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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month I reviewed an employment book utilizing the Internet, a Perl quick reference guide, an Internet security book, an Internet file format book, and a Windows 95 help book. Specifically, I enjoyed Hook Up, Get Hired by Joyce Lain Kennedy (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), Perl 5 Desktop Reference by Johan Vromans (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.), Actually Useful Internet Security Measures by Larry J. Hughes, Jr. (New Riders), Internet File Formats by Tim Kientzle (Coriolis Group Books), and The Windows 95 Bug Collection by Bruce Brown (Addison-Wesley). I also reviewed The IBM Dictionary of Computing on Disk from McGraw-Hill.

Hook Up, Get Hired! The Internet Job Search Revolution
by Joyce Lain Kennedy
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN 0-471-11630-0

The immense resource capabilities and the current popularity of the Internet make it an ideal tool for both employers and job seekers. Unlike printed classifieds, which change weekly, employment opportunities displayed online are updated as soon as a notice is submitted or withdrawn. Even the printed media utilizes the convenience of online access. CareerPath, a new service, features job listings from The Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News, Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. (CareerPath can be reached at For experienced computer users, the evolution of the Internet or commercial online service to a search utility is not surprising. However, the novice may experience some trepidation in using the information or in accessing it.

Joyce Lain Kennedy, a syndicated career columnist, addresses the questions, fears, and apprehension of both new and experienced users. She begins with an overview, detailing the role of the Internet in today's employment market. One of the most common misconceptions relates to locale; since the Internet is a vast network, any job discovered through a newsgroup or bulletin board service (BBS) must be in a different region. This is a common misrepresentation, because most positions discovered in this way are actually local. Realizing that most readers may skeptically approach this online search idea, the author describes some true experiences and also some examples of online junk ads. The user should recognize a legitimate offer versus one that appears too good to be true. ("Earn $50,000 an hour from the comfort of your own home !" I admit I exaggerated the actual offer.) Kennedy explains the different Internet resources (i.e., bulletin boards, newsgroups, discussion lists, and the various Internet utilities, including Gopher, telnet, and the World Wide Web), and also demonstrates how to use each tool.

The fourth chapter features sites that list job offerings, including temporary, permanent, full-time, part-time, and contract options. Kennedy discusses the choices of the commercial online services: America Online, CompuServe, Delphi, GEnie, and Prodigy. She also discusses how to access a BBS (Bulletin Board System) and details some of the best ones for job opportunities in three diverse groups: the private sector, technical, and federal. The author similarly examines newsgroups, mailing lists, telnet, and the World Wide Web. In addition to the online resources that list available jobs, several other options exist for the user: posting a resume, contacting employment consultants, and professional societies and trade organizations. Kennedy also addresses small business and marketing concerns, which hardware and software the user needs, some guidelines for online resumes, autopilots, and some organizational considerations. The Appendix itemizes online and offline references: books, publications, software, and the InterNIC (Internet Network Information Center) organization. She also includes a glossary to aid the reader with the Internet's many acronyms.

Hook Up, Get Hired! introduces an accepted practice to a new medium. Not too long ago, resumes were always typed or typeset, with careful attention to the color and weight of the paper. Now, the paper often belongs to the employer (whether by printer or fax machine) and the resume exists in cyberspace. The rules for writing resumes have changed as well as the formatting.

Kennedy, an established newspaper columnist and book author, provides a well-written guide for the job seeker. She uses interviews to illustrate online experiences and furnishes "NetNotes" throughout the book to assist the novice Internet traveler. This is a superb book, documenting new rules for existing techniques. No employer or job seeker should be without it.

Perl 5 Desktop Reference
by Johan Vromans
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-187-9

Since its debut approximately 10 years ago, Perl (Practical Extraction and Report Language) has been preferred by the UNIX community as a superior programming utility. Whether it augments or replaces the shell programming language, both users and administrators appreciate Perl's scope and syntax.

With the popularity explosion of the Internet, World Wide Web programmers have also recognized Perl's advantages and rapidly applied it to CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts. The original Perl book, Programming Perl by Larry Wall and Randal L. Schwartz, defined the Perl language and its applications. This new little booklet, by Vromans, provides the user with a quick reference to Perl's syntax and features. It contains the commands and options for the language, including literals, variables, operators, statements, functions, regular expressions, and networking.

Vromans furnishes a complete resource in a pocket reference size. (Perl 5 Desktop Reference is approximately the same size as Smileys by David W. Sanderson and Dale Dougherty.) This book should be on every UNIX and Internet programmer's and administrator's desktop.

