Review of The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques
Aric Campling -- 24 February 2006 (C) -- Page 1
The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques is not, however, for the Linux beginner. It does not serve as an introduction to Linux, or to the multitude of GNU tools and other applications commonly found across the gamut of Linux distributions.
It can be a valuable reference for the Debian GNU-Linux OS alongside a true Linux beginner's manual, but it is not a step-by-step walkthrough for a true Linux beginner. In The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques, Krafft provides recommendations for Linux beginners who wish to use his book in tandem with a more general Linux reference.
Many books have been written about the Debian Linux system. The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques by Martin F. Krafft (No Starch Press, ISBN 1-593270-69-0. $44.95) is one of the most recent. (Link in the Resources section at the end of this article on Page 3.)
Author, Martin Krafft, was a Ph.D. student at the University of Zurich's Artificial Intelligence Lab at the time The Debian System was published. Currently he is a Ph.D. student at the University of Limerick, Ireland, where he researches workflow in global volunteer projects.
Martin Krafft is a Debian maintainer and he has invested lots of time and effort into compiling a book about Debian GNU-Linux. That book, The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques, should satisfy the needs of many different users.
One challenge with releasing this book near the end of 2005 was that the sarge release of Debian GNU-Linux had remained in testing status for the past few years. Sarge at any time could have been promoted to stable.
This is precisely what happened shortly after The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques hit the streets. However, Krafft planned for this since he knew it would happen eventually. None of the information in this book is rendered obsolete by the promotion of the code from testing to stable status.
At times, Martin Krafft (for whom English is not a native language) had to use some clunky language to explain this promoting the code situation. However, his wording does not harm the reader's ability to understand the book. The promoting the code situation itself may be only slightly more confusing, but the mindful reader should have no trouble understanding this concept once it's familiar. Chapter 4 of The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques discusses code promotion.
Is The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques for You?
I read this book from both the standpoint of a Debian user and from the standpoint of a Debian administrator. As an experienced Linux user and as a moderately experienced Debian user (so I thought), I figured I would be reviewing this book mostly for accuracy -- and to determine if it would be a good book for a person who is not now using Debian, but is thinking about using Debian, and/or currently is using Debian.
However, I discovered this book will have something new in store for all but the most advanced Debian users. While reading The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques, I was surprised to find out how much I did not know about Debian GNU-Linux, the very operating system (OS) I use. This was so, especially about Debian's community orientation and about some powerful Debian tools that I never knew existed. Read on to learn about these Debian tools.
Martin F. Krafft approaches The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques from a very practical stance. He writes with a very down-to-earth methodology that neither condescends to nor speaks over the heads of its intended readers. Moreover, Krafft breaks the ice at the beginning of every chapter with a witty quote from a Debian user, contributor, or maintainer.
Just about every page has footnotes that contain URLs to relevant Web sites where readers can go on-line to find more information about the point or topic being discussed. In some instances Krafft is honest about his biases towards Debian since he is a Debian developer. In other instances, which might elicit a chuckle or two, he reminds us that he also is human.
A Book for Reading and for Reference
The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques is divided into ten chapters and six appendices. The information is provided in a roughly logical progression along the continuum of a Linux system implementation from conceptualization, installation, management, administration, security, advanced concepts, through resources for further knowledge.
The flow of information through the book lends itself to being read front-to-back, if one so chooses. However, because of the wealth of knowledge contained in the book, it also serves well as a reference manual. You can look up material and jump right to the info that you need at that moment. In fact, Krafft advises his readers to skip around the book as they see fit.
For example, Chapter 2, The Debian project in a nutshell (all about the Debian project) starts off with a suggestion that readers can jump ahead if the material does not interest them. However, I personally found the chapter quite interesting because it details the underlying philosophies and structure of the Debian project.
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