Book review: Linux® Troubleshooting for System Administrators and Power Users <i>by David Carmichael, et al</i>

Imagine, if you dare, the deep seated nightmare of any decent law abiding Linux system administrator. It is late at night and the wind is howling mightily outside, the network is down due to a maintenance slot and your beloved enterprise wide system X, Y or Z fails to reboot after patching the kernel. What do you do next? Well, one might consider grabbing a troubleshooting book off a near to hand shelf. Linux® Troubleshooting for System Administrators and Power Users may fulfill this primordial fear abating function.

Slowly your panic and the kernels subside and you can now go get the problem at hand. This book details from bottom to top easy to follow examples on how to search and destroy issues in a systematic and directed approach. The book works its charm not only for system administrators, but also for power users and anyone with a basic knowledge of Linux. As one might expect, the writers, David Carmichael, James Kirkland, Christopher L. Tinker and Gregory L. Tinker, all have positions within Hewlett Packard problem solving.

The book’s cover

My first impression of this book was that it does the job. That for 80% of all standard issues you will find a possible solution vector within the printed page. The two Linux operating systems predominantly mentioned are Red Hat and SUSE. Being involved in customer support the authors know the audience and target objectives well. Being thin on theory and verbose on example makes the book practical. However, the risk is that as time progresses the content will age rapidly. I learnt on page 407 for the first time what a mangle table is and I like the concept of being able to configure networks to maximize throughput or minimize delay. I wish I could do that with my bathroom or waiting in a traffic jam.

My first impression of the book is that it does the job

The contents

Linux® Troubleshooting is an empowered 628 pages and the content is spread over 15 chapters with a reassuring density of screen grabs and text captures from the command line. The book is built intuitively bottom up from system boots to the finer art of debugging X windows. Special attention is made to the bread and butter issues of any sys admin worth their salt: Storage Area Networks and backups. Being quite over confident before reading this tome I had assumed that I would not pick up too much new information. However, I found to my chagrin that the details were illuminating, especially chapter 3 performance tools and chapter 10 cron and at. I hadn’t realized that the standard cron jobs that run once an hour, a day or a month are needed to simplify the adding of packages. When you add packages the scripts that are run during installation don’t have to add their own custom cron jobs. They just have to add a line within the standard jobs. Yes, a nice insight.

I found to my chagrin that the details were illuminating

Who’s this book for?

This book is for power users or system administrators that don’t wish to spend hours or longer googling to solve a specific problem. A majority of the standard issues one can encounter are well documented and in an order in the book that makes problem solving relatively easy. The chapter structure has the potential to calm a fevered system administrator’s brow when the doggy poop hits the enterprise wide fan. You know the one that rotates fast and no one takes responsibility for.

Relevance to free software

Maintaining a stable Open Source environment is an important advertisement for the whole Open Source Universe. Linux Troubleshooting may help you in such maintenance acts. Further, one can consider the book a good example of how a user orientated help section for complex software can be built.


The book does what it promises and helps you troubleshoot under tough conditions. Further, there are enough details contained within to help you find solutions to the more daily and mundane issues such as printer queue resolution and login problems.


This book is sensitive to aging with time. But in the books defense this statement is true for most troubleshooting documents. Therefore, periodically a new edition needs to be written and then brought to the viewing public’s attention.

Title Linux®Troubleshooting for System Administrators and Power Users
Authors David Carmichael, James Kirkland, Christopher L. Tinker and Gregory L. Tinker
Publisher Prentice Hall
ISBN 0131855158
Year 2006
Pages 624
CD included No
FS Oriented 9
Over all score 8

In short


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