Book review: Linux Server Hacks, Volume Two <i>Bill von Hagen and Brian K. Jones</i>

I’ve been reading through this book for a few days now. It has some good tips and it is very well written. But that is not what attracts me to O’Reilly’s “hacks” series. No, the truth is that I consider these books to be valuable treasure! Every time I go through another one, it seems like they are written to fit exactly how I like to learn. Quick question, quick answer. Bill von Hagen and Brian K. Jones have assembled a collection of tips that are just golden. Since this is Volume Two, it might also interest you to know that they both owned Volume One prior to starting this book. The contents in Volume Two were designed to complement, not duplicate, the original. Since both authors have worked as System Administrators, they know what is missing from the “handbook”. And since there is no handbook, I’ll be keeping this book close by.

The book’s cover

My first impression was that this book would contain insight into forgotten commands and obscure details that a real SysAdmin should know. However, it seems that this is not strictly the case. Being interested in monitoring, I flipped quickly to that section to see what there was. Imagine my surprise to find a two page PHP script to gather information on listening TCP ports by using SNMP! This book offers much more than insight, it gives you the dirty details required to make things happen.

You could do some really cool things with the information in this book

The contents

Inside the four hundred and seventy eight pages, you will find information on: Remote GUI Connectivity, System Services, Security, Performance, Monitoring and System Rescue. The 100 new hacks are divided up into 10 chapters with some chapters, like the Cool Sysadmin Tools and Tips, being a little longer and others being a little shorter. A perfect example of the diverse nature of these tips is Tip Number 44—Get Linux Past the Gatekeeper. Now there is a topic you might not find in your average technical book. Pretty timely tip too as the popularity of Linux continues to grow.

Who’s this book for?

This book will have great appeal to administrators who are responsible for improving, not just maintaining, their networks. It offers so much information. Not just on how to perform typical technical tasks, but rather on how to solve real problems. If you already knew how to tackle all the problems addressed in this book, maybe you are a candidate for authoring Volume Three! After reviewing the hacks here, it seems that I’ll be more of a candidate for purchasing Volume Three, if one is ever produced.

Relevance to free software

With a title like “Linux Server Hacks”, it really couldn’t be about much else! There are references to additional programs that can be downloaded and installed. However, without researching the licenses of each item, I couldn’t tell you if they all meet the strictest definition of “free”. However, they do meet the definition of “no cost to you” and sometimes that is enough.

Anyone promoting Linux over another OS will eventually have to address the question of “Ok, it doesn’t cost me any cash, but can I get the work done that needs to be done?”. This book contains many answers that address that very question.


You should buy this book to free up your nights and weekends. To free yourself from pain and worry. Okay, owning this book may not make the birds sing any sweeter, but it might keep you out of trouble long enough to hear them once in awhile. Seriously, applying the tips contained within this book will keep you more aware of the health and status of your systems, will allow you to be more connected with your systems, and will help you troubleshoot the systems if a problem should ever arise. If you don’t need help in any of these areas, you have my admiration.


You only get the tips contained in Volume Two, thus creating a need and a demand for purchasing Volume One if you don’t already have it. You’ve been warned.

Title Linux Server Hacks
Author Bill von Hagen & Brian K. Jones
Publisher O’Reilly
ISBN 0596100825
Year 2005
Pages 478
CD included No
FS Oriented 9
Over all score 10

In short


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.