Book review: Practical Ruby for System Administration by <i>André Ben Hamou</i>

Book review: Practical Ruby for System Administration by André Ben Hamou


Practical Ruby for System Administration, which was written by Andre Ben Hamou and published by Apress, is a lightning introduction to this modern scripting language and is a reasonably detailed, example based, explanation of the potential strength of Ruby for System Administrators and thus the enterprise.

The book’s coverThe book’s cover

My first impression of the book was that the content packed a lot of information and humor in a very readable and entertaining combination, a bit like coffee with cream or a curry with extra hot peppers. Me, myself and I being of a cynical Englishman’s nature and of the religiously Monty Python persuasion, thoroughly enjoyed the fool’s gold enriched layers of humor.

I thoroughly enjoyed the fool’s gold enriched layers of humor

Ruby being object orientated plus a scripted language and thankfully not as verbose as Java is a potential target for automating the daily regular tasks of any efficient system administration. Andre Ben Hamou’s corpus highlights relevant potential usages and quickly outlines related examples. This is a truly practical book chock full of code snippets and home goodness.

This is a practical book full of code snippets and home goodness

The contents

Ruby for System Administrators is not a thorough beginner’s guide to Ruby, rather a rapid tour of a number of the main significant areas of interest for the system administrator or even just for plain old developers looking for a grip on practical, rapid, clean coding. Being a regular Perl basher, I read this book with a high degree of curiosity.

Ruby is interesting from the rapid development and code maintenance perspective. The structure is object orientated, is normally easy to read and, unlike a compiled language, the developers see modifications live instantly.

The book contains twelve chapters in a readable 239 pages. After a brief lightning tour of Ruby basics, the author focuses in on specific and relevant topics such as data manipulation and storage, common tasks, performance, network monitoring and so on.

My favorite code examples include the Soap server mentioned in example 7-26, the bandwidth monitoring script 8-21 and the whole description of manipulation of SNMP in chapter 9. Further, the strength of Ruby for the enterprise is undeniable. The treatment of LDAP, database connections and XML in chapter 7 prove the proverbial point.

The humor contained within the book is razor-sharp and permeated with sound bites waiting for quoting, therefore I will not. However, I would advise the author to send a few TV scripts to the BBC for evaluation, the worst that they can do is laugh at you.

Who’s this book for?

This book is for system administrators looking for the easiest path to supportable scripting via a modern object orientated and non verbose language.

Relevance to free software

This well exampled book is about Ruby and open standards such as SNMP, SOAP, XML-RPC and is thus as free software orientated as you are going to get. The language itself has a GPL license.

Most enterprise infrastructures, even the most well planned still require some gluing together. The question, therefore, is when we have lots of free software languages and scripting languages in the wild, why do we need a new one?

In general, Ruby has well described advantages in terms of readability, at times conciseness and sorry to say trendiness over more traditional bashing. Ruby is suitable and complementary for a range of environments. Of course, this does not imply that Ruby is best for all occasions, but the language is well worth understanding so that you have more choices.

Pros

The text is not boring, filled to the brim with balanced and precise examples and with a decent scope of cream and humor one does not get bored with repetitive or over theoretical wording.

Cons

If you are looking for a gentle introduction to Ruby or Rails then the book is not for you.

Title Practical Ruby for System Administration
Author André Ben Hamou
Publisher APRESS
ISBN 1590598214
Year 2007
Pages 239
CD included No
FS Oriented 10
Over all score 9

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Biography

Alan Berg Bsc. MSc. PGCE, has been a lead developer at the Central Computer Services at the University of Amsterdam since 1998. In his spare time, he writes articles, book reviews and has authored three books. He has a degree, two masters and a teaching qualification. In previous incarnations, he was a technical writer, an Internet/Linux course writer, and a science teacher. He likes to get his hands dirty with the building and gluing of systems. He remains agile by playing computer games with his sons who (sadly) consistently beat him physically, mentally and morally at least twice in any given day.

You may contact him at reply.to.berg At chello.nl