System Performance Tuning answers one of the most fundamental questions you can ask about your UNIX-based computer: How can I get it to do more work without buying more hardware? Anyone who has ever used a computer has wished that the system was faster, particularly at times when it was under heavy load.
If your system gets sluggish when you start a big job, if it feels as if you spend hours waiting for remote file access to complete, if your system stops dead when several users are active at the same time, you need to read this book. Some performance problems do require you to buy a bigger or faster computer, but many can be solved simply by making better use of the resources you already have.
Real and perceived performance problems.
Simple tricks to improve keyboard response.
Locating your problem; finding out what your system is doing.
Using tools such as at and batch to manage system load.
Surviving without a lot of memory.
Configuring your I/O system for the best throughput.
Detecting an overworked or malfunctioning network.
Building a kernel that uses your system more efficiently.
Mike Loukides is an editor for O'Reilly & Associates. He is the author of System Performance Tuning and UNIX for FORTRAN Programmers. Mike's interests are system administration, networking, programming languages, and computer architecture. His academic background includes degrees in electrical engineering (B.S.) and English literature (Ph.D.).
Our look is the result of reader comments, our own experimentation, and feedback from distribution channels. Distinctive covers complement our distinctive approach to technical topics, breathing personality and life into potentially dry subjects. The animal featured on the cover of System Performance Tuning is a swordfish, a marine fish with a long, sword-shaped snout. The swordfish is distinguished from the marlin by its flattened snout, short, high dorsal fin, toothless mouth, and lack of scales. The fastest swimmer of all fish, a swordfish can grow up to 14 feet in length and weigh a thousand pounds or more. This combination of speed and size gives it strength and momentum--enough to drive its sword through the planking of a boat. The swordfish hunts by charging through schools of fish, striking to either side with its sword and then returning to collect its kill. UNIX and its attendant programs can be unruly beasts. Nutshell Handbooks(R) help you tame them.
Edie Freedman designed this cover and the entire UNIX bestiary that appears on other Nutshell Handbooks. The beasts themselves are adapted from 19th-century engravings from the Dover Pictorial Archive.
The text of this book is set in Times Roman; headings are Helvetica; examples are Courier. Text was prepared using SoftQuad's sqtroff text formatter. Figures are produced with a Macintosh. Printing is done on an Apple LaserWriter.
This is a great book to start learning about Unix System Performance tuning and should be required reading for anyone wanting to gain insight into the concepts of kernel tuning. However, having been last published in 1990, it neglects many aspects of a modern Unix OS. Tuning a Unix system for Web services is much different than tuning a system for an RDBMS or Application Server. RAID is only briefly mentioned and only as striping. Many performance issues arise when using RAID, especially when dealing with I/O blocksize for requests descending a vendor's filesystem, software RAID, hardware RAID and finally to physical disk. What about dealing with sychronous vs. asynchronous I/O? Small files vs. large files? A discussion of storage strategies is absent. This is all compounded in complexity by the proprietary filesystems the vendors have developed to achieve essentially the same goals. No discussion of filesystem journaling is contained in this book; however the discussion and explanation of filesystem buffers (nbuf) is good. A great deal of understanding Unix is understanding it's roots. "System Performance Tuning" is one step in that understanding.
This book is 10 years old. Here's a quote from page 136: "If you are going to invest in a really large disk drive (1-GB drives are now available from several vendors), you may as well spend the extra money and get one with good performance characteristics."
Can we have a revised edition, please? This is an excellent book but just a tad out-of-date.
I bought this book earlier this month without realising that it was published in 1990. Some of the basics are detailed extremely well and I found the book very useful. However, a 10 year old reference book on computer systems just wont do.
If you are reading this, you already respect the O'Reilly book collection. The first edition of the system performance tuning book is excellent. But, 10 years is an eternity in the computer world, I'm sure I can speak for many by saying we all look forward to an update to this invaluable reference.