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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month I reviewed Designing For The Web: Getting Started In A New Medium by Jennifer Niederst with Edie Freedman (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.); How to Get Your Dream Job Using the Internet by Shannon Bound and Arthur Karl (Coriolis Group Books); Microsoft Bookshelf Internet Directory (Microsoft Press); UNIX In Plain English by Kevin Reichard and Eric F. Johnson (MIS Press); and The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating System by Marshall Kirk McKusick, Keith Bostic, Michael J. Korels, and John S. Quarterman (Addison-Wesley). I hope that you will benefit from them as much as I did.

Designing For The Web: Getting Started In A New Medium
by Jennifer Niederst with Edie Freedman
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-165-8

Many Internet users first became aware of the World Wide Web (WWW or the Web) by visiting the Global Network Navigator (GNN) site. Sponsored by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., GNN was the first commercial Web site. The designers for GNN, Jennifer Niederst and Edie Freedman learned how to design a Web page the difficult way: by trial and error. The "how-to implement a web page in three easy steps books" had not yet been written. Therefore, Niederst and Freedman discovered the principles of Web designing, unwritten tips, and shortcuts as they progressed. They also developed their own designer guidelines and preferences. Because Niederst is a designer, she addresses some aesthetic considerations that a technically oriented person might overlook. The results of Niederst's and Freedman's efforts appear in three sections: Part I: The New Environment, Part II: All About Graphics For The Web, and Part III: About The Rest Of The Page.

The introductory section, The New Environment, does not discuss the history of the Web or explain how to use it. The author assumes that the reader already knows how to explore various Web sites. This introduction describes what comprises a Web page and what the designer can and cannot control. The source that generates the page's appearance is written in HTML (HyperText Markup Language). The source directs the general appearance, where any graphics should appear, and where any links to other locations should be. However, the individual browser really determines how your page will look to the user. Whether a user accepts the browser's defaults or customizes them will produce two very different pages. Niederst illustrates how various browsers view the identical HTML source and notes that the browser controls the page's appearance. The designer still controls the graphics and the content of the text. To demonstrate the principles involved, the authors construct a sample page, detailing each step of the process.

In the second section, the authors concentrate on graphics, specifically what designers should know about graphics on the Web. Niederst and Freedman explain the different types of graphics on Web pages, the importance of file size, transparency, interlacing, colors, and imagemaps. As they discuss each concept, they examine how to implement it. The authors also recommend programs to aid the designer in accomplishing the tasks. The final section discusses "The Rest of the Page" and presents the essential elements of HTML. Niederst and Freedman also provide some Web tricks and briefly mention some new technologies and Web sites (as opposed to designing a page).

This is an excellent guide to Web page design. Although the authors prefer Macintoshes, and most illustrations show a Macintosh screen, the text is not platform dependent. The screen displays are more generic, and the emphasis is on Web design concepts. Each idea Niederst and Freedman present is complemented by a demonstration. They illustrate each technique, usually through an explanation, figures, and a step-by-step process. This style is very effective and not only provides designers with a guide to Web procedures, but gives the rest of us a glimpse of design considerations. This book should help anyone designing a Web page, either casually or professionally. I highly recommend it.

How To Get Your Dream Job Using The Internet
by Shannon Bounds and Arthur Karl
Coriolis Group Brooks
ISBN 1-883577-68-3
CD-ROM included

Effective job search methods change constantly. A good resume, ideally one page in length, highlighting a prospective employee's experience and education on crisp white bond paper is now the exception, rather than the rule. In today's market, guidelines for preparing resumes permit longer resumes and stress keywords, and resumes are often submitted electronically. Bounds and Karl guide job seekers through this confusing new world, demonstrating how to use the technology to their best advantage. The introductory chapter, Why Using The Internet Can Get You the Job You Want, briefly discusses some of the benefits of using the Internet. The subsequent chapters, An Internet Crash Course and Get Connected, describe how to use different areas of the Internet (email, Mailing Lists, Newsgroups, File Transfers, The World Wide Web, and Gopher) and what is needed to access the Internet.

The authors list major companies that advertise on the Web, descriptions of the positions offered in the companies, and their Web locations. Not all of the job listings are technical, and many of the postings are linked to other sites. Bounds and Karl show How to Create a Killer Electronic Resume. Your resume may become electronic even if you send it in the conventional manner; companies often scan resumes and use search methods to find the perfect match. This often allows you to write a longer resume, but increases the importance of using the keywords that Human Resource personnel would seek. The authors include several samples of good electronic resumes and feature some categories that can be added. Bounds and Karl also suggest creating your own home page, and then show how and what to include. The authors also furnish a chapter on bulletin board opportunities and the best World Wide Web resources. The accompanying CD-ROM also provides software and clip art to help create a home page.

