Great books I've been reading

Date July 16, 2009

I've had a little more free time on my hands than normal, so I've been reading some very good books. I assume you come here for IT related stuff, so I'll leave off books like The Tipping Point and Basilica and go straight to things like Upgrading and Repairing Servers:

I think everyone has probably seen "Upgrading and Repairing PCs" on the shelf of their local Barnes and Noble (heck, it's in its 18th edition!), but I was unaware of the Servers version (or the Laptops version, for that matter).

I don't know what I expected, but it really has surpassed it. I skipped the history of the server section because, well, frankly, I don't care, but even the CPU section is interesting, if a little outdated at this point (the copy I'm reading is 2006, I believe). It is well written, the technical explanations are well done, and unlike most reference books, reading straight through isn't painful.

This is a big book, and while I fully expect that it'll take me a while to get through, God help me, I think I'm going to like it.

What brought it to my attention first was that it is one of the very, very few administration books that deal with physically interacting with the servers. There is a section on racks and rackmounting, it talks about the server room, and from the brief browsing I have done of that section so far, it seems alright. Not all-encompassing, maybe, but better than most of what's out there.

Another book I've been reading and really enjoying is Wojciech Kocjan's Learning NAGIOS 3.0. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I was given a copy of this title by the publisher in order to review. I agreed on the condition that I would be honest in my review and not pull punches, if needed. I'm happy to say that it isn't necessary, because "Learning Nagios 3.0" is a very handy book.

Written as an introduction to Nagios, it doesn't require any pre-existing knowledge of the earlier Nagios implementations, which is a nice change for people new to the server monitoring experience.

The examples are clear and straightforward, and Wojciech gives a lot of example scripts that aren't included in the standard Nagios plugins. This is helpful for people (like me) who write their own nagios checks. The section on "writing nagios plugins the right way" was a great idea. It's possible to write horrible plugins. Trust me, I know.

The only thing that isn't covered as deeply as I wish it were (and maybe it'll be in the next release? ) is configuration management. There are so many better ways to setup a Nagios configuration than the default 4 or 5 files. I'm going to have to write a blog article about it someday. Anyway, Learning Nagios perpetuates the "default" configuration method that technically works, but is a pain to maintain. That is my only complaint.

If you're new to host monitoring and you want to use Nagios (and chances are good that you should and do), this would be a good book to pick up to help you on your way.

Also on my bookshelf these days is IPv6 Essentials. O'Reilly could not have picked a more appropriate cover animal for this book. This book is about as exciting as you can make IPv6, but it is full of good information.

I'm not sure where the blockage in my brain is located, exactly, but I have a difficult time wrapping my head around the best way to migrate my network from IPv4 to IPv6. Sadly, this book hasn't helped a lot in that regard. It has helped me come to terms with the reason that NAT isn't going to be required (answer: there are pre-existing networks that have a specific format that are local only, and non-routable, at least as I understand it). The answer is going to end up being "build an IPv6 lab and play with it", and when I do that, this book will be with me, but it hasn't advanced my learning as much as I hoped it might.

If you are utterly unfamiliar with IPv6 (as I was), this book can help with that, but I'm hoping for another book that will explain it in the way that I will "get it", if you know what I mean. If you know of such a creature, please let me know.

There are the tech books I've been spending my time on. I feel like I should also say that editing entries with in-line photos is so so so much easier in WordPress than it ever was in blogger. So hopefully we'll get more blog entries with pictures in them.

  • AJ L.

    Excellent set of reviews! I always appreciate finding out what you've been reading so I have an idea of what to add to my ever growing library (ex: Time Management for System Administrators & GTD are two examples sitting on my shelf @ work).

    I've been in search of a good book for IPv6 so I might give IPv6 Essentials a gander. I don't see me needing to know it in the near future but am trying to get prepped for what is coming.

  • http://www.standalone-sysadmin.com Matt Simmons

    Yeah, it's definitely lurking on the horizon. I saw an excellent video the other day of a network engineer talking about IPv6. He said that eventually, it's going to get here, and there are going to be two kinds of organizations: those who have been experimenting with IPv6 and are comfortable with the switchover and those who haven't and aren't.

    I want to be in that first group :-)

    Here's the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh3i6lDqWBM

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Chewyfruitloop

    Is the nagios book relevent to opsview?
    I'm looking at my project after next to be setting up system monitoring and opsview just looks nicer to work with, afaik though it nagios under the hood

  • http://www.standalone-sysadmin.com Matt Simmons

    @Chewyfruitloop:

    I haven't worked with Opsview, but your statement that it is Nagios would lead me to believe that it would be helpful if/when something in opsview didn't work right and you needed to know why.

    Much like other frontends, the abstraction is only helpful when everything works. Since I haven't used opsview, I don't know if it's solid or if you have to go mucking with config files behind the scenes.

  • Kenny Wells

    I think I have the 11th or 12th edition of Repairing PCs and yes, it was money well spent. I call it my "Big Book of Fixing Computers." The thing is huge and has a lot of useful information in it. Remember when Jim's power supply sent a spark to the ceiling at one of the circus parties (I'm pretty sure it was the first one, I think you were there?), I used the book to fix it. Apparently he connected a new power switch to the computer wrong. I love the thing and would occasionally read through it.

  • http://adminmas.blogspot.com/ MAS

    Good recommendations Matt, I was facing a difficulties searching for the proper books to read in the related fields or in my weakness points and also finding the book available in stores (not online stores).

    Thanks :)

  • Pingback: Nagios Configuration HOWTO | Standalone Sysadmin()

  • Richard Lynch

    Don't know if you care at this point, but the book cover images have gone missing...