Book Review: SSH Mastery

I’ve reviewed Michael Lucas’s book here before, so when he offered a chance to read his newest, SSH Mastery, I jumped at the chance.  Michael Lucas has published a number of technical books through No Starch Press, and started wondering out loud about self-publishing.  This is, I think, his first self-published technical volume.

It’s a very straightforward book.  The introduction opens with a promise not to waste space showing how to compile OpenSSH in text.  Chapter 2 ends with the sentence, “Now that you understand how SSH encryption works, leave the encryption settings alone.”  This stripping-down of the usual tech-book explanations gives it the immediacy of extended documentation on the Internet.  Not the multipage how-to articles used as vehicles for advertising, but an in-depth presentation from someone who used OpenSSH to do a number of things, and paid attention while doing it.

It’s a fun read, and there’s a good chance it covers an aspect of SSH that you didn’t know.  In my case, it’s the ability to attach a command to a public key used for login.  It even covers complex-but-oh-so-useful VPN setups via SSH.

If you’re looking for philosophical reasons to buy it, how about the lack of DRM?

The physical version is not available yet, but the electronic version is available at Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), or from Smashwords (every other format ever, including .txt).  The Smashwords variety of formats means that you’ll be able to read it on your phone, one way or another; I’d like to see more books that way in the future.


Book review: The Linux Command Line

I received an email from No Starch Press about reviewing this book, and my first reaction was to say no.  I assumed this was essentially a book about using Bash, and therefore probably not useful to people reading the Digest.

I read it despite my knee-jerk reaction, and I didn’t need to reject it so suddenly.  Almost all of the book will apply to any Unix-like system.

My first real experience with something that wasn’t Windows or a Mac was at a summer job during college, sitting in front of a SparcStation 5 editing files and processing data for real estate.  Much of my muscle memory about vi and file manipulation dates from then.  This book, even though it’s technically for a different operating system, would have been just what I needed.  There’s no system administration in the book, just making your way around a filesystem and the tools you need to get results.  It’s the kind of skills I think people lose out on when they boot to a graphical interface in Ubuntu, for example, and then never experience these tools.

Negatives: a few areas won’t be of use to most BSD users, like the section on packaging, or the bash-centric instructions in the shell programming area.  There’s the occasional off comment, like that OpenSSH originates from “the BSD project”.  There’s surprisingly little of this however, and I had to think a bit to write this negative paragraph.

Positives:  The book puts the proper focus on some complex but rewarding aspects of command line use, like using vi (alright, vim) and understanding regular expressions.  Much of what it covers is the same material I’ve learned to use over time, and explained to others.

There’s clearly two areas to the book; the first half is about using the command line to accomplish work, and the second is about shell programming.  Making it at least through the first half will result in being able to work at a prompt with little issue, with the shell programming a nice bonus.  It’s not the normal mix of admin tasks and introductory text; it’s about working at the command line.  I imagine giving it to new software testers in a lab, or to a Windows user that has to deal with the occasional unfamiliar environment.  There isn’t an equivalent BSD-centric book like this, so it wouldn’t hurt a BSD user, either.

It’s available now at the No Starch website.

Practical Packet Analysis: a review

Background: You may remember some time ago, I posted a review of Michael Lucas’s Network Flow Analysis.  He’s written several BSD books and so I figured it was worth reading further, knowing that this network-specific book would be BSD-friendly.  Also, he made it easier by sending me a copy.

No Starch Press, the company that published all the books linked in the previous paragraph, asked if I’d read/review another book from them. This would be Practical Packet Analysis, 2nd edition.  (Review continues after the break…)

Continue reading “Practical Packet Analysis: a review”