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Book Reviews

Practical RDF: Solving Problems with the Resource Description Framework

Shelley Powers ISBN 0596002637

The book Practical RDF (Solving Problems with the Resource Description Framework) written by Shelley Powers published by O'Reilly is reviewed in this article. It was first published in 2003, which makes it a fairly recent book.

Shelley Powers has been a (web)developer for quite some time, has written a couple of O'Reilly books, such as Essential Blogging, Unix Power Tools, and she writes articles and has a blog on

The book basically has two parts. The first part is a more theoretical approach to RDF, explaining the RDF specification. The second part aims at the practical side. with lots of examples and screenshots of those examples. Due to the scope of the book it is not meant for those looking for an indepth explanation of RDF.

Short Intro to RDF

RDF stands for Resource Description Framework and is a W3C standard. RDF is a language designed for the semantic web. RDF can be represented as an xml document which contains meta data of documents, blogs, etc. RDF is used for distributing meta data over the internet. The main feat of RDF is the use of triplets which boils down to: "subject property value".

To give two examples the BOOK has an AUTHOR which is Shelley Powers and the BOOK has a PUBLISHER which is O'Reilly. The nice part about RDF is that things like BOOK, AUTHOR, etc can be defined by URIs, Uniform Resource Identifier. The good part about this is that if another RDF file uses the same URI for author then you are talking about the same thing. It is in this that the true power of RDF can be shown. Hence why it is so useful for the semantic web because things can be defined to be semantically the same or different. A good example is RSS1.0, Real Simple Syndication. RSS 1.0 is for example used to gives webusers updates about, whether or not their favorite blog has been updated, a new podcast has been made available or if there is a new entry on the news site.

Contents of the Book

The first part of the book focusses on the RDF specification. Some knowledge about set theory and xml is a great a definitely a great pro. RDF can be represented in a couple of ways though the one most used is RDF/XML which uses XML as file format for transport.

The first part, chapters one through six and partly chapter twelve, goes into depth with the RDF specification, with examples from articles of Powers' website A lot of the RDF vocabulary, such as, triples, URI, bag and postcon is explained. Chapter twelve deals with OWL, Web Ontology Language. These chapters are pretty detailed and sometimes, because of the detail, clarity is lost. I found it hard to keep track of the different RDF elements and the layout makes that it is sometimes hard to go over a previous read part and quickly recover the main points.

The second part, chapters 7 through 15, deals with the practical side of RDF. It explains a lot of the programs that are used for RDF editing and processing. There are also a couple of examples using Jena, which is Java based and can deal with RDF. It is worth to note that the uses of scripting languages, such as Perl, PHP and Python are explored. Although not in very great detail. A lot of the graphical programs, such as editors and mozilla come with screenshots.


This book is a very good book when it comes to introducing someone to working with a practical approach to RDF. It gives lots of examples, screenshots and documentation to aid those who want to use RDF in a simple way. This book is however not a reference book as this book doesn't go into great depths to explain the RDF framework and the practical examples and screenshots are likely to be obsolete when the next (major) version of the software comes out.

Squid: The definitive guide

Duane Wessels ISBN 0596001622

This 400+ page book describes Squid, the well known internet cache and proxy server in detail. The book helps you in getting, installing tuning and maintaining the software. It is well written and provides a number of tips and examples to be used by both the newbies as wel as a comprehensive description of the details of use and configuration for the more experienced user.

In the 16 chapters almost everything regarding squid is covered. Starting out with some basics and continuing with downloading and compiling the software. Then continuing on with the basic configuration and the basic mantenance issues. After this more advanced options are discussed, including cache mainetnance and disk space requirements. Also communication with other instances of squid is worth a complete chapter in the book. Then the monitoring facilities and logging is described. In an appendix references on the config directives, performance benchmarks, etc. are covered.

The book mainly focusses on running squid on an Unix platform, however in an appendix some issues with squid on Windows are discussed. There are numerous (small) examples on how to apply and use various settings. All configuration issues are explained wit an example. The missing part however is a complete squid configuration explained. All details are covered, but it takes some experince to see the big picture. The book is very practical, and in my opinion lacks a little more tech background on the "why" question.

Nevertheless, this book can provide a good helping hand in building a solid high-performance web proxy / cache using squid. For all applications where the default config of squid does not suffuce, this book will help tuning the cache to your particular needs. For the beginner as wel as the poweruser this book may definitely come in handy.

Hardware hacking projects for geeks

Scott Fullam ISBN 0596003145

Hardware hacking for geeks is a book to be looked at in different ways. You can see this book as a set of ready-to-build projects or you can get ideas from it to design your own geeky projects. When evaluating the ready-to-build projects, it might be fun to reproduce, but they are not as "wow" as someone may think. A vast number of these projects have already be mentioned on websites like slashdot and the like and others are so special and designed around certain appliances that rebuilding might become difficult especially in Europe.

On the other hand, the book supplies a number of nice ideas and shows "what can be done" quite nicely, so as a place to get new and novel ways of using hardware in a fun matter is looks great.

