Introduction

The last decade has seen quiet and not-so-quiet technological revolutions. One of these many revolutions has been the emergence of Linux as a rival operating system (OS) to the likes of Windows, Mac OS, and Unix. Linux is a clone of the Unix OS, and so it has benefited from Unix's 30-year history. Just as important as its place in the Unix family is the fact that Linux is an open source operating system, meaning that its source code is freely accessible to all. Anybody can modify Linux and distribute these modifications. This fact has drawn a geographically diverse and enthusiastic group of developers into the Linux fold. The result has been tremendous technical advancements in Linux. These advancements have permitted the OS to develop into a competitor to both older Unix-like OSs and the popular Windows and Mac OS desktop OSs.

You may be reading these words while standing in a bookstore. If so, you can glance down and see plenty of other books on Linux. Most of these books are either general introductory books or books on very specific Linux programs. This book is designed to fit somewhere between these two general categories. Linux Power Tools is a general-purpose Linux book, but its goal is to go into greater depth than a typical introductory book on the OS. For this reason, Linux Power Tools omits coverage of some basic information. For instance, the book lacks a chapter on installing Linux—a popular topic in most introductory books. Instead, this book emphasizes more advanced options and tools, such as configuring fonts using Xft, modifying the system's startup scripts, setting up a network-based scanning system, and setting your system's time with the help of a time server.

One of the problems in the Linux world is that many Linux distributions exist. These distributions are collections of software (including installation routines) that together make a complete OS. Unfortunately, although all Linux distributions are Linux, no two distributions are exactly alike. This fact can be frustrating when you're trying to learn how something works, because what you read may be targeted at another distribution. This book aims to overcome this problem by providing explicit coverage of five of the most popular Linux distributions: Debian, Mandrake, Red Hat, Slackware, and SuSE. When I describe major configuration files or components, I describe distribution-specific differences. In some cases, this means that I describe two or more entirely different programs that fill similar roles. For instance, this book covers three mail servers: Exim, Postfix, and sendmail.

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