Welcome!

Linux Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Trevor Parsons, Elizabeth White, Lori MacVittie, Peter Silva

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

Essential Linux and Open Source Books

Compile your reading list

In keeping with our "Best of..." theme for this month, I'd like to provide some of the essential titles for learning Linux and open source.

These titles were gathered with feedback from our readers as well as other professionals in the field. We've divided the books into subject areas and gathered as much of a consensus as possible. The list of subject areas does not encompass all areas that an individual might need. For that reason I've included a new category, Best Linux and Open Source Publisher.

Best Linux and Open Source Publisher
Tie: O'Reilly & Associates and Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR
Honorable Mention: APress

There are a lot of publishers who put forth titles on Linux and open source technologies. Some of these titles are excellent but many are simply knock-offs of already-successful titles from other publishers. Too often publishers won't take risks on new subject areas until other books are successful, only to lament the lack of sales for their late-coming knock-off titles.

When you look for a title on a particular subject and can't choose between the different offerings in that area, it's helpful to note that titles published by O'Reilly & Associates and Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR generally have the longest useful life. It's for this reason, along with O'Reilly's willingness to take risks in new subject areas, that the two publishers are the Best Linux and Open Source Publishers. It's not surprising that many of the essential titles throughout this article are either O'Reilly or Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR books.

O'Reilly has long been the leader in Linux and open source publishing. The name O'Reilly has become synonymous with the definitive title in a given subject area and you can sometimes hear "Did you get the O'Reilly?" as a question posed from one reader to another. Even without knowing the exact title, simply buying the O'Reilly in a subject area is usually met with approval from your peers.

O'Reilly also offers a unique Internet-based library called Safari. Using Safari (http://safari.oreilly.com), you can read full versions of books published by not only O'Reilly but also New Riders, Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall PTR, Syngress, Sams, Cisco Press, Microsoft Press, and others. The books are fully searchable and, with an enhanced subscription, entire chapters can be downloaded as PDFs.

Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR enjoys a special place in the market for these two subject areas. Within these subject areas, Addison Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR clearly has the definitive title. For example, TCP/IP Illustrated Volume 1 by W. Richard Stevens is the first and last source necessary for learning IP, TCP, UDP, ICMP, and other related protocols. The Unix Network Programming series by W. Richard Stevens, et al, from Addison-Wesley is the standard by which other programming titles are judged.

An honorable mention in this category could go to many publishers but Apress now stands out as having a catalog that is quickly growing with Linux and open source titles including some new subject areas. Apress is up and coming in the area of Linux and open source publishing and we'll be excited to see their new titles over the next year.

Command Reference
Essential Title: Linux in a Nutshell by Ellen Siever and the staff of O'Reilly & Associates (O'Reilly)
Honorable Mention: None

Linux in a Nutshell has gone through a number of revisions and continues to add value with each new revision. It's one of the few titles that includes comprehensive coverage of the available commands while being far more than a simple rehash of the main pages. Chapters in this 900+ page volume include a chapter on Linux commands that's over 400 pages, and chapters on boot loaders, shells, vi, sed, and others.

Linux in a Nutshell is an essential title for the administrator who can't recall every variation and nuance of every command on the system and wants a one-stop source for day-to-day assistance with Linux. O'Reilly also has Nutshell books in other categories that are worth a look if you're working in that field.

Shell Scripting
Essential Title: Wicked Cool Shell Scripts by Dave Taylor (No Starch Press)
Honorable Mention: None

What we consider to be one of the best books on Linux shell scripting ever written, and one that is a must for any new- or intermediate-level Linux administrator, is Wicked Cool Shell Scripts. This is the book that every other publisher tries to imitate. Unless you know shell inside and out, this book should be on your bookshelf.

Most of the reviewers for this article are comfortable on the command line and we have written more than our share of scripts, yet these same admins find this book to be handy when we simply want the answer without having to develop and debug the entire script ourselves. We only wish that this book had been out back in the early 1990s so we could have learned scripting quicker.

An honorable mention cannot be made in this category since Wicked Cool Shell Scripts is so far above anything else available in this area.

E-Mail
The e-mail subject area is split into a few different categories due to the varied software available in this area.

