Helpful Debian And Linux Books
"I cannot live without books." - Thomas Jefferson
The books on this page are featured on the related guide pages of this site. The comments next to the books are our own and are our honest opinions, not a sales pitch. We own several books on each of the subject areas and those featured on this page are the ones we consider to be the best of those we own, particularly for those who are new to a specific subject. In a few cases the books we own are earlier editions. The later editions are featured here due to the fact that the editions we own are out of print.
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The Linux Cookbook is based on the Debian distro. It is a good introductory book that could be considered a Linux "Owners Manual" because it covers the operation of the OS but never gets under the hood (doesn't get into the server or networking aspects of Linux). It teaches you how to use the OS. (The sub-title is "Tips and Techniques for Everyday Use".) Thankfully, the majority of the book covers the use of commands at the shell prompt. There are 32 bite-size (10 to 15 page) chapters, each containing a lot of short recipes on how to accomplish specific tasks. No less than eight chapters deal with working with text, which is criitcal if you want to get good using Linux/UNIX. Use of some GUI apps for graphics, etc. are also covered. The "Productivity" section has five chapters which present a lot of good info on disks, printing, and working with other platforms.
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Debian GNU/Linux Bible is your typical Bible-series book. It's nothing you'd want to sit down and read cover to cover but it's a good reference to have as a starting point when you want to play around with something new. It covers a very wide range of subjects without a lot of depth but throws in a lot of command and code examples. It gets into backups, scripting, multimedia, GUIs and GUI apps, adding peripherals, all the various types of servers you can set up (including NIS), and monitoring tools. While written for Sarge, most of the info is still current.
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Network Troubleshooting Tools not only lists a lot of the free utilities available for monitoring the performance of and troubleshooting LANs and internetworks, but it goes into detail on how to use them. This includes pointing out the options available with many "built-in" utilities that you may already use on a daily basis (ping, traceroute, etc.). Most of the utilities mentioned are included as packages on the Debian CDs so installation is a snap. Quite frankly, I was amazed at the level of sophistication of the free utilities. For example, run Apache on your system along with ntop and it will serve up pages with a wide variety of pie charts and graphs showing protocol breakdowns and percentages of unicast, multicast, and broadcast traffic on your network, as well as identifying the major sources (systems) of this traffic. And the Wireshark protocol analyzer provides most of the same information as commerical sniffers costing literally thousands of dollars. Use one utility mentioned in this book instead of a commercial counterpart and it has paid for itself many times over.
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If you're interested in learning more about how networks work and the TCP/IP protocol, Cisco's First Year Companion Guide is THE book for you. It's one of my all-time favorite networking books. It really makes the light bulbs come on. It's actually the first-year text book for the Cisco Networking Academy program but the first half of the book (first semester of the program which is Chapters 1 through 15 - in the book) deals entirely with the "basics" of networking. It has one of the most thorough presentations of the OSI model I have ever seen in any book, and understanding the functions of the various layers in the OSI model is understanding how networks work. TCP/IP, address classes, encapsulation, the functions of switches and routers, and how to subnet a network are all covered. They even get into security, network management, and home networking later in the book (along with some basics on router programming so you can see how that's accomplished). A strong foundation in the OSI model is essential if you're going to be good at network troubleshooting and this book will get you there. The book gets some bad reviews on Amazon due to some typos and misplaced diagrams. But the fact that you can easily identify a typo or misplaced diagram indicates you understand the material. (Be sure to get the newer 2nd Edition which fixes many of these mistakes.)
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What the "Debian GNU/Linux Bible" is to the Linux OS, Advanced Linux Networking is to Linux servers. It's 26 chapters covers a wide variety of servers without getting heavy into the technical details of each specific one. In addition to covering the usual variety of LAN and Internet servers (Web, e-mail, NFS, print, Samba, etc.) it also covers the less common types of servers including news (NNTP), time, kerberos authentication, and X servers. Setting up a gateway-to-gateway VPN and a VPN access server running PPTP to support Windows clients are also covered. As is typical with type of book, you won't become an expert in any single server application, but you will be able to get a lot of different types of servers up and running quickly so that you can play around with them while pursuing more in-depth technical material.