The book is split in two parts. The first part describes some 6 basic hacks, the second part describes 9 more advanced hacks. The third part contains some appendices with valuable resources for designing your own hacks. While reading through the hacks you will find some basics on electronics, microcontroller programming, assembly and mechanical engineering. These are the basic techniques used in all hacks described.

There are a lot of pictures showing the projects in different phases of completion. All projects have datailed electronic schematics and where applicable source code of the software used.

One of the basic projects describes the building of an 802.11b antenna in detail. others describe how to build a building-size text display or hacking your toaster or building a remote tracking device or arcade machine.

Concluding, this is a nice book for getting ideas on how to build nice projects. All basic knowledge of electronics and assembly are in the book, which makes it perfectly suitable for a beginner, while also providing ideas and details for the more tech-savy experts in the field. While reading through projects you'll learn the basic items needed for your own project. A fun book to read and to learn from and get new and novel ideas.

Wireless Hacks

Rob Flickener, ISBN 596005598

This recent addition in the "Hacks" series adds "100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools" to the vast rangen of O'Reilly books on Wireless Networks. The 280 page book not only addresses 802.11 networks, but adds some nice tips on using bluetooth too.

Nearly every subtopic in the wireless world is covered in this book. There is a short introduction on the standards used, including bluetooth. Then the book continues with practical set-ups and easy to use tips on setting up your wireless network including monitoring, hardware hacks, antennas and security. Every tip is explained in a practical fashion and can be directly deployed. The tips are applicable to Windows, Linux, (Free)BSD, and macOSX systems.

Simple tricks how to start and troubleshoot your wireless network are combined with more detailed tricks on eg. DNS. The do-it-yourself chapter on antennas describes some nice "standard" designs for Wireless LAN antennas. The security section completes the book with ready-to use tips on how to secure your wireless set-up. The book is suitable for newbies in the wireless networking world, but also the guru can benefit from some of the interesting ideas and tips.

Highly recommended. A good christmas-gift !

The Complete FreeBSD

Greg Lehey, ISBN 596005164

This 650+ page book describes FreeBSD for the user. To directly address any question that might come up with you, it really does add something to the FreeBSD handbook as maintained and published by the FreeBSD team. The Handbook addresses a number of topics that are also covered in this book, but The Complete FreeBSD adds some more to it.

The book is particularly suited for the FreeBSD user who wants to use the system efficiently. After a brief introduction to Unix, free software and the like, the book digs in to installing FreeBSD on the system, makes some notes on hardware and continues on to the configuration part.

Configuring and setting up X, your (inter)network connection (including firewall) and mail are a number of topics described in the 33 chapters. The topics are covered in enough detail for both the beginner with some unix knowledge as well as the intermediate administrator. Due to the organization of the book it can serve as a sysadmin reference book to freeBSD. The examples are clear, and enough background is provided to answer the "why" question.

Advanced topics such as rebuilding a custom kernel and updating your system are also covered. Also a comprehensive list of all the configuration files divided in files you "need", "might need", and "should not" change may come in handy. Appendices contain a list of references to other reading material as well as a chapter on the evolution of FreeBSD.

The book is mainly targeted to FreeBSD 5.0, although other versions of FreeBSD share a lot of the same concepts and and also benefit from the sysadmin using this book. As an addition to the FreeBSD manual it is a nice book to have on your desktop.

802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide

M.Gast, ISBN 0-596-00183-5

This book presents the reader with approximately 400 pages of information on the 802.11b standard. After a short introduction the 802.11 protocol is described in more deatil. the MAC layer as well as the physical (radio) level is described in detail. Esp. the framing and the datails of the radioframes are discussed. In this section there is also some detail info on 802.11a. Also the WEP encryption is discussed, with attention on the fact that it is flawed.

Furthermore the book discusses the use of 802.11b in Linux and windows environments. There are a number of examples of setting up and deploying and tuning wireless networdks using different architectures. Altough there chapters fous on specific brands of hardware they might be prove usefull in getting the feeling what is involved in setting things up.

The book is quite comprehensive in explaining a number of details on the protocol on the lower levels, this will give the reader a better understanding why certain behaviour exists. Most vendors do not allow the user to access these layer, butknowing what is going on provides some good background.

Getting to the final conclusion I might say that this book will prove to be very usefull to the system administrator that will be deploying wireless networks. It gives good background on the protocol and also some tips in how to set up things. It has really good value for the money.

a sample chapter of the book can be found here.

Building Wireless Community Networks

R. Flickener, ISBN 0-596-00204-1

The small book provides a more practical introduction in how to build (community) networks. It briefly discusses the set up and the building of antennas. Most of the information contained in the book is available on the internet, but the book does a good job of bundeling of the info.

Compared to the book "802.11 Wireless Networks" it provides the ready-to-use info to start building things yourself. Fortunately the book is somewat targetted to the US market, but most (if not all) info is also applicable to the European region. If you sart out from scratch, this booklet will provide you with enough practical tips to get your network running.

