September 28, 2005

Book review: <em>Samba-3 by Example</em>

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

Too many technical books provide superficial coverage of their subject matter. Samba-3 by Example by John H. Terpstra, a long-time member of the Samba Team, is one of the rare titles that actually delivers the goods.

Terpstra's approach to Samba-3 by Example is a bit unusual. In addition to the technical aspect of managing Samba-3, he also walks readers through some of the political aspects of managing an IT project at a fictitious company called Abmas Biz NL. The book is almost a narrative, with characters who have to help see the company through the deployment and the political situations that they face as a result of their choices.

Some readers may not like this approach, or see it as a waste of time -- and I might see it that way as well, if Terpstra hadn't handled it well, and if it didn't add something to the text. However, I think Terpstra's case study approach works well. The narrative is fairly limited, so readers need not worry that the book is padded with unnecessary fluff. There's very little fat in Samba-3 by Example.

The book comprises 16 chapters, and covers everything from small office networking to a 2,000-user network. Samba-3 also discusses migrating NetWare 4.11 Server to Samba, working with Active Directory and Samba, performance and reliability issues, and updating Samba-3. All of the bases are covered, with clear instructions and example configuration files that readers can modify for their own installations.

When necessary, Terpstra also provides guidance for setting up other services. For example, in Chapter 3, Secure Office Networking, the book covers setting up a basic firewall and DNS -- including the full configuration file for the firewall. Another thing that I like about this title -- longer scripts and configuration files are broken out from the main text and put at the end of the chapter rather than in the middle of the text. There's also a table of contents for the examples, so it's easy for readers to go back at a later date and quickly find the script or configuration file they need. The book also includes a CD-ROM with the configuration files and scripts, which will save readers a great deal of typing.

Most chapters in Samba-3 include a question-and-answer section that addresses issues the reader might have after finishing the chapter. The questions might address Terpstra's rationale for the techniques he advocates, differences between Samba-2 and Samba-3, or (for example) why he focuses on SUSE Linux rather than Red Hat Linux. (The short answer to that question is because the book is about Samba, not Red Hat or SUSE.)

I should also note that the book is very up-to-date. It covers Samba versions up to Samba 3.0.20, which is the most recent stable version of Samba. Obviously, Samba will continue to evolve, but this book should remain useful for a few years at least.


If you have a Samba project on the horizon, or work with Samba now, pick up Samba-3 by Example. I enjoyed the hands-on approach, and the fact that the book doesn't waste any time getting into the meat of the topic.

This book is not for beginners. Terpstra assumes that readers already have some general knowledge of working with Samba and Unix-type systems. Users who are looking to get an introduction to Samba for use in a small environment -- a home office, for example -- would probably be best off with a title that eases the reader into working with Samba. But for intermediate to advanced readers who need a book with detailed, step-by-step instructions for setting up Samba in a real-world environment, this book is well worth its cover price.

Title Samba-3 by Example: Practical Exercises to Successful Deployment
Publisher Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference
ISBN 0131472216
Pages Paperback, 457 pages
Rating 9 out of 10
Summary A practical primer for deploying Samba-3
Price (retail) $45 Buy it online
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