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Book Review - Apache: The Definitive Guide (3rd Edition)
on November 4, 2003
This is a fairly comprehensive, 600-page guide to the Apache web server software. The book begins with an overview of what a web server and browser clients do, how they work, and planning/installing Apache. The book covers versions 1.3.x and 2.0.x, and the differences between them. After installation, the next few chapters explain the initial configuration required to get a working webserver, including the various directives blocks, access control, and setting up virtual hosts.
Chapter 5 discusses how to implement authentication, passwords, and more on access control, such as using .htaccess files. Following chapters describe how to change settings for various web filetypes, indexing, imagemaps, and redirection of web page requests. Chapters 9 and 10 explain using a proxy, and the multitude of logging and status options which can be configured.
One of the longer (and important) chapters, Chapter 11, goes into excellent detail about the security aspects of running a webserver. It includes discussion and examples on signatures, certificates, using SSL, and firewalls. General security precautions, real life scenarios, and even potential legal issues are addressed.
The next section goes over building and administering a large website, and the issues associated with that. Also there is a chapter on adding web applications to your site to allow flexible user interaction, such as forms submission. There are then several chapters regarding add-ons and extensions to get even more from the webserver. These include PHP, CGI, Perl, mod_perl, XML, and Cocoon. There are numerous examples of coding provided, although most of them are somewhat basic in nature. One subject that I thought should have been addressed more was integrating the webserver with a database (such as MySQL), as this is a very common requirement.
The last two chapters go over the Apache Application Programming Interface (API), and how to write Modules for Apache. This may be useful to more serious developers, but is probably too technical and difficult for the average casual user. The book closes with a good Index and there is also a very handy foldout inside the back cover which contains quick-reference data for the most commonly used configurations and commands.
Overall this book seems to "cover all the bases". It was useful to me as a beginner to set up a testing webserver, and yet has extra details and information for those more advanced webmasters. The quick reference section especially, should be very useful to experienced Apache users. I would highly recommend the book for anyone wanting to start or improve their knowledge in running the Apache webserver.