Cover V05, I12


Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This issue's reviews include Teach Yourself CGI Programming with Perl in a Week by Eric Herrmann ( Publishing); NetLearning: Why Teachers Use the Internet by Ferdi Serim and Melissa Koch (Songline Guides); Prime Time Freeware for UNIX, Issue 4-2, Rich Morin, Editor (Prime Time Freeware); Zipping for Beginners by The Abacus Development Group (Abacus); Zip Bible by Istok Kespret (Abacus, Data Becker Edition); Internetworking With TCP/IP, Volume III, Client-Server Programming and Applications, Second Edition by Douglas E. Comer and David L. Stevens (Prentice Hall); and Web Developer's Guide to JavaScript & VBScript by Peter Aitken (Coriolis Group Books). Both the subject matter and level of complexity are varied. I hope you enjoy both the reviews and the selections.

Teach Yourself CGI Programming with Perl in a Week
by Eric Herrmann Publishing
Macmillan Computer Publishing
ISBN 1-57521-009-6
CD-ROM Included

The popularity of the World Wide Web continues to expand, for both personal and business sites. The most successful pages include links to other pages, counters, forms, surveys, database queries, and animation. Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programming produces these dynamic information exchanges. The Perl programming language is often used for CGI programs because of its speed, simplicity, and portability. In Teach Yourself CGI Programming with Perl in a Week, the primary focus is CGI's environment and concepts. However, Herrmann provides the basic design and syntax of Perl scripting. He presents enough Perl details to allow the reader to program CGI scripts, and he also recommends Perl books for the language's more advanced features. Because this book describes a time frame (ideally one week), its sections are divided into days, rather than parts or sections. Day 1 features An Introduction to CGI and Its Environment plus Understanding How the Server and Browser Communicate. Using Server Side Include Commands, Using Forms to Gather and Send Data, Decoding Data Sent to Your CGI Program, and Using Environment Variables in Your Programs occupy Days 2 and 3. Day 4, Putting It All Together, includes Building an On-Line Catalog and Using Existing CGI Libraries. Day 5, Using Applications that Make Your Web Page Cool, examines Using Image Maps on Your Web Page and Keeping Track of Your Web Page Visitors. The week concludes with Using Internet Mail with Your Web Page, Guarding Your Server Against Unwanted Guests, Debugging CGI Programs, and Tips, Tricks, and Future Directions. The Appendices contain: (A) MIME Types and File Extensions, (B) HTML Forms, (C) Status Codes and Reason Phrases, and (D) The National Center for Super Computing Applications (NCSA) imagemap.c Program. The accompanying CD-ROM contains the source code for the book's programs, libraries of CGI programs, Perl (both 4.0 and 5.0), and other CGI development tools.

Herrmann explains the concepts of CGI programming, including its definition, why it differs from other programming, and enumerates common CGI programming errors. He discusses other files in the directory and how they can affect the CGI programs. Each separate topic carefully builds on the information previously presented to the reader. (This sequential approach assumes that the reader is a novice; a more experienced user can either select the topics he or she needs or quickly skim the more familiar segments.) With the extensive knowledge furnished in this book, the Web designer can display image maps, tabulate a site's traffic, both through counters and guestbooks, and procure data through interactive forms, surveys, and queries. The author demonstrates animation, how to customize existing programs, how to save data, and where to access the data after it has been saved.

Teach Yourself CGI Programming with Perl in a Week is an excellent book. Herrmann provides a valuable resource, particularly for readers who need this information immediately. He utilizes real-life examples (as opposed to abstract concepts) to illustrate how the process operates. The author explains a topic, its function, and itemizes the essential facts to remember. He also emphasizes the most common errors in CGI programming. Each chapter begins with an introduction and ends with a summary and a question and answer section. Throughout the text, Herrmann displays Do/Don't boxes, Notes, Tips, and Warnings in shaded sidebars. His writing style is clear and often humorous, and he extensively describes CGI and Perl programming. Teach Yourself CGI Programming with Perl in a Week is a superior book that merits the attention of every Web programmer.

NetLearning: Why Teachers Use the Internet
by Ferdi Serim and Melissa Koch
Songline Guides
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-201-8
CD-ROM Included

Any casual Internet user can attest to both the immense variety and quantity of information available. Educators see both a research tool and an opportunity for their students. Through the Internet, teachers may show students how to access various databases for facts and articles. Students also can consult professionals via email. In addition, teachers can communicate with each other and discover different approaches to the same topic.

