While Apache is possibly the most popular and ubiquitous open source project it is certainly not the most simple. One module alone, mod_rewrite, causes me almost more problems and regex wrestling matches than all other products combined. The `httpd.conf' file is a long and critical one. In these circumstances the Apache Cookbook from O'Reilly might be a godsend. It is certainly a well-written, well-researched volume. Ken Coar has spent many years working on Apache and Rich Bowen has long laboured on the Apache documentation. They both know their stuff -- and if this is an example, both know how to write.
The book has twelve chapters, covering everything from installation and adding modules through to proxies and performance. The chapter on security is the largest, it covers the topics well. By contrast I thought the chapter `Aliases, Redirection and Rewriting' too short and could have benefited from some more `recipes', but that may be due to my own bias - mod_rewrite is not an easy topic, and as I've said it causes me a great deal of grief.
It is laid out in a similar way to the Perl Cookbook: each recipe has a `Problem' section followed by a `Solution' and then `Discussion.' In almost all the `recipes' the `Discussion' is longer than the `Solution,' and I often found it far more useful and informative than the problem and its solution.
The Apache Cookbook covers almost all aspects and all parts of the learning curve for Apache. That will either be a strength or a weakness of this volume for you; with such a large and complex piece of software as Apache a single book cannot hope to cover it in a great deal of depth. For me this book was not really a cookbook, more a good source of well documented examples from which to create my own recipes,
My biggest problem reviewing a book like this is that after several years building and configuring Apache (even on an infrequent basis) quite a lot of this volume seems simple. You may also find it the same if you are the sort of person who is not afraid to pore over the documentation, get your hands dirty and make a few mistakes. If you like some hand holding and are just starting with Apache you may benefit from all of it.
That's not to say that I didn't personally find large chunks of this volume useful. Certainly I've gone over several of the recipes and their excellent explanatory text to shed some light on previously dark corners of Apache, particularly as the authors cover both Apache 1.3 and 2.0.
O'Reilly have the usual web page with a Table of Contents and example chapter. The example chapter, on error handling is well chosen as it is typical of the others and useful but not the most useful chapter.
I have recently been thinking that tech books fall into various sorts and there is one sort I'd call `library books' - books you may not need to own, but will want to read every so often and would be good to have in your local or company library. Apache Cookbook is one of these, a book I'd recommend everyone coming to grips with Apache has close to hand, but it is not going to be constantly on your desk in the same way that Perl Cookbook might be for Perl programmers: to start off with, it's half the size and doesn't cover nearly as many topics. This one falls short of essential due to it's concentration on breadth. rather than depth. So my recommendation for this book is not that all Apache administrators should buy it, but you should have a copy close at hand.
Yeah, Apache has thorough documentation at apache.org, and yeah, after 6 or 7 years I've learned a lot by reading through Apache's conf files. But this book does a few things extremely well to make configuration much easier, quicker, and better.
There's good examples - you expect that with a name like "cookbook". But each example is backed-up with excellent explanations and references. The particular problems I've wanted to solve haven't matched the book's examples, but they've been close enough to adapt the solutions to what I've needed.
I've also appreciated how much this book has helped me how to *think* in Apache. Its use of examples and explanations helps to paint a top-down view of Apache, and help me analyze problems methodically instead of hunt-and-peck through a flock of random configuration parameters.
A nice combination of technical know-how, tuturial, and clear writing makes this a darned useful book for me.
Apache is the most widely used web server in the world, which is a tribute to everyone who has worked to make it a success. It is also open source, which means that the creators and maintainers largely do their tasks for pride and bragging rights rather than for monetary gain. Ironically, the reservation that most people express over open source is the fear that there will be no one to answer the inevitable questions concerning how to get it to work right.
This book is a collection of problems and solutions to those problems regarding the customization of Apache after it has been installed. Situations such as restricting access to files, installing SSL, dealing with passwords, working with URLs, security issues, logging events and error handling are examined. Each entry starts with the statement of the problem, the command(s) or code to effect a solution and an explanation of the problem and why the commands are a solution. Pointers to additional information such as books and web sites are also listed at the end of each entry. Where applicable, differences between versions 1.3 and 2.0 are described.
Obviously, not every problem that can arise when Apache is running can be covered in a book of 223 pages. Nevertheless, the authors have put together a very valuable collection of over 100 of the most common problems encountered by Apache system administrators. If you are tasked with keeping an Apache server up and serving, then this is a book that you must have. It will also help alleviate the logical reservations you may have about relying on open source software.
As Cookbooks go, this on is fairly decent, although thinner than I expected. There are enough examples in this book to cover pretty much everything you might need to do with Apache or get you started (along with the Apache documentation) if it isn't covered.
Personally I think the first two chapters on installing Apache and adding modules are wasted space. Presumably by the time you're ready for this book, you've already got Apache installed on your servers and are just looking for ways to tweak it.
I would have liked to see a section on SSI (Server side includes...does anybody use those anymore?) and maybe some more mod_rewrite stuff.
This book will probably be most useful to novice and intermediate Apache administrators who are comfortable with messing around in httpd.conf, but need to refer back to the online docs now and then. Advanced Apache administrators probably won't find much new or useful in this book.
Some of the reviews for 'Apache Cookbook: Solutions and Examples for Apache Administrators' have stated that this book is a little too basic and simple for Apache administrators out in the world, but I would disagree. Apache is a solid technology that has proven it's mettle in the world for many many many years but there aren't a whole lot of books out on the market for it. It is of this reviewers opinion that even if some individuals feel this book is too simplistic that ANY book on the market that covers Apache would have to be pretty poor to get a negative mark. With over 200 tidbits of information that cover the gambit of Installation, Module creation, Logging, Security, Virtual Hosts, Aliases, SSL, Error Handling, Performance, etc. etc. etc. this is a solid text. Unlike other bloated books this one clocks in at under 300 pages and the tidbits are short and to the point. If you are an Apache admin there is definitely something that you can get from this cookbook so get out the bowl, eggs, flour and start cooking!!