From Mark Minasi:

The second edition of my book, Linux for Administrators, is out.  You can find it on bookshelves around the country and Amazon sells it either at that link, or click on the cover picture to the left.  I wanted in this page to share with you a bit of what I intended when I wrote this book, and why I wrote it.  You see, I enjoyed writing this book more than I've enjoyed writing almost any of my other books:  Linux is a fascinating topic, particularly to the current NT or 2000 expert/power user/administrator.

I wrote the NT, 2000, XP and .NET Server books because I have always greatly enjoyed helping people figure out the huge morass of technology that is NT/2000 -- there's no better feeling than teaching a class on some thorny concept like domains or trust relationships and then seeing the "light bulbs" pop on over the heads of the students as they get that "aha!" moment of understanding.  It makes me look forward to teaching classes.

It was that same enthusiasm that drove me to develop the idea of the Linux book.  There's a lot of buzz about Linux, but I found it difficult to get a lot of practical information about it in terms that I could understand.  

You see, I've never been a Unix guy, and, as Linux is basically a free clone of Unix, 99.9% of its documentation assumes that you already know Unix.  There are many kind souls out there who try very hard to explain things about Linux, but who have been using Unix and Linux for so long that they are simply unable to explain Linux except in Linux terms -- which works fine for the millions who already know Linux/Unix.

I wanted Linux explained by someone with a different kind of "teaching disability," someone who tended to explain networking things in terms of NT and 2000.  A book that says "you already know about networking from an NT/2000 point of view -- here's Linux, explained in those terms."  Many Linux terms are just NT/2000 concepts, but that use different words for those concepts:  I needed the "decoder ring" to translate from Linux ideas to NT/2000 ideas.

I wanted a book that was the shortest path from NT to Linux.  No one had written such a book, so I set out to do the task.  It took me nine months working part-time (while watching 2000's final beta days, its release and first few months), working with the help, advice and counsel of two recognized Linux experts.

Couching Linux explanations in NT/2000 terms let me keep the book to a manageable size -- 560 pages -- so you could read it with a bit of skimming in less than a day.  And I found that not all Linuxes are created equal, so I asked Sybex to see if they could get permission to include a complete copy of one of my favorite Linuxes, Mandrake 7.1, with the book.  This book is, then, several books: 

  • First, it's an explanation of the whole Linux philosophy, a discussion of why some people think they can make money by giving software away.
  • Second, it's an explanation of Linux concepts like how disks are organized and how Linux treats hardware.
  • Third, it's a guide to doing basic Linux system administration.
  • Fourth, it's a set of step-by-step "cookbooks" to create fully working Linux-based Web, mail, DNS, DHCP, FTP, and other servers.
  • Fifth, it's a Linux/Microsoft interoperability guide, including instructions to turn a Linux box into an NT or 2000-like file and print server indistinguishable from a regulation Microsoft NT or 2000 server, using the free "Samba" tool.
  • And, finally, it's a specific guide to doing those things with Mandrake 7.1  But that's not to say that you won't benefit if you're using other distributions:  it greatly annoyed me that other Linux books seemed to talk only about how to get one distribution running, and ignored the special needs of other distributions.  So I tried just about everything not only on Mandrake, but also on Red Hat, Caldera, Slackware, Corel, SuSE, and TurboLinux.

In many ways, I wrote this book for myself.  I'm an NT/2000 expert who didn't know anything about Linux, but who could see that a lot of the world is using it; I needed this book, but no one had written it.  I sat down before starting the project, while I still knew nothing about Linux, and wrote about 50 questions that I wanted answered, both "why do they do it this way?" and "how do you do X in Linux?" questions.  And I said that the book wouldn't be done until I got the answers to those questions.

Well, now the book's done, and those questions are answered.  I hope you'll let me answer your Linux questions with Linux for Windows Administrators.  Thanks!

From the Introduction to Linux for Windows NT/2000 Administrators:  The Secret Decoder Ring:

Ever thought any of these things?

“What’s this Linux thing all about, anyway?”

“Does itreally work? Can it really do the kinds of things that NT or Windows 2000 can do?”

“Can it do those things better, worse, or about the same as NT?”

“Is Linux something I need to learn to stay current in my present job, or might it open doors for better (or at least better-paying) jobs?”

“Even if it’s any good, who’s going to support an operating system that I got for free?”

“Is all of this Linux hype for real, or do some people just hate Microsoft so much that they’d embrace any alternative?   Or … could Linux perhaps be clearly superior to NT?”

