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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month's selections include several Internet/Web offerings. For the Internet wanderer, there is Cultural Treasures of the Internet, Second Edition by Michael Clark (Prentice Hall.) The Web professional will appreciate WebMaster In A Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference by Stephen Spainhour and Valerie Quercia (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.); The Ultimate Web Developer's Sourcebook by Ben Sawyer (Coriolis Group Books); and The Concise <SGML> Companion by Neil Bradley (Addison-Wesley).

Cultural Treasures of the Internet,
Second Edition
by Michael Clark Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-264524-6
CD-ROM Included

The immense variety of Internet resources features something for every interest. Internet users intrigued by the humanities can access references on art, books, music, history, and philosophy, to mention a few available topics. The first questions posed by the user are usually "where?" and "how?". Clark provides an essential instruction manual for the aesthetic traveler. Part 1, The Basics, addresses Getting On-Line, Netiquette, E-mail, Mailing Lists, Usenet News, Gopher, telnet and ftp (File Transfer Protocol), Archie, Veronica, and Jughead, World Wide Web, and WWW Search Engines. (The first segment demonstrates "how"; the second segment describes "where.") Part 2, Resources, itemizes more than 100 subjects, including Archives and Library Resources, Dance, Drama, Film, Museums, Quotations, and Theater. The third section, Keeping Current, discusses 50 Ways to Stay Current with the constantly changing Internet. The final segment, Appendices, examines: (A) Lists of Interest to Humanists, (B) A Brief Guide to Bibliographic Citation of Electronic Resources, and (C) Glossary. The accompanying Windows/Macintosh CD-ROM contains direct links to more than 1000 references and Clark's audio tour of 27 of the best World Wide Web sites.

Clark's writing style is clear, concise, and non-technical. He approaches each topic logically, first explaining what it is and then, how to access or use it. The author often enumerates the steps involved, eliminating later confusion. The second edition includes the CD-ROM, refines the organization of the Resources segment, updates the entries in the Resource listing, and adds both a discussion of the Netscape browser and a guideline to crediting electronic sites. Many users are really not interested in computers, but are excited by the information the Internet offers. Cultural Treasures of the Internet, Second Edition, is a superb reference for those users and an excellent reference for the rest of us as well. It succeeds on two separate levels, providing both a guide to the various Internet tools and a directory to its resources. Cultural Treasures of the Internet is a superior addition to every user's library.

WebMaster In A Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference
by Stephen Spainhour and Valerie Quercia
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-229-8

O'Reilly's Nutshell books have become invaluable resources for UNIX system administrators, programmers, and consultants. They provide a wealth of information in a concentrated amount of space. Each book is optimally organized to yield the necessary data with a minimal search. WebMaster In A Nutshell exemplifies this technique. Spainhour and Quercia divided the text into five distinct sections: HTML (HyperText Markup Language), CGI (Common Gateway Interface), HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), JavaScript, and Server Configuration. The HTML section describes an HTML Overview, HTML Tags, Frames, Tables, Color Names and Values, Character Entities, and Browser Comparison. The following section, CGI, contains a CGI Overview, HTML Form Tags, CGI Environment Variables, Cookies (a mechanism that allows information storage without a database), Server Side Includes, Windows CGI, Perl Quick Reference, and Other CGI Resources. The third section, HTTP, includes an HTTP Overview, Server Response Codes, HTTP Headers, and Media Types and Subtypes. The JavaScript section presents a JavaScript Quick Reference. The final section, Server Configuration, furnishes a Server Configuration Overview, Apache and NCSA Server Configuration, CERN Server Configuration, Netscape Server Configuration, and WebSite Server Configuration.

The information detailed within the text refers to the most current versions of the varied topics: HTML 3.2, HTML extensions for both Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and Netscape Navigator 3.0, HTTP 1.1, and Perl 5. Spainhour and Quercia have referenced the Webmaster's most frequently used tools: HTML, (including extensions and/or JavaScript) for document and text creation; CGI (plus Perl, WinCGI, Cookies, and Server Side Includes) to demonstrate the Web's interactive capabilities; HTTP, the Web's protocol; and configurations for the Apache, NCSA, CERN, Netscape, and WebSite servers.

This is an outstanding book. There are many books on HTML, CGI, Perl, and JavaScript and their combinations (CGI/Perl, HTML/CGI, for example). However, none provide the easy access to the features and syntax for all of the concepts in one book. WebMaster in a Nutshell is a quick and concise reference for all of the topics. The writing approach is succinct, logical, and straightforward. The authors briefly explain each concept and present the essential information that the WebMaster or Web Developer needs.

Anyone involved with Web development or maintenance will appreciate and use this superior text frequently. I highly recommend it.

