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Understanding the Unix Kernel

I didn't like the first edition of this book, and I still don't like the current edition, though I admit I'm having a hard time understanding why.

I think that part of the problem is the deliberate "bottom-up" approach: this starts out in the first chapter dealing with memory addressing at the hardware level and goes on from there. I tend not to like bottom up explanations: give me the grand picture first and then drill down. But that can't be all of it: The Magic Garden Explained effectively starts there too, and I enjoyed that. Frankly, this approach probably is the best way to handle this subject matter in spite of my preferences.

Perhaps part of this is that I'm not playing by the rules. There is a strong implication in the preface that one should be looking at the source code while reading. One of the reviews at Amazon says the same thing. I didn't do that, and that may contribute to my vague dissatisfaction.

I certainly can't complain that this is incomplete or badly written. It covers everything that should be covered, and it is current as of the 2.4 kernels. The writing style is lucid, and I think that in general the writers have done a better than average job of explaining the why and wherefor in addition to the how.

I think maybe I've just lost my interest in this level of detail. There was a time when I found it fascinating in the most literal sense, but that was years ago. I just don't have any burning desire to understand kernel internals anymore.

You, of course, may still have that interest. If so, this would undoubtedly be a worthwhile addition to your library.

  • Daniel P. Bovet & Marco Cesati
  • O'Reilly
  • 0596002130

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