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Perl Scripting

Book Title : Perl for System Administration : Managing multi-platform environments with Perl
eBook download format(s) : HTM HTM 
ISBN-10 : 1565926099 
ISBN-13 : 978-1-565926-09-7 
Author(s) : David Blank-Edelman
Publisher : O'Reilly Media (15 Jan 2000)
Section : Perl Scripting
Book Review:
The title of David N. Blank-Edelman's new book, Perl for System Administration, is strangely redundant and thankfully misleading. The soul and source of Perl's core competence is Unix system administration, and another O'Reilly tome on Perl tricks for managing backups would not have been welcome. But the subtitle Managing Multiplatform Environments with Perl communicates the essential task: how to administer heterogeneous Unix, Windows NT/2000, and Mac OS systems from the same Perl-based conceptual platform.

Blank-Edelman introduces this diversity of notation to motivate a far-reaching discussion of system internals, and shows how Perl is a natural choice for cross-platform administration. The Unix and Windows "slash" path separators--"/" and "\", respectively--are like crossed swords, where the Mac OS uses the less- generally-known colon (":"). In lesser hands, this treatment still would have been about LAN backups, but Blank-Edelman's familiarity with network imperatives drives the synthesis.

As the topics move beyond file systems, user accounts, and process control, the tripartite division in the discussion breaks down. Treatments of TCP/IP and e-mail feature discussions of NIS, WINS, DNS, and nslookup. The chapters on directory services and SQL database management--while apparently digressive--are inserted tactically to enable elegant approaches to the more mundane administrative tasks of sending and receiving e-mail and managing log files to maximize their utility. Blank-Edelman's keen pragmatism shines in the chapter on security in which noticing intrusion earlier instead of later draws on many of the skills that are developed throughout the book. Notably, each chapter ends with a recapitulation of Perl modules that were referenced in the preceding text.

The eclectic tutorial appendices--an old revision-control system (RCS), the extensible markup language (XML), the database language (SQL), and two undermotivated and esoteric protocols (LDAP and SNMP)--are so brief as to function more as a Perl-free zone for shop talk than as valuable précis for their respective subjects.

Delightfully, this is one of Perl's and O'Reilly's best-written books. Blank-Edelman's wit buoys the argument without descending into the all-too-common parlance of sappy testimonials, hollow confessions, or the burdensome ornamentation of inside jokes and puns. --Peter Leopold

Book Description
Some people plan to become administrators. The rest of us are thrust into it: we are webmasters, hobbyists, or just the default "technical people" on staff who are expected to keep things running. After some stumbling around repeating the same steps over and over again (and occasionally paying the price when we forget one), we realize that we must automate these tasks, or suffer endless frustration. Thus enters Perl. The Perl programming language is ideal for writing quick yet powerful scripts that automate many administrative tasks. It's modular, it's powerful, and it's perfect for managing systems and services on many platforms. Perl for System Administration is designed for all levels of administrators--from hobbyists to card-carrying SAGE members--sysadmins on multi-platform sites. Written for several different platforms (Unix, Windows NT, and Mac OS), it's a guide to the pockets of administration where Perl can be most useful for sites large and small, including:

  • Filesystem management
  • User administration with a dash of XML
  • DNS and other network name services
  • Database administration using DBI and ODBC
  • Directory services and frameworks like LDAP and ADSI
  • Using email for system administration
  • Working with log files of all kinds

Each chapter concentrates on a single administrative area, discusses the possible pitfalls, and then shows how Perl comes to the rescue. Along the way we encounter interesting Perl features and tricks, with many extended examples and complete programs. The scripts included in the book can simply be used as written or with minimal adaptation. But it's likely that readers will also get a taste of what Perl can do, and start extending those scripts for tasks that we haven't dreamed of. Perl for System Adminstration doesn't attempt to teach the Perl language, but it is an excellent introduction to the power and flexibility of Perl, and it whets the appetite to learn more. It's for anyone who needs to use Perl for system administration and needs to hit the ground running.

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