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Readers, experts square off on the best Linux books

Despite the fact that some consider it to lack depth, Running Linux tops the list of IT pros' favorite Linux and open source books. Get more Linux and open source book recommendations here.'s readers and site experts alike were recently invited to submit e-mails describing their favorite Linux books. Tastes ranged from the historical to the instructional. Here's what they had to say:

Readers weigh in

Andy Canfield, a Linux software consultant who hails from Thailand, emphasized one of the biggest problems within the field of publishing: The manuals that guide a user become obsolete as fast as technology is improved upon.

"Features have disappeared and new features have been added," Canfield said. "Just think of what has come up in the past few years: Firefox, the Novell/SuSE acquisition, Fedora, Mandrake's bankruptcy, Mandriva, blogs, etc. If you were a world expert [in] 2003 you'd be a halfwit in 2005."

Publisher O'Reilly's Running Linux, by Matt Welsh, Matthias Kalle Dalheimer, Lar Kaufman and Terry Dawson, received several nods from readers. Siobhan McSweeney likes it because she feels "it's a great reference book without being Linux specific. [And it's] cheap enough without requiring me to obtain a second job to pay for it."

Self-described Linux/Unix system administrator, Linux instructor and resident hacker Joe Klemmer qualified Running Linux as "not the greatest of the great but a good book." Nevertheless, the book tops Klemmer's list because he considers it to be the first book on Linux ever published.

One user, Trey Thompson, preferred Linux in a Nutshell, Linux Pocket Guide, and The Linux Cookbook. Another reader, Jon Biddell recommends taking a look at the books of Marcel Gagne, especially Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye and Moving to the Linux Business Desktop, both of which he describes as being written for the semi-technical user and a nice introduction to Linux for those caught in the "Wintendo nightmare."

However, not all tastes focused on the technical. John Markoff's What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, a history of the PC, was on Ken Hansen's reading list. This book takes a look at how influential people and politics were integral to the impact of the features and design of modern computers.

More on this topic:

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The case for Konqueror over IE and Windows file managers

Experts' opinions

Bernard Golden, SearchOpenSource's open source software and applications expert, enjoyed Carla Schroder's Linux Cookbook and the Linux Quick Fix by Peter Harrison. Golden stated, "I like both of these books because they offer focused, well-organized, easy-to-understand information about how to solve real problems quickly. Far too many technical books want to teach the entire theory of something before they help you solve even the smallest problem. Both of these books help you zero in on the task at hand and get it done."

Windows-to-Linux migration and interoperability consultant Mark Hinkle favors Running Linux because he considers it to be "the gold standard, in my mind for a good technically oriented book, giving you an overview of how Linux works. It's not the best from the depth of content, but it's a good overarching reference."

For the IT manager or CIO director who may be skeptical about the open source model, Hinkle suggests reading The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source by Martin Fink. "It's a good strategy book but [has] no technical detail. It just helps you understand why you might want to adopt open source technologies, such as Linux, Apache, Samba and others, and tells you about the benefits of such an approach to IT infrastructure," he said.

James Turnbull, security specialist, preferred The Book of Postfix: State-of-the-Art Message Transport by Ralf Hildebrandt and Patrick Koetter. "This recently published book is a great guide for both new and experienced administrators on how to install, configure and troubleshoot Postfix. It is especially useful for administrators who are new to Postfix and want to hit the ground running."

Turnbull also recommended Linux Firewalls (2nd Edition) by Robert Ziegler. "[It is] probably the definitive work on building a firewall using Linux and iptables. The book is to the point, accurate and easy to engage with," he said.

Paul Dubois' MySQL is MySQL guru Mike Hillyer's all-time favorite. "Paul's book is hands-down the most comprehensive book on MySQL on bookshelves today, as evidenced by its bullet-stopping thickness," Hillyer stated.

But for new developers looking to use PHP and MySQL together, Hillyer recommends MySQL Web Development by Luke Welling and Laura Thomson. Hillyer considers it to be well written with great examples that make it easier for users to learn the two technologies.

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