Slashdot reader Adam Jenkins contributed the review below of John P. Mulligan's Solaris 8 Essential Reference. If you operate a Solaris box for fun or profit, this book may prove be a useful reference, though Adam has some reservations about the book's completeness, especially regarding the new features you'd expect a book updated for Solaris 8 to cover.
A New Book for a New ReleaseJohn Mulligan is known for his Web site SolarisGuide.com and the first Solaris Essential Reference. This is the second edition, updated for the Solaris 8 release. The technical reviewers of the book were Solaris administrators Jeffrey Meltzer and Nojan Moshiri.
OverviewIn the Introduction we are told that the book emphasizes the essentials of SunOS 5.x rather than Open Windows since 'anything that can be done from a GUI can also be done from a command line.' While this old adage is true, and the command line is certainly a very powerful and standard way to use Unix, many of the recent additions to Solaris are designed to make administration easier by using GUI tools.
What's in it for me?There are three main parts to the text. There is the General Use Reference, which covers text utilities, shell scripting, process control and network clients and utilities. Part II is a Developer Reference, covering compilers/interpreters, programming utilities and debugging. Part III is the Administration and Maintenance Task Reference, with sections on startup and shutdown, user management, network administration, filesystems, security, and system configuration and tuning.
The Appendices list Solaris version changes, common startup problems and solutions, Linux compatibility, the GNU Public License, list of Web resources, signals list, and a TCP/UDP port list. The Web resources list is well organized into sites covering administration, CDE, developer resources, hardware, lists of sources, magazines, online documentation (including SolarisGuide's RTFM documentation), security, software, Solaris x86 and Solaris PPP/NAT. The resources chosen seem to be tried and tested, as those that I tried were all still at the addresses given.
The port list only covers fairly standard ports, listing them both by service and by port number. The services list includes a note next to each with recommendations like disable or log for those known to have security issues.
What's good?The security section includes information on the new Role Based Access Control (RBAC) as well as how to enable the Basic Security Module although more information on what the BSM does would've been helpful. There is a section on the LDAP utilities that come with Solaris 8 and how to use them.
What's bad?Some of the examples are spaced out over two lines awkwardly. The ftp sites given in the Security section are no longer working since the directory structure at Purdue's COAST was re-arranged as CERIAS. This is not the fault of the author or publisher; it's just the nature of the Internet to be dynamic.
There is no coverage of IP Filters or firewalls, patch analyzer, Network Cache and Accelerator, the Sun Management Center, VPNs or the extra software that comes with Solaris 8 (Oracle, StarOffice, the Palm HotSync utilities, Forte, Apache and iPlanet). The Linux compatibility section was disappointing: it consists of just one page describing the utility called lxrun that lets you run Linux binaries under Solaris x86. There is also a glaring typo on the contents page: 'Admininstration.'
ConclusionThe title Solaris 8 Essential Reference is a fairly tough promise to live up to. The book is good as a Solaris reference, giving general coverage of the Solaris operating system for users, developers and administrators. However, it misses a lot of the main features of Solaris 8, which are probably the reasons most people would buy version 8 in the first place.
You can purchase this book at Fatbrain.