Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

CentOS System Administration Essentials

CentOS System Administration Essentials

CentOS System Administration Essentials


The description of this book is “Become an efficient CentOS administrator by acquiring real-world knowledge of system setup and configuration” and the author, Andrew Mallett, has put together quite a collection of information in there to help you do just that.

Probably worth mentioning here is that this book is obviously designed for someone not only familiar with Linux in general, but also comfortable eough with CentOS to dispatch with the usual obligatory chapters dealing with installation, etc.. Yes, this information is surely aimed for someone who is. or has designs for being a Systems Administrator. As it happens, I am “one of those guys” so I’ll give you my thoughts on how well he did.

One of the interesting things about Linux is there are so many ways to do things and so many areas of focus. This means that this area of information that a system Administrator should know is pretty expansive and what *I* think a System Administrator should be an expert in is not necessarily what someone else may think. Well, up to a point. There are some real basics in there as well. One of those is using vi or vim and noodling around on the command line, and this is right where Mallett heads for in the beginning of the book and rightly so.

After running through some great tips you start to dive into some deep subject matter on Grub, filesystems, processes (all really important stuff). Yum (package management) and managing users are also important standards that are covered well, and then you start diverging a bit from what I would consider “must know” information into, really, the more interesting stuff of the book. You walk through LDAP auth, Nginx web servers and puppet configuration management. While those may not be essentials for your systems, it sure is nice to at least have a basic understanding, and the information here on them can get you up and running. And then lastly we go back into the last topic, security, which is also a “must know”.

I quite liked this book, especially the portion on Nginx, which I had not played with before. It was good information, easy to read and use and the examples worked. I also noted that much unlike some other similar books I have reviewed, this book is not so voluminous as to make it impractical to read through in an afternoon or so and you can do so and come away immediately with some practical and usable information. Again, the book “CentOS System Administration Essentials” by Andrew Mallett, is available from Packt Publishing for under $25 and is well worth it for all you budding (and maybe not so budding) System Administrators out there.

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Mastering Proxmox by Wasim Ahmed / Packt Publishing

Mastering Proxmox

Mastering Proxmox

Where do I even begin here.. Well, at the beginning. This book is really aimed at people who are both somewhat familiar with Linux and, at least conceptually with virtualization. In a nutshell, this book will take you through a soup-to-nuts clustered Proxmox install.

For a 300 page book, there is a pretty good amount of information to cover here and you start right out with an overview of then menu system – what to find on what tab and that sort of thing. This is followed very closely by actually setting up a basic cluster, the part of the first chapter that I spent the most time in. Once you have worked your way through that far, you are really already successfully running your own cluster and the rest of the book is your reference materials and in depth learning. You go through a lot of information on configuration files and shared storage solutions (which you really need for a clustered installation), networking, advanced configs for your virtual machines, high availability, troubleshooting issues, etc..

What I liked? Well, I think the book is layed out well, except for maybe placing the menu section before the install section of the first chapter. The book follows a sensical path throughout. The examples are great and clear as well as the diagrams. The book is not at all hard or too technical to follow for the subject matter. The troubleshooting section was a big help for me and I think a boon for the book. I really liked it and ended up with a working cluster at the end (actually somewhere in the middle).

Definitely another keeper. Mastering Proxmox is something you really should look into if you are at all interested in doing any computer virtualization. There is plenty in there to learn and for around $20 I don’t think you can beat the price!

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Review: Penetration Testing with the Bash shell by Keith Makan – Packt Pub.

Penetration Testing with the Bash shell

I’ll have to say that, for some reason, I thought this book was going to be some kind of guide to using only bash itself to do penetration testing. It’s not that at all. It’s really more like doing penetration testing FROM the bash shell, or command line of you like.

Your first 2 chapters take you through a solid amount of background bash shell information. You cover topics like directory manipulation, grep, find, understanding some regular expressions, all the sorts of things you will appreciate knowing if you are going to be spending some time at the command line, or at least a good topical smattering. There is also some time spent on customization of your environment, like prompts and colorization and that sort of thing. I am not sure it’s really terribly relevant to the book topic, but still, as I mentioned before if you are going to be spending time at the command line, this is stuff that’s nice to know. I’ll admit that I got a little charge out of it because my foray into the command line was long ago on an amber phosphorous serial terminal. We’ve come a long way, Baby πŸ™‚

The remainder of the book deals with some command line utilities and how to use them in penetration testing. At this point I really need to mention that you should be using Kali Linux or BackTrack Linux because some of the utilities they reference are not immediately available as packages in other distributions. If you are into this topic, then you probably already know that, but I just happened to be reviewing this book while using a Mint system while away from my test machine and could not immediately find a package for dnsmap.

