Two books on my bookshelf, that I read over a year ago, are Absolute FreeBSD: The Complete Guide to FreeBSD, 2nd Edition by Michael Lucas and Building a Server with FreeBSD 7 by Bryan Hong.  I bought them at about the same time and read them together.  I was wanting to use FreeBSD on my desktop machine and I was setting up a virtual private server (VPS) on RootBSD to serve web pages, mail, and be an network time protocol server.  These two books, although both published by No Starch Press and about the same operating system, are very different in both content and style.

Absolute FreeBSD is a thick tome covering everything about FreeBSD that an aspiring computer savvy person would want to know.  Basically, you could read Absolute FreeBSD, never read the official FreeBSD Handbook, and learn very similar information all while building a computer system that can serve web pages, DNS, mail, and many users.  Michael Lucas is a great technical writer.  He keeps things light when describing situations but then provides just enough technical details about how things are supposed to work, interspersed with step by step instruction, to assist you with setting up your own server.  It's one of the best written books about computing that I've ever read.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and putting the information to practical use.  It's an awesome book and I learned not only how to set up a FreeBSD server, but also, why certain things work the way they do (especially DNS which is rather difficult to explain).  This book will be a lasting reference book on my bookshelf that I will refer to in the future, even when doing non-FreeBSD things (like DNS), to help refresh my memory.

Contrast this with Building a Server with FreeBSD 7, which is purely a step by step (literally) manual on installing and configuring often used software packages on a FreeBSD 7 system.  There's very little, if any, explanation on: why you should set up configuration files in the specified ways, why certain commands are issued the way they are, and how to do anything beyond the basics of installing and getting said software running.  I'm sad that I spent money buying this book, I could have gotten just as much out of it by borrowing it from a friend or library.  I only used it once and now some of it is already outdated because the software packages described are either out of date or because FreeBSD has moved on (already being at version 8.1).

The way these two books contrast each other is astounding.  Usually, the No Starch Press books I've read are mostly written similarly to Lucas's style.

One thing I definitely got out of these two books is that I want to be a writer like Michael Lucas.



04 December 2010