Actually Useful Internet Security Measures
by Larry J. Hughes, Jr.
New Riders
ISBN 1-56205-508-9

Stories of intruders invading Internet systems accompany almost every Internet history. New reports appear almost daily. The weaknesses of the Internet are not only generally known, but are also specifically detailed. Yet, break-ins continue to occur. In the introduction to Actually Useful Internet Security Techniques, Hughes briefly recounts his own experience with invaders from cyberspace. Through the pursuit of his trespassers, the author researched several different security concepts and tools. In this book, Hughes not only presents these ideas and applications to system and network administrators, but also to the general Internet user.

Under ordinary circumstances, everyone recognizes security and how to practice it, whether it is locking doors, or double-checking the lights. However, as soon as the modem connects the user's personal computer to an online service or the Internet, security concerns fade into the background. Because most users access the Internet from familiar and usually secure surroundings, it is easy for the the user to feel completely protected and safe. Unfortunately, this is not the case. To educate the user, Hughes begins with The Foundations of Internet Security and defines the essential concepts: authentication, access control, integrity, and confidentiality. He examines the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Reference Model and the Internet TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) Model. A basic understanding of the transmission process illustrates its most vulnerable segments.

Electronic mail (email) remains the most popular service of the Internet, but the idea that someone else could possible read your messages and perhaps alter them is disturbing, to say the least. Two of the basic tenets of security, data confidentiality and integrity, protect email. Hughes addresses these issues and discusses the practices of cryptology, including cryptography and cryptanalysis. He explains encryption, ciphers, hash functions, public-key cryptosystems, and some familiar algorithms. The following chapters define authentication, its features, techniques, uses, and the Kerberos authentication system. Part II, Communications and Data-Sharing Applications, evaluates Messaging Mail and News, Virtual Terminal Services, File Sharing, and The X Window System. The author examines the potential security risks associated with each topic and available solutions.

In the third section, Firewalls and Web Security, Hughes discusses World Wide Web Security, An Overview of SATAN, Network Security Issues, and Actually Useful Security Tools. The World Wide Web Security chapter illustrates common mistakes and security considerations connected with the NCSA (National Center for Supercomputer Applications) HyperText Transfer Protocol Daemon (httpd). An Overview of SATAN details the Security Administration Tool for Analyzing Networks (SATAN) developed by Dan Farmer and Wierse Venema. SATAN provides security auditors and network and system administrators with a tool that scans systems for possible security weaknesses. Hughes outlines its uses, configuration, instructions, and vulnerabilities. Network Security Issues examines authentication, integrity, confidentiality, and access control relative to the Internet's network, transport, and application protocol layers. The concluding chapter, Actually Useful Security Tools, lists the utilities available on the Internet, their locations, and descriptions according to their specific topics. Part IV includes the Appendices, Security-Related Organizations and Usenet Newsgroups as well as a Glossary, Bibligraphy, and the Index.

Actually Useful Internet Security Techniques is an outstanding book, debuting at an opportune time. Hughes not only demonstrates the problems, but also presents possible solutions and where to obtain the numerous utilities. This book provides an introduction to security measures for the user, a practical reference for the administrator, and a complement to the more technical security books. Actually Useful Internet Security Techniques is a valuable resource for every user and administrator on the Internet.

Internet File Formats
by Tim Kientzle
Coriolis Group Books
ISBN 1-883577-56-X
CD-ROM Included

The popularity of the Internet often can be linked to the speed and convenience of email and the immense amount of resources that a user can access. However, when a user downloads a desired file, he or she is often confused by its format and frustrated by attempts to open it. Internet File Formats addresses this problem for PC, Macintosh, and UNIX platforms.

Kientzle divides the formats into six basic sections: text and document, graphics, compression and archiving, encoding, sound, and movie formats. The introductory chapters recount the history of different formats on the Internet and the evolution of standards. They also address the problems of identifying specific formats and describe helpful file format resources available on the Internet. Each individual chapter features a description of the format, relevant instructions, and tells when to use it. The first page of each chapter encapsulates the important information in boxed outline format (names, extensions, use, the author's reference, and any utilities presented on the accompanying CD-ROM.) Kientzle discusses approximately 100 different extensions, detailing how each works and giving specific information regarding the particular type of format. Chapters on document formats may include a primer with syntax information, how to generate paragraphs, text styles, tables, headings, and more. In contrast, graphic formats chapters indicate how to recognize and utilize a specific format as well as when to use it. Kientzle examines all of the most popular formats plus many of the lesser known ones. The Appendices feature the following additional topics: About the CD-ROM, About Files, About File Formats, About Transferring Files, and A Binary Dump Program. The accompanying CD-ROM provides shareware for conversion, transferring, compressing, decompressing, creating, and viewing assorted types of files for PC, Macintosh, and UNIX workstations.

