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Network Administration with FreeBSD 7

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Network Administration with FreeBSD 7

Posted on 2008-09-03 17:15:00, modified on 2008-09-05 22:15:00
Tags: FreeBSD, Books, Reviews

As described in the "About the Author" chapter the book Network Administration with FreeBSD 7 by Babak Farrokhi and published by Packt Publishing, this is a book made of scattered notes. And that makes the context of this book so good: It are the notes from an experienced administrator who wants to share his secrets with the world. Although I have been using FreeBSD since the 2.2 versions and I am well known with it, his notes show that there is nothing better to learn from than the experience of peers in the same field you are in.

The size of the pages in the book is wider than the O'Reilly books, which makes it possible to leave it open on your desk while you try out the suggestions and commands printed on them. The order of the chapters is System Configuration, Network Configuration and Network Services and it doesn't only describe the commands available in the base operation system, but also the important ports in the third party software ports collection. The commands and examples in the book are consistent and include the command line, /etc/rc.conf and kernel configuration lines everytime where it is necessary.

Because of the fast development and the broad range of features on the FreeBSD operating system, it is hard to know everything others know. That goes for me with regarding to the GEOM chapter for example, which I never had touched before because I always have used hardware based RAID solutions. And it goes for the author, who didn't write about the GUID partition table for large harddisks.

The FreeBSD operating system has often the approach of "use tools and approaches which have been proven over time" and the mindset of system administrators often reflect this: cvsup is one of these things. But luckely the author mentions the portsnap and freebsd-update tools, although he doesn't mention the fact that the last one can be used for minor version and major version upgrades of the base operating system.

The chapter about jails, one of my favourite features of FreeBSD, is very clear and verbose, but it lacks a reference to the sysutils/ezjail port.

Despite being a book for administrators, the Network Configuration part starts with the basic stuff on how network interfaces work and how to configure them. But it quickly moves forward to VLANs and monitoring mode and Fast EtherChannels. The chapter about tunnelling is partly simple and partly tricky: The simple part is the GRE tunnel in two pages and the tricky part is the IPSEC tunnel in 8 pages. The chapter about PPP describes beside the client configuration also the server configuration, something I have never done before.

The chapter about my favourite thing on network equipment, dynamic routing, is a good start to get things up and running but is missing an essential paragraph about what goes over the wire in case of a successful (or unsuccessful) establishing of routing neighbours.

The firewalls chapter is technically fine, but it shows that the author is natively speaking a language in which words like "a", "an" or "the" are not compulsory to write a grammatically correct sentence: Often these words are missing and its confusing. But there is nothing wrong with the context.

The chapters about Internet Servers and Local Network Services are fine to have a complete overview of all aspects of a FreeBSD system, but it doesn't give more than a quickly name them, give an example and tell how to install them. The book should have been done without these two chapters and they could have been in their own book, with more and deeper examples and troubleshooting tips.

My opinion: Great book, worth having and reading. It could use a review of somebody who is a native English speaker to get the lines better rolling now and then, and a technical review of somebody who can make sure that the examples are correct, but for the rest I would say that it belongs next to the other books like Absolutely FreeBSD and The Complete FreeBSD.


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