“What does an NT or Win2000 administrator need to know about Linux?”

I wondered about all of those things.As someone who learned NT back in the early beta days of 1992, before the first version of NT, 3.1 was released, I clearly remember what it was like to climb NT’s steep learning curve, and everything I’d ever heard about Linux suggested that ascending its learning curve would be every bit as arduous.When I went to university back in the late Mesozoic (okay, so I exaggerated a bit – the Paleocene is, technically, a Cenozoic time period), we didn’t use Unix, so I didn’t have the advantage of already knowing what grep, chmod, and cat did.

I didn’t want to know everything about Linux, I just wanted to know what it was and wasn’t good for, why so many people were interested in it, and how it compares to NT. (And, to tell the truth, I wanted to know the correct way to pronounce the silly thing, having heard about four variations.). I say that last part – “compares to NT” – not in a competitive sense of casting the discussion in the “NT and Windoze suck, Linux rocks!” or “Linux is a toy operating system, NT rules!” tone that 99 percent of the online discussions that I found on the subject took. Instead, I wanted a book that would explain Linux to me in an NT context. For example, I don’t need the whole idea of logons, user names, passwords, and file permissions explained to me – I’ve already had to take the time to learn that in the process of learning NT. I imagined that Linux’s file permission system was only about 10 to 15 percent different than that NT file permission system – so just teach me the 10-to-15 percent difference, saving me time and effort! In other words, don’t make me re-learn a bunch of stuff; instead, please effectively re-use the knowledge that I’ve already worked so hard to accumulate. And keep the book short, something I could maybe read on a flight from the east coast to the west.

Well, that sounded like the answer for me. There was just one little problem: no one had written that book. That’s where my first co-author, Craig Hunt, came in. I suggested the idea about the book to Roger Stewart and Gary Masters, two of the Giant Brains who decide what books to publish at Sybex. They liked the idea, but clearly we’d need a Linux expert to be my partner in putting this book together. They suggested Craig, and I immediately loved the idea.

You see, almost 10 years ago, I set out to learn TCP/IP networking with OS/2 and Windows for Workgroups. Of course, there were no OS/2 or Windows-centric TCP/IP books in those days. There were some very nice, big, fat books that explained the TCP/IP protocols in detail, but no practical ones, or so it seemed – until I found a book called TCP/IP Network Administration, by Craig Hunt. It was an O’Reilly book with a blue spine and a crab on the cover, and if you’ve been in networking for more than seven years I’ll bet there’s a decent chance that you’ve got a copy of the book on your shelf, even if you didn’t recognize Craig’s name when I first mentioned it. Craig’s was an excellent book which told me just what I needed to know, was very practical, and had clearly been written by someone who knew what he was doing. Put briefly, when it comes to Internet software on Unix, Craig is Da Man.

We worked on the book together for a while but Craig found himself increasingly pulled away by the needs of a series of Linux books he’s doing for Sybex, so I needed another Linux expert. (Look for Craig’s books if you need more detail than this book can provide; there are a few out already and some more excellent ones about to appear.)

I met Dan York through Karen Hyder of Influent Technology. You see, Karen asked me to do a presentation to several dozen technical instructors on the pros and cons of Linux from the point of view of NT users. But then she told me that I’d have company – a guy from Linuxcare.

“Oh, no,” I thought, “I have to debate with a Linux bigot!” But upon meeting him I found that Dan was the perfect guy to help with this book. In addition to his day job at Linuxcare, Dan’s a big wheel at the Linux Professional Institute and is working hard to create a Linux certification program that’s not tied to any one Linux vendor. That’s important in my opinion because I’ve never been comfortable with certification programs tied to a vendor – Cisco controlling the requirements for CCNAs, Microsoft controlling the requirements for MCSEs, and Novell controlling the requirements for CNEs all trouble me. (As does Red Hat’s Red Hat-centric certification program.) Despite an extremely busy travel schedule, Dan agreed to take on the task of writing the stuff that was too technical for me, as well as reading the text and pointing out where he felt I’d missed a point or was just downright wrong.

This book is the result of Dan, Craig, and my collaboration. The main voice that you’ll “hear” is mine – Mark’s – but the facts, the lore, and the wisdom comes from Craig and Dan.

And, in case you’re still wondering how to pronounce “Linux” correctly, I promise to reveal The Correct Pronunciation in Chapter 3!