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Understanding The Linux Kernel, Third Edition

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Understanding The Linux Kernel, Third Edition

It's official: the third edition ofUnderstanding the Linux Kernel, by Daniel P. Bovet and Marco Cesati,is out. Your editor was pleased to receive a copy of this 900-pagemonster, delivered by a company which specializes in other sorts of heavyloads, such as pianos. UTLK 3 was some time in coming, but it is awelcome arrival.As one would expect, this version of UTLK covers the 2.6 kernel. Youreditor would like to point out to kernel-oriented publishers, however, thatsimply saying "2.6" is not particularly informative. A wide variety ofkernels have come out under the 2.6 name. Readers will want to knowwhich 2.6 kernel is covered by a given book, and they would rathernot have to dig for that information. As it turns out, the reader who getsfar enough into the introduction will discover that UTLK 3 was writtenfor the 2.6.11 kernel. This version of the book, like its predecessor, is big on details, and isvery firmly tied to the i386 architecture. So, after a brief (and, in youreditor's opinion, not entirely necessary) introduction to how Unix-likesystems work, the book delves directly into i386 segmentation registers,global descriptor tables, and related details. Many of the key controlpaths in the kernel are described, step by step; often, the book includesflow charts, like the example on the left (which describes the page faulthandling algorithm). The level of detail sometimes makes it hard to get asense for the big picture, but it does help somebody trying tofigure out how a particular function works.Indeed, that is perhaps the key feature which differentiates this book. Itis very much a "how it works" book, designed to help people understand thecode. It is not, however, a "how to hack it" book like Linux DeviceDrivers or Linux Kernel Development. It presents kernelfunctions and data structures, steps the reader through them, but does not,for example, emphasize the rules for using them. UTLK is a study guide,not a programming manual.But it is an effective and useful study guide. It covers a wide range oftopics, including memory management, process management, scheduling,signals, the virtual filesystem, timing, the I/O layers, and more. Evenwith its weight, this book cannot cover everything, however; omitted topicsinclude networking, security (security modules, key management, etc.),specific device drivers, sound, video, the kernel build system, and all ofthe other architectures supported by Linux. (For what it's worth, O'Reillyis said to have an "understanding the Linux network stack" book in theworks now).Certainly, there are things your editor would have done differently. Thereare some minor technical glitches; for example, the book claims thatacquiring a semaphore always involves putting the acquiring process tosleep first, which is very much not the case. The discussion of sleepingstarts with sleep_on(), and only later mentions thatsleep_on() is not a recommended interface. The discussion of someinteresting topics (direct I/O, for example) is overly short. But, as awhole, the book is excellent, and the kernel function index at the endhelps to make it a useful reference. There is a space on your editor's "L1bookshelf" (the one reachable without moving the chair) for UTLK 3. Index entries for this article KernelBooks (Log in to post comments) Understanding the Linux Kernel, 3rd Edition Posted Dec 1, 2005 6:19 UTC (Thu) by conehead (guest, #7552) [Link]

The third edition of Understanding the Linux Kernel takes you on a guided tour of the most significant data structures, algorithms, and programming tricks used in the kernel. Probing beyond superficial features, the authors offer valuable insights to people who want to know how things really work inside their machine. Important Intel-specific features are discussed. Relevant segments of code are dissected line by line. But the book covers more than just the functioning of the code; it explains the theoretical underpinnings of w


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