Internet File Formats presents practical instruction, programs, and answers for the Internet user. It is clearly written and easily understood. The concepts of varied file formats, when one format is preferable over another, and the principles of compression, archiving, and encoding are reasonably explained. Kientzle displays his extensive knowledge as he presents the advantages and disadvantages of each format. Every Internet user should read (and reference) this superb book.

The Windows 95 Bug Collection
by Bruce Brown
ISBN 0-201-48995-3

Windows 95 is the most recent Windows upgrade, and depending on the current PC hardware and software used, installation of it may or may not cause problems. To make the transition from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 easier, Bruce Brown, editor and publisher of BugNet has assembled a list of the known bugs in Windows 95 and solutions to these problems.

If the reader has not installed Windows 95, but intends to upgrade in the near future, it is important to remember that the success rate for installation without major difficulty is 95% percent. This book addresses the various problems and compatibility questions with different hardware and software products. Brown includes eight major topics, their identified problems, and workaround solutions: installation, utilities, hardware, communcations, games, publishing, working with numbers, and Windows 95 itself. The beginning categories need no explanation, but the last (working with numbers) details problems primarily discovered in the different spreadsheet, accounting, and database applications and how to avoid them. Windows 95 Itself examines the idiosyncrasies of the upgrade with basic commands that the user previously employed in Windows 3.1.

The Windows 95 Bug Collection features a simple way to escape unnecessary stress and avoid headaches. The bugs have been documented and reproduced, and the provided solutions work. Brown introduces each section with a brief (three to four page) description of the errors addressed in that section. He also includes the Bug/Fix Success Rates for the specific topic, the section's Biggest Problem, and its Biggest Surprise. The individual problems and workarounds follow the introduction. The first page of each error/solution segment displays a footnote with the Bug and Fix List Legend so the reader does not have to keep checking the book's preface to determine a symbol's interpretation. The number of possible conflicts is amazing; the accompanying solutions are comforting. Brown has furnished the user and administrator with an expert tool for installing and configuring Windows 95. Administrators and users will appreciate The Windows 95 Bug Collection and use it often. It is a practical and effective book.

IBM Dictionary of Computing on Disk
ISBN 0-07-852800-3

Most computing professionals do not know the meaning of every acronym at the first or even the second glance. They may be able to deduce the definition by the context of the sentence, but sometimes even that is doubtful. The best computer professionals know where to look for the information, and a computing dictionary is usually the first place to check. However, due to the rapid changes in the computer industry and its terminology, a current dictionary is almost impossible to maintain.

The IBM Dictionary of Computing on Disk can solve that problem. It includes the basic dictionary and updates as needed, so the user can possess the most up-to-date reference possible. The four disks include both DOS and Windows versions of the software. Both utilize multiple search choices. The user can seek a term using a menu, a term search, a "sounds like" phonetic search, or an alphabetic search. Once the word or phrase is accessed, the user can find other definitions by browsing sequentially or by limiting the dictionary to the results of the initial search. He or she can copy the information to a word processing program or Windows clipboard, notebook, or write program. Choosing a search by definition will identify the occurrences within the selected text.

I implemented this as a Windows program and quickly learned a few minor techniques, such as clearing the search screen between two separate searches. (One search endeavored to find world + wide + web + Backus + Naur + Java. Surprisingly, there was no match.) The menu approach took longer than the other search procedures (which was due to the input method). However, the retrieved data was correct and detailed a low-level hardware approach. I discovered some specific Internet terms missing. However, some of the Internet terms I originally couldn't find appeared under their full names (HyperText was there; HTML was not.) The other absent definitions are very recent terms. This software dictionary contains 18,000 technical entries and remains a worthwhile product for anyone requiring precise technical jargon. The IBM Dictionary of Computing was originally designed for the use of IBM staff and is also compatible with the OS/2 operating system.

About the Author

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 11 years. She is currently a UNIX and C consultant, and one of her specialties is UNIX education. In addition to her computer science background, she also has a degree in English. Elizabeth can be reached via America Online (