Linux Book

Hans Fugal hans at
Sat Aug 11 07:48:17 MDT 2007

On Fri, 10 Aug 2007 at 15:31 -0600, Ryan Simpkins wrote:
> On Fri, August 10, 2007 14:16, Hans Fugal wrote:
> > On Thu,  9 Aug 2007 at 16:42 -0600, Ryan Simpkins wrote:
> >> On Thu, August 9, 2007 13:11, Adam Fisher wrote:
> >> > I am looking for a Linux Sys Admin book that will cover just about
> >> > everything at a very advanced level.  Any recommendations?
> >>
> >> I can't speak highly enough about the following books:
> >>
> >> Understanding the Linux Kernel
> >
> > This is an excellent book for understanding the Linux kernel from the
> > inside out, but understanding the Linux kernel from the inside out is
> > rarely needed for system administration. If you're interested in the
> > topic, though, delving into the internals of the kernel can give you
> > insights into system administration decisions (e.g. relating to
> > filesystems or performance).
> In my opinion any "'very advanced' Linux System Administrator" would have had
> read this book (or something similar). If Linux is your thing, and you want to
> be a very advanced admin, you need to understand details about how the kernel
> works. You don't need to be a kernel developer, but you need to understand the
> technologies in the Linux kernel beyond the typical admin. When the book gets
> in to the particulars about interfaces and what not you can skip those
> sections. You should read the explanation sections though. I again highly
> recommend it, as a Linux Administrator, for Linux Administrators.

Understanding the linux kernel, and understanding operating systems, is
important especially if you're a linux-only admin. You don't need a book
about understanding the kernel source to get that, though it is one
(somewhat inefficient) way to get that knowledge.

> Several sections of the book are also suitable for intermediate admins as
> well. If you are considering Linux administration as a profession, I highly
> recommend you pick this up some time during your career and slog through it.

I've read it cover to cover.

> Further, I can state that as a Sr. Linux System Administrator myself, having
> detailed knowledge about the Linux kernel internals is frequently used. My
> manager (an experienced admin), who oversees half a dozen other Linux admins,
> will frequently ask us about the capabilities of the Linux kernel.
> Additionally, I can say that in the last 3 months having an understanding of
> many of the kernel internals has helped our team solve complex administrative
> issues. These include things like CPU affinity bugs, >2TB partition support,
> filesystem issues, and various performance concerns.
> It is a book that doesn't tell you what buttons to press. It fills your head
> with ideas, a way of thinking, and a point of reference for new technologies
> that find themselves in the kernel.
> For example, should a very advanced Linux admin care about the SLUB vs. SLAB
> allocator? Do you know what those are? Why should or should you not care in a
> complex Linux environment? What sorts of things are likely to be affected by
> such a change? When you cat /proc/slabinfo what things might you be interested
> in? Where do you get the slabinfo with SLUB? Do you have a point of reference
> to even know what I'm talking about? You may have one if you regularly read
> kerneltrap or the LKML, but you most certainly would if you have read the
> book. ;-)

What about new technologies that aren't in the book? What if you make a
decision based on info in the book that is no longer correct or when a
better alternative exists? 

It's an excellent book. Go read it. But you can't stop there, and it
shouldn't be the first book you pick up if you're trying to learn to be
a sysadmin. It's the sort of thing you should read once you have a solid
foundation in being a good sysadmin. Reading this book goes along with
having a BS in computer science so that you understand algorithms,
computer architecture, and operating systems in general.

Hans Fugal ;
There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the 
right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
    -- Johann Sebastian Bach

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