REVIEW: Dit boekje kost rond de 30 euro en dat is, naar mijn mening, wat veel voor 125 pagina's. Toch bevat het boekje alle praktische informatie die je nodig hebt. Het bouwen van de pringles antenne, praktische aanpak van een 'site survey' (tips plaatsen antennes etc.). Enkele linux kennis en algemene kennis van netwerken is wel een vereiste.

== DNS and BIND Cookbook ==

Cricket Liu ISBN 0-596-00410-9

This book is a over 200 pages packed info source on how to handle the domain name system using bind. It will not serve as an thourogh introduction to either topic, but is a series of tips on various subjects well written down by the DNS guru Cricket Liu.

The book covers bind 8 and bind 9 running under a flavor of UNIX. The topics covered in the 11 chapters range from configuration, security to troubleshooting. There is a separate chapter on IPV6. The book is well organized and has loads of illustrative examples explaining the number of every day questions you might have on DNS and bind. The book is tageted on the more experienced level sysadmin who maintains nameservers and wants quick answers and examples on everyday questions. Reletively simple issues are tackled, but also the more issues that come up in more complex DNS setups are described. All topics are approached in a structured matter, first defining the problem, then suggesting a solution and conluding with the discussion thereof. Most subjects are having hands-on examples.

For the experienced sysadmin this book might be an invaluable tool just to have a quick reference to the most common tasks and problems encountered in administering DNS. Recommended.


Iljitsch van Beijnum ISBN 0-596-00254-8

This book is a must for everyone who seriously considers becoming a routing guru. BGP is the routing protocol designed by cisco and is used to direct the traffic on the internet at large. Interconnections between multiple ISPs and big network connections to the internet use this protocol.

The book starts out with some basics on routing IP addressing and design considerations. After these initial chapter Iljitsch gets into the application of BGP describing how to connect to multiple ISPs using BGP to talk to their routers. The examples are all targeted to cisco's IOS, but often are also applicable to the ZEBRA router package. Next chapters on optimizing traffic and security follow. These chapters are filled with real-world examples on how to set things up in various ways. Also maintenance and troubleshooting the router network andare covered in depth.

The last chapters in the book cover some more advanced topics using BGP in larger networks, providing transit services and interconnecting with other networks. The last part of the book contain a couple of appendixes covering cisco basics, and numbering overviews.

The book is mosly targeted to network experts who run large multiple-connected networks or ISPs. It provides a good and solid introduction to BGP and how to set things up. It is a good and conprehensive piece of information for the networking guru.

802.11 Security

Bruce Potter and Bob Fleck, ISBN 0-596-00290-4

802.11 security or insecurity is a hot topic in the networking world these days. The abovementioned book is pointing out where the weak points in the 802.11 standard security are and how to overcome them. In 160 pages the basics on wireless network security are discussed, along with special parts on client, accesspoint and gateway security. The practical examples are for Linux, *BSD, windows and MacOSX, so every user should find their topic.

The client part of the book shows the reader what to do to install a client and secure the client OS for attacks coming from the wireless world. It also addresses the topic of building secure communication channels and auditting.

The Accesspoint part of the book shows in practical examples how to set up an an accesspoint using the different OS machines. The last part of the book describes how to turn your accesspoint into a gateway to the internet.

The book is a practical guideline, with numerous examples and settings.

Altough the technical background could be better (more explaining the technicalities behind the "Why ?" question) after reading this book the reader should have no big problem setting up his / her own accesspoint and gateway to the 'Net.

Security is a major topic in the discussion of setting things up. Firewalls and filters are discussed together with IPsec tunneling solutions, but a separate book on firewalling may come in handy when acually creating a secure environment.

Summarizing: The book is RECOMMENDED for the beginner and intermediate level, but some more technical background discussions would have made it more valuable for the advanced sysadmin.

Linux server hacks

Rob Flickener, ISBN 0-596-00461-3

As the subtitle "100 Industrial Strength Tips & Tools" suggests, this book is a very practical one. There are 100 topics devided in the following categories: Server Basics, Revision control, Backups, Networking, Monitoring, SSH, scripting and information servers. Each topic has a small (half page) introduction, and some examples, or a script that can be used directly. It is a nice book for browsing and reading off-line.

Some topics are very trivial, others are more complex. The most topics approach an every-day sysadmin problem, and propose a solution that is quite useful, and applicable. When Reading the book, I had on a number of topics a real "wow-experience" to see that a simple solution could be so elegant.

The only downside of this book can be the fact that you have to read it first cover-to-cover to actually use it, and know what's in there. After that this book should never leave the vincinity of the keyboard. the small and handy book (approx 200 pages) saved me some hours hacking already. The level varied between beginner and intermediate sysadmin. It is also a good book for starters to actually see the (often hidden) power in a linux box.

One last point is that most of the book does not rely on a particular linux distro, which is good.

BoekenPg (last edited 2009-09-28 06:29:39 by localhost)