Book Review: Linux System Programming
I received a review copy of the book as part of the blogger review program.
Title: “Linux System Programming (2nd Edition) ” by Robert Love; O’Reilly Media.
This book consists of 11 chapters. The first chapter introduces you nicely to the the core topics and lays the foundation for the rest of the book. Files (including some hints on the role of the virtual file system and how they are represented in the Kernel), Input/Output (User buffered I/O, I/O scheduling, Scatter-Gather I/O), Processes (including their creation mechanisms and management), Threads (and how Linux implements them along with a treatment of the POSIX threads library), Memory (Process address space, dynamic memory allocation strategies, and how they work, memory locking) form the core of the book. The second last chapter discusses signal handling. The last chapter of the book is on time (the different types of time, how you can get/set time, measure time elapsed and timers) and is sort of a “standalone” topic for the book. The first appendix discusses the GCC extensions to the C language and can be handy when you read the Kernel source code.
In this book, the author discusses some of the most important topics that one would want to learn about when venturing into the area of “system programming” on Linux. He introduces the topics in a friendly manner adding some fun anecdotes from time to time (what does the “c” in calloc() stand for?).At various places, the reader is given a peek under the hood (for example, pause() is one of the simplest system calls implemented) which can only make the curious reader happy and itchy to download the kernel source code and start grepping. The book includes code examples throughout and hence if you are learning a topic for the first time, these are very useful starting points.
System programming on Linux is an area encompassing number of related topics most of which can fill up whole books on their own. I also could not help comparing this book with “The Linux Programming Interface” by Michael Kerrisk (a book which I own already). Should you buy this book if you already own the latter? Yes, you should. While not being “encyclopedic” and not covering topics such as socket programming at all, Robert Love’s “Linux System Programming” has the right level of treatment and detail for the reader interested in system programming.