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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

For this issue, I reviewed books on a variety of subjects. I read Preventing Computer Injury: The Hand Book, by Stephanie Brown (Ergonome, Inc.); The Elements of E-mail Style: Communicate Effectively via Electronic Mail, by David Angell and Brent Heslop (Addison-Wesley); The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog, 2nd ed., by Ed Krol (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.); New Riders' Official Internet Yellow Pages, by Christine Maxwell and Czeslaw Jan Grycz (New Riders Publishing); Open Computing's Best UNIX Tips Ever, by Kenneth H. Rosen, Richard R. Rosinski, and Douglas A. Host (Osborne McGraw-Hill); Net Guide: Your Map to the Services, Information, and Entertainment on the Electronic Highway, by Peter Rutten, Albert F. Bayers III, and Kelly Maloni (Random House); and Making TEX Work, by Norman Walsh (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.). I hope that you enjoy this collection as much as I did.

Preventing Computer Injury: The Hand Book
by Stephanie Brown
Ergonome, Inc.
ISBN 1-884388-01-9

Although computer keyboards do not come with a label, "Caution: This may be hazardous to your health," it becomes true in many cases. Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) or Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD), such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, affect over 20% of computer keyboard users. Stephanie Brown, a concert pianist, first encountered these symptoms in other pianists and developed a method to help them avoid these injuries. When she bought a computer, she noticed the same habits among computer users.

The Hand Book contains two sections: At Your Keyboard and Caring for Your Hands. The first part identifies common positions that may damage your hands and wrists and shows how to correct them. Each chapter demonstrates several incorrect ways to type, then presents an exercise to help you find the best way to position yourself while at the computer. Ms. Brown outlines the history of the keyboard and explains why some well-known typing instructions are not healthy.

The second section of the book provides exercises, stretches, and massages to relax your hands, wrists, arms, and back. It is complemented by two appendices: Appendix A demonstrates how to adjust your equipment and Appendix B provides the 12 Golden Rules. As I read the book, I also tried the exercises presented in these chapters. Some of the positions that cause problems hurt not only the hands, but also the shoulders, back, and neck. The exercises are restful and don't take more than a minute to complete. Ms. Brown presents 88 photographs displaying both correct and incorrect positions. The 12 Golden Rules consist of 24 photographs which are reproduced on a color poster suitable for hanging by your workstation. An eight-page brochure detailing how best to use The Hand Book is also included. In addition to the exercises, the author also provides tips such as:

"Wrist pads are great while you're resting your hands, or reading over work, but not while you're typing."

Stephanie Brown has produced an excellent book focusing on the potential harm in certain keyboard techniques. Ms. Brown describes her topics well and in a readable style for the layperson. She establishes some easily remembered connections to prevent computer injury. For example, although a jogger wouldn't run without the benefit of warm-up and cool-down exercises, he or she probably wouldn't apply the same practices to keyboard entry. Thanks to Sister Eusebia, my grade-school piano teacher, I try to warm-up before playing the piano. However, until I read Ms. Brown's book, it didn't occur to me to transfer these habits to my typewriter or computer keyboard. This book should be read by everybody engaged in keyboard work, especially those who are already bordering on some type of Repetitive Stress Injury. The corrections to poor technique are easy to learn and will soon become second nature. Stephanie Brown has offered an alternative to RSIs. The Hand Book may be ordered from Ergonome, Inc., New York City, (212) 222-9600.

The Elements of E-mail Style: Communicate Effectively via Electronic Mail
by David Angell and Brent Heslop
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company
ISBN 0-201-62709-4

Most e-mail messages resemble an impromptu speech; they are hastily composed and dispatched, without the advantages of proofing or editing. This spontaneity explains the many misspelled words, poor sentence structure, and flaming in current e-mail messages. Individuals known for their meticulous writing style in letters and reports generate electronic mail with almost no technique and few standards. Some users respond emotionally to e-mail, expressing thoughts online that would go unspoken in a face-to-face encounter. Angell and Heslop address these and other problems unique to e-mail communications. Patterned after the classic The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of E-mail Style describes simple and straightforward techniques for writing effective e-mail.

