on November 24, 2002
This is not a college-level text. It includes shallow coverage of topics one would expect in an OS course, but not at a level appropriate of such a course, and then spends a tremendous amount of space on computer literacy issues, like how to use MS-DOS and Unix command lines, etc. I think the authors couldn't decide whether they wanted to write an OS text for non-majors, or a computer literacy text.
In their preface, the authors seem confused about the meanings of the words "applied" and "theoretical," saying this is an applied text, and suggesting that texts for actual OS courses are theoretical. While I will grant them that pretty much any other OS text out there has more theoretical content, this one also has less applicable content than most.
Had the cover and preface made it clear this text was predominantly a computer literacy text, I'd have had no problem with it, nor would it have made its way to my bookshelf. But the title, the text on the back cover, and the preface are all misleading.
on September 22, 2003
While William S. Davis & T.M. Rajkumar aren't going to win a Pulitzer for literature, they should @ the least get a honourable mention for Operating Systems A Systematic View (OSASV). They've guided the book from its inception in 1977 up to this, the 5th ed., in 2001. However, as it's now 2003, using this as a textbook, the book is behind in a few areas of modest concern, but not to a detrimental degree as the base concepts are still germane; & will remain so until radical changes occur in hardware & software design. Despite some neglect on the part of the authors in regard to Open Source, I have no compunctions giving this text a full 5 stars, if anything based upon its merits as a really solid introductory text that's properly geared towards its audience.
Using clear, concise language that is appropriate for a mid-range level student--the jargon level isn't suitable for total newbies, but will likely alienate super-users--Davis & Rajkumar walk readers through the gorier details of Operating Systems (OS) & the hardware where these interfaces run. I say gorier as even savvy end-users may not appreciate the elegant, complicated dance between an OS & its machine.
As I'm very much a kinaesthetic learner, I find textbooks somewhat frustrating; especially poorly worded books are next to useless. However, I can find happy medium w/good illustrations supplementing my tactical inclinations. Of course, when dealing w/machine cycles, I'm not able to manually work a CPU, pick up & tinker w/memory as it holds a program, etc. Ergo, I found the illustrations in OSASV combined w/the language highly informative & descriptive; especially in Part One dealing w/how the hardware actually interprets commands from the OS & vice-versa. Unfortunately, the text doesn't list who worked on these invaluable drawings, but he/she/they deserve a special mention for their incredible work.
I think the degree of schizophrenia brought up by previous reviews is misplaced. Personally, I never noticed any sort of divide regarding technical explanations or a divergence from the pedagogy of the preface. Davis & Rajkumar clearly state,
[...] This is not a theoretical text. It is aimed @ those who are interested in using (rather than designing) computers, operating systems, & networks. The intent is to show why operating systems are needed & what, @ a functional, black box level, they do (p xxix).
OSASV is what it is--a good, basic, classification of major OS & their concepts. The text provides a relevant sampling approach to understand how, & what constitutes the leading OS flavours, & how the OSes interact w/the hardware. It is, so to speak, a catalogue, not a step-by-step methodical explanation of inclusive details--such as a developer or programmer might desire. Rather, OSASV, is devoted more to aid in familiarity w/who, what, when, where, how, & to what extent--Davis & Rajkumar admirably rise to this objective in my opinion.
After a brief overview, Part One of OSASV jumps right into explaining what may seem prosaic to super-users, but is in fact, valuable fundamentals of how the OS controls hardware system resources. Part Two is massively informative in relation to what an OS is doing 'under the hood' so to speak--shell, Input/Output Control System (IOCS), Central Processor Unit (CPU) management, & memory management. @ this point, the reader is ready Part Three & Part Four where the authors employ their systematic view--read cataloguing--of the major OS families. Starting w/MS-DOS & continuing through to IBM Operating Systems /Job Control Language (OS/JCL), Davis & Rajkumar talk the reader through the basics of these major OSes. Finally, in Part Five, the writers follow up w/some rudimentary information relating to networking, briefly go over the aspects of Novell Netware & Windows 2000 Server w/in the networked environments, & close the entire section w/a solid discourse on the Internet--Internet Protocols (IP), Application Protocols, Domain Name System (DNS), & Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP).
For readers worried about the redundancy of MS-DOS, have no fear. Just b/c Microsoft (MS) has a Graphical User Interface (GUI) tightly woven into their kernel, doesn't mean the Command Line Interface (CLI) is irrelevant. If you truly want control over any OS, then you need to understand this most basic, yet no less crucial, part of administration.
The authors thoughtfully include 3 appendices & a well-rounded glossary full of useful terms & plain English definitions. While the appendices seem a little like filler, they do provide some very good information that's handy for getting one's feet wet--though one would likely need an O'Reilly offering in order to *dry* one's wet feet. :-) On the other hand, the glossary is fabulous & has assisted me several times in explaining information in user-friendly terms.
I think the 6th ed. should do more justice to the Open Source movement & alternative OSes in general. While OSASV glosses over Linux, & mentions the BSD flavours, it fully neglects Mac OS. The upcoming release really should contain more in-depth information relating this powerful shift in computing. Mac OS is found in many creative settings, & while only comprising a steady 5% of the market, it's likely to expand as Steve Jobs has added a BSD base--read *nix--to his wunderkind OS. Considering more businesses--not to mention the European Community & an Eastern bloc consisting of Japan, Korea, & China--are rejecting the proprietary software solutions in favour of Open Source, it's far more important delve deeper into these options. Further, the Mainframe OS section will have no choice but include relevant information regarding IBM z/OS--significantly so as IBM has wholly embraced Open Source & Linux for its servers & Mainframes.
All told, the book was, & will remain an excellent knowledge-gap filler for me & I think most burgeoning super-user geeks will find OSASV invaluable despite its blasé nod towards Open Source. To the authors I say bravo & I look forward to more comprehensive 6th edition.