Sendmail
Essential Titles: Sendmail by Bryan Costales and Eric Allman (O'Reilly)
Sendmail Cookbook by Craig Hunt (O'Reilly)
Honorable Mention: None

Two O'Reilly titles serve everyone's Sendmail administrator's needs. The aptly titled Sendmail is the quintessential O'Reilly title, providing everything necessary to learn the application while at the same time diving deep into the application. For some, the Sendmail book is simply too much. For that reason, O'Reilly's Sendmail Cookbook gives you all of the common tasks in recipe-style format for quick and easy reference.

If you're searching for a book on Sendmail, don't look any further than either (or both) of these books.

Postfix
Essential Titles: Postfix: The Definitive Guide by Kyle D. Dent (O'Reilly)
Postfix by Richard Blum (Sams)
Honorable Mention: None

Both titles under consideration for this category were good in their own respect as they provide the reader with the basics of Postfix. Someone new to Postfix might find Postfix to be more at their level but Postfix: The Definitive Guide also has basic information and a little more. In short, neither title stands largely above the other.

Procmail
Essential Title: The Procmail Companion by Martin McCarthy (Addison-Wesley)
Honorable Mention: None

Though not an SMTP server like Sendmail, Postfix, or Qmail, Procmail is quite popular for processing e-mail. If you're looking to perform advanced processing of e-mail, check out The Procmail Companion. It provides a great learning tool as well as a handy reference for creating Procmail recipes.

Perl
Essential Titles: Look for O'Reilly
Honorable Mention: None

Perl encompasses quite a wide array of possibilities, from Web development to system administration to powerful programs that can do just about anything. Including a review of individual Perl books in this article would be impossible; luckily, there's no need to review individual books on Perl. O'Reilly has long been a leader in Perl publications, which means that not only will they have book on a given area of Perl development, but the book will also be excellent.

However, with so many titles it may be easy to choose an inappropriate title for your level of Perl knowledge. For readers new to Perl, O'Reilly's Learning Perl by Randal L. Schwartz and Tom Phoenix is always a good choice. The Perl Cookbook by Tom Christiansen and Nathan Torkington is another essential title in this area. O'Reilly also has a Perl CD Bookshelf that includes both Learning Perl and Perl Cookbook as well as Perl in a Nutshell by Ellen Siever, et al; Mastering Regular Expressions, Programming Perl by Larry Wall, et al; and Learning Perl Objects, References, and Modules by Randal L. Schwartz and Tom Phoenix on CD-ROM. They also throw in a hard copy of Perl in a Nutshell to round out the package.

Development in Linux
Essential Titles: Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR books
Honorable Mention: None

Just as O'Reilly enjoys special status in the area of Perl books, Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR also has special status when it comes to Linux programming titles. Unix Network Programming by W. Richard Stevens, et al, is the classic title in this area and other titles from Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR keep up the excellent status. Development in Linux is a wide, wide area. Therefore, for this article to give the essential title status to only one or two books would ignore the volumes of other material that may be appropriate for a particular development area. It is for this reason that no honorable mention is given in this category.

Some of the essential titles from Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR in this area include the aforementioned Unix Network Programming (all volumes); Advanced Unix Programming by Marc J. Rochkind; The C Programming Language by Brian W. Kernighan, et al; Linux Programming by Example by Arnold Robbins; Linux Application Development by Michael K. Johnson and Erik W. Troan; and The Art of Unix Programming by Eric S. Raymond. Other titles also exist in this area and deserve space on the programmer's bookshelf if they aren't already there.

MySQL
Essential Title: High Performance MySQL by Jeremy D. Zawodny and Derek J. Balling (O'Reilly)
Honorable Mention: The Definitive Guide to MySQL by Michael Kofler (Apress)

MySQL is one of the areas where every publisher seems to have a hat in the ring. There are very few books that truly stand out on the crowded shelf. One such title is High Performance MySQL, which gives the intermediate-to-advanced MySQL user some of the best practices for maintaining MySQL; however, it's not for the beginner. Someone new to MySQL should look for a more basic title of which there are many, including one written by the lead author of this article.

We were unable to come to a consensus on an essential title for a new MySQL administrator. A number of titles exist and each seems to have its own set of flaws. The Definitive Guide to MySQL published by Apress provides a rounded look at MySQL and may be worth a more serious look for the new MySQL administrator, which is why the book garnered an Honorable Mention in this category.

