Mstation Book Reviews
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Thu, 01 Jun 2006

Debian System

Review: The Debian System

Review: The Debian System

The Debian System
Concepts and Techniques

Martin F. Krafft, No Starch Press

One reason I buy fewer technical books these days than I did 15 years ago is the ease of finding technical information on the net. If googling on the program name and the error message finds me what I need to know to solve the problem I'm having, why should I spend $45 on a reference book, and have to locate the book, and use the index. And of course, often the book isn't up-to-date enough to have the information I need, isn't indexed well enough that I can find the solution to my problem.

There are of course technical books that explain concepts and are readable away from the computer screen, which are worth having. And if the reference material is well-linked to the explanation of the concepts, the book may well be better pedagogically than the help forum that google is going to find for me.

I do run a Debian system on my desktop, and I do occasionally have Debian system management problems. So far, google has usually solved them for me, but sometimes it's taken long enough, or been incomprehensible enough when I found the solution that I looked forward to having a reference book that might help.

So what I looked for when I got the review copy of this book was:

  • Can I find solutions to some of the problems I've had?
  • Does the book explain the concepts behind the solutions better than what I've been using?
The answer to these questions is "Usually", and "Sometimes." On the whole, it's a well-written book. There are whole sections about the Debian programming community that make sense to read away from the computer.

On the more specific stuff, the index seems a bit sparse (5 pages for a 600 page book), and doesn't have some fairly obvious entries. For instance, there's no entry for "audio", although if your problem with audio is that your user isn't part of the audio group, looking up "group" will give you a list of all the special groups, including "audio". Incidentally, the list of special groups is one of the things google hadn't ever found for me, and is quite useful.

As far as the general discussion goes, it's quite detailed in some ways and fairly offhand in others. For instance, there are several pages about how and why to go about becoming an official Debian Developer. However, Appendix B, "When is Debian the right choice?" didn't seem to me to really address the issue of what do I get from Debian that I can't or won't from running Ubuntu.

So, in summary, I would say that if you're feeling the need for a hard-copy reference book on Debian system management, this is a good book. If you want bedtime reading about the Debian project, it's a pretty good book. But you'll want to have google around, as well.

Laura Conrad
Last modified: Fri Apr 7 10:17:52 EDT 2006

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