on June 29, 2003
I can't help myself not to begin this review with a big *thanks* to O'Reilly for choosing Linux to launch this new series.
First thing that crossed my mind after opening this tiny book, was a notion of close resemblance with another O'Reilly book that I read recently, "Unix Power Tools". Book is organized in almost identical way, short articles (anything from a page or two, to several pages) that are presented with a clear writing style, examples and efficient layout. Articles are cross-referenced in such a way that you can easily start reading the book from whatever end you wish.
The hacks that I like the most are those in chapters on Server Basics, Backups, SSH and Information Servers (BIND, Apache, MySQL, OpenSSL). If you're hardcore Linux sysadmin you'll probably appreciate hacks in other chapters too; Networking, Revision Control and Monitoring. For me, the most challenging hacks in this book are the ones that deal with tunneling (IPIP/GRE encapsulation, vtun over SSH), due to complete lack of experience on my side, otherwise I found the book well worth the price and time to read, even if you'll end up with only one or two implemented hacks in your production environment. (If I could only say this more often in my reviews :-).
Keep in mind, this is not the book that'll likely collect the dust on your bookshelf after you'll read it. Mine is always close to the Linux box that I manage (in a good company with already mentioned "Unix Power Tools").
I'm really looking forward to other books from O'Reilly Hacks series, what about 100 hacks on Oracle, MySQL, regular expressions "one liners" (with sed, awk, grep, perl...), Windows NT...
on April 12, 2003
If you have the Hacker attitude and need a methodology to use elegant solutions in a challenging situation and also have important administrative tasks to do, this is the book! Rob Flickenger shares trade secrets in an educational, entertaining way. This practical book is about becoming a Server Hacker in the creative practice of secure system administration.
The author goes through Server Basics and Revision Control. He also discusses the important Backing Up process. Covered subjects are: Networking, Monitoring and Information Servers. Preventing runaway processes, automating logout of idle users, blocking DoS attacks with iptables are also described.
Basic documentation online helps, but there's a lot beyond basics we need to know. This authoritative text comes from someone with hands-on, real-world experience. This kind of know-how is what was captured in this manual. Hacks are sub-tle, many are less obvious, yet all demonstrate the power and flexibility of the GNU/Linux system. The book helps one manage Web installations running Apache, MySQL, and other Open Source tools. Written for users who understand the ba-sics of networking, security and Linux, this valuable book is built upon the expertise of an author who knows what he does. A competent sysadmin appreciates how much a Linux server is a system capable of high performance while routing smoothly large amounts of data through a network connection. Setting up and maintaining a Linux server implies under-standing hardware, the ins and outs of the Linux OS kernel along with its supporting utilities and its layers of applications software. This becomes easier from admins with hands-on, real-world experience like Rob Flickenger. Linux Server Hacks solves practical daily problems for the Linux sysadmin. Every hack is read in minutes and this saves hours of searching for the correct solution. O'Reilly's Hacks Series reclaims the term "hacking" for the [good], white hat, geeks. Hackers use and apply ingenuity to solve interesting problems (ESR).
In short, this book is a must. Reading and absorbing it is only part of the equation. Back to your console to practice effi-cient CLI!
User expertise and competence this reading will stimulate: Advanced Unix intelligence. This textbook will optimize pulling a powerful performance out of your Linux box.
on March 14, 2003
Those who love UNIX (and UNIX-inspired operating systems) will surely
adore Linux Server Hacks by Rob Flickenger. For decades, a mysterious
sect of bearded wizards has dominated the inner sanctums of our
network infrastructures, inspiring the awe of onlookers by crafting
clever scripts and piping output in ingenious ways most of us never
even thought of. This small but marvelous book attempts to steer
apprentice wizards in the noble direction of clever system
administration, with examples taken from experience in O'Reilly's own
The book begins with a refreshing introduction (by esr) detailing what
it means to be a hacker. No, not the hax0ring w4r3z d00dz of frequent
media attention, but the aforementioned bearded variety who spend most
of their waking effort forging uncommon techniques for solving
otherwise dull problems. Kudos to Mr. Flickenger (and O'Reilly) for
not only acknowledging the difference, but celebrating it.
As the title would indicate, the audience of this book is the
administrator in charge of a server--that is, a Linux box performing
only a couple of dedicated tasks, probably of a network-oriented
nature. Although Linux enthusiasts from the desktop realm are not part
of the intended audience, they will almost certainly pick up a thing
or two from the material anyway.
The book is organized into the following sections:
* Sever Basics is a variety of general purpose tips that don't fit
into the other major categories. Some of the more interesting
+ Persistent daemons with init
+ Building complex command lines
+ Using xargs with tricky arguments
+ Effectively using sudo
+ Makefiles for automating administrative tasks
I think the real magic of this chapter isn't necessarily the tips
themselves, but the creative process behind them; the author is
demonstrating a methodology for dealing with common problems by
introducing clever solutions. This will ideally inspire the reader
to deal with other problems in the same creative manner.
* Revision Control. Servers with multiple administrators may benefit
from using a revision control system to handle changes to
configuration files. This section illustrates using RCS, with
examples of checking config files in and out of the system. This
provides a segway into using CVS for controlling revision of large
* Backups becoming a nuisance? Approach them from a new angle by
implementing some of the tips from this chapter. Examples
including automated incremental backups over tar, rsync, and ssh;
archiving with pax; and even some very creative (if not a little
scary) ideas like piping your backups over ssh directly into
cdrecord. The UNIX philosophy is illustrated well: simple tools
working well together as an efficient solution.
* The Networking chapter covers material that is no doubt already
familiar to security-conscious Linux users. However, iptables
newbies (or those transitioning from ipf or pf) will appreciate
the netfilter primer and discussion of masquerading (NAT) and TCP
port forwarding. Some tunneling and encapsulation techniques are
also detailed here.
