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Unix in a Nutshell, Fourth Edition: The Reference That Defines Unix in the 21st Century

November 10, 2005

Sebastopol, CA--What exactly is Unix? It's a simple question, but it leads to a long and complicated explanation. Because Bell Labs made the system's code available for a fee, so many variations emerged by the mid-1980s that the so-called "Unix wars" broke out among proponents who wanted their version to become the accepted Unix standard. Then along came the "Unix-like" options, Linux and Mac OS X, which rival conventional Unix systems in popularity. While it's nice to have plenty of options, how do you compile a reference guide to Unix commands that covers all of these variants?

"In many ways, 'Unix is Unix' and once you understand the Unix mindset, you can be productive on almost any system," comments Arnold Robbins, author of the latest edition of longtime bestseller Unix in a Nutshell (O'Reilly, US $34.95). "Multi-vendor Unix systems are a fact of life. What has changed is the increased prominence of open source and free software-based systems such as GNU/Linux and Mac OS X, as well as the variations of BSD Unix."

For the fourth edition of Unix in a Nutshell, Robbins rewrote the book to cover a cross section of the Unix world today, "one that describes what makes a Unix system a Unix system," he says. "GNU/Linux and Mac OS X are now mainstream Unix systems, even though they're not derived from the original Unix code base. They deserve equal treatment along with traditional Unix systems. I think the everyday Unix and GNU/Linux user will want this book nearby, and the Mac OS X user who is willing to see what's under the hood will be pleasantly surprised, too."

Written for system administrators, developers, and the growing ranks of power users, the book is a detailed reference to Unix commands and shells, text editing and processing tools, and software development tools common to Solaris 10, Fedora GNU/Linux Core 3, and Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), along with the most important commands and options specific to these systems.

Readers will also find chapters on Emacs, RCS, CVS, Subversion, GNU make, and GDB, the GNU debugger. "Although these open source tools are not part of commercial Unix systems, they are found on many systems because they are useful add-ons," Robbins explains. "We have done our best to cover these, including the URLs where readers can download source code if their system doesn't include some of the utilities."

Completely revised from the last edition, Unix in a Nutshell now includes:

  • Descriptions of the syntax and options for Unix commands, with new coverage of the Bash, Korn, and tcsh shells, along with new coverage of package management
  • Descriptions of various editing tools (sed, vi and others) and their command sets, including a review of pattern matching
  • A summary of the Unix utilities for software development (RCS, CVS, Subversion, make, and GDB) and what readers need to know for writing manual pages
  • A reference to ISO Latin-1 characters and equivalent values, plus a bibliography of Unix books
  • The new edition no longer includes Unix commands that have fallen into disuse, regardless of how popular or necessary they were in the past. Among these are the Bourne shell, the troff text formatting suite, and material on SCCS.

    "This book is for anyone who uses a Unix command line," Robbins explains. "They know what they want to do, have some idea of how to do it, and just need a reminder about the details. However, if some readers are new to Unix and are feeling bold, they might appreciate this book as a quick tour of what Unix has to offer. In other words, if all they do is point and click, then this book probably isn't for them. But if they point and click only when they have to, then this book is a gold mine of useful stuff."

    Praise for the previous edition:

    "I have seen several quick-reference books for Unix, but none of them has stayed near my desk for long. Unix in a Nutshell, however, will be chained to the desk and hooked to an alarm. It is an amazing book that provides summaries of command-line arguments and internal syntax for a host of Unix utilities."
    --Richard Morin, Unix Review

    "I know enough about Unix to just get around. This book is the crutch that I use to make it seem like I know Unix. My experience is that this book is far more often right than man pages. I see this book on about every other bookshelf at any Unix shop I work in"
    --trailboss, Javaranch.com

    Further reviews of "Unix in a Nutshell"

    Additional Resources:

    Unix in a Nutshell
    Arnold Robbins
    ISBN: 0-596-10029-9, 885 pages, $34.95 US
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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