Serim and Koch demonstrate the benefits and disadvantages of using and teaching students the Internet. They specifically address the K-12 educators, their classes, and school administrators. The authors have divided the text into four sections: Part I -Inspiration and Innovation, Part II - From Theory to Practice, Part 3 - Broadening Your Vision, and the Appendices. Part I includes an Introduction and Classroom Tales. The second segment features Classroom Connections, Basic Internet Training, Students in the Internet Classroom, and Teachers Creating Online Collaborations. Broadening Your Vision investigates The Innovative School, The Connected Community, and Bringing It All Back Home. The Appendices contain (A) Internet Pioneers, and (B) World Wide Web Resources plus a Glossary and a Bibliography. The accompanying CD-ROM offers a free month of unlimited Internet access through Global Network Navigator (GNN) for Windows and GNNpress for Windows 95, a Web authoring tool. (The Macintosh version is not available at this time.)

NetLearning: Why Teachers Use the Internet is a valuable teaching reference. For educators teaching the Internet, the authors demonstrate how other teachers currently use it. Serim and Koch illustrate the Internet's advantages, drawbacks, and capabilities through the experiences of other teachers. Throughout the book, the authors provide Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) for exceptional World Wide Web sites, helpful tips, and useful email addresses. This is an excellent reference, especially for teachers beginning to use or teach the Internet.

Prime Time Freeware for UNIX, Issue 4-2
Rich Morin, Editor
Prime Time Freeware
ISBN 1-881957-18-7
CD-ROMs Included

This collection of UNIX-related software encompasses every possible user interest: compilers, Graphical User Interface (GUI) tools, multimedia editors, games, Internet access and text processing utilities, and more. (The two CD-ROMs possess 5000 Mb of UNIX Freeware.) It also compiles on the following UNIX variants: AIX, Alpha OSF/1, A/UX, BSD/OS, FreeBSD, HP-UX, Linux, NetBSD, SCO/ODT, Solaris, SunOS, and UnixWare. The book includes the Preface, Acknowledgements, In This Issue, Legalities, Quick Start, Tutorial Introduction, Troubleshooting, HTML (WWW) Notes, the GNU General Public License, Freeware Central, Prime Time Freeware, and Yggdrasil Computing. The Appendices contain: (A) Package Overview, (B) Package List, and (C) Keyword Index. The keyword index refers to an entry or entries in the package list, rather than page numbers. In this way, you can locate a specific utility or game on the CD-ROMs without being near a computer.

The first issues of Prime Time Freeware (that I recall) appeared in July 1992 and January 1993. They had approximately 3 Gb of UNIX-related freeware. (This was before CD-ROMs were routinely attached to books, and the amount and scope of the CD-ROMs content was amazing!) The accompanying text, in spiral-bound 8 1/2" x 11" binders, included a Preface, Acknowledgements, Legalities, In This Issue, Getting Started, Troubleshooting, PTF Order Forms, a Hierarchical Package List, and a Permuted Index. The text is much better in Issue 4-2, and there is more freeware on the CD-ROMs. Prime Time Freeware still strives to provide the UNIX user with the best Freeware available for an affordable price. (The price has decreased through the years.) Any serious UNIX user (and some frivolous ones) will greatly appreciate both the freeware and the book. I highly recommend it.

Zipping For Beginners
by The Abacus Development Group
ISBN 1-55755-306-8
Diskette Included

Zip Bible
by Istok Kespret
Data Becker Edition
ISBN 1-55755-305-X
CD-ROM Included

The practical application of data compression, "zipping," causes most online beginners problems and confusion. Now, with Zipping For Beginners, the Abacus Development Group has simplified the task. They present the guidelines for zipping and unzipping in two sections: Getting Started and A Little More Advanced. In the first section, the authors examine the following topics: What Is A Zipped File, Installing the Companion Diskette, The Fine Art of Unzipping, Zipping A File, and Viewing Compressed Files.

