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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month, I have reviewed Instant Internet with WebSurfer, by David Sachs and Henry Stair; New Riders' Official World Wide Web Yellow Pages, 1995 Edition, by Andrew Busey, Larry Colker, Hank Weghorst, and Luckman Interactive; Networking Personal Computers with TCP/IP, by Craig Hunt; The Solaris 2.x System Administrator's Guide: J. Ranade Workstation Series, by S. Lee Henry and John R. Graham; The SLIP/PPP Connection: The Essential Guide to Graphical Internet Access, by Paul Gilster; and It's Not A Bug, It's A Feature! Computer Wit and Wisdom by David Lubar.

Instant Internet with WebSurfer
by David Sachs and Henry Stair
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-210675-2
Disks Included

One of the most engrossing features of the Internet is the World Wide Web. Given the correct software and the proper connection, the Web can become a reflection of the user's personality. I have browsed art galleries and online stores, sent postcards and personalized Hallmark cards, and ordered catalogs. The only problem encountered by the typical Internet user -- whether new or experienced -- remains the necessary computer configuration. Sachs and Stair include Network Chameleon with their book, and have designed the text to answer any questions regarding Chameleon. They direct the book toward both beginning users and experienced users who have accessed the Internet from a traditional UNIX background.

The book is divided into three parts: 1) Instant Internet; 2) Basic Internet Tools; and 3) WebSurfer. Within these sections, the authors use sessions, overviews, instant activities, pointers, HeadsUp!, and tips to present the material. Since the book demonstrates how to use the Internet, it is organized in sessions, rather than chapters. Each session provides an overview and several hands-on excercises (Instant Activities). When warranted, the authors include pointers (suggestions), tips (commentary), and HeadsUp! (designating an area more complicated or technical than previous sections).

Part I, Instant Internet, includes Installing Internet Chameleon, Signing Up with a Provider, and Custom, Connect, and Ping. These introductory chapters present many of the screens the user will, or could, encounter. During installation, the reader can compare each screen in the book with those on the monitor. The session on providers shows several opening screens for different providers. The third session focuses on the Internet Chameleon screens displayed during custom setup. (The reader will notice a section entitled NEWTNews; this refers to the NetManage Enhanced Windows TCP/IP program and has no connection to politicians in Washington, D.C.)

Part 1, Basic Internet Tools, discusses four Internet tools -- Telnet, E-mail, FTP, and Gopher. Each respective utility is explained in a separate session and several activities demonstrate how to use each. At the end of the sessions, the reader/user not only knows what these tools do, but has also used each successfully. Part 3, WebSurfer, describes an easy and exciting way to explore the Internet, showing you how to exploit links among documents. The five sessions in this section discuss the Chameleon WebSurfer, some of the resources on the World-Wide Web, using WebSurfer for Telnet, FTP, and Gopher sessions, how to search the World-Wide Web, and multimedia on the Web.

This book is a well-written guide to using Internet Chameleon. It features a step-by-step introduction to installation and the most essential tools on the Internet. The activities demonstrate how to use each feature as it is discussed. The graphics, which include screen displays and output as well as menus and Web pages, supplement the text well. This is an ideal resource for either a beginner or an experienced user searching for a friendlier way to access the Internet.

New Riders' Official World Wide Web Yellow Pages
1995 Edition
by Andrew Busey, Larry Colker, Hank Weghorst, and Luckman Interactive
New Riders Publishing
ISBN 1-56205-449-X
Disk Included

Several books on the market invite the reader to browse for hours on end. One of these is the Internet Yellow Pages: this book containing over 4,000 Web sites and resources, is another (I speak from experience!). Choosing a few pages randomly, I discovered UNIX Security Topics, U.S. Rare Coins and Precious Metals, The San Francisco Free Press, Rocky Mountain Cyber Mall, Shopping 2000, Art Links on the World Wide Web, and Doctor Who. This well-organized directory is divided into 30 subject areas, and includes an introduction, two appendices, and an index. Appendix B shows how to use WebIndex, a searching utility developed by Luckman Interactive specifically for this book and its readers. The entire contents of the book can be found on the accompanying disk.

