Essential System Administration Pocket Reference

Author: Aeleen Frisch
Pages: 144
Publisher: O’Reilly & Associates
ISBN: 0596004494

Available for download is the part entitled “User accounts”.


When I started using e-mail heavily several years ago I just stopped sending any snail-mail at all. This didn’t stop at that though, it’s basically related to all types of information that computers allowed me to have in digital format and move away from paper, that bloody thing that wastes so much space. When it comes to books, many people prefer to have them in PDF and search when they need something. Despite all of that, I still prefer to have books in paper format, even when they are mammoth-sized Linux guides that take a large portion of my desk.

When I saw this pocket reference I must admit it was love at first sight and I was expecting much from it. The whole idea behind this title is the ultra portability that should convince all of you paper-hating people to carry it around. Is it that good? Read on to find out.

About the author

Aeleen Frisch has been a system administrator for over 20 years, tending a plethora of VMS, Unix, and Windows systems over the years. Her current system administration responsibilities center on looking after a very heterogeneous network of Unix and Windows NT/2000/XP systems. She is also a writer, lecturer, teacher, marketing consultant and occasional database programmer. Currently, she writes the “Guru Guidance” column for Linux Magazine and is the author of eight books.

Inside the book

As you open the book and browse its contents, you note that the information is grouped by topic and the items are listed alphabetically. What’s found inside these pages? System administration commands, options, configuration files and tasks. Some of the topics Frisch notes are: the root account, file ownership and protection, log files, kernel configuration, serial lines, login controls, etc.

When it comes to security, the author provides a list of security monitoring commands and an excellent system hardening checklist that summarizes the major activities that are required in order to harden a UNIX system. I was pleasantly surprised Frisch included also some tips related to physical system security. This is one of those details that add value to the book.

Since there’s really not much more I can say about this title apart from boring you by listing everything, I suggest you take a look at the sample chapter linked above and discover the layout of the book by yourself.

My 2 cents

The information contained in this pocket reference will be of interest to administrators of any Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, HP-UX or AIX machine.

Once you get familiar with the contents, it’s very easy to find what you’re looking for at all times. The different types of fonts and a simple layout make details easy to spot which is very important if you’re in a hurry. I’m sure that you’ll also learn new tricks while reading this book since I believe the author did an excellent job of packing a lot of information into a small space.

What I would like to see added in the next edition of this book is a few pages with references to interesting resources and whitepapers where people that use this book as a learning tool can get in-depth information on a certain topic. The author should at least make a website about the book and list a plethora of resources there, this would make things a lot easier for someone in the field trying to configure something that’s giving him/her problems. Also, maybe a PDF version of the book for all those users that dislike paper? 🙂

The title does the book justice as with its miniature size this is the most portable reference guide I’ve come across. If you need information while on the road or just prefer to have important information condensed in a paper format, don’t hesitate to get this title.

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