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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This issue I reviewed The Internet & World Wide Web The Rough Guide by Angus J. Kennedy (Rough Guides Ltd. Distributed by Penguin Books); The Downloader's Companion for Windows 95 by Scott Meyers, Catherine Pinch, and Chris Sells (Prentice Hall); Finding It on the Internet, Second Edition by Paul Gilster (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); The Underground Guide to UNIX: Slightly Askew Advice from a UNIX Guru by John Montgomery, Series Editor Woody Leonhard (Addison-Wesley Publishing Company); Bandits on the Information Superhighway by Daniel J. Barrett (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.); and AIX for Breakfast A Guide for Programmers and System Administrators by Philip Houtz (Prentice Hall). I hope you will find these books as valuable, informative, and necessary as I did.

The Internet & World Wide Web The Rough Guide
by Angus J. Kennedy
Rough Guides Ltd.
Distributed by Penguin Books
ISBN 1-85828-198-9

This little book (4" x 5 1/2") is easily dwarfed by the larger introductory Internet guides. However, its content demonstrates a diverse assortment of topics. Kennedy separates the text into four sections: Basics, The Guide, Contexts, and Directories. Basics introduces the reader to the topic of cyberspace and how to access the Internet, whether through a provider or online services. Here the author explains electronic mail, mailing lists, file transfer protocol (FTP), Usenet, the World Wide Web, and Internet Relay Chat (IRC). He also addresses some unexpected, but appreciated topics: TCP/IP, Trumpet Winsock, Building Your Own Home Page, and file types and extensions. The second section, The Guide, displays representative directories for the World Wide Web (WWW), Usenet newsgroups, and software files available on the Internet. Contexts includes a brief Internet history, Net Language, a Glossary, and Further Reading. The final section, Directories, lists various Cybercafe locations and Internet Service Providers.

This is a remarkable book that addresses every important aspect of the Internet to some degree. Kennedy's approach to the various topics is logical, readable, and precise. He furnishes the reader with more than the minimum amount of information regarding the subject, but does not overwhelm his audience. It is an excellent quick reference and handy pocket guide to the Internet.

The Downloader's Companion for Windows 95 by Scott Meyers, Catherine Pinch, and Chris Sells
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-520024-5
Diskettes included

The first edition of this book (The Downloader's Companion for Windows by Scott Meyers and Catherine Pinch; Prentice Hall; ISBN 0-13-342254-2, $19.95) featured a novel idea: explain downloading and compression to the casual computer user. Additionally, the authors included popular shareware and freeware products and demonstrated how to install, register, and use them. The book (a portable 8" x 4 1/2") carefully described downloading, compression, encoding, decoding, and multimedia files. With the changes in Windows 95, these procedures were also modified. Therefore, the revised edition addresses the previous guidelines and specifically updates them for Windows 95 users. As a result, the newer edition is a few pages longer, provides two diskettes in place of one, and was written by three authors, not two. Readers of the original book will recognize the words of Meyers and Pinch; Chris Sells and the Windows 95 additions enhance the already excellent text. The second diskette contains sample files for the reader to use with the programs on the first disk. In this way, the reader can try to decode, uncompress, or unzip a file without searching for files that are already uuencoded, compressed, or zipped.

The Downloader's Companion for Windows 95 remains a superb reference for any online user. Meyers, Pinch, and Sells not only discuss the varied file formats available, but also provide utilities, sample files, and extension listings and their respective meanings. Every user will appreciate this outstanding resource.

Finding It on the Internet
Second Edition
by Paul Gilster
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN 0-471-12695-0

Several basic types of Internet books currently fill the computer sections of bookstores: directories, technical how-to books (how to install servers, create home pages, etc.), elementary Internet books, and more advanced Internet resource books. Gilster's Finding It on the Internet describes both simple and complex ideas in an intelligent style. The author does not attempt to list service providers or assist the reader in selecting the best type of connection. He begins with the premise that the reader has access to some type of connection and demonstrates the most productive way to use it. The second edition slightly rearranged the topics (the World Wide Web had been covered in Chapter 6, but has moved to Chapter 2 and archie logically follows gopher and veronica). Gilster also expanded the first edition to reflect the changes in the Internet itself.

