What You Will Need

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What You Will Need

To use this book and benefit from its examples, you'll need a computer with a Linux distribution installed on it. You'll be able to use this book no matter which distribution you have, but you will have to handle the installation yourself. See the chapters in Part Two for information on several common, popular distributions.

As for the computer hardware itself, almost any configuration will suffice; one of the beauties of Linux is that it will run on relatively modest hardware configurations. With one exception, every distribution, software package, and case study discussed in this book was installed and run on a system consisting of a middle-of-the-road processor, 128MB of memory, and a 30GB hard drive; this entire system (including a high-quality monitor!) was purchased for less than $1,000. While you wouldn't want to use this configuration for a production-level, enterprise-class server, it more than suffices for most uses—and it was even used exclusively to write this book. Oh, and the exception? Well, that was the firewall case study in Chapter 16, which was run on even more modest hardware.

Linux systems can unchain you from your PC and let you focus on actually making your computer solve your problems. Like all freedoms, though, this one is sometimes easy and sometimes challenging, but it's always exciting. This book will help you along that path. Congratulations on taking the Linux plunge; good luck, good reading, and happy computing! Try not to have too much fun along the way .



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Part One: Background

Chapter 1: The Physiology of Linux
Chapter 2: An Open Source Primer

Part One of this book provides some background information on Linux, free software, and open source software. You'll learn about where Linux comes from, both historically and ideologically. While this is important material, it isn't really crucial to the true purpose of this book, which is tuning and customizing a Linux System. So, if you are already familiar with this material, or if you're just not interested, feel free to skip ahead to Part Two.



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Chapter 1: The Physiology of Linux

Overview

Linux is an operating system, but it's also representative of a lot more. In some ways, Linux is the champion of a set of ideals. Whether you buy into these ideals is a separate issue from whether you use the technology, of course, but nonetheless a complete understanding of Linux and Linux-based systems requires at least an awareness of the legacy. So, this chapter will slow down a bit and start things off right by describing a bit of the history that led to Linux.

When you spend enough time in the technical trenches, you tend to forget where you came from. That is, you spend so much of your time using your knowledge, that you lose some of the wonder you felt when you first picked it up. However, if you're even reading this book at all, you're probably pretty excited, or at least curious, about Linux. You've still got that sense of adventure, and you want to know everything there is to know about this "Linux thing." In the end, this book fails if it doesn't leave the reader filled with the sense of power and coolness that Linux systems provide.

A large part of that coolness derives from Linux's colorful and rather prestigious pedigree; any true Linux guru understands the history and culture of Linux just as implicitly as she understands init levels, C libraries, and package managers. So, this chapter will cover some of the history and culture of Linux. If you're already familiar with the background of Linux (or if you're still just not interested) feel free to skim or skip the remainder of Part One.



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