Absolute OpenBSD: Unix for the Practical Paranoid, 2nd Edition – A good & long-overdue update – #bookreview

Absolute OpenBSD, 2nd Edition
Unix for the Practical Paranoid
Michael W. Lucas
(No Starch Press – Kindle, paperback)

This updated new edition likely will be hailed — and rightly so — as a major event by many dedicated users of OpenBSD. After all, the first edition of Michael W. Lucas’ book was published a full decade ago, back when, the author concedes, he still had hair.

OpenBSD’s founder and long-time administrator Theo de Raadt has called this new edition both “[t]he definitive book on OpenBSD” and “a long-overdue refresh.” The praise can’t get much higher in OpenBSD-land.

OpenBSD is a highly secure, Unix-like operating system frequently used in Domain Name System (DNS) servers, routers, and firewalls. It also can run on a wide array of computer hardware, ranging from new systems to old VAXes, 386 machines, Apple’s PowerPC Macintoshes, and most products from Sun.

“Old systems can run OpenBSD quite well,” Lucas notes. “I’ve run OpenBSD/i386 quite nicely on a 166 MHz processor with 128MB of memory. You probably have some old system lying around that’s perfectly adequate for learning OpenBSD.”

Indeed, he explains, “As a matter of legacy, OpenBSD will run on hardware that has been obsolete for decades because the hardware was in popular use when OpenBSD started, and the developers try to maintain compatibility and performance when possible.”

The OpenBSD software has an intriguing and complex history that involves the 1980s breakup of AT&T, lots of lawsuits, the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) project, the University of California, and the eventual emergence of the “BSD license.” The result was “perhaps the freest of the free operating systems,” Lucas says.

Today, Lucas emphasizes, “OpenBSD strives to be the most secure operating system in the world.” OpenBSD developers constantly work to try to “eliminate [security] problems before they exist,” he states.

“OpenBSD is a gift. You’re free to use it or not. As with any gift, you can do whatever you want with it. But you’re not free to bug the developers for features or support.”

His 491-page second edition offers a heavy dose–23 chapters–of how-to instructions. And readers are encouraged to read OpenBSD’s man (manual) pages online. In a book where the first chapter is titled “Getting Additional Help” and the second is titled “Installation Preparations,” you can guess that this is not aimed at absolute newcomers. Actually, Lucas says: “This book is written for experienced Unix users or system administrators who want to add OpenBSD to their repertoire.”

Still, if you want to learn and use OpenBSD, you will need this book — and some online documentation and very likely some advice from the OpenBSD community, as well. There don’t seem to be recent introduction-level books floating around. However, there are a few tutorial sites, including this one. And OpenBSD.org maintains a list of support and consulting specialists. Training also is available from a number of companies that can be found via the Web.

If you want to use OpenBSD but not spend much time learning it, you also can purchase a support contract and let someone else set up and maintain your system. Even then, you likely will want to have this new edition of Absolute OpenBSD handy for reference–and for learning, just in case, down the line, you change your mind.

Si Dunn

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Introducing Windows Server 2012 – A guide to what’s coming in a much-anticipated release – #bookreview #microsoft

Introducing Windows Server® 2012
Mitch Tulloch with the Microsoft Server Team
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $14.99; Kindle edition,
list price $0.00)

 The anticipated release date for the new version of Microsoft Server®  is sometime between the third quarter of 2012 and early 2013. And this book’s introduction hails it as “probably the most significant release of the Windows Server platform ever.”

Windows Server® 2012, it states, will offer “an innovative new user interface, powerful new management tools, enhanced Windows PowerShell support, and hundreds of new features in the areas of networking, storage and virtualization.”

There also will be major emphasis on cloud computing. The product has been “designed for the cloud from the ground up and provides a foundation for building both public and private cloud solutions,” the book declares.

Introducing Windows Server® 2012 is “based on beta,” according to the cover disclaimer. And, according to the author, the book  “represents a ‘first look’ based on the public beta release of Windows Server 2012 and is intended to help IT professionals familiarize themselves with the capabilities of the new platform.”

The 235-page book is divided into five chapters:

  • Chapter 1 presents “The business need for Windows Server® 2012.” Not surprisingly, the main focus is on cloud computing and multi-server platforms.
  • Chapter 2’s focus is “Foundation for building your private cloud” and how the new product can provide “a solid foundation for building dynamic, highly scalable, multi-tenant cloud environments.”
  • Chapter 3 looks at the Windows Server® 2012 features and capabilities that can create a “[h]ighly available, easy-to-manage multi-server platform.”
  • Chapter 4 discusses how you can use the product to “[d]eploy web applications on premises and in the cloud,” with its “scalable and elastic web platform” and “[s]upport for open standards.”
  • Chapter 5 focuses on Windows Server® 2012 features and capabilities that are key to “[e]nabling the modern workstyle.” The author states: “Today’s business users want things simple. They want to be able to access their desktop applications, and data virtually anywhere, from any device, and have the full Windows experience. And from an IT perspective, this must be done securely and in ways that can ensure compliance at all times.”

Since this book is a “first look” written prior to the ready-to-manufacture (RTM) date, some of its screenshots, feature descriptions and stated capabilities may differ somewhat from the product that will be released.

But this overview can be a useful – and inexpensive — guide to have handy while considering whether to move to, or upgrade to, Windows Server® 2012.

Si Dunn