Angell and Heslop recognize both the advantages and the disadvantages of electronic mail, and they indentify points to consider before writing an e-mail message, including etiquette, politics, and privacy. For example, while all capital letters may attract attention on a printed page, an e-mail message entirely in upper case (SHOUTING) creates headaches for the reader. The authors show the user how to structure an e-mail message for impact. Since the recipient may be sent many messages, he or she may use a filter to prioritize incoming e-mail. Angell and Heslop explain how to create a compelling subject line and compose an effective e-mail message. This includes not only good sentence and paragraph structure, but also the proper tone, punctuation, formatting, and mechanics, such as spelling and abbreviations. The book concludes with a glossary entitled English and E-mail Jargon and an Appendix, Conventions for Posting on the Internet."

The Elements of E-mail Style addresses a previously overlooked subject. Many books describe how to send e-mail, but very few discuss how to compose it. Angell and Heslop not only tell the reader what should be done, but also demonstrate how to do it. The authors have presented guidelines for e-mail composition in a familiar, friendly style. This book should be read and kept next to your computer keyboard, where it will be referenced often.

The Whole Internet User's Guide & Catalog
Second Edition
by Ed Krol
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-063-5

Krol has updated the original edition to include new Internet tools and to provide more information on existing topics. One of the first new concepts discussed is Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME). MIME allows its users to attach files to e-mail messages. However, MIME's reputation focuses on its multimedia ability. It can include images, recordings, and movies with an e-mail message or permit the recipient to execute software on his or her system. One of the software packages that can accept MIME messages is pine, which has become popular because of its menu, its simplicity, and its availability.

Following the chapter on electronic mail, Krol examines Network News, newsgroups, and newsreaders. Although he mentions all of the different newsreaders, he uses nn to demonstrate how to install and use a newsreader. However, at the end of the chapter, Krol presents a thorough introduction to the tin newsreader.

The chapter originally called "Finding Software" has been changed to "Finding Files"; it includes an updated table of available archie servers and additional sections on controlling filename matching, controlling a search geographically, and archie under the X Window System. Under the X Window System, the user may access xarchie, which features a graphical user interface to archie and a built-in FTP client. The chapters "Finding Someone, Tunneling Through the Internet:Gopher," and "Searching Indexed Databases: WAIS, The World Wide Web, and Other Applications" have been reorganized and rewritten to explain new features within these topics. Krol addresses the changes in the "white pages" and shows different ways of locating someone on the Internet via finger, whois, and netfind.

In addition to new information, tables, and figures presented about gopher, Krol introduces Veronica and Jughead and details how they work. The author also provides public WAIS clients and discusses how to use the Mosaic browser in the World Wide Web. Mosaic works with the Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, and the X Window System on UNIX (where it is xmosaic). Among the appendices, Krol has added a brief introduction to UNIX and has updated "The Whole Internet Catalog" and the lists of service providers.

The first edition of this book was excellent; the second edition, with its extensive modifications and additions, is superb. Krol has done the impossible; he has produced a book which provides precisely what the Internet user (beginning, intermediate, and advanced) needs to know. His writing style remains logical, progressing steadily from the least to the most complex concepts, and collegial on tone, like a colleague discussing the information super highway. As I read this new edition, I was impressed not only by Krol's considerable knowledge, but also by his sense of humor. I recommend that you purchase this book, read it, and keep it near your computer for reference.

New Riders' Official Internet Yellow Pages
by Christine Maxwell and Czeslaw Jan Grycz
New Riders Publishing
ISBN 1-56205-306-X

The first few times a novice travels the Internet, he or she may be awed by its enormity and diverseness. However, the more familiar the user becomes, the more the Internet resembles a friendly neighborhood. with the traveler concentrating on his or her specific destinations, oblivious to the other resources available. Enter New Riders' Official Internet Yellow Pages. This book provides so much information, it could overwhelm the reader. However, magically, it does not. Maxwell and Grycz present a resource, not unlike the yellow pages in your local phone book, with over 10,000 entries.

