Found in 5 comments on Hacker News
tristor · 2021-09-08 · Original thread
I don't have any one complete book that I can recommend, and I don't even really have a great reading list for this. But I'll make an attempt to share what I think is useful as a starting point.

1. Systems Operations is first and foremost about understanding systems, in all of their complexity, which means understanding the internals of your OS primarily.

2. Performance and networking, in particular, are super important areas to focus on understanding when it comes to learning the topic to help with software development.

3. A lot of it is about understanding concepts in abstract and being able to extrapolate to other situations and apply these concepts, so there's actually quite a lot of useful information that can be learned on one OS and still applied to another OS (or on one game engine and applied to another, et al).

Here's a few books I think are worth reading, not in any particular order of prevalence, but loosely categorized


High Performance MySQL:

SQL Queries for Mere Mortals:

The Art of SQL:


TCP/IP Illustrated: (updates on author's site at

The TCP/IP Guide:

UNIX Network Programming:

Beej's Guide to Network Programming:

Operating Systems:

Operating Systems Concepts: (various editions, I have the 7th edition... I recommend you find the latest)

Modern Operating Systems: (the "Tanenbaum Book")

Operating Systems Design and Implementation: (the other one, the "MINIX Book")

Windows Internals:

Part 1:

Part 2: (I had the pleasure of being taught from this book by Mark Russinovich and David Solomon at a previous employer, was an amazing class and these books are incredible resources even applied outside of Windows, we used 5th edition, I linked 7th, which has the 2nd part pending publication).

MacOS Internals:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Linux Kernel Programming:

Part 1:

Part 2:

The Linux Programming Interface:

General Systems Administration:

Essential Systems Administration:

UNIX and Linux Systems Administration Handbook:

The Linux Command Line and Shell Scripting Bible:

UNIX Shell Programming:

BASH Hackers Wiki:

TLDP Advanced BASH Scripting Guide:

The Debian Administrator's Handbook:

TLDP Linux System Administrator's Guide:

Performance & Benchmarking:

Systems Performance: (this is Brendan Gregg's book where you learn about the magic of dtrace)

BPF Performance Tools: (the newer Brendan Gregg book about BPF, stellar)

The Art of Computer Systems Performance Analysis: (no longer available from Amazon, but is available direct from publisher. This is basically the one book you should read about creating and structuring benchmarks or performance tests)

I guess that's a "reading list", but this is just a small part of what you need to know to excel in systems operations.

I would say for the typical software developer writing web applications, the most important thing to know is how databases work and how networking works, since these are going to be the primary items affecting your application performance. But there's obviously topics not included in this list that are also worth understanding, such as browser/DOM internals, how caching and CDNs work, and web-specific optimizations that can be achievable with HTTP/2 or QUIC.

For the average software developer writing desktop applications, I'd say make sure you /really/ understand OS internals... at the base everything you do on a computer system is based on what the OS provides to you. Even though you are abstracted (possibly many layers) away from this, being able to peel back the layers and understand what's /really/ happening is essential to writing high-quality application code that is performant and secure, as well as making you a champ at debugging issues.

If you're trying to get into systems operations as a field, this is just a brush over the top surface and there's a lot deeper diving required.

acomjean · 2018-06-12 · Original thread
For those that don't know.. Tannenbaum wrote the book on Operating Systems... Well a book. I think his OS Minix[2] is in there. Its on every intel CPU, but I think that was news to Tannenbaum.

This argument was at its root a "theory" vs. "getting it done" now argument. I think thats why it resonates.

[1] [2]

This is a debate about how OS's should be structured. There is some merit to Tanenbaums MicroKernel approach, but ultimately its slower and for an OS that matters, thus Linux being ascendant . Also everywhere gcc was ported could compile and run linux.

Microkernels "lost" but there was a microkernel called "Mach" worked on by Avie Tevanian who went to Next then to Apple. I think OS-X is kinda microkernel based (if they're still using XNU which is loosely based on the mach microkernel.).

I still miss HPUX RTE for PARISC(Real Time Extensions) for sending jobs to specific processors or processor sets, disabling interupts....

If you like OSs. I like the case studies in the dinosaur book: (stupid text-book prices though....)


nadams · 2015-09-07 · Original thread
I've learned/taught from the "dinosaur book" [1] and for the price tag it's pretty bad. It's a nice overview but it has several problems. First of all the section on CPU scheduling is pretty sparse and confusing. I skimmed through this book and it seems on par. But the one thing this book skips is Rate monotonic and Earliest deadline first - which I found to be rather difficult algorithms. This is because whenever you would research it - I would find other professors using screenshots from the dinosaur book that doesn't help explain it at all. I would be happy to give you my notes on it.

I really wish that was a an open source project that took developers and/or students from start to finish of an operating system. I should preface that and say that it should be easy to understand and use. I know about xv6 and I feel like that's too complex. I've found MikeOS [2] but I will have to study/extract it into pieces.

In any case - I really think this practice should be more widespread. Unfortunately, I've found many people to offer "lazy criticism" they point out something is wrong but don't want to offer any help to make it better. The Rooks Guide to C++ is a perfect example of this - yeah it's not perfect and doesn't contain all C++ knowledge you could ever know about (there have been a lot of negative criticism about the book). But that's not the point - it's designed for people who know nothing about programming to learn about C++ in a 16 week course. It's goal isn't to replace the Stroustrup expert C++ book.



robomartin · 2012-11-27 · Original thread
OK, if you don't have any real experience in low-level embedded coding (relevant to device drivers), RTOS or OS design in general, file systems, data structures, algorithms, interfaces, etc. And, if you have "hobby level" experience with Assembler, C and C++. And, if your intent is to write a desktop OS, from the ground up, without making use of existing technologies, drivers, file systems, memory management, POSIX, etc. Here's a list of books that could be considered required reading before you can really start to write specifications and code. Pick twenty of these and that might be a good start.

In no particular order:






















































54- ...well, I'll stop here.

Of course, the equivalent knowledge can be obtained by trial-and-error, which would take longer and might result in costly errors and imperfect design. The greater danger here is that a sole developer, without the feedback and interaction of even a small group of capable and experienced programmers could simply burn a lot of time repeating the mistakes made by those who have already trenched that territory.

If the goal is to write a small RTOS on a small but nicely-featured microcontroller, then the C books and the uC/OS book might be a good shove in the right direction. Things start getting complicated if you need to write such things as a full USB stack, PCIe subsystem, graphics drivers, etc.

mvanga · 2012-10-08 · Original thread
I just wanted to add that I felt Tanenbaum's Modern Operating Systems was a tad light on some of the core topics (especially when trying to get a good grip on the issues behind concurrency). I personally recommend the book by Silberschatz:

I also think for understanding how operating systems work, nothing beats writing your own! I learned most of the concepts by building a toy OS during the better part of my undergraduate studies. I highly recommend this for people who like coding and are afraid of jumping into the theory too quickly. For example, analyzing memory allocation algorithms is never as interesting as when you have to pick one for your own kernel!

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