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Mstation Book Reviews
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Sat, 03 Feb 2007

Icky Food

Felicity Lawrence, Not on the Label,
Penguin

Most everyone these days is aware that factory food isn't all it could be, that supermarket food is likewise, and that both customers and farmers are getting ripped off.

What does it take to make people actually do something about it? In a lot of cases and places it's actually very difficult to do something about it - particularly in the US and the UK and in the big cities of Australia. The big chains have already killed off most of the smaller shops and specialty bakers, butchers, etc. are very hard to find. When you do find them it's more than likely they'll be using the same polluted supply line as the big boys or in the UK's case you might even get goods which are unfit for human consumption sold by criminals ... maybe other places as well. Quite depressing although criminals and their goods are a side issue here.

This book is another case for the prosecution with numerous examples thrown in to kill your appetite. What to do? That's quite obvious.

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Network Security Hacks

Network Security Hacks - Tips and Tools for Protecting Your Privacy,
Second Edition
Andrew Lockhart
O'Reilly

Maybe you've heard of chroot() but don't really know what it's for, you've tried tinkering with nmap or Nessus but never really knew what you were looking at. Network Security Hacks will tell you a bit about these and get you started.

Think of the Network Security Hacks as a set of 125 jumping-off points in the world of network security. It's not intended to be a comprehensive reference, and it shouldn't be your security bible. The subtitle is a little misleading for what is essentially a book for sysadmins. There are seven "user-level" hacks under the Privacy and Anonymity chapter dealing with anti-phishing plugins for Internet Explorer and ways to encrypt email but not much else my Dad could use.

What this book is, though, is a nice set of short and reasonably easy to implement steps for hardening a Linux, BSD or Windows server on a network, keeping out the bad guys and making sure your more inquisitive users don't have too much freedom to "explore".

At the lower end of the admin experience scale, there's hacks for securing Unix and Windows hosts and managing permissions, encrypting services, managing firewalls and secure tunnels, and an optimistically (though nicely-caveated) short section on recovery and response at the end. At the more advanced end, you'll find out how to do things like create a static ARP tables or use TLS-enabled SMTP with sendmail.

The emphasis is on Unix but there are plenty of hacks for Windows. These generally involve installing third-party applications which do lots of the things Unix people take for granted. There's no religious war here though, both "sides" are presented fairly though the ratio of Unix to Windows hacks should tell the astute reader which one is going to make your life easier.

Whether you're running a file server on a Linux box in the cupboard or are managing the corporate intranet, you'll find something in this book. Not all the hacks will be useful for everyone of course, but dipping into it may well

reveal a useful hack or two. (Ciaron Linstead)

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Building PC's

R.B.Thompson, B.F. Thompson,
Building the Perfect PC, 2nd Edition,
O'Reilly

This is an update of the excellent first edition where component lists are brought up to date, and there's some additionl comment.

If you didn't see the original, the format is to set out a number of different projects (Media PC, Gaming PC, SOHO server etc.) and help you build them by first selecting components, explaining why they were selected, and then taking you through construction with the aid of colour pictures. Along the way there are interesting remarks in sidebars.

At the start of this edition there's also a very interesting discussion about LCD vs CRT monitors. If you thought that LCD was a superior technical solution as far as showing the screen is concerned you'd be wrong, and CRT's will be gone soon. Interesting, and somewhat annoying. It's a bit like looking up train timetables from the early 1900's and finding that journey times were faster then in some countries - a bit of a joke and a bit of a con.

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