Author: Arnold Robbins
Publisher: Prentice Hall, 2004
Aimed at: Programmers wanting to master the basics of Linux
Pros: Clear, readable and about the fundamentals
Cons: Not about the problems that confront most Linux programmers today
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead
I find myself programming with Linux in mind more and more frequently and so any book that promises to teach how to do it is of interest. However Arnold Robins’ book isn’t quite what you might expect. It really is about the fundamentals and as such it is something of a time warp. All the programs are written in C and the main topic of the book is using the basic Linux API calls. It covers topics such as memory management, file I/O, processes, signals and so on.
It reads very much like a book on classic Unix programming from the days long before GUI interfaces and graphics. It’s all very readable and the examples are clear an understandable. Unix 7 source code is used as illustration and for anyone familiar with old fashioned Linux, Unix or even MS-DOS programming this reinforces the feeling of dropping back into a previous era.
Despite this the real question is – is there anything worth learning in a book of this sort? The answer all depends on what you aspire to. If you want to get inside Linux and write ground-breaking programs then you need to work at this level, tedious though it is. If you want to write applications then you can probably skip this material and look at Java, Mono or some alternative higher-level language approach. Even if you do master everything in this book it’s still a very small first step because you will have to find out about the Linux GUI interfaces, such as Gnome, before you produce anything really useful.
A classic or old-fashioned approach to Linux programming depending on your point of view.