The book gets topically heavier as you go through, which is a good thing IMHO, and by the time you are nearing the end you have covered standard bash arsenal commands like dig and nmap. You have spent some significant time with metasploit and you end up with the really technical subjects of disassembly (reverse engineering code) and debugging. Once you are through that you dive right into network monitoring, attacks and spoofs. I think the networking info should have come before the code hacking but I can also see their logic in this roadmap as well. Either way, the information is solid and sensical, it’s well written and the examples work. You are also given plenty of topical reference information should you care to continue your research, and this is something I think people will really appreciate.

To sum it up, I like the book. Again, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, but it surely will prove to be a valuable reference, especially combined with some of Packt’s other fine books like those on BackTrack. Buy your copy today!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Linux System Administration LiveLessons By Ben Whaley (Pearson)

http://www.informit.com/store/linux-system-administration-livelessons-video-training-9780133551310

Wow, where do I even start. This is a LOT of material and really, my first review of a lengthy video (series). The series consists of 9 downloadable .mov files which total up to approximately 1.3Gb of space and around 350 minutes of video, or about 5.5 hours according to my video players calculations.

The first noticeable bonus from a video series as opposed to a book, is, well, video. You get to watch commands and examples in real time along with the information. Of course, the inverse is also true and if you are looking for quick reference or brevity then a book is really the way to go. Somehow, however, it almost seems as though I tend to get less distracted from the content with video than with a book. That can indeed be a bonus!

There are 9 video sections or selections in this series and the are as follows: Where to start, The Shell, Booting and Shutting Down, Access Controls and Root Powers, Controlling Processes, The File System, Log Files, TCP/IP Networking and finally, Security. This really is an exceptionally wide range of information to cover, I think, and that brings me to my review.

This videos series says it is aimed at Linux beginners, Administrators familiar with other OSes and Anyone interested in learning about Linux. All in all, I think that covers exactly everybody, everywhere. If you combine that with the enormous amount of information that wants to be covered in the subject material it just makes the objective impossible. I found the information good in some areas, too advanced for general and new users in others and completely missing in places as well. Even topically it seems a bit disjointed to me, for instance talking about how to “start out” without ever stepping through an actual Linux install, just use some pre built virtual machine copy. You hear a lot about running Linux via Vagrant and Virtualbox but as an actual System Administrator, I can assure you, that is not how most people run it. I realize we are talking nuts and bolts OS stuff here but I also found the content a bit dry. Some user or admin stories would have helped a great deal in that area. I would think finding a way to keep the interest of your audience would be even more paramount when dealing with dry technical content.

Now, does this mean it was all bad? Not at all and don’t walk away from this review with that impression. There is some genuinely good information buried in there for most Administrator levels, just realize that if something sounds too advanced or technical for you, skip to the next video chapter, much like you would in a book. Ben seems to not only know what he’s talking about but I don’t think I noticed him saying “er” or “ah” or “um” in nearly 6 hours of video πŸ™‚ Usable as it is, the perfect fix for this would be to split the info up into 2 *much* shorter general videos. Aim one of them at the total beginner and aim the other at advandced. You may even want to break off some of the heavier topics for their own videos where they can get more specialized attention. Networking would be a great candidate for that.

I love Pearson to death as they have some of the best techie content out there, but this one needs some work I think.

Monday, June 9th, 2014

HTML 5 Unleashed

HTML 5 Unleashed

HTML 5 Unleashed

This has been a hard review on me in a lot of ways. The first being I found it very difficult recently just to get the time to put into this, and secondly, and more importantly, I just plain suck at Javascript πŸ™‚

This is not the first book on HTML 5 I have reviewed for Pearson, I reviewed the HTML5 Developer’s Cookbook previously, and I hope to be able to review more, because I am just not very savvy with this yet. Thankfully, this really has nothing to do with the book itself though. The book is layed out very well, like all the rest of their “Unleashed” series and I particularly appreciate their orange chapter tabs on the sides of the pages. This helped me a lot as I was flipping back and fourth trying to figure out what I was messing up this time.

