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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Unix: Visual QuickStart Guide (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: Deborah S. Ray, Eric J. Ray
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Good introduction to using unix-based systems.

This is a good book to help you start with unix-based systems, especially if you do not have any knowledge about how they work. In this book, concepts of file and user management are explained. Not much detail is provided as to not confuse the reader who has had no previous experience with unix. Step-by-step instructions let the reader become more familiar and comfortable with the system. The bottom line is that this book says what it does - it is a starting guide - if you need any in-depth information about unix, you must seek elsewhere.
The book has some mistakes, but if you have at least half a brain, you will be able to figure out what is wrong. In addition, you are constantly reassured that if you are using a system with good administrators, there's little to none damage that you could possibly do. Some parts try to be humorous in its own cute and dorky manner, but the humor is not obnoxious nor imposing. Overall, the book is a gentle introduction; it teaches unix without making the reader feel dumb.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Financial Modeling - 2nd Edition
Publisher: The MIT Press
Authors: Simon Benninga
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Practical Excel Models

As a practioner of financial modeling, I was used to building financial models with SAS, Stata and Matlab, so when I was first asked by my new boss to start using Excel, I checked out this book. Unfortunately, it's grossly inadequate. The worst part is there are full of errors, encompassing typos in the Excel spreadsheets and technical inaccuracies. The coverage of a lot of topics is also quite superficial, for example, the chapters on calculating the efficient frontier ignore the important question of utility. (That is, the author maximizes wealth instead of utility.) In trying to cover a lot of ground in finance, from leasing to VaR to options, the book ends up doing nothing well, and the effort in presenting some theory before showing how it's implemented in Excel is laudable but ultimately laughable because much of the theory is presented quite poorly. In the end, you may find some value in understanding at a general level how to translate theory into Excel, esp. if you are new to the application.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Hacking Linux Exposed, Second Edition
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media
Authors: Brian Hatch, James Lee, George Kurtz
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellence through examples

I am a senior engineer for network security operations. I read "Hacking Linux Exposed" (HLE) to learn how adversaries compromise Linux hosts. HLE impressed me at every level. I highly recommend system administrators and security personnel read and heed this book's recommendations.
The "Hacking Exposed" series is known for its unique example-driven style. Rather than telling the reader about a technique or problem, the authors demonstrate the issue using command-line examples. I find myself reading with book and laptop at hand, ready to duplicate the authors' sample commands. This process reinforces the authors' message, while the reader learns if a specific problem applies to his situation. Furthermore, by showing exactly how to execute certain commands, the authors impart bits of wisdom and trickery not found elsewhere.
For example, chapter 11 describes attacks and defenses for FTP servers. To explain active and passive FTP sessions, the authors demonstrate running an FTP client with the -d switch to illustrate raw instructions sent by the client over the FTP command channel. I had never seen this switch in use, but as an intrusion detector I constantly see raw FTP instructions like those revealed by the -d switch. These and other tidbits, like using the chattr -i command or setting the "sticky bit", make HLE exceptional.
Beyond these benefits, readers will enjoy clear, thorough explanations of Linux security issues. HLE gives first-rate descriptions of ssh and web man-in-the-middle attacks, race conditions, and FTP data hijacking. HLE also provides great illustrated examples of FTP bounce attacks, giving intrusion detectors the minutiae we need to recognize these techniques. I had heard of most of the compromise methods offered by HLE, but never seen them discussed in such practical detail.
If the material in chapters 1-13 of HLE don't prompt you to verify your Linux host's integrity, then the case studies in appendix D will. The security community needs more of these narratives. These stories, based on true events, show the lengths to which some attacks will go to penetrate target machines.
"Hacking Linux Exposed" is another strong addition to the "Hacking Exposed" series, and the security community will benefit as a result.
(Disclaimer: I received a free review copy from the publisher.)

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Telecommunications Essentials
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Lillian Goleniewski
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Lilli Goleniewski is a master of telecommunications!

Lillian Goleniewski has done the IT community a service. She's written a coherent, comprehensive guide to the telecommunications world. "Telecommunications Essentials" doesn't omit technical details. It frames them within a business and historical context that similar books lack. I've read and reviewed three other recently published telecom titles, and this one is clearly the best. Some of the details I enjoyed were descriptions of how fiber is manufactured, the number of wire pairs associated with various transmission media, and specifications for various global television standards. The telecom world is full of agencies, standards, and products, each referenced by a three- or four-letter acronym. Lillian guides the reader through this technology jungle, offering clear descriptions and historical background. She also provides a thorough glossary (87 pages) and index. Another of the book's impressive features is its global focus, with attention given to E- and J- carrier, as well as T-carrier, systems. Other examples include cellular telephone frequencies used worldwide. Numerous diagrams and figures illustrate the author's main points. The book is not perfect enough to merit five stars. It suffers from minor typos and at least one technical error. Sadly, like many networking books, "Telecommunications Essentials" states that TCP sequence numbers count individual packets. This is false; TCP sequence numbers count bytes of data. Although I am not qualified to critique the accuracy of the phone-related information, I was pleased to see the remainder of the networking material was correct. "Telecommunications Essentials" is a must-buy if you want to learn about the telecom world. Although the author devotes too many words to describing the use of technology, and future trends, overall the book is excellent.