Saturday, March 05, 2005

Pre-Reviews: On Bejtlich's Bookshelf, Part II

Last month I provided brief descriptions of books in my possession that I'm definitely planning to read and review at Amazon.com. This morning I'd like to mention books I use as references, but will not review. I only review books that I read, and at the moment I don't plan to read these books cover-to-cover. I do want to give credit to publishers who made many of these titles available by letting you know that they appear to be good books.

Since I'm studying for my CCNA certification, I decided to start this blog entry with Cisco Field Manual: Router Configuration by David Hucaby and Steve McQuarry, published by Cisco Press. This is an older book published in late 2001 which uses IOS 12.2 as its reference version. I like this book because each chapter covers topics which face router admins, like security, or access lists, or QoS. The chapter then walks the reader through commands and examples. Although IOS is a beast, the book seems to cover most of the commands normal admins would encounter.

The natural companion to a router book is Cisco Field Manual: Switch Configuration by David Hucaby and Steve McQuarry, published by Cisco Press. This book is slightly newer, published in late 2002. It uses both IOS 12.2 and CatOS 7.2, as was found in older Catalyst 6500 switches, for example. I like this book for the same reasons I liked its router counterpart -- rational organziation and plenty of examples.

Continuing with our networking theme we come to Computer Networks, 4th Ed by Andrew S. Tanenbaum, published by Prentice Hall PTR. I really liked his Modern Operating Systems, 2nd Ed which got mixed reviews at Amazon.com. I like to use this book to check details of TCP features or related protocol issues. I don't plan to read this book cover-to-cover as it addresses too many familiar topics, so I just look at sections of interest.

I transition now from networking to operating systems. My next book is Introducing Microsoft Windows Server 2003 by Jerry Honeycutt, published by Microsoft Press. Why would I have this book in my possession? First, I don't plan to read it. Second, I got it free from Microsoft as part of some past promotion. Third -- and the best reason -- it ships with a 180-day trial version of Windows Server 2003. I have used this software to test Windows Server 2003 in my lab, so that makes having the book worthwhile. As a book, it's just a product overview; you won't find any configuration syntax, only lists of features.

This book has clearly been on my bookshelf for a while, since Solaris 10 is now available. Solaris 8: The Complete Reference was written by Sriranga Veeraraghavan and Paul Watters, and published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne. I got this book to help me administer an UltraSparc 30 in my lab. It's running Solaris 8 now, which is not uncommon in the computing industry. This book and its later editions have been somewhat slammed by Amazon.com reviewers. I believe a book advertised as a "complete reference" creates high expectations. Don't despair, however...

Amazon.com reviewers universally like Solaris Operating Environment Boot Camp by David Rhodes and Dominic Butler, published by Prentice Hall PTR. This book appeared in late 2002, but it covers Solaris 8 and 9. This book seems very thorough, and it doesn't waste time showing screen shots of CDE sessions or other material irrelevant to server use. I do not see a Solaris 10 version in production. Solaris 10 has enough new features to warrant a new edition.

Our system administration journey continues with AIX 5L Administration by Randal Michael, published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne. The latest AIX version is 5.3. The book uses AIX 5.1 and mentions 4.3.3 as well. My 7043-150 IBM RS/6000 Model 150 375 MHz RISC workstation runs AIX 5.1, which seems common in the industry. This book is one of the few available on AIX. I don't see much future in AIX, with the support IBM is giving to Linux. The lack of new books on AIX reflects this situation.

Continuing with the dying OS theme we come to HP-UX 11i Systems Administration Handbook and Toolkit, 2nd Edition by Marty Poniatowski, published by Prentice Hall PTR. I got this book to help administer my HP Visualize B2000 400 MHz PA-RISC workstation. Prentice Hall has continued to publish books on HP-UX, with titles on internals, tuning, and performance. This book contains a lot of material, including a removable tip cheat and a CD-ROM with tools and additional documentation. I'm not confident in HP-UX's future, especially given the turmoil at HP.

We now transition briefly to books on hardware with Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 16th Ed by Scott Mueller, published by Que. I actually don't have this edition; the 15th is on my bookshelf. Scott has sold over 2 million of these titles, which is absolutely staggering. The book is definitely worth it. I've used it to troubleshoot hardware issues, select products, and understand disk details in forensic cases. If you like to tinker with computers, you'll love just thumbing through this book and stopping where you find an interesting detail. The book ships with a DVD that has video of Scott explaining certain hardware tasks, plus chapters that didn't make the print cut. Every computer shop should have a copy of this book. My only complaint is the book is very Microsoft-centric when operating systems are mentioned.

In late 2003 Que published the first edition of Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing Laptops. It ships with a CD-ROM of tools and video like the DVD in the PC book. Some people criticized the laptop book for duplicating material in the PC book. I think Scott's only alternative would have been to publish a "laptop addendum" to accompany his PC book, which is clumsy.

Browsing Amazon.com I see that the first edition of Upgrading and Repairing Servers should arrive this summer. I am looking forward to this new book since the description references Sun servers. That indicates Scott is branching beyond the Microsoft world. However, later this summer we should also see Upgrading and Repairing Microsoft Windows, so it appears Scott is being dragged back to Microsoft land!