The author, Simon Sarris, does a really great job of laying the book out in a sensical manner by first explaining the new stuff in HTML 5 and conceptualizing things a bit before moving into the easy things like working with the new layout and tags on to adding new audio and video goodies and then, where they leave me in the dust, working with canvasing, geolocation and other more advanced APIs.

This book gives really good examples and color illustrations and exercises to follow along with. Just exactly what I need in my HTML 5 learning quest, without being overly wordy, long and over complicated, or too technical. I found it helpful and, with some further practice, I can make better use of it than I do now. For a paltry $45 (retail) you’ll certainly get your monies worth.

And since I mentioned practicing this, it bears mentioning that Pearsons InformIT has just released a flagship new product called a “Learning Kit” which is “a self-paced electronic course that integrates text, graphics, video screencasts, and interactive quizzes into one complete tutorial.” Delivered in zip format it’ll run in any HTML 5 compatible web browser. And to top that off, they are letting me play with the one that goes with this subject, “Sams Teach Yourself HTML5 Mobile Application Development in 24 Hours (Learning Kit)“, which is freaking awesome, because I surely need it.

This stuff is the distance learning wave of the suture my friends and my only hope is they keep remembering me when they need a review πŸ™‚ Thanks again, Pearson!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment 3/ed

Good gracious this is a big book! What’s funny is I KNOW I have read and reviewed a previous edition of this book and I spent a half an hour looking for it this morning, but it must have been before I moved and on my old Blog. That being the case, well it’s high time you heard about this monster!

This book, Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, by Stevens and Rago, is the 3rd edition of what is, essentially, the Unix Programming Bible. In fact, so much so that I cannot imagine any serious Unix/Linux/**ux contributor that doesn’t own a copy or at least know what it is.

This is *not* light reading. It is a reference book. This is the stuff geek dreams are coded in and you are going to want to be familiar with the C language to get a lot of this.

All the internal workings and ideas about this kind of operating system, how it works, or is supposed to work and code examples are included here. The least technical chapter in here is the 1st, which is the overview chapter. This goes over things like input/output, files/directories, processes, error handling, and system calls. From there, the chapters narrow in more on specific subjects like Process control, Daemons, Signals, Threading, etc.. Like I said, there is a LOT of very specific information in here. That being said, if you are developing anything more than some scripting, this has what you want to know. This is not to say that those are the only folks that can get anything out of this book, though. Even without understanding the code examples, a person could get a good understanding and overview of how this fantastic type of operating system works, and why. This is the category I find myself in more than any other. Although I have done some C programming, I find myself using this book to help me conceptualize how things are working the background.

No self respecting Unix/Linux geek should be without this book in one format or another. The hard copy I have was sent to me by Pearson Education for the purpose of review. They sell this in book in dead tree format for $70 and $45 for the electronic version. That may sound like a far bit of money, however, remember this is not a story book you read once, this is going to be something you turn to for the right information when you need it. I almost always give away my review books after I read through them, but this one is sticking around. In fact, I am just going to take it to work with me so I can have it handy where I would normally need the information anyway.

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Knock Knock…

Is anyone in there?
Well, admittedly I thought it was time to get in here and blow the virtual dust off. It has been a while and once again, RL has gotten in the way of VL. I have been carrying a bit more burden at work with some issues and projects of late and I have been volunteering my digital skillz lately to help some friends out with their website in the miniscule amount of free time I do have. That left precious little time for anything else. Many of those projects have come to some sort of culmination or at least leveling off a bit, so here I am πŸ™‚

I know a lot of you like my reviews and I do have some lined up with (I hope) more on the way:
On the Techie end of things I have several new books released by Pearson Ed that are currently staring me down. I am also planning on going to the Ohio Linux Fest for some much needed geeking out and R&R in a little over a week. That should provide some content here as well.
You E-Cig junkies won’t have to wait long either. There are a bunch of things I have purchased in the past couple months that I have some strong opinions on and I am happy to share. If I am lucky, I will also be able to do a nice review on a really high end mod shortly as well. Stay tuned for that stuff.

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

CentOS 6 Linux Server Cookbook

CentOS 6 Linux Server Cookbook

CentOS 6 Linux Server Cookbook


OH YEAH! Another book review, and one on one of my favorite Linux distributions too!

