Book reviews and virtualization

This week we have two topics on our minds: books and virtualization. First up, books. Over the last few weeks we have got our hands on some books you need to get your hands on.

Seeing that Thanksgiving has just shot past us, leaving us with an expanded waistline, we need to slim down in time for packing on the pounds at Christmas.

Unfortunately, there is little in the Gearhead universe that will give you much more than a serious mental workout, unless you count racking up computer gear and unpacking boxes as exercise. Be that as it may, this week we have two topics on our minds: books and virtualization.

First up, books. Over the last few weeks we have got our hands on some books you need to get your hands on.

Our first pick is The TCP/IP Guide by Charles Kozierok (No Starch Press). Weighing in with an impressive count of 1,539 pages (we hung on every word), this book is the most comprehensive guide to TCP/IP protocols we have ever come across. It also is the most readable. This is a book that will be staying on our shelves, and we highly recommend it. Actually, if you want a workout, just try lifting this volume at arm's length a few times.

Next, consider The Debian System by Martin Krafft (No Starch Press). At 650 pages, this hefty tome, subtitled Concepts and Techniques, is not quite in the same league as our last pick, but is remarkable for providing a much larger view of the Debian Linux distro than any book we've seen.

Debian is the basis of several other distros, including Knoppix (discussed in Gearhead in More VMware intricacies), Ubuntu and Xandros. As the book explains, Debian is one of the most organized and disciplined open source development projects around.

This book is unusual in that it is much more than a technical discussion - it delves into the philosophy of the system, explains how someone becomes a recognized Debian developer and details the way that Debian is licensed.

That's not to say the book doesn't get technical. It provides a very well-written, soup-to-nuts explanation of how Debian is organized; how to install, configure and modify the system; and how to administer and secure it. Excellent and highly recommended.

Our next book is back to a topic that we discussed in Gearhead and in Backspin: virtualization. Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise by Chris Wolf and Erik M. Halter (Apress) covers a large chunk of the commercial virtual machine market, including Microsoft Virtual PC and Virtual Server and all of the VMware products.

The subtitle is accurate in that the book does span the territory from the desktop to the enterprise and details installation, configuration and management of virtualization products. As for the enterprise end, there are chapters on using virtual file systems, building failover and load-balanced clusters, and virtualizing storage.

What we particularly like about Virtualization is that it is detailed and contains lots of information that complements the documentation of the products. This book leads us to our second topic: virtualization, specifically VMware's VMware Player. The VMware Player is essentially a run-time for VMs and works under Windows and Linux. As was noted in Gibbsblog in October when it was released: "Crucially, this isn't just for [VMware's] own VMs, but also for VMs created with Microsoft's own virtual machine environment, Virtual PC [and Virtual Server] as well as Symantec LiveState Recovery disk formats."

Amazingly, the Player is free. The player won't create VMs, but it will run prebuilt ones. A number are available.

Among the VMware-provided VMs are Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, Novell Linux Desktop 9 Virtual Development Environments, Red Hat Linux Virtual Development Environment, IBM Workplace Express, BEA Weblogic, MySQL Workplace, Oracle 10g, SpikeSource Core Stack (SuSE/Fedora Core 3 with a fully integrated LAMP Stack and more than 50 integrated components and utilities) and the Browser Appliance.

We'll tell you more next week . Tell us what's up at gearhead@gibbs.com and check Gibbsblog.

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