The Good(?) Book
By Dave Miner on Jan 14, 2009
As I was getting my hair cut the other night, the stylist asked if I had any New Year's resolutions. Only one: to work less than last year. Now, if you judge by my output to this blog over the past year, you'd say I was already slacking pretty well: 15 posts, most of which categorize as announcing OpenSolaris developments. Of course, that's not a particularly fair criterion since we've kicked ass on two full releases of OpenSolaris, plus previews, a special student kit, and bi-weekly (more or less) development builds.
Nevertheless, I've been working basically two jobs, and writing a lot. More than I ever have in my life. All that prose (plus the equally length contributions of my co-authors, Nick and Jerry) will be published in the next few weeks, in OpenSolaris Bible.
The Amazon page has been up for close to six months now, so a few lost souls have stumbled upon it already and, apparently, pre-ordered. I admire the patience of those who did - I'm usually not patient enough to pre-order anything, let alone six months early!
Like Jerry, this was my first venture into the publishing arena, and honestly, I wouldn't have without Nick, who was the originator of the project. Nick's prior experience with Professional C++ meant we'd at least have a clue about how we should do things. The draft proposal he'd written was also very comprehensive. Even so, I still had a lot of trepidation, since I knew how much work I had on my plate with getting the 2008.05 release ready and the 6-month cycle we're targeting for further releases. It probably helped that I'd just come off a 3-week vacation when Nick got in touch with me; burnout had receded a bit. But my wife said the one thing that tipped me over to signing up: it's unlikely you'll look back in 5 years and regret having done it, but you might regret not doing it. With that, 2008 became a blur of working long days on the distro, then spending the evenings writing about it. Hence my New Year's resolution.
As Jerry noted in his blog entry (which also includes the table of contents, which I won't repeat here), it was a pretty equal collaboration, with the chapters split among us. Identifying which ones we each wrote is a good parlor game, I guess, but if you've read past entries here or looked at my opensolaris.org profile you can easily figure out many of the ones I wrote. It's a big book, not far from 1000 pages, and covers the breadth of the operating system for users and administrators, primarily those with little or no OpenSolaris experience, though I'm sure an experienced user will be able to learn a lot as well. We all certainly did in the process of writing it!
We also really tried to eat open source dogfood in the writing process. OpenSolaris was of course the OS we used, and OpenOffice was used in generating the manuscript; all of the files submitted to Wiley had to be in Microsoft Word format, but we were quite successful in generating those from OpenOffice. We exchanged material primarily using Mercurial, with the master repository hosted on my OpenSolaris server. The only point at which I had to venture off into proprietary software was during the final review, which was in PDF format, where Acrobat was needed to mark up the files. That one was a bit complicated, since there isn't a current version of it for OpenSolaris. However, I had good luck running the Linux version under Ubuntu inside a Virtual Box VM hosted on OpenSolaris. Virtual Box was a very important tool, used in generating many of the examples and screen shots in the book.
I look forward to the book's release and the feedback from reviews. There are certainly things I think could be better, and we'll see if those are at all similar to what readers think!