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Wireshark and Ethereal Network Protocol Analyzer is the best book out there on *using* Wireshark. It not only covers all the various menu options to help you get the most out of the program and its analysis tools, but goes into writing both capture and display filters. Chapter 8 presents some real-world captures of worms, trojans, etc. and they're also on the included CD if you want to load them into Wireshark yourself while you're going through the chapter. The book also covers Tshark and several other utilities that come with Wireshark.
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Where to learn more - The best of our bookshelves:
Snort IDS and IPS Toolkit covers Snort's operation in depth. You will understand what all the statements in the snort.conf and rule files do and how to modify them to optimize Snort for your environment. They even cover writing your own rules, preprocessors, and plugins. This focus on the "trees" does not exclude a look at the "forest" however. The book starts out discussing IDSs in general, their benefits and limitations, and how they fit into a larger security framework. It also covers 3rd party Snort utilities like Oinkmaster.
DNS and BIND is another case where an O'Reilly book is considered the bible in the industry. I doubt there's a DNS server admin out there that doesn't have a copy. The 4th Edition covers BIND 9 with its security enhancements. The first three chapters provide a detailed foundation in the basics of DNS operation from zone files to root name servers. From there it's all about server configuration. Setting up multiple servers, incremental zone transfers, and round-robin load distribution are just a few of the things covered. It also covers how to set up a server to respond to DDNS requests from clients and DHCP servers as well as how to control which systems have this ability through ACLs (Access Control Lists). How to use BIND's debugging levels and debugger output to solve problems is also covered.
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Trust me, Linux Apache Web Server Administration is the only Apache book you'll need. It thoroughly covers Apache and all the goodies including both IP-based and name-based virtual hosting, advanced directives, CGI, SSI, SSL, redirection, and using modules. If you want to set up a Web server that requires someone to log in to view the site's contents there's an entire chapter on options for how to do this. He also gives some sample Web pages (the HTML code for them) that you can use to securely monitor your Apache server over the Web and test out SSI. It's written in a manner that's easy for Apache newbies to understand while not boring those with some experience with it. The file locations given in the book are for a vanilla Apache installation and most Linux distributions tend to rearrange things a bit. However, that's an easy adjustment to make. (See our list of file locations above.)
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O'Reilly's book Sendmail, commonly referred to is "the bat book", is the industry bible when it comes to Sendmail. However, it's definitely not the first book on Sendmail you want to read. Linux Sendmail Administration is the companion to the above Apache book and is just as well written (enjoyable for both sendmail newbies and those with some experience) and just as wide in it's coverage of the application. In addition to installation and configuration (both m4 and manual), chapters address implementing anti-spam measures and application security. It also covers all of the technical goodies of Sendmail such as uing databases and rewrite rules. However, this isn't until after the first two chapters show how Internet e-mail works and present a high-level overview of the functional parts of Sendmail. Having wrestled with Sendmail a few times in the past I can tell you that a book like this was sorely needed.
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Integrate Linux Solutions Into Your Windows Network is more than a Samba how-to. It only has three chapters on Samba. However, it is featured here because this is a good introductory book if you don't have a lot of experience with Linux or Windows. The first three chapters cover the basics of Linux administration that one needs to be familier with when working with Samba. There are also detailed explanations of the SMB protocol and the Windows authentication processes which even experienced Windows admins will appreciate. And it's not all about the server. Examples, including screen-shots, show you how to set up Windows clients to access a Samba server, and how to set up Samba clients to access Windows servers. It's not even all about Samba. Setting up a database server using MySQL and LDAP directory services are also covered. For a good book that gets deep into the details of Samba, see Samba Essetials for Windows Administrators below.