Finding It on the Internet is a specialized book concerning a single topic: searching. Gilster discusses the various tools available and how to use them. The author provides a search methodology for the user. Using the tools detailed, the user can determine how each utility performs and create a process utilizing the separate tools, depending on the particular need or time limit. Gilster reminds the reader that one resource is not enough. Certain tasks require a variety of references. The combination of search utilities produces the most effective results.

Gilster addresses each topic logically and precisely. His writing style displays an in-depth approach, demonstrating how the reader may best use the features his or her connection offers. The second edition, like the original, is an excellent book by an outstanding author. Its modifications only increase its value.

The Underground Guide to UNIX: Slightly Askew Advice from a UNIX Guru
by John Montgomery
Series Editor Woody Leonhard
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company
ISBN 0-201-40653-5

Introductory UNIX books usually follow similar outlines. They include fundamental concepts, followed by two or three advanced segments and one or two optional subjects. The basic topics are essential; the author's choice of advanced and optional topics determine how valuable the book will become. The additional topics can either discuss procedures for the beginner or for the more advanced UNIX programmer or administrator. The Underground Guide to UNIX belongs in the latter category. Although Montgomery "assumes that you already know something about UNIX" [page xi], he also presents the fundamental concepts in Chapter 1. This introductory chapter provides a brief history (don't skip this history of UNIX it's entertaining!) and the concepts of different versions and shells. Montgomery demonstrates how to discover which version and shell the reader uses, and why this information is important. Other issues in this section feature paths and filenames, multi-everything (a look at multitasking), simple system administration (the shutdown procedure), sadistics (system activity statistics), editors, where to find help, and scripts.

The second chapter, This Old Shell, (the author had just purchased a house) details some of the differences among the three types of shell accounts (the C, Bourne, and Korn shells) and some of the ways to customize an account. The following chapter, Your Wish: Issuing Commands, not only demonstrates command line usage, but also introduces redirection and presents some editing shortcuts. Montgomery next examines files: their security, permissions, how to manage and manipulate them, searching and sorting methods, and devices. Although UNIX editing is never automatic, some editors are friendlier than others. Montgomery classifes vi and emacs as pretty editors and ex, sed, and awk as ugly editors. In the chapter Shell Programming, the author dissects an example, explaining the function of each part. He then presents a shell script procedure followed by more specific aspects of shell programming, including redirection and constructs. He also includes brief descriptions of make and perl. The concluding chapters, Email and Networking and The Internet, demonstrate how these familiar subjects work from a UNIX system. Montgomery furnishes five appendices: Most Useful Commands, Common Problems and Fixes, Editor Summary, Useful Perl Scripts, and Security.

The Underground Guide To UNIX is an enlightening book; it illustrates UNIX fundamentals as well as lifting the reader's spirit. (I defy anyone to read this book without smiling!) Montgomery addresses the concepts of the UNIX system directly; he provides tips, shortcuts, and bugs. He also thoughtfully includes notes in the margins, so the reader can concentrate solely on the text. Montgomery's expertise is easily recognized as he details the abundant examples throughout the book. Every UNIX user will learn something and find enjoyment in the process with this book.

Bandits on the Information Superhighway
by Daniel J. Barrett
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-156-9
Poster included

The Internet can provide business and social contacts, a vast source of information, and even a marketplace for buying or selling goods. However, as the media has been quick to report, it can also promote scams and fraud. Bandits on the Information Superhighway not only warns the reader of potentially risk-laden situations, but also describes how to avoid them and includes real experiences from users. The Internet reflects the everyday world. Although we access it from the safety of our own homes or offices, it is important to exercise some caution. Barrett discusses the different ploys and risks on the Internet, and how to avoid them.

