Tag Archives: book review

Puppet for Polo Shirters, but not really

At VMworld it occurred to me that system automation was absolutely the ticket and something every person should have on their resume – probably a year ago. Being a year behind and with plenty of flight time remaining on my trip as well as Labor Day weekend I thought a good way to get caught up would be the Kindle book Puppet 3 Beginner’s Guide by John Arundel.

My reasoning for choosing this book (over other related options) is because it’s based on the most current version of Puppet which matters to me as some of the features I’ll be using in my day to day depend on some newer features – namely AIX support. In addition to that I wanted something not overly complicated as it was unlikely that I’d be at a shell during most of the time that I’d be reading the book. I needed more of a primer than a reference so to speak.

I don’t mean to bash this book heavily, it does come with some benefit. If you have no clue how puppet does what it does then it’s a good place to start. I already had a good foundation of what puppet is and how it works, I was looking for something that would help make it work for me. It does a nice job covering manifests, modules, classes and templates.

The annoyance comes in the remainder of stuff in the book. There is a wealth of information about how to set up ssh key authentication on *NIX systems, modifying crontabs and configuring and using git. While some people who wish to use puppet may need these skills explained, I don’t. That’s fine, we could just say that this book isn’t for me and is more suited for the point & click crowd. The irony though is that it’s not suited for them either as it’s void of anything cross-platform.

One thing that I will have great need for in my puppet playground is an understanding of the best ways to make your manifests and modules usable cross-platform. I can figure it out with enough digging around online, but I was hoping to get a glimpse, or at least more of a glimpse than the book offers. Their are some implications about cross-platform usage in the logic section of the book, but I definitely think given the actual use-case of system automation that more examples and explanation are merited. Additionally, I don’t think there is even a single mention of differences between using the toolset on Windows as opposed to *NIX systems.

I think the book is well written and there is a reasonable amount of useful content. Sometimes in the days of digital books it’s hard to tell if you’re getting your money’s worth… in the past if the book seemed 20% useful, but weighed 27 pounds you could still feel like you got a bargain. I did digest enough useful information about puppet to make it seem like the Kindle-edition price I paid was fair, but I still feel like I bought more useless/redundant knowledge than useful information. Worse, I don’t know who a good audience for this book would be.