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Review: Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming Print E-mail
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Source: LinuxSecurity Contributors - Posted by Dave Wreski   
Book Reviews Mark Sobell has again compiled a great collection of applications and utilities in A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, and his experience shows in this second edition.

Title: A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming, Second Edition
Author: Mark G. Sobell
ISBN: 978-0-13-136736-4
Pages: 1080, Paperback
Reviewer: Dave Wreski <>
Review Score: 4.0 of 5 Penguins
Publisher: Prentice Hall Professional (
Sample Chapter: Chapter Five Excerpt

Understanding the fundamentals of Linux is the basis for being productive as a system administrator. Coupling each of the tools available, and knowing which tool to use at the right time, is the key to effectively managing complex administration projects.

Mark Sobell has again compiled a great collection of applications and utilities in A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, and his experience shows in this second edition.

Covering more than a thousand pages in this second edition, Sobell provides far more than just a collection of manual pages and a few accompanying examples. Instead, the most current versions of Linux are detailed, with expert examples and background neceesary to understand what's going on.

The book starts out with a good general overview of Linux, with some emphasis on compatible MacOS X, and then leads directly to a discussion on the basics of how to work with files and the filesystem. It's well organized and thorough enough that nearly everyone should learn something new here.

One of the most often debated, and longest lasting debates, within the Open Source community, is between the vi editor and the emacs editor over which is most useful, powerful, and best choice. Sobell covers both in this book, to a substantial extent, and for good reason. Any time spent working with at least one of these applications is crucial to becoming an advanced administrator.

Including a command reference, brief coverage of topics on security, the two main Linux text editors, the sed and awk command-line editors, perl and almost a hundred pages on using and programming bash, this archive contains everything an administrator needs on her way to gaining exposure and a solid understanding of the full spectrum of programs that are available to the power user.

An introduction to regular expressions and a command reference with a hundred or so most common utilities covering 286 pages with examples, are the most valuable sections of the book.

A whole chapter on using rsync, the secure copy utility that every administrator should know fully and use to the most of its potential, is also included in this reference. It can be used to make backups, copy files locally or from one system to another, pick up copying where it was interrupted or left off, and tunnel through a VPN like ssh to provide secure transfers. Its commands can be very involved, and having a reference like A Practical Guide to Linux Commands within arms reach while learning it will teach the administrator to avoid the pitfalls and make best use of all its abiliites.

Administrators interested in the security aspects of their system will also find information on using and configuring the ssh and scp utilities, and chown and chmod for managing file access permissions. A more in-depth discussion of the security aspects important for administration also would have been very much welcome.

Security is in every aspect of system administration. A special chapter on utilities specifically focused on security, such as GNU Privacy Guard (GPG), some of the most common SELinux commands, and other command-line security programs such as nmap and netcat would also be very useful. Like so many other utilities in this book, also so large of a topic they are also deserving of a book on their own.

Mark Sobell again shows his experience as a seasoned author and administrator. The organization of material scope of coverage make this a valueable reference book for those interested in gaining a practical understanding of Linux on the command-line.

Highly recommended for those who need a command reference beyond the man page from an author capable of delivering it authoritatively.

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