Top positive review
21 people found this helpful
I was hooked by hack 10
on July 9, 2004
"BSD Hacks" is the book I hoped to read. I've been using FreeBSD in production and test environments for about four years (since 4.1 REL), and I've played with OpenBSD and NetBSD for about a year each. I was looking for a book that would explore the nooks and crannies of BSD without covering the introductory issues often found elsewhere. By hack 10 I had already learned enough to justify purchasing "BSD Hacks." Unless you're a member of the core team, you'll find enough tricks and tips to make "BSD Hacks" a welcome addition to your system administration library.
In the first chapter on customizing the user environment, I learned multiple ways to make using BSD easier. Simple hints proved especially helpful, like ctrl-a and ctrl-e for moving around on the command line, or 'cd -' for changing to the last directory, or 'set autolist' to bring tab completion with lists to the tcsh shell. I wondered how I managed to navigate the command line without this keystroke-saving advice.
Author Dru Lavigne demonstrated a wonderful talent for finding useful tools in the BSD ports tree. Applications like Unison, Ghost for UNIX, and ClusterIT are all waiting to be used, and "BSD Hacks" brings them to life in an easy-to-read manner. There's also plenty of sound administration recommendations, like creating an emergency repair kit, automating installs, and creating scponly-based shells. I like the tuning suggestions in hack 69 and would have liked more information on that subject. These sorts of hacks leverage existing capabilities in the OS to enhance the administrator's ability to meet user needs. I would probably have not considered them (even with the BSD's thorough man pages) without reading "BSD Hacks."
My only concern with the book involves coverage of material best done elsewhere. For example, hack 46 covers Tcpdump. Since this is not a networking book, I didn't think Tcpdump needed its own section. The author also needed to clarify the octet counting section for the TCP header. By the time the TCP flags are reached in octet 13, we've already moved through 13 octets (numbered 0 to 12), not 12 as implied by the book. Hack 59 addresses Snort, perhaps the most well-worn topic in network security. With a half dozen books on Snort alone and another half dozen with chapters on the open source IDS, I didn't need to read more instructions on installing it.
Overall, I was very happy to read "BSD Hacks." It's an absolute must-buy, with its informational content easily justifying its low cover price. I recommend readers submit hacks of their own to O'Reilly for future editions. For example, hack 81 could have mentioned using "make package-recursive" to create packages of a port and its dependencies. Hack 80 should probably have used the "RELENG_5_1" tag to track the security release of FreeBSD 5.1, not "RELENG_5_1_0", which would make no changes whatsoever to a system already running 5.1 REL. Hack 82 could have mentioned the portcheckout tool to build a port without access to the whole tree. Books like "BSD Hacks" are an excellent way to demonstrate the power and elegance of BSD, and expand its influence to those looking for alternatives to Windows and Linux.