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Samba Essentials for Windows Administrators covers Samba in a very comprehensive manner. It's an indispensible reference for those who want to undertake a serious Samba implementation. While it doesn't get into the technical background of how things work like the "Integrate..." book, it is excellent from a practical applications perspective. It even covers things like setting up a Samba fax server using a fax/modem that can be accessed by Windows clients. A lot of coverage is given to using the Webmin tool in addition to SWAT. The chapter which covers setting up a Samba system as a domain controller spells out what Samba can't do when acting as a PDC, as well as what it can do. An earlier chapter also openly addresses the weaknesses of Samba.
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If you want to pursue PHP and mySQL seriously, getting separate books that deal exclusively with each technology in depth is more appropriate. However, if you want to get up to speed quickly in both technologies in a low-cost manner PHP and mySQL for Dummies is the way to go. It provides a good overview of both while providing enough detail to get you fairly productive in each. It gets into using forms, cookies, and "sessions" for PHP and queries, security, backup/restore and table repair for mySQL. The CD contains the code for all of the sample pages given in the book which will save you some typing if you want to use them as a starting point for your own efforts.
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Linux Firewalls is extensive in its coverage of, not only firewalls, but other aspects of security as well. The book is crammed with examples for different firewall types and security scenarios including DMZs. The book starts out with a good explanation of the basics of TCP/IP, packets, and firewalls in general. As a result, when you do get into the later chapters you'll not only find out how to do things, but you'll know why you're doing them as well. The book focuses on setting up Linux-system type firewalls which is appreciated. Those that cover firewalls in general tend to blur the lines between commercial products and their non-commercial counterparts. However, within this focus the book runs wide as well as deep. I doubt there's anything you'd need to know about firewall-based security that's not in this book.
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The title of Linux Routers - A Primer for Network Administrators is misleading. It's way more than a "primer". It gives detailed listings of route and IPTABLES commands for setting up LAN, Internet, extranet, and satellite office routers. While it doesn't focus on any one distrbution, luckily Debian is the author's distro of choice so the examples in the book are based on it. Not only does the book give details on setting up frame relay and ISDN routers, but the author gives vendor information on where to obtain frame relay and ISDN capable PCI and ISA cards. He also covers how to use LRP (the Linux Router Project software that allows you to fit everything on a floppy disk) and has a very detailed chapter on masquerading. Search for other Linux router titles
Maximum Linux Security is the best security book I've found for those who do not have a lot of Linux experience. The first four chapters cover some of the basics of Linux from a security perspective, including the fundamentals of server administration. It devotes a chapter to disk partitioning as it relates to setting up a secure server. If you are going to set up an Internet server, get this book. The book not only covers what to do, but covers the theory behind why you are doing it. It also shows you how hackers work and provides links to the tools they use to break in. You would think that a book on server security would be pretty dry, but this book is an easy read.
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My first reaction to Hacking Linux Exposed was "Oh great, now there'll be a million more hackers trying to get into our systems". It's a veritable tutorial, including step-by-step commands, on how to use a gazillion different exploits to hack into systems. However, after further consideration we realized this book is a great resource. It not only tells you how to do things (so you can see if you can when going against your systems), but gives specific countermeasures to mitigate the risks. It also gives each exploit individual ratings for simplicity, popularity, and impact and then combines them into an overall "risk rating". Comprehensive is the one word that best describes this book. For instance, it doesn't just cover Web servers but gets into CGI and SSI threats as well. Information on how to obtain a lot of the hacking tools that are available is also given.
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We passed the Linux+ exam with an 825 (out of 900) using only the Linux+ Exam Cram for preparation (along with getting on a system and trying the commands as they were covered in the book). This book adequately covers the material which is addressed by the questions on the exam. If you followed along with the guide pages on this site you'll find that most of the material covered in the first half of the book will be things you already know. It does a good job of covering the A+-type hardware questions that are found on the Linux+ exam as well.
This book is now out of print and used copies are hard to find so you'll need to search for other Linux+ titles.
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