The authors preface the directory with information that merits the reader's attention. They explain what a listing contains, what the icons represent, the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), and what the user should expect when accessing the resource. Maxwell and Grycz have evaluated each entry as Standard, Major, or Turbo. They not only define what each ranking means, but also demonstrate how to identify each listing's ranking on sight. The authors briefly discuss the most popular Internet tools, including Telnet, FTP, finger, Newsreaders, gopher, and Mosaic. The appendices to the book feature a keyword listing, an audience field listing, a list of Internet Service Providers, a glossary, recommended further readings, and "A Whimsical Tour of the Internet" by Eric Theis.

A particularly valuable feature of this book is that it helps readers find both general and highly specialized Internet resources. The authors have provided not only the entries' locations, but also helpful instructions for the user attempting to subscribe to a specific service. The "Keywords," "Audience," and "Profile" sections are particularly useful to the reader, since the names of some listings can foster confusion. For example, ADA is a programming language or the Americans with Disabilities Act, while the Bass Audience consists of stereo enthusiasts, not fishermen or musicians. A given listing may appear more than once if it would logically relate to more than one keyword. This excellent directory helps the user find exactly what he or she is seeking, particularly the more obscure resources. If the Internet is the Information Highway, this book is the Atlas.

Open Computing's Best UNIX Tips Ever
by Kenneth H. Rosen, Richard R. Rosinski, and Douglas A. Host
Osborne McGraw-Hill
ISBN 0-07-881924-5

Rosen, Rosinski, and Host address several topics which typically generate questions or problems from UNIX users and system administrators. Although the book's organization comprises chapters and subtopics, the tips vary from a few sentences to a few paragraphs in length. Due to this brevity, the answer to an isolated problem may be found, read, and understood before your prompt returns. The tips are located by tip number; no page numbers appear throughout the entire book. This design puzzled me at first, since I had started browsing at the back of the book. However, the Table of Contents lists chapter, subtopic, and tip, including the tip number. The index also lists the tip number. Since each page may contain from one to three tip numbers, it is easy to locate a specific tip, which eliminates the need for tip number to page number mapping.

Open Computing's Best UNIX Tips Ever provides information for novice, experienced, and advanced UNIX users. Beginners should examine the first eight chapters, which focus on installing and organizing a UNIX system, customizing the environment, mail, editors, text formatting, shell programming, and UNIX tools. The more complex chapters discuss communications and networking, the Internet, system and network administration, using both DOS and UNIX, the X Window System, and C programming. However, experienced UNIX users should not dismiss the introductory chapters without first inspecting their contents. For example, the first chapter contains two tips and a diagram on the Framed Access Command Environment (FACE), plus a subtopic entitled "Some Useful Resources" which includes periodicals and organizations.

Rosen, Rosinski, and Host provide sources for software, including Elm, mush, mh, and Mosaic; present assistance with sed, awk, and perl; discuss the ed, vi, and emacs editors; and demonstrate text formatting with troff. In the chapter on DOS and UNIX, the authors consider most combinations: DOS and UNIX, DOS under UNIX, networking DOS and UNIX, using Macintosh PCs and UNIX, utilizing the MKS toolkit, and implementing X Windows on DOS PCs.

For each topic, the authors provide useful recommend sources for further study, and explain where and how to obtain related software. The progression from topic to topic is logical, the writing style is clear and readable, and figures and examples are used to good effect. Rosen, Rosinski, and Host display an extensive knowledge of UNIX through the 1,014 tips included here. Open Computing's Best UNIX Tips Ever will complement your other UNIX books, enhancing their value and increasing your understanding. This excellent book merits every UNIX user's and administrator's attention.

