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How Linux Works: What Every Superuser Should Know Paperback – May 1, 2004
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"If I were to recommend a single user's manual for a Linux desktop, I would pick How Linux Works." -- blogcritics.org, 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." -- OpenSource-Book-Reviews.com http://www.opensource-book-reviews.com/book_reviews/by_publisher/No_Starch_Press/
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 (No Starch Press), and The Linux Problem Solver (No Starch Press).
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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. And, since this edition includes numerous detailed steps for playing along with your own IDE/SDK throughout as well as complete code on the site, it is now dist independent as much as possible. I've tried the code with Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and RHEI so far, and found ZERO problems with only teensy adjustments. That is unusual for a newly released title, but not for No Starch, who have technical editors who actually TRY the code, unlike a lot of publishers out there in this field.
If you're a beginner, there is no better introduction to operating systems than this book, period. Brian takes the time to explain in painstaking detail the INTUITIVE workings of nearly every o/s-- things you must know to go forward in any kind of programming. In my areas of robotics, embedded and security, many new candidates (some with Masters degrees in IT) flunk the interview because of lack of basic "what's really going on?" answers. These talented candidates know how to program, but when asked very basic questions like "What's the kernel doing here?" or "What does object oriented vs. functional or imperative mean at this level of system call?" their eyes glaze over.
This is why, unlike some other reviewers, I strongly advise reading this book for BOTH beginners and advanced programmers. You do not have to have an objective of designing compilers either! Even basic security and hacking, when using tools like IDA Pro, require you to be able to look at the command line and "see" what state the kernel is in, what it is doing and calling, and what certain interrupt/resume sequences really mean regardless of sequential, parallel or virtual memory paradigms. It is not enough to "let the legacy software" (or in the case of sploits, the rootkit) do the work anymore-- even basic scripters are now modifying vm's and rootkits with Python, and the typical sploit, whether pen, hack, forensics or just system admin, involves sophisticated user/kernel interactions by malware that can now not only inject sequences, but also install entire new o/s donuts around your kernel and control the entire o/s!
Finally, this book is radically fun if you have any interest in computers, at any level, including high school AND grad school, as well as seasoned practicing programmers. At over 350 pages and extremely up to date, Ward packs each page with SO much information and detailed knowledge, with deeply intuitive examples, that you can either study every sentence numerous times like a text, looking up details in his many external resources, or just read casually and get a "gist" that is rare as an overview of what's really going on between kernel and user abstraction levels (or in the operational sense, interfaces).
The information in this book is pertinent for both Geek Squad repair folk and MIT PhD malware designers. I guarantee, as an old professor who teaches Kali Linux to hackers and pen testers at both of these levels, and in assembly reverse engineering detail including memory forensics, that there is something delightful for everyone in this new edition... highly recommended.
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!!
I have been a linux user since I was 11. I am now 30. I am studying Computer Engineering, have programmed professionally, and am now in InfoSec. I still derived great value from reading this, and I think anyone else with an interest in getting a little closer to the kernel will too. I bought this book because I have a strong desire to contribute to the linux kernel, and this was my first stop.
Get this book.
People just starting Linux can definitely benefit, but some discussion will likely need more background.
Update December 2015: After having read and re-read the book, I continue to be astounded at the author's ability to include the key topics, and his ability to explain them.
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Went from windows scrub to running arch.
Can't reccommend enough.