Pakt Pub contacted me to do a review on their new CentOS 6 book, and boy was I excited at the chance. First of all, I generally like Pakt Pub‘s books, and second I really dig CentOS! Even better is this is all about using CentOS as a server, and I just happen to use quite a lot of CentOS as my preferred home server platform. And why, you may ask? Well, it very closely mirrors another enterprise level Linux that I use heavily in my professional environment. It’s good stuff.

I found this book particularly reminiscent of a few books I studied from to get my RedHat certs. There is a good bit of material in there – most things that a budging server administrator would want to know how to do, and it is formatted in a “recipe” format, which makes it fairly easy for readers to piece mail through if they are looking to do something specific in a hurry. I really like that kind of format because, lets face it, most of us have precious little time these days and reading line by line though technical materials is not usually high on our lists of things to spend our time on. Thankfully, as I said before, it’s easy to get to pertinent info here, and the writing is not really too dry or overly technical to begin with.

The book starts right out where it should by helping you not only download CentOS (for free of course), but also gives you example and instruction on several different installation methods. This is particularly useful for more advanced users because there are significant time savers to be had by using minimal and text method installs that most Linux books leave out. From there we are off to recipes for basic configuration changes like changing SELinux, IP addresses, time zone settings and the like. This is followed by a bunch of basic administrative info like using cron, starting services, package management and helping to secure your environment, before really focusing on what I like to refer to as the big 5 applications: Samba, Bind, MySQL, Mail and Apache. These are all covered in their own chapters, giving them plenty of room to address common specific topics and options. The only thing I found at all out of place is the last chapter which deals with FTP. I might be a little jilted here but it has been my experience that ftp usage is being deprecated in most places. But for those of you who do actually use it, this book covers setting up and using VSFTP, which can be daunting to get going without a little well written help, which this chapter *does* provide.

All in all, I find this a well written book covering what most system admins would really be looking for info on. In fact, this is one I really wish they had sent me in a paper edition so I could more easily loan it around to friends and coworkers whom, I am sure would find it helpful! At only $25.50 for the digital edition it would be silly for anyone new or unfamiliar with CentOS not to grab a copy before diving in. It will surely save you some time and aggravation and provide you with a good reference for future service additions and changes. It gets a nice thumbs up from me!

CentOS 6 Linux Server Cookbook

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

BackTrack 5 Cookbook: Quick answers to common problems

BackTrack 5 Cookbook

BackTrack 5 Cookbook

You know, sometimes, just sometimes something fortuitous happens to me. This was one of those times.

I was contacted by my friends over at Pakt Publishing to review their new book on BackTrack. Of course I said sure. Hey, I am a Linux junkie after all! It had actually been quite a while since I had played with BackTrack and this gave me *just* the incentive I needed, but let me tell you a bit about the book…

The book is a “cookbook” style book which gives you “recipes” or guided examples of common problems/scenarios and their fixes. The book is well written, a good reference for a pro, and a great tutorial for the beginner, and by beginner I am assuming that the person *does* have Linux experience, just not BackTrack experience as some command line comfort is pretty much a necessity for this kind of work. The first 2 chapters start you out exactly the way they should, by installing and customizing the distribution. What they don’t tell you is it takes a good while to actually download the distro, but that is beside the point.

Once you actually get things running well, you can follow the book through some really decent examples from Information Gathering all the way through Forensics. The book covers all matter of subject matter and applications in between such as using NMAP, Nessus, Metaspolit, UCSniff and more. I mentioned that this was fortuitous for me and that was because one of the things the book covered was the Hydra program, and, as it turns out, that was the perfect tool for me to use in remediating some password synchronization issues across several hundred servers.

Anyone using a computer should have at least a basic understanding about keeping their valuable data safe, whether that data is for a multi-million dollar company or your own invaluable family photographs. This book goes to great efforts to not only explain how to detect, analyze and remedy such issues, but also gives important background about just how systems become vulnerable to begin with. If only for that reason alone, it’s worth the read. If you are actually a sysadmin, this information is a must. For $23 for the ebook version, it’s a no brainer. Good book. It helped me out and I’ll wager that if you give it a read it’ll do the same for you!

Monday, February 18th, 2013

BackTrack 5 Cookbook Review

BackTrack 5 Cookbook

The folks over at Pakt Publishing have asked me to review their new BackTrack Linux book, The BackTrack 5 Cookbook. Stay tuned right here for the review and in the mean time make sure to hit their website for more information!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013