Net Guide: Your Map to the Services, Information, and Entertainment on the Electronic Highway
A Michael Wolff Book
by Peter Rutten, Albert F. Bayers III, and Kelly Maloni
Random House Electronic Publishing
ISBN 0-679-75106-8

This well-organized handbook to online services focuses not only on the Internet, but also on America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy, Usenet, Delphi, Genie, Bix, Fidonet, and hundred of BBSs. Containing over 4,000 entries, Net Guide classifies the listings according to topics such as Arts & Entertainment, Computers & Software, Business & Finance, Home, Hobbies, & Shopping, Public Affairs, and Politics & the Media, to name only a few. Each entry consists of the name of the item, a short profile, the location of the item, and how to access it. As an introduction to the directory, the authors answer 27 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), including how to use a Net Guide entry, how to telnet and FTP, how to download a file and look at a picture, and what to do when you forget the procedures.

Throughout the book, sidebars called "Cybernotes" appear. They may contain supplementary information about traveling online, excerpts from different listings, and acceptable e-mail abbreviations. Since each subject features several subtopics, an explanation of the subject, and either sketches or pictures, the result is visually pleasing. The use of bold fonts, plus a mixture of red and black print, helps to provide visual cues to the reader (at 3 a.m., this becomes very important, if not essential!). Net Guide features some entries that aren't published anywhere else, as, for example, listings on antiques, coins, dollhouses, postcards, Swatch watches, trains, stamps, baseball cards, and a general group on all collectibles. (I belong to CompuServe and America Online and still didn't know about all these groups!)

The Net Guide also offers free connect time to a new online service, Net Guide Online. Although it is not currently available, it should be fully operational by the time this column is printed. (I received an update to the book only yesterday that included 20 modifications and five new sites.)

This excellent text examines the best (and worst) aspects of the commercial online services and gives the forums the credit they deserve, but so seldom receive. It describes common problems on the Internet and discusses ways to prevent them. The authors introduce each topic with a brief explanation, which gives the reader a sense of continuity throughout the book. The layout of the book is exceptional; it contents are extensive and informative.

Making TEX Work
by Norman Walsh
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-051-1

When Donald Knuth needed a tool to typeset scientific and mathematical text, he couldn't find one to meet his specifications, so he developed several pieces of software that became the TEX typesetting system. Approximately 20 years later, word-processing software and desktop publishing software have changed drastically, allowing users to create quality professional documents, but TEX remains unrivaled in its ability to typeset equations. Versions of TEX exist for every platform, and users are still frustrated by the myriad of programs TEX needs to work.

Norman Walsh wrote Making TEX Work to eliminate this user frustration by showing clearly what programs are necessary for TEX to run effectively. He presents the information in three sections: Part I provides "An Introduction to TEX," Part II discusses the "Elements of a Complex Document," and Part III gives "A Tools Overview." The first chapter explains TEX for the beginner, proves that TEX can produce the same results as a desktop publisher, if the user wishes, and presents some informative flowcharts that demonstrate how TEX works. Perhaps the most valuable item in the first chapter is a detailed list of TEX advantages. Other topics in Part I include "Editing," "Running TEX" (including errors and interpreting error messages), and "Macro Packages."

In the second section, Walsh examines fonts, graphics, international considerations, printing, previewing, online documentation, METAFONT, bibliographies, indexes, and glossaries. The third section discusses non-commercial and commercial environments, TEX on the Macintosh, and TEX Utilities. Among the appendices, Walsh provides extensive METAFONT examples, resources, and a bibliography which contains more sources than I realized existed on this topic.

Making TEX Work presents a clear, understandable explanation of TEX. O'Reilly & Associates provide the ultimate TEX example: Making TEX Work was typeset completely in TEX, and includes text in Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese. Walsh displays an extensive knowledge of the topic, and his style helps the reader to easily comprehend the concepts. Many figures, tables, and examples complement the text. Anyone who uses a version of TEX will enjoy this book; it tells you all about the latest developments and provides sources for the latest software. Anyone who has ever wanted to learn TEX was waiting for this book. It is for all TEX users, whether beginning or advanced. I recommend it highly.

About the Author

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environments for the past 11 years. She is currently a UNIX and C consultant, and one of her specialities is UNIX education. In addition to her computer science background, she also has a degree in English. Elizabeth can be reached via CompuServe at 71603,2201 (Internet format:, or via America Online (