Apache
Essential Titles: Apache: The Definitive Guide by Ben Laurie and Peter Laurie (O'Reilly)
Pro Apache by Peter Wainwright (Apress)
Honorable Mention: Apache Cookbook by Ken Coar and Rich Bowen (O'Reilly)

Serving both beginner and intermediate (leaning to advanced) readers alike, Apache: The Definitive Guide is a good book for those looking to implement Apache to serve the Web. This book includes everything from installation to administration to writing Apache modules. The Apress release, Pro Apache, is another excellent title for the new-to-intermediate Apache administrator.

In late 2003, O'Reilly released the Apache Cookbook, providing recipes for common tasks related to Apache Web serving. If you're comfortable with Apache installation and the theory of Apache administration and want to just get the answers, this is a great resource.

The reviewers would like to see a high- performance Apache-type book come forth within the next year from any publisher. The book should include advanced Apache-related tasks and other considerations for using Apache in a demanding environment.

DNS
Essential Title: DNS & BIND by Paul Albitz and Cricket Liu (O'Reilly)
Honorable Mention: None

BIND is the most popular DNS server used on the Internet. It makes sense to have a volume that contains not only information on BIND but also on DNS. DNS & BIND provides just that, giving the reader an overview of how DNS works together with how to implement DNS using BIND. The first two chapters of this book should be required reading for anyone performing any computer-related support or administration. O'Reilly also has a cookbook-style title, aptly named DNS & BIND Cookbook by Cricket Liu, for those who already know DNS but just want to make something work in BIND.

Linux Security
Essential Title: None
Honorable Mention: Numerous

Probably the broadest category in this article is the area of Linux security. No single title in this area offers a good source covering everything from intrusion detection to system hardening to secure system administration methods. Some titles try (and fail) to be that elusive one-stop shop for Linux security, but all seem to either lack real-world experience or only scratch the surface of the needs of an administrator. Both of these aspects are key to computer security and it was difficult to find any titles that we could call essential.

Like so many other categories, it seems as if every publisher has a book on Snort for intrusion detection yet no publishers have in-depth coverage of GrSecurity. In other words, you'll learn how to set up Snort but not how to secure the machine from which Snort runs. Some titles insult the reader by including information about the security of e-mail and other nonessential issues that any reader of that title should know already.

All isn't lost, however. Of the titles under consideration, Network Intrusion Detection by Stephen Northcutt and Judy Novak, published by New Riders, stands out as providing an excellent base for an administrator to learn the concepts of intrusion detection. While it doesn't cover intrusion detection software such as Snort, it does belong on the intrusion analyst's bookshelf for the valuable information about common types of attacks that the analyst might see on the network.

The problem is that security is so much more than intrusion detection or disabling unnecessary services in inetd.conf. Titles such as Beyond Fear and Secrets and Lies... by Bruce Schneier give the reader a not-necessarily technical grounding to help consider the risks and costs associated with the field of security. These books have useful information and, thanks to Schneier's writing style, are quite easy reads as well. We consider these titles to be essential reading for anyone trying to secure anything.

The category of Linux and open source security is in need of a good, definitive title on the subject that combines a deep understanding of the concepts of security as well as real-world experience on what works and what doesn't work in the area of Linux security.

Samba
Essential Title: The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide by John H. Terpstra and Jelmer R. Vernooij (Prentice Hall PTR)
Honorable Mention: Using Samba by Jay Ts, et al (O'Reilly)

Part of the Bruce Perens Open Source series, The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide is an essential title due to the breadth of information covered in the book. This is not a cookbook with recipe-style solutions to using Samba; it's a definitive volume that will enable the reader to not only create a complete Samba installation but also to understand the workings behind Samba.

Using Samba garners honorable mention in this category for being an easily accessible guide to configuring Samba. Just about everything that an administrator would need to do in order to configure Samba is included in this book.

Inadequate Coverage
You may have noticed some subject areas are completely missing from this article. For some areas there simply isn't any one title that stands out as essential. Rather than suggest a lesser title, we would prefer to leave those areas uncovered in the hopes of finding that essential title for later inclusion.