Bounds and Karl furnish an abundant amount of information for job seekers. This includes a listing of companies (showing which data is important to note when the user researches other companies), some of the best bulletin boards available, and the most reliable Web sites to visit. Submitting a resume has become more complicated in the current market, if possible. The applicant must often choose between the traditional resume style and the electronic style, not knowing how it will be used. The authors explain the principles governing the electronic resume and how to transform a current resume to electronic format. Another important chapter interviews corporate recruiters (Been There, Done That: Straight Talk from Job-Hunting Experts). Bounds and Karl examine some of the most common questions and problems of both job seekers and recruiters. The authors present the material in a straightforward manner, detailing what the applicant needs to know to be effective in today's market. How To Get Your Dream Job Using the Internet provides an excellent reference for every job applicant.

Microsoft Bookshelf Internet Directory
1996-97 Edition
Microsoft Press
ISBN 1-55615-947-1
CD-ROM included

This directory, although comparable in size to other Internet directories, itemizes select sites. It does not attempt to list every site (a rather impossible task since the Internet changes daily) but concentrates only on the best sites. Therefore, the entries provide a more complete description of the sites with cross-reference to other listings when applicable. This directory contains approximately 100 topics (including subtopics when the original topic is either too large or too diverse). The directory lists thousands of sites from Activism and Social Issues to Zoology, with sites on Computers, Cooking and Recipes, Engines Human, Index Services, Movies, Radio, Shopping, Sports, Travel, Trivia, and more. The accompanying CD-ROM contains the same material as the book, with the ability to connect to each site immediately. Updates to the CD-ROM can be downloaded monthly from Microsoft. The directory also provides 25 frequently asked questions (with answers) and a glossary with approximately 200 terms.

The Microsoft Bookshelf Internet Directory is a superb guide to a vast and complex resource. It allows the casual user to locate sites without frustrating detours. Anyone and everyone will appreciate this directory and its in-depth descriptions.

UNIX In Plain English
by Kevin Reichard and Eric F. Johnson
MIS Press
ISBN 1-55828-345-5

Although this book is not really new, more users are finding themselves strangers in a UNIX world, switching between UNIX and DOS, or trying to learn UNIX essentials for browsing the Internet. For their purposes, this book is ideal. Reichard and Johnson present a simple UNIX overview, match the UNIX commands with a brief description of what each individual command does, and compare UNIX and DOS commands in a cross-reference. The main section of the book contains UNIX commands alphabetized within five categories: general purpose, file manipulation, text processing, printing and communication. The authors did not intend to list every UNIX command, but included the most useful ones for the user. The format features the command name, purpose (and any warnings), examples, options, and any related commands. A smaller section of helpful system administration commands follows. Reichard and Johnson conclude the book with a brief explanation of the shell, its environment variables, and ftp (file transfer protocol) commands.

This book features the simpler side of UNIX for those who need to learn it for casual purposes. Many users not only appreciate this style, but often prefer it to a detailed explanation. Reichard and Johnson present the commands in three easily referenced formats. The user will find this book informative and easy to use.

The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating System
by Marshall Kirk McKusick, Keith Bostic, Michael J. Karels, and John S. Quarterman
ISBN 0-201-54979-4

Discussions centering around the different UNIX systems and which variants are preferable eventually split into two categories: AT&T UNIX and BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution). Many of the features associated with a UNIX system were initially developed in some release of BSD and implemented in other UNIX systems as well. Although users may not specifically recognize BSD as they log in, elements of its design are present. This book discusses the internals of 4.4 BSD and uses pseudocode similar to the C programming language. The authors divided the concepts into five sections: Overview, Processes, the I/O system, Interprocess Communication, and System Operation. The Overview describes the history of the UNIX system, and BSD in particular. This section also presents the design overview of 4.4 BSD and its kernel services. The Processes section details Process Management. The I/O System provides an overview of Local File Systems, Local Filestores (the Berkeley Fast File System, the Log-structured File System, and the Memory-Based File System), the Network File System, and Terminal Handling. The Interprocess Communication section includes Interprocess Communications, Network Communication, and Network Protocols. The concluding section, System Operation, examines System Startup.

The authors have maintained an organized format consistent with the previous 4.3 BSD design book. Following the history (which I always find extremely interesting, because it recounts who did what and when), the authors furnish an overview of the 4.4 BSD system. They describe key design decisions and illustrate the concepts of the design and resulting implementation. Some of the major revisions affect process and memory management, networking, interprocess communication (IPC), and the network filesystem.

The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating System can easily be used as a textbook. Each chapter concludes with a set of exercises (with asterisks denoting difficulty) and references for that chapter. Complete, freely distributable 4.4 BSD system source is available ( McKusick, Bostic, Karels, and Quarterman explain the dimensions of the 4.4 BSD operating system logically, demonstrating their skills as both system architects and authors. This is an outstanding book and a superb reference.

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 (