Thursday , February 22 2024
This book will show how to get through some of those gotchas that you will inevitably encounter.

Book Review: Apache Cookbook, 2nd Edition by Ken Coar and Rich Bowen

Apache is one of the more prevalent web servers that are out on the internet, and some say that it runs more than half of the world's websites. These range from huge e-commerce sites to smaller hobby sites. The Apache web server is a free-for-download product that runs on multiple platforms and while there is a million resources out there to find how to manage and operate an Apache web server, it doesn't matter much if you cannot find what you need when you need it.

The Apache Cookbook is here to rescue you. It presents over 200 'recipes' covering a wide range of topics that will help you with real life situations. In fact these have come from real life situations that the authors were asked to solve. These are primarily useful to webmasters who are responsible for the entire server, but many are also useful to users who want to customize the behavior in their own directories. It is meant to be a practical reference as opposed to a theoretical one.

Apache Cookbook is 254 pages in length and is divided into 13 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Installation," covers the basics of installation of the Apache software. This includes both Windows and Linux installations. Here are 13 recipes on downloading, building, and upgrading your Apache web server. Chapter 2, "Adding Common Modules," will show you how to install some of the more common third party modules as well as generic instructions that apply to other modules that have less complex installation needs. There are 10 recipes in this topic.

Chapter 3, "Logging," includes recipes about recording the visits to your website and the error logging mechanism that is included with Apache. Included in these 21 recipes is how to get more details, how to rotate logs, and logging specific activities. Chapter 4, "Virtual Hosts," gives you insights on running multiple websites using a single Apache server install and a set of configuration files. These 12 recipes show you some of the ins and outs of virtual hosting in either an addressed-base or a name-base hosting format

Chapter 5, "Aliases, Redirecting, and Rewriting," describes how have resources served from some other location. Here addressed is mapping to a specific directory; called aliasing, mapping one URL to another URL; called redirecting, and altering the URL in some way; called rewriting. These 23 recipes are really aimed at webmasters. Chapter 6, "Security," examines the basic issues of securing your Apache web server against penetration and exposure from the outside world. It is all about allowing people to see what they should see, and not see what they should not see and these 33 recipes will help you work with file sizes, passwords, access, and security.

Chapter 7, "SSL," tackles the issues of making your web server capable of handling secure transactions with SSL capable browsers by encrypting traffic between server and client. This is a must if you are going to be handling sensitive data such as money. Here you will learn how to install and work with SSL. Chapter 8, "Dynamic Content," shows you how to enhance your server with runtime scripts and server responses to a particular user. Here there are 21 recipes that deal with CGI and PGP to make your content dynamic.

Chapter 9, "Error Handling," explores how to customize the web server's error messages to give them a unique feel and handled gracefully. In this chapter you will learn how to handle errors, return useful messages, and record information that will allow you to fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. Chapter 10, "Proxies," examines what it will take to configure your server to act as a proxy between users and Web Pages while making the process as transparent and seamless as possible. Since proxy means to act on behalf of another, in this setting one web server gets information for another web server.

Chapter 11, "Performance," will show you how to handle the bottlenecks of your server and in general, improve the overall functioning of your server. Sometimes this requires tradeoffs and by spending a little time benchmarking, you can find out what is really slowing traffic down. These 15 recipes will help you do just that. Chapter 12, "Directory Listings," describes how to customize the modules for displaying a directory listing as a web page. There are 20 recipes that will help you present that information just right. Chapter 13, "Miscellaneous Topics," are topics that don't really fit the other categories. Many of these are fundamental issues and so are not tied to a specific topic.

This latest version of the Apache Cookbook is well written and well thought-out. It contains broad coverage of what most administrators and webmasters will cover during installation and maintenance of an Apache web server.

Apache Cookbook is not a book that you want to try to learn Apache with, but rather it is a book that you want around while trying to learn Apache. It will show how to get through some of those gotchas that you will inevitably encounter. While I think that there are a few tricks that would help a more advanced user, the Apache Cookbook is best suited to the novice and intermediate Apache administrator. All in all I found this to be a book easy to recommend.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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