Book review: The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition <i>by John H. Terpstra and Jelmer R. Vernooij</i>

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for quite a few years, you’ve probably heard of Samba, the free software server that provides Windows networking compatibility. For new users coming from a Windows networking environment who want to avail themselves of all the advantages of free software server platforms, Samba is the ticket, and the ticket to Samba is good documentation.

The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition

This new hardcopy edition collects that official project documentation in convenient book form, making an impressively complete reference for the Windows networking professional using (or planning to move to) Samba servers.

This is a very complete reference, and it’s straight from the horse’s mouth

The contents

Overall, the howto follows a “successive approximations” strategy with an overview, followed by a slightly more detailed “fast start”, then a series of specific topics about Samba features, and finally it gives details on troubleshooting and migrating from Windows servers to Samba servers.

There is also a reference section, including complete man pages.

Who’s this book for?

It is well-targeted to present Samba and Posix networking and security concepts to people coming from a Windows networking background, while a sufficiently determined Posix user can figure out the Windows material by piecing together bits strewn throughout the text. It lacks only a succinct presentation of Windows networking and security concepts to be a useful reference for people from either background, so it’s too bad that this opportunity was lost (this is somewhat rectified in the companion book, Samba-3 By Example, which is available separately).

Relevance to free software

Both Samba itself and this howto document are free-licensed. You can, in fact, view the entire howto online if you want. Because it’s written for Windows networking personnel, however, it’s slightly less useful to users coming from a free software background than are other books on the subject.


This is a very complete reference, and it’s straight from the horse’s mouth. The editors are part of the Samba development team, and therefore, intimately familiar with the software. Certainly you will find virtually everything you need in this one book, although the other volume Samba-3 By Example, which is available separately from Prentice Hall, is also very useful. On a large scale, the book is well organized, making it pretty easy to find what you need.

As a political act, you are supporting Samba team members when you buy their books, so you can think of it as supporting the software by proxy.


This is the original collaborative documentation, and its origin shows: that it is neither well-written, nor well-edited, and it is lacking much of a facelift from the editors or publisher.

Between undeleted authors’ notes and feckless attempts at creative writing, chapter beginnings are often overlong. Ambiguous phrasing frequently makes the text very frustrating to read in ways that should’ve been very easy to fix. There are far too many errors that would be obvious to a human copy-editor, suggesting that it was done all electronically, without supervision.

Mainly, though, it is just far, far too long. One pities the trees that will die in the name of the 185 pages dedicated solely to reprinting the man pages, for example. Another nuisance is that many file listings are printed in proportional font—I sure hope that whitespaces aren’t significant!

It would’ve been better if it were a lot shorter.

Title The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition
Editors John H. Terpstra and Jelmer R. Vernooij
Publisher Prentice Hall
ISBN 0131882228
Year 2006
Pages 873
CD included No
FS Oriented 8
Over all score 6

In short


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

With thanks to Fremantle Counselling to keep FSM editors sane.