Sunday, May 11, 2003

Are you ready for Linux?

The reasons for switching to Linux are as varied as Linux users themselves. Whatever spirit of rebellion drives them to begin a Linux installation--whether they're fed up with commercial operating systems, or looking for something stable that will run on a clunker PC, or they just like living on the edge of the latest technological trends--Linux offers many options, for free, that will satisfy them. Moreover, these rebel Linux users soon find that they have a degree of control over their computer systems that they may not have previously experienced. Without much trouble, they can learn how Linux works, how to troubleshoot problems, and how to dig even more deeply into their systems.

There are so many reasons why more and more users are beginning to look into Linux. This includes:
1. Free software tools. There are various versions of Linux that can be downloaded for free. Nice softwares that performs tasks of popular softwares today can also be downloaded for free or paid for at a minimum amount.

2. Solid community. Globally there are Linux user groups, mailing lists, and organizations existing whose intent is help fellow Linux user. A newbie would find oneself with people supportive and helpful of each other in this community.

3. An alternative. For companies and individuals that can't keep on upgrading to accommodate new operating system developments but would want to have enough tools to get by with one's computing requirements, Linux provides an alternative for the prudent.

In order to get started, there's a lot of books available that one can learn from. A good one to look at is Running Linux (Welsh, Dalheimer, Dawson, and Kaufman, O'Reilly, US $44.95), a classic now in its fourth edition. It explains everything readers need to know to understand, install, and start using Linux.

Whether readers are installing Linux for the first time, or need to know more about a specific task, such as adding a network printer or configuring for ADSL, they will benefit from the authors' clear, well-organized instructions. The book doesn't draw the line at the kernel, or the shell, or the GUI, or even at the point of essential applications. Rather, the authors, experienced Linux enthusiasts, have anticipated problem areas, selected stable and popular solutions, and provided clear discussions and instructions to ensure that readers will have a satisfying experience running Linux. The discussion is direct and complete enough to guide novice users while still providing the additional information experienced users will need to progress in their mastery of Linux. The fourth edition of "Running Linux" delves deeper into installation, system administration, configuring desktops, and networking than earlier editions did. New topics include:

- The popular LAMP configuration that combines Linux with Apache, MySQL, and PHP
- Applications ready for prime time
- The GNOME desktop
- Basic security and firewalling
- Package management on Debian
- The Postfix mail transfer agent
- Sound configuration

A solid foundation text for any Linux user, the book also includes additional resources for dealing with special requirements imposed by hardware, advanced applications, and emerging technologies. Whether readers are using Linux on a home workstation or maintaining a network server, they'll find that "Running Linux" provides expert advice just when they need it.

Another book worth reading concurrently with the above is "Building Secure Servers with Linux". It focuses on the most common use of Linux--as a hub offering services to an organization or the larger Internet--and shows readers how to harden their hosts against attacks. As the cost of broadband and other high-speed internet connectivity has gone down, and its availability has increased, more Linux users are providing services such as HTTP, Anonymous FTP, etc., to the world at large. At the same time, some important, powerful, and popular open source tools have emerged and rapidly matured--some of which rival expensive commercial equivalents--making Linux a particularly appropriate platform for providing secure internet services. But security is uppermost in the mind of anyone providing such a service. Any server experiences casual probe attempts dozens of time a day, and serious break-in attempts are made with some frequency as well.

Bauer, a security consultant, network architect, and lead author of the popular "Paranoid Penguin" column in "Linux Journal," carefully outlines the security risks, defines precautions that can minimize those risks, and offers recipes for robust security. The book covers common situation where an organization protects its hub using other systems as firewalls.

An all-inclusive resource for Linux users who wish to harden their systems, "Building Secure Servers with Linux" covers general security as well as key services such as DNS, the Apache web server, mail, file transfer, and secure shell. The book includes:

- Precise directions for securing common services, including the Web, mail, DNS, and file transfer
- Ancillary tasks, such as hardening Linux, using SSH and certificates for tunneling, and using iptables for firewalling
- Basic installation of intrusion detection tools

"Building Secure Servers with Linux" explains security concepts and techniques in clear language, beginning with the fundamentals, so that Linux users with minimal knowledge of security will be able to grasp and apply its concepts. With this book in hand, Linux administrators will have everything they need to ensure robust security of their Linux systems.