PHP
Essential Title: Open

We expected to find a title that stood out above the rest in the area of PHP development. There are numerous titles that are good, likewise there are at least equally as many bad books on PHP development. If we had to choose a title here, we would lean toward those publishers who have historically been strong in Linux development, Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR and O'Reilly. Prentice Hall PTR has two titles that are worth a closer look: PHP 5 Power Programming by Andi Gutmans, Stig Bakken, and Derick Rethans; and Core PHP Programming by Leon Atkinson and Zeev Suraski. Both cover PHP 5 as does Beginning PHP 5 and MySQL by W. J. Gilmore, published by Apress. The Apress title arrived too late for us to fully review but it appears promising nonetheless.

Linux Desktop Administration
Essential Title: Open

We were unable to find any titles that covered enterprise administration of the Linux desktop. While there are numerous Linux desktop titles, none includes extensive coverage for an enterprise wishing to use Linux in a large-scale deployment.

Conversion to Linux and OSS from Windows
Essential Title: Open

These titles are just starting to appear. We hope that within the next 12 months books will appear that cover enterprise conversions from Windows to Linux for various applications such as IIS to Apache, Exchange to Sendmail or Postfix, SQL Server to MySQL, and so on.

The Essential Titles 2005
Creating the list of the essential titles was a lengthy and time-consuming task. We look forward to hearing your feedback on our essential titles and improving and expanding upon them for next year.

More Stories By Steve Suehring

Steve Suehring is a technology architect and engineer with a solid background in many areas of computing encompassing both open and closed source systems, he has worked with a variety of companies from small to large, including new and old economy, to help them integrate systems and provide the best use of available technologies. He has also taken a hands-on approach with many projects and frequently leads teams of engineers and developers, and has written magazine articles as well as a book on the MySQL database server. He has also performed technical editing on a number of other titles.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, will discuss the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. The presentation will also discuss how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics to discuss are barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold.
Whether you're a startup or a 100 year old enterprise, the Internet of Things offers a variety of new capabilities for your business. IoT style solutions can help you get closer your customers, launch new product lines and take over an industry. Some companies are dipping their toes in, but many have already taken the plunge, all while dramatic new capabilities continue to emerge. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Reid Carlberg, Senior Director, Developer Evangelism at salesforce.com, to discuss real-world use cases, patterns and opportunities you can harness today.
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices – computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be!
Noted IoT expert and researcher Joseph di Paolantonio (pictured below) has joined the @ThingsExpo faculty. Joseph, who describes himself as an “Independent Thinker” from DataArchon, will speak on the topic of “Smart Grids & Managing Big Utilities.” Over his career, Joseph di Paolantonio has worked in the energy, renewables, aerospace, telecommunications, and information technology industries. His expertise is in data analysis, system engineering, Bayesian statistics, data warehouses, business intelligence, data mining, predictive methods, and very large databases (VLDB). Prior to DataArcho...
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
There will be 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020. Today, every manufacturer has a propriety protocol and an app. How do we securely integrate these "things" into our lives and businesses in a way that we can easily control and manage? Even better, how do we integrate these "things" so that they control and manage each other so our lives become more convenient or our businesses become more profitable and/or safe? We have heard that the best interface is no interface. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Co-Founder & CTO at Octoblu, Inc., will discuss how thes...
Last week, while in San Francisco, I used the Uber app and service four times. All four experiences were great, although one of the drivers stopped for 30 seconds and then left as I was walking up to the car. He must have realized I was a blogger. None the less, the next car was just a minute away and I suffered no pain. In this article, my colleague, Ved Sen, Global Head, Advisory Services Social, Mobile and Sensors at Cognizant shares his experiences and insights.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) ir...
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT. Attendees will learn rea...
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, will share some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder ...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to create new business models as significant as those that were inspired by the Internet and the smartphone 20 and 10 years ago. What business, social and practical implications will this phenomenon bring? That's the subject of "Monetizing the Internet of Things: Perspectives from the Front Lines," an e-book released today and available free of charge from Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue management.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges.
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, to discuss how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other mach...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Erik Lagerway, Co-founder of Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice s...
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehe...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, will discuss single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridsto...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. These technological reforms have not only changed computers and smartphones, but are also changi...