In Welcome to the Internet, Barrett investigates the most popular online use electronic mail and briefly discusses how each of the Internet features has its own associated risk. In the following chapter, Protecting Your Privacy, the author defines the difference between hackers and crackers, situations to avoid, and precautions to take. Get Rich Quick Schemes recounts the various methods thinly disguised as legitimate opportunities: advertising by fax, sales, shareware sales, lotteries, t-shirts, and telephone code numbers. In Appearances Can Be Deceiving, some apparent (and some not so obvious) deceptions are revealed (i.e., students seeking homework solutions, talent searches, and coupon books). Free Information...For A Price details some of the ways scammers try to profit: selling free information, personal credit reports, government auctions, and wholesaler lists. Barrett also discusses Buying and Selling On The Net and Pranks, Spams, and Time Wasters. The latter chapter includes how a posting is spammed (published in several places simultaneously) and the infamous Good Times virus, which is a hoax. (The author uses past tense referring to this, but since I still get warnings about this periodically, it is still current.) Other topics that Barrett examines include Strangers, Friends, and Lovers; Parents and the Internet; Your Rights On The Net; What To Do if You Are Ripped Off; and What Will the Future Bring? The book also contains Understanding Internet Addresses and a detachable poster highlighting "Fifteen Ways To Spot An Internet Bandit."

This is a valuable book for the warnings it provides, the possible solutions, and the numbers and addresses of regulatory groups. Barrett has written an excellent resource for the online user; he separates fact from fiction and provides solutions whenever possible. The inclusion of interviews from Internet users detailing true experiences furnishes an interesting dimension to the chapters. His writing style is clear, readable, and precise. Any nontechnical casual user can understand it, and experienced users will readily identify with it. Every online user should read this book and keep the 9" x 13" poster near the computer. This is a superbly done and necessary book for everyone. I urge all users to read it.

AIX for Breakfast A Guide for Programmers & System Administrators
by Philip Houtz
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-399684-0
Diskette Included

AIX (Advanced Interactive eXecutive, more commonly known as IBM's UNIX) is becoming more popular. Using RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architecture, many new computers utilize the AIX operating system. The AIX operating system is neither completely AT&T System V Release 3 (SVR3) nor BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) 4.3; it is a combination of both, with a little POSIX and Open Software Foundation (OSF) added. To clarify the way AIX functions for the administrator, Houtz has divided the text into three sections: End User Customization, General System Configuration, and Multiple Versions of AIX. A fourth section, Hands-On Learning, is on the accompanying diskette and contains sample customizations, sample scripts, and performance monitoring software.

Houtz begins with an introduction to the AIX operating system and its history. He then analyzes End User Configuration, describing the AIX Shells (identifying the default shells versus the shells that are available for the user), Login and User Customization, X Window Customization, Motif Window Manager, X Desktop and Icons, and InfoExplorer, a hypertext set of system manuals. InfoExplorer supports the traditional man pages familiar to UNIX users, both simple and compound searches, and a Topic and Task Index that can run either in graphical or ASCII mode. The General System Configuration utilizes the System Management Interface Tool (SMIT), which can be used for AIX installation, Device Installation and Maintenance, and Complex Printer Setup (Chapters 9, 10, and 11, respectively.) The Logical Volume Manager (LVM) and file management is discussed in Chapter 12, detailing logical and physical volumes and partitions, file systems, and allocation policies. SMIT is also used for System and Data Backup, Creating Users and Passwords, Communications (TCP/IP), Errors and Diagnostics, and Performance Tuning. The third section describes the differences between AIX version 3.2 and AIX version 4.1.

Houtz clearly demonstrates the customization and configuration of the AIX operating system. He discusses the different procedures through menus, screen setups, and screen outputs. He also illustrates what the administrators will see as they step through the different tasks, whether for end- user customization or general system configuration. The author carefully explains how the AIX processes differ both from traditional UNIX and from the guidelines with which administrators may be more familiar. This is a well-written and knowledgeable description of AIX system administration management. No AIX administrator should be without it.

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 (