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First published: 7th December 2002

Book Review: Linux Apache Web Server Administration

We review three out of the eight books in the Craig Hunt Linux Library series published by Sybex Inc. The first book is the second edition of "Linux Apache Web Server Administration" by Charles Aulds, followed by the second edition of "Linux System Administration" by Vicki Stanfield, and Roderick W. Smith. Both books were published in September 2002 and reviewed by Craig Hunt. The third book is "Linux Network Servers" written by Craig Hunt himself published in August 2002.

"Linux Apache Web Server Administration" is written for well-versed Linux administrators who use Apache as their web servers in a small to medium-sized company. It provides a good coverage of the necessary topics to arm an administrator with sufficient knowledge to get the Apache web server up and running, and also administer and maintain it. Its table of contents lists four appendices, and fifteen chapters that are categorised under four main parts.

Part 1: "How Things Work" has two chapters that introduces the Web and compares Apache with various free and commercial web servers. The next four chapters under Part 2: "Essential Configuration" cover installing Apache 2.0.36 from source, the binary distribution of Apache 2.0.35, and Apache using an RPM, configuring some general directives, installing third-party modules as dynamic shared object (DSO) modules using the apxs utility, and setting up IP-based and name-based dynamic virtual hosts. The third part which comprises Chapters 7 to 10 moves on to the advanced configuration options, namely how to implement Server-Side Includes (SSI), Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts, FastCGI, a simple MySQL web query, mod_perl, PHP, Active Server Pages (ASP), Tomcat, Resin, mod_alias, mod_rewrite, and GUI configuration tools such as Comanche and Webmin.

Part 4: "Maintaining a Healthy Server" together with the remaining five chapters teaches you how to create your own Apache logs, track user sessions using mod_usertrack, rotate and analyse logs, tweak the performance, use mod_proxy, implement various authentication and authorisation methods, install mod_ssl, be your own Certificate Authority (CA), negotiate content based on meta-information, and set up the Red Hat Content Accelerator. Appendix A lists all the standard Apache directives for version 2.0.39 while the three remaining appendices supply the online references for more information and teach you how to use them effectively, and talk about using Samba, FTP, mod_put, Frontpage Extensions, and mod_dav to transfer files to Apache.

Although this second edition has been updated to include Apache 2.0, it is not the definitive guide to Apache 2.0 because it does not focus on the new features of Apache 2.0 or the differences between Apache 1.3 and 2.0. This book is therefore not for experienced Apache web server administrators who are seeking guidance in migrating from Apache 1.3 to version 2.0. However, it will suit experienced Linux system administrators who are new to Apache to a tee as it is easy to understand, starts from the basics, and walks you through step-by-step instructions to ensure that you are well equipped to setup and maintain your very first Apache web server.

Now, on to our next book, the updated second edition of "Linux System Administration" is aimed at Linux server administrators who are already familiar with Unix or slightly knowledgeable about Linux. It is not for beginners, desk-top Linux users, or Windows users wishing to migrate to Linux.

Its eighteen chapters are divided into four parts and there is no appendix as per its table of contents. This book is applicable to all major Linux distributions although when specific examples are needed, Red Hat Linux 7.3 is used.

Once you have finished reading this book, you are well on your way to maintain a Linux server confidently. It covers everything you need to know from setting up user accounts, implementing a backup and recovery strategy, to troubleshooting problems on your system.

Our last book on the list, "Linux Network Servers", targets Linux administrators who want to build a Linux server that provides network services such as Login, Mail, Printer, Network Gateway, and Web Services. As it does not include information for you to revise the basics of Linux, readers need to possess a fundamental understanding of IP networks, Linux commands, and Linux system administration.

Please refer to its table of contents on how the thirteen chapters are organised under four sections. Red Hat Linux 7.2 is used in most of the examples in this book although you should be able to apply the information to other Linux distributions as well with slight adjustments.

Each chapter in Part 2 and 3 is dedicated to one service. Chapter 6 is about the Apache web server. It shows you how to install Apache 1.3.20 using an RPM, configure some general directives, fine-tune its performance, define name-based virtual hosts, implement access controls, configure SSL, and monitor the logs. Basically you will be able to maintain a basic Apache web server after this.

As a new Linux administrator without much experience, this is a good reference guide to start you off implementing standard network services. It is not enough to provide you with a more complex setup of an individual service so you will need to have another book solely on each specific service that requires more advanced configuration. For example, to implement an elaborate setup of Apache web server, you will require the "Linux Apache Web Server Administration" book.

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