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How Linux Works: What Every Superuser Should Know 2nd Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1593275679
ISBN-10: 1593275676
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Brian Ward has been working with Linux since 1993. He is the author of The Linux Kernel-HOWTO, The Book of VMware, and The Linux Problem Solver.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: No Starch Press; 2 edition (November 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593275676
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593275679
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Let's Compare Options Preptorial TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read reviews all over the web of Brian's new edition, and I'm frankly confused. The range of opinions go from "This is very basic, don't bother if you're advanced" to "Don't bother if you're a beginner, way too much detail on the inner workings than you need." 3 bears? Just right for... who? Part of the problem might be the subtitle: "What every superuser should know." In Brian's usual dry sense of humor, this refers to the $ vs. # prompt difference between user and "superuser" (kernel access) at the command prompt. It does NOT mean (goodness no) that you have to be some kind of superuser in the programming sense to understand or greatly enjoy this book.

In one fell swoop Ward does a number of things with the specialized term in unix/linux (superuser is simply what Windows folk would call a sysop or administrator, or hackers would look at with rootkits/kernels as privilege escalation): 1. Letting casual users know they will be using the command line rather than graphic interface 2. Demonstrating the major update from the first edition: this book is a LOT more about the kernel than the first edition, thankfully so!

This is a TOTAL update, so even though I frequently advise going back to a previous edition for unethical publishers and authors that do a cosmetic update and call it a new edition, this is NOT the case here-- Brian has totally reworked the book to bring it up to date with many features Linux was missing (especially in Ubuntu dists) when the first edition was written. This new edition is a MUST, as 10 years has been a lifetime in the Linux world-- frankly the first edition is a paperweight now.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let's face it, if you are mostly a casual computer user doing email and surfing the web, then what operating system you are using is going to matter very little. Linux desktop, MS Windows, Max OS X, and Android are all going to do those tasks pretty much in the same way, and you may not really care about what's under the hood. You can go years using Linux and never see the command line. On the other hand, if you are a technoid as I am, then you are going to be curious about how your operating system works. The net result of this curiosity is gaining an order of magnitude in usability and control over your computer by understanding how it works. I have a number of books about Linux, especially Linux server administration, but none of them make the workings of Linux accessible like this book does. Mr. Ward has put together a wealth of key information about what's going on under the hood and more importantly, how to use it, and done so in easy to understand language.

But let me warn you - this is not a book full of dry, passive pages; this is a lively tutorial! Mr. Ward suggests having a Linux system in front of you and trying the various explorations as you go through the book. I cannot recommend that highly enough. I also recommend having a notebook next to you and taking notes. Above all - do not fear the command line. Mr. Ward's explanations and examples are well done. You have no more excuses for not rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. I think you are going to find that this book becomes the most used of those sitting on your computer bookshelf.

Lastly, thanks, Mr. Ward, for writing this book!!
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In How Linux Works, Brian Ward gives a clear and understandable explanation of what happens under the hood of your Linux machine. He outlines all the major parts from how Linux boots to how disks and hardware is presented to the user.

Ward's explanation of the workings of Linux is clear and remains free of needing to understand any actual programming to follow (although some familiarity may be helpful in the chapters on compiling source code or using development tools). If you need a more advanced explanation with real kernel code and examples of the actual internal data structures, this book will not give it to you. If you need clear explanation that makes it understandable what happens when you issue a command, this book will give it to you. The emphasis remains on understanding the layers of the system and what they do in somewhat broader terms instead of the actual ones and zeros that are manipulated (which really only kernel developers need to understand).

Ward covers a diverse set of topics including how the various boot loaders work, how system processes are loaded when the system first comes online, how users are managed and seen by the kernel, and many others. Many examples of how to configure the kernel both from editing configuration files to using command line tools are given that can alter how many of these things work.

The desktop environment is briefly discussed, but the focus is mainly on the layers directly below this. Some discussion is given on shell scripts and compiling source code, but these issues are probably best learned from texts devoted to them as their coverage here is brief, but welcome for anyone looking for where to go next.

Overall, I would highly recommend this text to anybody wanting to start using Linux.
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