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First published: 29th November 2002

Book Review: SAMS Teach Yourself Apache 2 in 24 Hours

Apache 2 has now been included in the "SAMS Teach Yourself in 24 Hours" series since June 2002. The book is written by Daniel Lopez Ridruejo with contributing author Ian Kallen. It is aimed at beginners and intermediate users of Apache 2.0 on how to install, build, configure, customise, monitor, and troubleshoot Apache 2.0 on a variety of platforms ranging from Linux, Windows to other Unix flavours.

In line with the other books in this series, it contains 24 chapters known as Hours meant for one hour of reading each with a "Q&A" section, and a "Quiz" section at the end of each chapter to test how well you understand what you have just read. Answers are provided for the quiz section immediately after the questions so you don't have to worry about figuring out the correct answers yourself. The table of contents can be found at its companion website along with three sample chapters, the errata, and a web page that tracks Apache 2.0 updates since this book was published.

The 24 Hours are divided into three parts. Hours 1 to 10 which make up the first part cover the internals and basics of Apache for you to get Apache 2.0 up, running, and serving static and dynamic content. Part I also includes setting up authentication and authorisation, customising and analysing logs, manipulating environment variables, and using Comanche and Webmin GUI to configure Apache. Part II consists of Hours 11 to 17 about advanced Apache topics namely multi-processing modules (MPMs), filters, mod_dav, Microsoft FrontPage, virtual hosts, proxy servers, performance tuning, OpenSSL, and mod_ssl. The final part (Hours 18 to 24) talks about installing additional modules, PHP, mod_perl, Tomcat, mod_rewrite, and migrating to Apache 2.0 from previous versions of Apache or other web servers such as Microsoft IIS and iPlanet.

The following Hours are singled out for being the crux of the book. Hour 2 introduces the new features that appear in Apache 2.0 such as MPMs, filters, multiprotocol support, and the Apache Portable Runtime (APR) but IPv6 support is not mentioned. It also touches on Apache architecture and how requests are processed through several phases. The four main MPMs (prefork, worker, perchild, and windows) are described in detail in Hour 11 and tips are given on points to consider when choosing an MPM during configuration before being compiled into the server. The next Hour elaborates on filters by presenting three Apache modules written as filters: mod_deflate, mod_include, and mod_ext_filter and showing how they can be configured. It doesn't delve into the complex topic of writing your own Apache filter. The penultimate Hour provides some general guidelines for migrating to Apache 2.0 from previous versions of Apache, and other web servers such as Miscrosoft IIS and iPlanet, while highlighting the pros and cons of each migration.

Overall, this book is a scrumptious appetiser to a full course of Apache 2.0 because it leaves you hungry for more. Its explanation in layman terms, and useful diagrams build the foundation for you to absorb more in-depth information about Apache 2.0 from other sources as suggested in the "Further Reading" section. However, the information it provides is sufficient to enable Apache 1.3 users migrate to the second version. Web server administrators who are new to Apache may find it useful to read through the whole book and may take more than 24 hours to digest its contents before moving on to a more advanced book. Apache 1.3 users who are in a hurry can just focus on the Hours about Apache architecture (Hour 2), multi-processing modules (Hour 11), filters (Hour 12), migration to Apache 2.0 (Hour 23), and skim through all the rest of the Hours.

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