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Copyright 1996-2005
Red Hat, Inc.

First published: 5th October 2001

Book Review: Apache Desktop Reference

The "Apache Desktop Reference" by Ralf S. Engelschall, published by Addison Wesley is a concise and complete quick reference meant for web server administrators who are already familiar with Apache. However newbies can also use it as a companion to the numerous Apache "text" books available in the market.

Ralf, a member of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), is well known as the author of mod_rewrite and mod_ssl. In his foreword, Roy T. Fielding, chairman of the board of directors of ASF commended that this book provides a level of insight regarding the inner-workings of Apache that you won't find in a typical user manual.

A glance through the contents reveals that there are six chapters in total. Chapter 1 introduces the Apache web server by covering the history of the Internet, Hypertext, the World Wide Web, and the Apache Group. Next it explains about the Apache architecture, the functionality of the Apache kernel and each of the standard module plus two important third-party modules - mod_ssl and mod_perl. Throughout the book, it continues to include these two extra modules.

Then chapter 3 guides you through a step-by-step example on how to build and install a SSL-enabled Apache with mod_perl from source. The interesting extra bits here are the complete reference to the AutoConf-style Interface (APACI) command line with highlights on the suEXEC, "--permute-module" and "--shadow" options, and the difference methods on adding third-party modules.

The bulk of its content covering all of the Apache configuration directives is in chapter 4. Following that, chapter 5 is all about starting Apache using either the httpd command line or the apachectl script. Finally the book concludes by listing selected online Apache resources and books for references.

To get the most out of this book, Ralf suggests two approaches when reading this book. He groups the readers under two categories - expert users and those who have just encountered Apache. Chapter 1 and the first section of chapter 4 where it explains about the Apache configuration file structure are must-reads for all users. The latter group should also read chapter 2 and 3. The rest of the chapters can be skimmed through and referred to on a need-to-read basis.

For the errata, and other information about this book, you may refer to its companion website. I vouch for this book and dare to confidently say that no matter how many Apache books you currently own, it is worth adding this book to your collection. Even the Apache experts may learn something extra from it. As it only covers Apache 1.3.x, we hope that Ralf will come out with a revised version for Apache 2.x in the near future.

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