The introduction provides a description of the World-Wide Web, its history, uses, and terminology. It discusses how to access the World-Wide Web and lists the components of a Yellow Pages entry. Each listing contains a site's name, Uniform Resource Locator (URL) (also known more simply as the address), keywords, a description, and details about the site. This is both a fun book to peruse and a handy resource to Internet users. (Try showing it to non-computer users and see their reactions. Around my house, it was "Can you really get that on your computer?? Can I DO that??") Keep this one next to your keyboard.

Networking Personal Computers with TCP/IP
by Craig Hunt
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-123-2

Computing environments are no longer homogeneous. Today's organization may use UNIX for one purpose and PCs for reports and charts. The PCs may be further divided, with some running Windows, some Windows NT, and others Windows 95. Any network may consist of several different operating systems, which not only causes a little confusion for the users ("Which operating system am I on ?"), but can also cause difficulties for network adminstrators. Craig Hunt (also the author of TCP/IP Network Administration) attempts to clarify the issues involved and offer ways to reduce the problems of internetworking.

Several chapters of Hunt's books focus on specific operating systems (DOS TCP/IP, Windows on the Network, Windows 95 TCP/IP, Windows NT Networking, and NetWare and TCP/IP). Other chapters discuss general topics: The PC Dilemma and Dealing with the Dilemma. The first examines PC hardware and software, showing why PCs can turn a network administrator's hair gray; the second presents advice to reduce the problems (and therefore the strain) facing the network administrator. Chapter three explores Network Tools, specifically PC tools that are designed to help network administrators diagnose or prevent problems, particularly conflicts. The tools include installation tools -- such as EISA Configuration Utilities (ECU) -- which vary from vendor to vendor. Maintenance tools and troubleshooting techniques are also discussed.

The chapter on configuration control confirms that TCP/IP is not as easy to configure as some alternative networking systems. Due to TCP/IP's power and flexibility, it also possesses a higher degree of complexity. However, TCP/IP also has tools that simplify the configuration process. Hunt explains the Reverse Address Resolution Protocol (RARP), the Bootstrap Protocol (BOOTP), and the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), demonstrates how to use them, and documents the respective RFCs that define them.

The remaining chapters address Personal Email and File and Print Servers. Since users have come to depend on email, it should be reliable (both to satisfy the users and to keep the administrator's phone relatively quiet). Hunt analyzes the most popular protocols currently used: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP); Post Office Protocol (POP); and Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME). He also discusses the design of most TCP/IP email networks. In File and Print Servers, he describes file sharing and the three major TCP/IP protocols currently used: the Remote File System (RFS); the Andrew File System (AFS); and the Network File System (NFS). He also examines print services, the advantages of printer sharing, and possible techniques. Appendices include: A) Installation Planning Form; B) Contacts and References; C) Sendmail Configuration; D) Changes to System Files; and E) Public Domain Software.

Craig Hunt has written a logical and accessible book on a complex topic. The approach is thorough, and Hunt's knowledge of TCP/IP is extensive. The figures, tables, sample screens, and scripts significantly enhance the text. This fine book will become an essential asset to any network administrator's library.

The Solaris 2.x System Administrator's Guide
J. Ranade Workstation Series
by S. Lee Henry and John R. Graham
McGraw-Hill, Inc.
ISBN 0-07-029368-6

Henry and Graham begin this book by classifying users in three categories: novice (level I), intermediate (level II), and advanced (level III). A chart in the preface directs readers to the sections the authors recommend for each category. The book is organized in five parts: Introduction, Installation, Basic Administration, Advanced Administration, and Theory of Operation. The Introduction examines the role of the system administrator ("How did I get this job, anyway?), as well as product overview and standards. The second chapter focuses on changes in the Solaris Operating Environment for the user, developer, and system administrator. The Introduction also includes a chapter on shells and one on the Solaris 2.x file system. The chapter on shells shows how to invoke each of the three shells (Bourne, C, and Korn) and some basic features of the shells. The chapter on the Solaris 2.x file system shows how to create and tune filesystems in order to maintain the system properly.

