posted by Jeffrey J. Bianchine on Thu 12th Aug 2004 17:42 UTC

"BSD Book, Page 2/2"
Reading these two books was time consuming, but as an investment that immediately pays dividends, it was a valuable time expenditure that has yielded an understanding of why FreeBSD works the way it does.

I enjoyed reading these books, the earlier edition for the historical context and the latest edition for its contemporary relevance. Given that I am currently working in a FreeBSD 5.2.1 environment and support Apple OS X (in addition to Linux) the new edition is the right book at the right time.

I appreciated the references to the rationale for design and implementation decisions. I especially liked the remarks about alternative paths that were not followed which appear throughout the design and implementation chapters, along with the reasons why those paths were not followed. The treatments of the decision to extend UFS1 to UFS2 versus implementing either XFS or ReiserFS and the selection of 64 bit over 48 bit time in the new inode format are examples. These were presented in a matter-of-fact way, with no words wasted on gossip or discussions of infighting.

If you are new to the idea of FreeBSD and want to purchase a book to help you gain a general understanding, then this is not the book you are looking for. I recommend instead, "The FreeBSD Corporate Networker's Guide," by Ted Mittelstaedt (if you can find a copy) because it covers representative portions of general production topics in an easily digested format.

If you are looking for a FreeBSD text that presents FreeBSD 5 administration and configuration topics, then the book is entirely wrong for you, too. I would suggest either, "The Complete FreeBSD, 4th Edition," by Greg Lehey, or, "Absolute BSD," by Michael Lucas.

However, once you progress to the point where you need to learn about the internals of FreeBSD, this will be the book for you.

Finally, assorted observations and comments follow.

* In keeping with academic tradition, both texts contain footnotes. In reading through these, I came to appreciate that if these texts were a series of web pages and the footnotes links to the source documents, reading along the link trail would be a further exploration gratifying in its own right.

* Given the potential use in Computer Science courses, each chapter includes questions of varying degree of difficulty and thought required.

* Both texts include a glossary.

* NetBSD and OpenBSD are not entirely ignored in the latest edition. Descriptive references to both appear at the beginning, to place each BSD family member in proper context. A few references to each appear later in the text where appropriate.

* Darwin (the FreeBSD core for Apple OS X) gets a mention at the very beginning of the book, when the authors first describe the scope of the BSD family of operating systems.

* Although DragonFlyBSD (the newest member of the BSD family of operating systems) is not mentioned by name, Matthew Dillon is acknowledged at the beginning of this book. Despite the fact that the stated goals of the DragonFlyBSD group include advancing BSD from 4.x instead of 5.x, the BSD community shares code with one another. It will be interesting to see how this group contributes to the whole as well as if the next edition of the text (whenever it is published) includes ideas from the project.

* There are no politics, rhetoric, or diatribes in either text. The authors correctly understood that forays into that territory would only detract from achieving their goal. For example, Microsoft, although mentioned in passing in the earlier text in the context of Windows being unable to succeed as a UNIX-killer (as was IBM with OS/2, by the way) is given no mention at all in the latest edition.

* Linux is mentioned, although only in historical context. Given that on the F/OSS side of the operating systems debate there are those in the Linux camp who adhere to a, "BSD is dead," line, I found it refreshing to get a, "we're all in this together," sense from the history chapter. This is a view I personally espouse as the best path to encompass ever larger numbers of newcomers to F/OSS.

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