Leaving the hardware world we come to The CISSP Prep Guide: Mastering the CISSP and ISSEP Exams, 2nd Ed by Ronald L. Krutz and Russell Dean Vines, published by Wiley. I used an earlier version of this book to pass my CISSP test in late 2001. This book was published in early 2004. If I ever need to take the test again, or if you are experienced and need a quick refresher, I would probably try the CISSP Practice Questions Exam Cram 2 by Michael C. Gregg. I have not seen that book, but I referenced the earlier Exam Cram the night before my CISSP test.

Continuing our security theme we arrive at Internet Site Security by Erik Schetina, Ken Green, Jacob Carlson, published by Addision-Wesley. I referenced this title in my first book, calling it a good "security 101" book. It was published in 2002 but it still remains relevant. I use it to lead my Digital Security Weapons and Tactics Amazon.com Listmania List. There may be other introductions to security available, but I like this book's concise form and its sound explanations.

At the other end of the security spectrum we have Matt Bishop's magnum opus Computer Security: Art and Science, published by Addison-Wesley. This is a classic textbook if I have ever seen one. This book is nothing like the security texts you're used to reading, like Hacking Exposed. I recommend this book if you are a graduate student or you are pursuing your PhD. I plan to read it before pursuing an advanced security degree, but not before! There is a "lite" version of this book called Introduction to Computer Security that is supposed to be less math-intensive.

If you need to know about open source firewalls, try Troubleshooting Linux Firewalls by Michael Shinn and Scott Shinn, published by Addison-Wesley. This book uses Red Hat Linux and SuSE as its reference platforms. This seems like a very niche book, as it focuses on troubleshooting netfiler/iptables. In case you want to know what those terms mean:

"netfilter is a set of hooks inside the Linux kernel that allows kernel modules to register callback functions with the network stack. A registered callback function is then called back for every packet that traverses the respective hook within the network stack.

iptables is a generic table structure for the definition of rulesets. Each rule within an IP table consists out of a number of classifiers (iptables matches) and one connected action (iptables target)."

This is the typically strong, clear introduction one expects to find on the front page of a Linux project. :) I shouldn't complain too much. Anyone who's read the FreeBSD netgraph man pages realizes that documentation for non-developers can be tough to find.

Our visit to Addison-Wesley's "animal line" of books brings us to Slamming Spam: A Guide for System Administrators by Robert Haskins and Dale Nielsen. This book addresses a variety of anti-spam measures. It is definitely written for administrators, as it provides plenty of example command syntax and configuration guidance. It is cross-platform, with advice on UNIX and Microsoft mail clients, as well as server products.

If you use Sendmail you might want to read a different anti-spam book called sendmail Milters: A Guide for Fighting Spam by Bryan Costales and Marcia Flynt, published by Addison-Wesley. Milter is short for "mail filter;" it's a C extension to Sendmail. You might find this introductory article helpful.

We're in the home stretch now, with several titles on various subjects. The first book is UNIX System Programming, 2nd Ed by Keith Haviland, Dina Gray, and Ben Salama, published by Addison-Wesley in late 1998. I got this book to acquire a brief introduction to UNIX system programming, but I am not sure I will read it. The book looks good, but I have several titles waiting on my reading list that may contain equivalent knowledge. If you're looking for a succinct introduction to the subject, however, try this book.

Assembly Language for Intel-Based Computers, 4th Ed by Kip R. Irvine, published by Prentice Hall, is next. This was the first book I got to try to learn assembly programming. I am going to use it as a reference, but I will not start learning assembly with it. The reason is its use of Microsoft MASM, which is included on the CD-ROM with the book. I prefer to use open source alternatives. This 4th ed of this book is getting much better reviews that previous versions, according to Amazon.com.

Next is The Book of Webmin: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love UNIX by Joe Cooper, published by No Starch. Webmin is a very powerful open source, cross-platform, Perl-implemented, Web-based system and application configuration and operations management product. I played with it on a variety of hardware and operating system options. Joe's book is well written and covers the issues one needs to understand to install and use Webmin.

If you want to go to the source, try Managing Linux Systems with Webmin: System Administration and Module Development by Jamie Cameron, published by Prentice Hall. Jamie wrote Webmin, and he spends more time on extending and customizing the product. His book is more more complete when compared with Joe's. I recommend Jamie's work if you are looking to create your own Webmin modules for in-house or commercial use.

Finally we have Implementing CIFS: The Common Internet File System by Christopher Hertel, published by Prentice Hall. CIFS is the Common Internet File System, otherwise known as Server Message Block or SMB. I got this book to get a better understanding of SMB traffic on the wire, for network security monitoring purposes. If you really need to understand CIFS/SMB, this is the best book available.

7 comments:

Mairtin said...

Just a few comments on two of these books.

Cisco Field Manual: Switch Configuration -
I purchased this last year and was very disappointed with it. I was hoping for a definitive reference for switching but it turned out to only cover the basic commands. It was very handy for printing commands in both IOS and CatOS formats, which can be invaluable when you just can't remember the equivilant command in the different syntax.
Definitely not worth the money though.


Implementing CIFS: The Common Internet File System -
I just read this as I wanted to do a bit of code to pull files transfered via smb and I found it to be one of the best books I've read in ages. The writing is very clear and makes very surprisingly easy reading, considering the subject matter.
A fantastic book all round that anyone working in a windows environment should read.

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