Part 2, Installation, consists of two chapters: Preinstallation and Installation. Preinstallation covers requirements prior to installing Solaris 2.x, configurations, partitions, and backups. Installation details the procedure used to install the CD-ROM. Part 3, Basic Administration, encompasses Maintaining User Accounts, Administering Printing Services, Managing Resource Sharing, Managing Backup, and Administering Software Packages. Advanced Administration, Part 4, includes Security and Administering NIS+. The final section, Part 5, Theory of Operation, contains chapters on the Solaris Kernel, the Multithread Architecture, Scheduling, Files and File Systems, and Solaris Networking.

The Solaris 2.x System Administrator's Guide is intended as a supplement to, not a replacement for, the existing documentation. It does not re-explain concepts that are covered in detail in other texts, but the authors carefully note the texts that do explain those subjects. The focus here is on issues which are new in Solaris 2.x and not explicitly covered anywhere else. The progression is logical, and the format and graphics contribute to the book's attractive presentation and readability. This is an essential resource for every Solaris administrator.

The SLIP/PPP Connection The Essential Guide to Graphical Internet Access
by Paul Gilster
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN 0-471-11712-9

This new book from Paul Gilster, the author of The Internet Navigator and Finding It on the Internet, maintains the high standard of his earlier works. Many of the latest Internet toys require a SLIP or PPP connection. SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol) and PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) are not the same identity. However, since they basically serve the same purpose with respect to the latest technologies (such as Netscape or Mosaic), they are discussed together so often that it's easy for casual readers to assume that they are synonymous. Further, most people who know what they mean do not know how to establish this type of connection. This book can change that. In the first chapters, the author explains this type of access and shows examples. In the second chapter, he looks at TCP/IP, packet switching, SLIP versus PPP, and the equipment needed so that it will run efficiently a nd correctly. Gilster looks individually at SLIP/PPP for Windows and on the Macintosh, identifying the software needed and providing information on where to obtain the software.

Since SLIP/PPP connections are different from the normal Internet connections, the procedures for using the standard Internet tools (FTP, email, Telnet, WAIS, Gopher, and USENET) also differ. Gilster therefore includes updated chapters on these features. Since the World Wide Web is now accessible through SLIP/PPP connections, there's a chapter on browsing through the World Wide Web. In it, Gilster presents the concepts, then provides individual sections to Mosaic, Netscape, Cello, WinWeb, Web browsing with a Macintosh, and Web browsing with TIA (The Internet Adapter), RemSock, and SlipKnot. (I am happy to see Macintosh and Windows covered in the same book. There are readers who have both platforms, and buying two separate books, often by the same author, must be inconvenient and consume a lot of space.)

Gilster's style is, as always, clear, logical, and highly readable. This is the first book I have seen that is devoted entirely to the SLIP/PPP connection. Since more and more products need this connection, the book is a welcome addition to the ever-changing Internet library. Many networks now include PCs, both IBM and Macintosh, so it is essential that the administrator know something about both platforms and the correct connectivity. Gilster's book provides that knowledge.

It's Not A Bug, It's A Feature! Computer Wit and Wisdom
by David Lubar
ISBN 0-201-48304-1

This is an enjoyable little book of quotations for every computer situation. It provides a bit of comic relief between software, hardware, and thunderstorms. Such comforting thoughts as "Forget all this talk about reliability; if it plugs in, it's trouble" (Anonymous) and "we forget that you cannot impress software, no matter what your rank" (Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who helped design COBOL and coined the word "bug" circa 1970) may sometimes seem to painfully apt, but will still make the reader laugh. As will prognostications on the order of "I see a world market for about five computers," which is attributed to Thomas J. Watson, Sr., former leader of IBM, circa 1947.

David Lubar has performed a service for the programmers of the world. When that program just will not work, take a deep breath, read one or two quotes, smile, and then look at it again. It is always easier to see the problem as you step back, but most of us won't allow ourselves that luxury -- this will help.

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 at America Online (