Book Reviews

Hacking Linux Exposed: Linux Security Secrets & Solutions,
Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science,
and Intrusion Signatures and Analysis

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This book review will be an exercise in floccinaucinihilipilification, where we describe books that, while not necessarily terrible in themselves, make themselves unreadable and therefore nearly useless because they needlessly mangle the English language.
Hacking Linux Exposed is similar to Hacking Exposed, but contains information specific to Linux. Appears to be up to date, but the information is fairly basic; however, the authors continually abuse the English language by creating contrived sentences containing gratuitous politically-correct she's and her's (along with equally ineptly-written sentences containing he's and his's). This use of language to attempt to tell the reader what to believe is the linguistic equivalent of scraping one's fingernails across a blackboard. After about 80 pages of this, it became so annoying that I threw the book in the trash in disgust.

Another book that went directly into the trash unread because of similar abuse of the English language was Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. Alan Sokal was the author of the famous and supposedly satirical 1996 article "Transgressing the boundaries: Toward a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity", published in Social Text, which is included in the appendix to this book. Ironically, Fashionable Nonsense purports to be criticizing postmodernism and political correctness, yet in this latest work the authors fell victim to the very ideology they claimed to be debunking.

The book Intrusion Signatures and Analysis by Stephen Northcutt et al. is an okay book on the important subject of computer security but is virtually unreadable because of (you guessed it) politically-correct she/her pronouns written into contrived sentences on virtually every page. Even those sentences in which the authors are not trying to strangle the English language do so anyway, because the authors seem to have a serious verb deficiency: nouns are adjectived and verbs are nounified throughout the book. Of perhaps greater relevance is that, in my opinion, many of the computer security considerations discussed therein are of dubious relevance to any real or imagined threat to anyone's network. Be honest: do you really care whether someone does a DNS zone transfer from your site? Does anyone care whether a hacker does a SYN-FIN POP2 scan on their network? And Netbios simply doesn't propagate through a router. So why would you look for it in your IDS? Anyone following the advice in this book will be doing little more than chasing ghosts. Meanwhile you'll be so overworked looking at Netbios packets in your logs you'll miss the real attack. Unless the network administrator is stupid enough to be running POP2, much of this stuff is just noise, best consigned to the bit bucket. And because of its unconscionable abuse of the language, the same for this book.