Rod Hilton's Reviews > Operating System Concepts

Operating System Concepts by Abraham Silberschatz
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's review
Oct 11, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: textbooks, have-hardcopy, compsci
Read from October 11, 2011 to January 29, 2012

It's a textbook on Operating Systems. There's not really all that much to say about it beyond that, so instead I will compare it to two other OS textbooks that I've read, "Operating Systems: A Modern Perspective" by Gary Nutt and "Modern Operating Systems" by Tanenbaum, generally regarded as the seminal textbook on the subject.

OS Concepts is, to put it bluntly, very dry. This is somewhat expected with a book on Operating Systems, but the level of dryness is worth noting. I often found the book difficult to stay awake reading. Compared with Tanenbaum's book, it's slightly less dry and occasionally more conversational, but it doesn't come close to approaching Nutt's book in terms of presentation and readability.

OS Concepts also has a strange tendency to rapidly switch from being extremely detailed and getting into very low-level mechanics to being almost humorously broad. In one chapter I was looking at detailed drawings of how virtual memory works in operating systems, and a few chapters later I was reading about what a virus is and how you should use tapes to back up important files. The tone is all over the place, with some chapters feeling like "Operating Systems for Dummies" full of advice for how to effectively USE your computer and pick good passwords, and other chapters feeling like lengthy tomes on how to effectively DESIGN an operating system. These shifts make the book significantly harder to read, because it's dangerous to skim through a section that seems basic, as it may often contain important details as well.

One key advantage of OS Concepts is that each edition comes in two flavors: regular and Java. Initially I had hoped that the Java version of the book would be the same book, simply using Java for code samples for familiarity with Java programmers. Unfortunately, while that is occasionally true, more often than not the book is simply the regular OS concepts book, with a few Java-specific sections tacked onto the end of each chapter.

Overall, it's not a bad book, but I don't really see the audience for it. If you want the nitty-gritty, classic detail of OS design, you should probably stick with Tanenbaum's classic text. If you want a more conversational, readable Operating Systems book (with just as much information), it'd be better to stick with Nutt's. Silberschatz's book falls somewhere in the middle, and is therefore as effective as neither.
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