The Advanced section discusses: Zipping Several Files to One Zipped File, Zipping Files That Span Multiple Disks, Create An Executable Self-Extracting Archive, Create A Self-Extracting Archive With WinZip SE, and Zipping And The Internet. The companion diskette includes full evaluation copies of PKZip 2.04G and WinZip both for Windows 95 and Windows 3.X. Zipping For Beginners demonstrates simply how to zip and unzip a file. It presents the installation and directions for the programs in a logical step-by-step manner. Every novice and computer instructor will value this book for its easily understood technique.

For the more confident user, Abacus presents the Zip Bible by Kespret. This text addresses data compression and several ways to accomplish it. Kespret discusses Data Compression, Data Compression Elements, Decompressing Data, Compressing Your Data, Self-Extracting Archives, Advanced Data Compression Features, EXE Compressors, Command Summary and Switches, Installing the Companion CD-ROM, and presents a Glossary of Terms. The accompanying CD-ROM includes evaluation copies of the WinZip 6.0 (for both Windows 95 and Windows 3.X), PKZip, LHArc, ARJ, PKLite, ZOO, and Diet data compression programs. The book demonstrates how to effectively use these programs to their highest potential, details restoring damaged archives, backing up and sharing compressed files, and protecting files with passwords. Kespret writes in a logical, readable style and illustrates several compression procedures. Any online user will recognize the merits of the Zip Bible.

Internetworking With TCP/IP, Volume III
Client-Server Programming and Applications

Second Edition
by Douglas E. Comer and David L. Stevens
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-260969-X

The third volume of the Internetworking with TCP/IP series is both the most practical and the most topical of the set. The first and second volumes define the TCP/IP Protocol Suite and describe its implementation. This volume demonstrates its use in client-server applications. Most Internet, HyperText Markup Language (HTML), and Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programming books have a small section or chapter on client-server design and implementations. Comer and Stevens clearly illustrate the client-server structure as it applies to the TCP/IP protocols. The second edition modifies the C code to adhere to the ANSI C standards, and Chapter 24 (Network File System Protocol (NFS Mount) ) has an additional section on Changes in NFS Version 3. The most visible modification is an additional chapter, Deadlock And Starvation In Client-Server Systems. The authors examine ways in which client-server systems can fail. Comer and Stevens define both deadlock and starvation, illustrate how either can possibly occur, and present ways to avoid these two states.

The second edition reflects the changes in standard and new versions, and the importance of preventing client-server failure, particularly in fault-tolerant systems. The book maintains the standard of excellence that the Internetworking with TCP/IP series exemplifies. This is a superb book on an essential topic.

Web Developer's Guide to JavaScript & VBScript
by Peter Aitken
Coriolis Group Books
ISBN 1-883577-97-7
CD-ROM Included

As the World Wide Web's popularity increases, so do the number of varied utilities to assist the Web developer. A few of them (HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Common Gateway Interface (CGI), and Java) have become important and necessary tools. Among the essential utilities are the scripting languages. Without some type of script within an HTML document, a Web site will appear (hopefully) as a nicely formatted and well-designed page. However, that is all it will be. Any movement or animation requires a script. Two of the scripting languages are JavaScript, developed by Netscape, and VBScript, a Microsoft product. The Web designer and Webmaster should know both. Although the concepts of scripting languages are similar and JavaScript and VBScript possess some common elements, their syntax and identifiers differ.

In the Web Developer's Guide to JavaScript and VBScript, Peter Aitken demonstrates the similarities and differences between the two languages. He discusses the basis for the languages and their common interface in Scripting the Web and HyperText Markup Language. Aitken continues with an examination of JavaScript and its environment. The JavaScript chapters include: Using Netscape Navigator Gold; JavaScript; Objects, JavaScript Methods and Functions; Responding to User Actions; Outlining Your Documents; Using JavaScript for Data Verification; and JavaScript Odds and Ends. The dedicated VBScript chapters encompass: VBScript from Step One; VBScript Data, Statements, Operators, and Procedures; Using Objects and Events; VBScript Functions and Error Trapping; and VBScript in Action. The Appendices address: (A) Internet and Web Basics, and (B) What's On the Disk.

This is a superior text. Aitken presents essential details pertaing to both languages and demonstrates how to use each language. He explains a concept and immediately reinforces his description with an example. The author not only details how the scripts work, but also provides tools and code on the CD-ROM to assist the user. Aitken has furnished a welcome and informative guide for anyone involved in Web design, programming, or maintenance.

About the author

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 12 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 (