Absolute FreeBSD 3rd Edition from Michael W. Lucas, printed by ‘No Starch Press’, is an absolute (pun intended) must have for every BSD user and I’d go so far as to say to every UNIX and Linux user indeed.
Describing an operating system is a daunting task and Michael does it so comfortably well and very graciously for the reader to cope with the content at hand. If you think this is a technical book, you may be right, because it is, but if you ever throw your eyes at ‘The design and implementation of the FreeBSD operating system’ you’ll get a whole new dimension of the meaning of ‘technical book’. This ‘Absolute FreeBSD Book’ kind of book is the most needed on every operating system. Approachable, correct and complete not only on the topics it covers but on the depth it goes in. Down the water but not into the black and cold abyss.
The paper and the cover.
Since there is a lot to cover this is thick book with 648 pages of decent quality paper that will survive the pass of time mostly unharmed unless you read it regularly every week. The cover though is not so good. Mine has dettached from the spine of the book and still holds somehow but I am sure this will fall any time. And yes, this book was new when I bought it. This may be a deal breaker for some but trust me, this is minutia compared to the relevance of the content. I’m pretty convinced this issue can be solved with an afternoon of planning and glueing.
Everything is here. From the comments on the birth of FreeBSD as well as other Unixes to reporting panics and issues through every single bit of the system. Mind chapter four is dedicated to the boot process. The content at every chapter is not only presented in a palatable way but the basics at hand are well explained so the reader can easily and quickly grasp the topic at hand. Examples are everywhere and good tips and advice is spread all around. The little tips not only help the book to be read more easily but it gives a sense of an author who’s felt the same pain as the reader has on some delicate questions such as recovering failed file systems, or rescuing
You may like Michael’s style or not. I do but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone doesn’t. This said I truely think those are a minority. Michael goes straight to the point. Correctness in what is said and in the way it is presented is everywhere. Every sentence has a meaning and a purpose. It tightly fits. At the same time there is a camaradery atmosphere around, which helps make a connection with the reader given the hard nature of the topic.
Absolute FreeBSD is a constant ‘in crescendo’. From the past to the present. From what you need to know before dealing with FreeBSD to how to embed a FreeBSD 4 userland into a modern Jail, through the install process, the boot process, what a file system is, service management, networking, tips and tricks, customizing software, even kernel tunning. Every chapter starts smoothly presenting facts and starts spinning into the topic, how FreeBSD solves that question in particular, examples of commands and utilities and finally ends with very useful solutions.
This is the list of chapters in Absolute FreeBSD:
Chapter 1: Getting More Help
Chapter 2: Before You Install
Chapter 3: Installation Walk-Through
Chapter 4: Start Me Up! The Boot Process
Chapter 5: Read This Before You Break Something Else! (Backup and Recovery)
Chapter 6: Kernel Games
Chapter 7: The Network
Chapter 8: Configuring Networking
Chapter 9: Securing Your System
Chapter 10: Disks, Partitioning, and GEOM
Chapter 11: The Unix File System
Chapter 12: ZFS
Chapter 13: Foreign Filesystems
Chapter 14: Exploring /etc
Chapter 15: Making Your System Useful
Chapter 16: Customizing Software with Ports
Chapter 17: Advanced Software Management
Chapter 18: Upgrading FreeBSD
Chapter 19: Advanced Security Features
Chapter 20: Small System Services
Chapter 21: System Performance and Monitoring
Chapter 22: Jails
Chapter 23: The Fringe of FreeBSD
Chapter 24: System (and Sysadmin) Crashes and Panics
Chapter 25: Afterword
If you pay attention this book has a chapter on the /etc directory. Wouldn’t that be helpful for every UNIX / Linux user, not just FreeBSD ones? Do you want to know the basics on ZFS? Are you fully immersed into containers, Docker, Kubernetes and whatnot? Take a walk into FreeBSD Jails street and marvel yourself with another piece of useful, great technology.
I am more than happy to have acquired Absolute FreeBSD and read it. I visit it from time to time to refresh some concepts, get ideas and new insights I didn’t see the first time. For me this is a must have if you are interested on operating systems, not just UNIX or similar software.
Where to get it.
Of course you can buy it at your site of reference, which will easily be Amazon.com. However I’d recommend you to use the links on Michael’s own site. No affiliate program on my part, I am just a good netizen.
Michael, thank you.