The Ultimate Web Developer's Sourcebook
by Ben Sawyer
Coriolis Group Books
ISBN 1-57610-000-6
CD-ROM Included

This latest World Wide Web offering from Coriolis is not only a book about Web development; it is also a resource for current and aspiring Web developers. Sawyer presents information about designing Web sites with sound, music, graphics, and animation. He examines available resources and also discusses the business side of the Web, including current jobs, advertising, financing, and some legal considerations. The first chapter, A Web Developer's FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) answers some of the most common problems, from both business and aesthetic viewpoints. Sawyer then recounts the Web's past, and considers its present and future possibilities. Chapter five explores An Overview of Web Design, while Chapters six and seven respectively describe Web Sites: Planning, Techniques, and Examples and The Details of Designing for the Web. (The latter includes one of my favorite sections: Ben's Subjective Web Page Design Tips.) Chapter eight, Web Site Benchmarks: Specific Examples, and Chapter nine, Design Implementation Benchmarks: Specific Examples, illustrate particular techniques and some of the sites that employ them. The author introduces Web Content Types: An Overview and continues to review the types in depth: Web Graphics: Tips, Tricks, and Software; Web Music and Sound; Web Animation: From Pageflips to Digital Video; and Multimedia Content Solutions. Sawyer analyzes client/server aspects and how they pertain to Web development with An Overview of Web Serving, Web Server Details (the software and hardware considerations connected with different platforms), and A Closer Look at Clients. The author features the creative utilities currently available: Resources for HTML, JavaScript, and VBScript; CGI Scripting Resources; Java and ActiveX Resources; and Macromedia's Shockwave Resources. The final major topic surveys the business considerations of the Web: an Overview of the Web Business, Jobs and Hiring in the Web Industry, Web Market Analysis: Forecasting and Surveys, Advertising and Promotion on the Web, Financing Alternatives for Internet-Based Companies, and Untangling Legal Knots on the Web. The Appendices contain: (A) Magazines for Web Developers, (B) Conferences and Organizations, and (C) The Wrap-Up Appendix. The companion CD-ROM includes Jamba from Aimtech corporation, Liquid Motion from DimensionX, Media Forge from Strata, and an assortment of HTML editors, applets, video, and audio clips.

The Ultimate Web Developer's Sourcebook demonstrates a Web site's conception, planning, and design. Sawyer presents some essential guidelines and describes some of his personal design preferences. He illustrates the options a developer may select and the tools and techniques currently available or popular. The author not only references the development utilities, but also provides the addresses, phone numbers, and Web sites of the companies that sell the products. Additionally, Sawyer examines the business considerations of Web development and its legal and commercial aspects.

This is an unusual and comprehensive addition to the Web developer's library. It describes situations and provides information and procedures not often found in a Web development book. It is a superior book, and Sawyer's writing style illustrates a well-organized, procedural, and a dynamic format. Every Web designer will find this a valuable resource and a welcome addition to his or her working library.

The Concise <SGML> Companion
by Neil Bradley
ISBN 0-201-41999-8

SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) is becoming more popular for many document markup projects. It has been a standard since 1986 with only minor changes. (It still utilizes version one.) In The Concise <SGML> Companion, Bradley recognizes the stability of SGML, its popularity and usage, and provides a reference for the SGML user. The computer professional accepts most acronyms, terms, and their associated expanded names without question. However, Bradley dissects the SGML letters, and explains each term in the Overview. Although most of the translation (from technobabble to non-technical English) is logical, his description of Markup is excellent (especially since HTML has become part of the language):

The term "mark up" (using two words) refers to marks added to an author's manuscript by an editor. As well as corrections to the text, these editorial marks include instructions regarding the required layout and style of the text. [page 3]

The author also details the advantages of SGML and explains why each item is beneficial to use. For example, the SGML format is system independent and places the emphasis on the content of the text, rather than on its appearance. Bradley addresses the following topics throughout the compact book: Using this book; Overview; Electronic markup; SGML markup; Document components; Entities; DTD (Document Type Definition); SGML declaration; Cross-references; CALS (Continuous Acquisition and Lifecycle Support) tables; ISO (International Standards Organization) 9573 math; HTML (HyperText Markup Language); SGMLS and NSGMLS parsers; and Charts and tables. (These expansions of acronyms belong to the author and are not part of the chapter headings of the book. The exceptions are SGMLS and NSGMLS, which are both freely distributed parsers, one for SGML and one for NSGML (New Standard Generalized Markup Language). Some of the terms occur due to the fact that SGML has been a standard for 10 years.) The author also includes the Road Map, Glossary, and an Index.

The Concise <SGML> Companion is an outstanding aid for any SGML user. The extremely comprehensive glossary is exceptionally detailed, complete, and demonstrates the quality of the text. Bradley explains the concepts and nuances of SGML well, taking the time and space to describe the theory and practices thoroughly. This book is a tool for the SGML user, not unlike a thesaurus or dictionary is for a writer. Bradley has written a remarkably complete resource for anyone seriously interested in the SGML or HTML formats.

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 (