* Monitoring details the use of syslog, and a great deal more.
Networking aspects are given ample attention, without any
redundant information in respect to the previous chapter. Some
simple tips are given (like using lsof to track down elusive
processes) as well as more advanced ideas (like a short shell
script to perform an IP fail-over.)
* SSH tips: are you still tapping out a password every time you hop
to a new machine? If you administrate more than a few, this can be
distracting and tedious. This chapter illustrates some of the
inner beauty beneath SSH's surface functionality.
* Scripting details a handful of ways to make your command-line life
a bit easier.
* Information Servers (like BIND, MySQL, and Apache servers) are the
topic of the final chapter, with an emphasis on commercial web
administration. Certificates, load distribution, and flexible
Apache configurations are just a few examples of the items
covered. Although administrators of mid-to-high-traffic servers
are given special attention, those of you who run a humble Apache
box from the broom-closet will find plenty of useful information
For someone already familiar with the basics, Linux Server Hacks is a
fun way to spend an afternoon tinkering with Linux machines. Truly
expert administrators may find very little new information in this
book, but the sheer number of tips (and breadth of topics) would make
it difficult not to learn at least a couple of shortcuts... and that
makes it a worthwhile read for anybody.
I'm eagerly looking forward to more titles from the Hack series. This
title is available online from O'Reilly and Safari.
 No, I don't work for O'Reilly. I do think their books are
excellent, however, and would love to see their Safari service thrive!
on February 19, 2003
O'Reilly books have a tradition of great technical coverage and easy to read style. This book is no exception.
I love the "hack" series. Just what I need - an adrenalin filled 10 minute tip that will almost always teach/remind me of a better way to do things. A novice will be able to follow the tips due to thorough explanations. The more experienced user will be familiar with many of the topics and recipes, but it still makes a great refresh.
It is jam packed with every kind of tip an administrator or power user might be interested in. Most will also apply to other *nix's - or will at least point you in the right direction.
I gave it the full 5 stars because of its size - you could condense other books 3 times bigger and not get as much in the end.
Sections are compartmentalized and cross referenced. You get exactly what you need and no fluff... WONDERFULL
Definitely a great library addition.
on July 3, 2003
This is a good book for Linux enthusiasts, and a great book for sys admins. The book covers a wide range of material, and while I'm likely to only use a fraction of the tips in the book, it is a good resource for ideas. The book covers most functions that a server is required to perform, in addition to monitoring the server itself.
The hacks are organized into sections based on the function they are related to, i.e., basics, networking, SSH, etc. The hacks in any given section vary widely, so it is nice to have a general idea where information about particular aspects can be found.
The author clearly has a good grasp of the material, and does a good job in communicating the information. This is not a book for beginners, and those who are fairly new should get more experience with Linux before attempting to read this.
on February 21, 2003
Being a one-time "Sys Admin," I can appreciate the drudgery of numerous system tasks. This book offers a number of tricks (or "hacks) to make some of these tasks a little less dreary. There are several sections (Server Basics, Revision Control, Backups, and Networking to name a few), along with lots of these tricks. Since I'm a mp3 fan, I especially liked the ones about CDR's and burning a CD without creating an ISO file!
This book is a collection of various hacks that probably would take you forever to find (and what sys admin has any time anyway?) if they weren't in this book. There's probably many more out there that are undocumented, but these 100 were the ones the authors considered the best ones.
This book is the first in a series of "Hacks" books by O'Reilly and I'm looking forward to the subsequent ones.
on October 6, 2003
This well written guidebook covers a hundred real-life time saving scripts and command-line magic.
Everything your local *nix guru knows that you don't; narrow the gap!
Highlights include CVS commands, creating unchangeable files (even by root!), filtering
and organizing apache log files (for example, listing the top 20 broken links, sorted
and numbered by frequency of occurrence), modifying the titlebar to display load average,
host, current directory, etc., ntop and httptop and much more.
I've been using *nix for 6 years now, and I found this book both a refreshing review of
previously known concepts as well as a great introduction to some new utilities and tools.
on May 9, 2003
This is a great book for anyone who uses Linux. Many of the tips are simple and straight forward. Anyone who has a specific need would probably come up with the same idea by doing a little research on the web. But most of the tips are head-slapping, "Wow, I shoulda thought of that!" kind of tips! Rob Flickenger not only shows some really cool tips, but is a great example of how linux commands should be used: by combining them into features that the original coders hadn't even thought of! The sections on server performance and backups were especially helpful for me. I'm guessing that this 100 tips is only the tip of the iceberg and I would really like to see more.
on February 6, 2003
This is a wonderful little book. It's as if Flickenger carefully picked thru onLAMP, LDP, 5 years' worth of Linux Journals, Linux mags, etc., and chose the 100 best hacks/idioms/recipes/whatever to make the linux admin's life easier (almost everything is relevant to FreeBSD too).
These are the most powerful, efficient, and time-saving, not the most clever hacks. I've only had it a week but already i'm doing things different w/CVS, apache, SSH, etc. Also learned a little bit of bash shell and perl. I keep this book within reach, next to A.Frisch, Nemeth/Snyder/Hein's books, Complete FreeBSD and FreeBSD handbook.
on September 23, 2003
This book is less about Linux internals and more about certain tools that are "commonly" associated with Linux. The tips I liked most were about using ssh keys to avoid typing-in the password. Interestingly, this tip saved me a lot of trouble on a Windows machine. Here is how: I use WinCVS and CygWin's ssh to connect to a CVS Server. Without the proper setup, ssh prompted me to enter password for every CVS operation. But with setting up the keys as explained in this book, I can work with WinCVS without being interrupted every minute.