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Book: Absolute OpenBSD (2nd Edition)

with 2 comments

This is an excellent book for OpenBSD I recently had the opportunity to read. Let’s move on to my per chapter overview of the book.


Title: Absolute OpenBSD: UNIX for the Practical Paranoid
Author: Michael W. Lucas

Chapter 1: Getting Additional Help
A brief overview of the OpenBSD project’s support model along with the available resources (documentation, assistance, etc.).

Chapter 2: Installation Preparations
A very well written chapter for everything you might need before installing OpenBSD starting from hardware specifications, and moving on how to obtain OpenBSD, understanding partitioning, disklabels, etc.

Chapter 3: Installation Walk-Through
Once again the author starts from the very first steps such as configuring BIOS and goes through all the steps of the installer, disk configuration as well as some more advanced disklabel information.

Chapter 4: Post-Install Setup
In this chapter you can find information on all the basic configuration that usually takes place exactly after the installation process. This ranges from software configuration, timezone settings, networking to more advanced concepts like keyboard mappings, graphic console, etc.

Chapter 5: The Boot Process
Here after a description of the boot loader the author provides us with information on how to work in single-user mode, how to choose different kernel for booting, using serial console and of course, multi-user booting along with everything that comes with it.

Chapter 6: User Management
As the chapter’s title implies, this is a complete guide for user management on OpenBSD. Apart from all the common administration tasks (adding, editing, removing users) there is also a detailed section for login classes.

Chapter 7: Root, and How to Avoid It
This chapter could easily be renamed to “The complete guide to SUDO” since it includes all the required information to configure privileged accounts using SUDO.

Chapter 8: Disks and Filesystems
One of the most useful chapters to anyone moving from Linux to OpenBSD. It’s another detailed part of the book referencing everything that someone needs to know to have a very good understanding of disks and filesystems in the OpenBSD world. This includes partitioning, labeling, FFS (Fast Filesystem), etc. as well as information for managing disks and filesystems on OpenBSD.

Chapter 9: More Filesystems
The previous chapter was mostly focusing on the lower level of disks and filesystems while this one moves to a more in-depth approach on the filesystems. Herein you can find a lot of useful information for MFS (Memory Filesystem), foreign filesystems, NFS, etc.

Chapter 10: Securing Your System
This is a 10 pages chapter but with enough information to keep you researching for some time. It’s an introduction to all the security mechanisms offered by OpenBSD and suggestions on how to keep your system secure after its initial configuration.

Chapter 11: Overview of TCP/IP
Another introduction chapter this time for networking. It’s a very nice and well written part discussing all the basics of TCP/IP from theory to practice always having in mind the OpenBSD’s implementation of it.

Chapter 12: Connecting to the Network
All the essential steps to get your OpenBSD network connected having working Ethernet and DNS name resolution. Furthermore in this chapter there are sections for slightly more advanced topics like trunking, VLANs and over IPv6 tunneling.

Chapter 13: Software Management
Apart from the expected, detailed information on packages and port systems, here the reader can find information on customizing ports and sub-packages.

Chapter 14: Everything /etc
Literally this is the best title to describe what you can find in this chapter. It’s a brief overview of every single configuration file under /etc directory.

Chapter 15: System Maintenance
Here are some common administrative tasks separated by daily, weekly, monthly and custom maintenance tasks. Additionally, you can find information on system logging configuration and management, NTP, device drivers and hardware sensors configuration.

Chapter 16: Network Servers
A description of configuring and managing the most common network servers in OpenBSD. This includes LPD, DHCP, TFTP, SSH and SNMP.

Chapter 17: Desktop OpenBSD
Basically, this is everything you need to know to make your OpenBSD a working desktop environment. From the basic information on setting up X to working with CWM window manager and TMUX.

Chapter 18: Kernel Configuration
The first part of this chapter’s aim is to provide an introduction to understanding OpenBSD’s kernel from a system administrator’s point of view. The next sections deal with more advanced subjects such as kernel tuning via sysctl and custom kernel configuration with config or boot-time kernel configuration.

Chapter 19: Building Custom Kernels
Chapter starts by identifying the cautions of using custom kernels and after that it moves to the complete guide from configuring your own kernel, testing, building, installing and using it.

Chapter 20: Upgrading
Another in-depth chapter this time for the upgrading process in OpenBSD. The first sections provide information on OpenBSD versioning and upgrade process while the following ones discuss in detail all the required steps to upgrade your system with all the available methods.

Chapter 21: Packet Filtering
One of the main advantages of OpenBSD is the Packet Filtering (PF) system. This is an excellent introduction to it that includes all the basic information along with many different rules for various network protocols, configuration options and examples for sanitizing network traffic.

Chapter 22: Advanced PF
Continuing from the previous one, this is a more advanced view of PF. The reader can find more information on setting up packet filtering with subjects like tables, NAT, anchors, bandwidth management, logging, etc.

Chapter 23: Customizing OpenBSD
This last chapter is mostly comprised by ideas and small how-to sections for performing not-so-common tasks with OpenBSD. For example, here you can find information on virtualization, diskless setup, custom upgrades, etc.

This is definitely the absolute OpenBSD book since anyone, even with no experience with this operating system, can easily learn everything he/she needs to work with it. The chapters have a gradual level increase from completely basic to advanced so more advanced users can skip some of the initial ones and move on to the subject they want. Overall it’s an excellent, well written book providing great amount of information. However, the there is not a lot of knowledge for the most advanced users so in my opinion it is mostly focused on people that are starting or have recently started working with OpenBSD.

Written by xorl

May 18, 2013 at 14:19

Posted in books

2 Responses

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  1. Was this review sponsored, out of curiosity?


    May 18, 2013 at 16:37

  2. Jeremy, no.


    May 18, 2013 at 16:47

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