Author: Kyle Rankin & Benjamin Mako Hill
Publisher: Prentice Hall; 2nd Edition, 2010
Aimed at: Server admins new to Ubuntu
Pros: Informal descriptive style makes it easy to read
Cons: Style not suitable for reference work
Reviewed by: Alex Armstrong
If you have looked at The Official Ubuntu Book then you may well be expecting something similar in the Official Ubuntu Server book - but it has a different flavour. This is no beginner's book and even though I've been using Ubuntu server for some time this book not only taught me things I didn't know but it even alerted me to topics and ideas I wasn't sure about.
Chapter 1 starts the book off with the usual getting started and installation instructions. Even here, however, you will find technical discussion of partition size and so on. Chapter 2 is titled "Essential System Administration" and tells you how to do very basic command line things like get a directory listing, change working directory and editing a file. Just as you think that this is all going to be simple stuff it jumps into the details of the Grub loader, services and networking.
Chapter 3 is all about package management and how Unbuntu does the job. It also goes into using Debian packages and even creating your own packages.
Chapter 4 is on a subject not every reader will want to know about - automating Ubuntu installs. It shows how to create a custom installation CD and set up a PXE boot server.
Chapter 5 is more generally useful in that it deals with common server roles - DNS, Web Server (Apache), Mail (Postfix), POP/IMAP (Dovecot), SSH, DCHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL, file server (including Samba and NFS). The chapter ends with a more specialized topic - Edubuntu and its terminal servers.
Chapter 6 is all about security - sudo, apparmour, SSH, Firewalls, Tripwire and some discussion of individual server problems and general approaches. This is a useful chapter but it stops a bit too soon after introducing the topic of forensics. Chapter 7 is logically enough after security on the topic of backup including drive imaging and database backup.
Chapter 8 takes us into the subject of monitoring. How much interest you will have in this topic depends on the number of servers you are looking after and where they are. After dealing with local monitoring the chapter moves on to cover Ganglia, Nagios and GroundWork.
Virtualization is such an important subject these days that you might be surprised that it is left until Chapter 9. But a great deal about running a virtual machine is the same as running a real machine so it makes sense to cover as much ground as possible before introducing the new elements. The chapter covers setting up KVM so that you can use Ubuntu as a virtualization server and VMware if you want an alternative. There is some coverage of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud with a passing mention of Amazon EC2. The next chapter is on fault tolerance and goes back to such basics as RAID. Later the chapter deals with more advanced ideas such as Heartbeat clusters and distributed storage.
The final part of the book is a sort of closing section dealing with troubleshooting, rescue and recovery and resources. All well discussed and logical.
The book comes with a copy of Ubuntu Server bound into the front - which is handy if you don't want to download it.
Overall the book isn't for the complete beginner but neither is it for the Linux expert. If you know something about the technology but don't know much about Ubuntu or Linux then you will get most from this book. One warning is that it doesn't make a good reference work because the topics are covered in an informal descriptive way that makes it easy to read but not easy to find any particular piece of information.
As long as you aren't a complete beginner or a complete expert you should find this book really helpful.
Related review: The Official Ubuntu Book (5th ed)