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How Linux Works: What Every Superuser Should Know Paperback – May 14, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"If I were to recommend a single user's manual for a Linux desktop, I would pick How Linux Works." --, August 2004

"does a great job of taking the reader through the more advanced parts of Linux ... a very informative read" -- SA Computer Magazine, September 2004

"the book covers all the basics, starting with the shell and ending with a great chapter about buying hardware." -- eWeek, June 2004

5 stars, "One of the best basic books on learning Linux, written with the power user in mind." --

About the Author

Brian Ward has been working with Linux since 1993, when he scraped together enough pennies for a secondhand 386. He has a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Chicago, and currently works in San Francisco as a consultant and instructor. He is author of the Linux Kernel-HOWTO, The Book of VMware and The Linux Problem Solver.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: No Starch Press; 1 edition (May 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593270356
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593270353
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best basic books on learning Linux and is written with the power user in mind. It takes a different approach to learning Linux than most other books. Other books typically focus on a section of Linux and go over it in detail. For example, it may cover the file system from selecting an appropriate one to how to mount disks, security, directories, links, and similar information until it has presented all the information on the file system. Instead this one divides the learning task up into basic stuff you need to know, intermediate knowledge, and more advanced levels. This is actually more consistent with the knowledge expected in the real world. While I would expect even a basic administrator to understand how to mount and unmount a drive I would not necessarily expect them to know how to interpret and change an fstab configuration file. To go over the whole file system from beginning to advanced levels leaving the student unknowledgeable in other basic tasks doesn't make as much senses. I would rather hire someone who knows the basics of the system including adding users and other administration than one who knows everything about one area. So, I really like the way it teaches basic knowledge in all areas, then intermediate knowledge in all areas, then advanced.
The focus is on the user or the person who has been assigned to administer an existing Linux system. If you need to add a peripheral device, setup or change printing, mount a CD for access by Windows based machines, or pretty much anything else that an administrator of a Linux file server needs to know its covered. There are better books for other type of servers like setting up a web server, MySQL, or other items.
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76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Lawrence VINE VOICE on June 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a good techie overview of Linux. This is not the book you hand to Grandma (unless Grandma is a system admin), but it is a very well done Linux guide/introduction.
The first couple of chapters are old hat to any Unix user, being just basic overviews of how Unix in gneral works, but Brian quickly gets into the real meat of Linux with chapter 3 "How Linux Boots" and goes on from there with coverage of networking, printing and everything else you'd expect. If that were all there was, I'd be impressed and would recommend this book, but there is more. There are two excellent chapters on programming tools and compiling source code. These include troubleshooting compilation problems, an often ignored aspect of our Open Source world. A third related chapter covers kernel compilation specifically and again goes beyond the usual treatment.
Throughout the book, Brian gives useful hints and suggestions. He has obviously used and administered real Linux systems and has good experience and advice to share.
I like Brian's writing style and the definite techie orientation. If you are a tech person investigating Linux, this is a good book to read.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is about the inner workings of Linux. Whether you are a novice (suits perfectly), programmer, Sys Admin, home user or a researcher - if you are one of a kind who is always curious about the inner workings of the things, then this book is for you. Me being a programmer, I was drawn towards it as to better my understanding of Linux which I learned basically by reading online tutorials. The book is divided in three parts. 1. Part 1: Explains the basic layout & workings of Linux. 2. Part 2: Explains the programming tools available in Linux. 3. Part 3: Explains specialized information, such as Kernel, printing etc.

Part 1: The basics are covered in pretty much detailed. Even though I found that at some places I could use a man or info command to get a more detailed information about certain command, I can understand that this book has no intention of doing it. But for the reference, the author explores all the basic commands of Linux and gives a brief intro about them. The book explains a in a lot simple way of why and how of Linux file systems. I have always had some confusion about them. But this book clearly explained them for me. Along the path of explaining of basics of Linux, we venture into Linux boot loaders -- LILO & GRUB. The book also has some excellent writeup on Networking in Linux. I couldn't verify the ppp part of it, but the parts on Ethernet, iptables & NAT are dealt well. What more, you also get a stern warning about how to manage your wireless network security.

Part 2: The second part starts with a priemer on Shell scripting. I would suggest any other Oreilly's book on Shell scripting for this. But again, looking at the target audience of the book -- not everything in shell scripting can be taught in such a small book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Krumbach on October 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I didn't know about this book until it showed up on my doorstep courtesy of the great folks at the O'Reilly LUG program. But I was interested in it from the moment I opened the box.

It's a basic guide to general Linux. It's new, fun and the author does a nice job of covering the basics. He doesn't dwell on any one distro, but covers all sorts of commands, issues, and questions that a lot of people who are switching to linux might have. He goes over basics of Networking, Printing, and touches upon more advanced options in linux. I was especially pleased with the referencing he did, if you want to know more about a subject he recommends a book to check out! Very nice.

I sat down on a Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday night I had read my way through it. Even as an experienced Linux user I was interested and picked up a few tidbits from this book that I didn't know about. Although it's aimed at the new user, it was fun and interesting for me to read.

I'd definately recommend this book to people wanting to get into the Linux world.
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