If you've perused the shelves at your local bookstore recently, you've probably noticed the large number of Windows NT books available. After a while, the titles start to look the same. To navigate through them, you might look for a particular author you trust and enjoy or a particular publisher. I look for O'Reilly and Associates books. Initially, the company published only UNIX-oriented material, but now it's moving into the NT arena. AEleen Frisch's Essential Windows NT System Administration is one of O'Reilly's NT books, but the book has strong ties to UNIX. Essential Information About Windows NT Tools for UNIX Administrators is a more appropriate title because the book provides a UNIX feel for NT functions. According to the author, the book can help NT administrators manage NT systems as productively as possible. However, the title is misleading because Essential Windows NT focuses on the tools available for NT rather than on NT systems administration.

A large portion of the book focuses on explaining how to write Perl and other scripts to automate common tasks, such as requiring users to change their password or reporting users' disk usage. The rest of the book covers the startup and shutdown of an NT system, automation of systems administration, process management, files and directories, print services, security, and performance optimization. The book doesn't discuss these topics in a particular order or in sufficient detail to benefit experienced NT administrators.

The book has several assets. For example, if you are familiar with Perl (or want to learn about the language), you will benefit from Essential Windows NT's many usable scripts. Frisch also describes some important tools that are available (e.g., Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit and Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 Resource Kit) and how you can maximize the benefits they provide. Essential Windows NT includes lists of important commands and tools. For UNIX users, Appendix A contains a list of UNIX commands and their NT counterparts, Appendix B includes a list of resource kit tools, and Appendix C contains helpful NT commands and scripting language constructs.

However, Essential Windows NT doesn't provide all the essentials. In the section about extending NTFS volumes, Frisch doesn't mention that you can't extend a volume containing NT system files. The book also contains several errors. For example, when Frisch discusses the differences between NT Workstation and NT Server, she claims NT Server can support as many as 32 processors. However, out of the box, NT Server supports only 4 processors, and NT Server 4.0, Enterprise Edition supports 8 processors. To support as many as 32 processors on NT, you must purchase custom solutions.

If you're a UNIX administrator facing the task of administering an NT system, this book might help you. If you're an experienced NT administrator, this book might teach you a few new tricks. (I found Appendix A's UNIX-to-NT command comparison particularly informative.) Even if you're a first-time NT user with no UNIX experience, you might find the book interesting. More in-depth books are available. But, when clients who are UNIX experts say to me, "This is how I performed a function in UNIX; how do I do it on NT?" I'll have a handy reference to provide an answer.

Essential Windows NT
System Administration
Author: Aeleen Frisch
Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates, Sebastapol, 1998
ISBN 1-56592-274-3
Price: $34.95, 396 pages