaps it's time for the cowboy to come back to the ranch to see how the world has changed. --Peter Leopold
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