Books: A User's Report
For this month's column, I reviewed an Internet directory, Harley Hahn's Internet & Web Yellow Pages, 1997 Edition, by Harley Hahn (Osborne/McGraw-Hill); The Complete Modem Reference, Third Edition, by Gilbert Held (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); UNIX Shells by Example by Ellie Quigley (Prentice Hall); and Mastering the Internet, Second Edition, by Glee Harrah Cady and Pat McGregor (Sybex).
Harley Hahn's Internet & Web Yellow Pages
by Harley Hahn
Each new edition of the Internet Yellow Pages refines the directory's organization to simplify the reader's searches. The changes also reflect current trends and replace dated topics with new interests. In the 1997 edition, even the title has been amended to include Web resources. A comparison of The 1996 Internet Yellow Pages with the 1997 edition showed approximately 60 category modifications, including both additions and deletions. (This does not reflect any changes within the categories or entry changes.) Some of the deleted (from the third edition to the current revision) topics merely experienced a cosmetic change (i.e., both Computers: Pictures and Graphics/Clip Art were removed, but Pictures And Clip Art was added), while other alterations are more substantive. Two sections related to the Web (Creating Web Pages and Software) and Talking On The Net illustrate popular new ideas for computer professionals; MS-DOS no longer merits its own category, and Money fills two sections: Business And Finance and Personal Finance.
Many of the sections have been expanded, including energy, environment, myths, and fun, and the software category has been unified. Fortunately, the presentation has not changed. Each entry remains easily readable, informative, and interspersed with clever advertisements and graphics. (Note: These advertisements were written by the author; they are not commissioned by sites, individuals, or organizations.) The companion CD-ROM contains the electronic version of the book, which allows direct connection to any Internet resource located. It also includes software for the Internet via the AT&T WorldNet Service.
This directory provides an excellent reference to a dynamic resource. Hahn and his staff describe each entry, (some of the titles can be misleading, and it is easier to read a paragraph rather than discover that you have no interest in the site's subject) detail its location, and simultaneously feature entertaining sidebars, excerpts, and graphics. Harley Hahn's Internet & Web Yellow Pages, 1997 Edition demonstrates the best offerings of the Internet in an effective and valuable format.
The Complete Modem Reference
by Gilbert Held
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Modems, an integral part of most computers, are often overlooked. As long as they work effectively (if not efficiently), most users accept the performance of their communications peripheral without too many questions. However, when a new error message, acronym, or technology appears, many users search for answers or modem specialists to assist them. With the third edition of The Complete Modem Reference, Held provides the necessary information for the serious technician and also encourages the casual reader to uncover the answers to puzzling questions. The author addresses the purpose and types of modems in the Introduction. He then investigates Switched Network Connection and Modem Operation; Modulation Methods; Modulation Standards; Intelligent Modems; Fax Modems; Broadband Modems; Modem Features to Consider; Testing and Problem Resolution; and Modem Productivity Software.
Held examines how a modem works, and how to customize your modem through command sets. He analyzes fax modems, their commands and features, and both Quick Link II and WinFax Pro software. The featured Modem Productivity Software includes The Modem Doctor, The Archive Converter, ZipTool, CILINK (Cedar Island LINK), UUENCODE/UUDECODE, and WinZip. Held describes the fundamentals of modem operation, as well as recent developments and new terminology. The author devotes an entire chapter, Modem Features to Consider, to the systems analyst and anyone responsible for purchasing equipment. He first summarizes current modem capabilities and explains their respective uses. A provided worksheet, complete with examples, assists the prospective buyer with modem evaluations and selection. The author discusses specific modems, demonstrates how to implement their individual features most effectively, and investigates common modem problems and their solutions in a chapter on troubleshooting.
The Complete Modem Reference, Third Edition, is a superior resource for both the technician and the non-professional user. Held's approach illustrates an informative and procedural style that imparts as much (or as little) instruction as the reader needs or wants. This reference complements any modem's user manual and should be in every serious computer user's library.
UNIX Shells by Example
by Ellie Quigley
After a UNIX user becomes comfortable with the basic commands and can easily navigate through the system, his or her next hurdle is shell programming. The difficulty most users encounter centers around which shell they are currently using and which shell they wish to learn. (It is not uncommon to use one shell and learn to program another in anticipation of new hardware or software.) However, selecting the best books for each shell can be complex, expensive, and space-consuming. In UNIX Shells by Example, Quigley addresses the three most popular shells: Bourne, Korn, and C. In addition, she also discusses the data manipulation tools, awk, sed, and grep.
The individual topics she examines include: Introduction to UNIX Shells, The UNIX Tool Box, The Grep Family, The Streamlined Editor, The Awk Utility: Awk as a UNIX Tool, The Awk Utility: Awk Programming Constructs, The Awk Utility: Awk Programming, Interactive Bourne Shell, The C Shell, and The Korn Shell. The Appendices contain: (A) Useful UNIX Utilities for Shell Programmers; (B) Lab Exercises; and (C) Comparison of the Three Shells. Each of the chapters on the shells follow a similar pattern. The first section describes the particular shell's attributes (i.e., its environment, metacharacters and variables); the latter part focuses on programming in that shell. The companion CD-ROM furnishes all example programs, a library of additional source code, and shell programming tools for UNIX, Linux, Windows, DOS, OS/2, and Amiga systems.
Quigley clearly illustrates the principles essential to shell programming. She provides many examples, figures, and diagrams, each followed by its own line by line explanation. (Both the examples are the explanations have line numbers.) Within the three chapters on the awk utility, the author includes reviews of salient points from the previous related chapters. She also provides exercises for readers using this book as a first-time textbook or a review text. The final appendix, Comparison of the Three Shells, is extremely beneficial for administrators who must alternate between shells.
UNIX Shells by Example is an outstanding introduction to shell programming. Quigley describes the fundamentals of the grep, awk, and sed utilities as well as the basic tenets of shell programming, specifically for the C, Bourne, and Korn shells. She illustrates the concepts throuogh many examples and details what each example does. Her writing style is clear, logical, and easily readable. This book will be a valuable resource for every UNIX programmer, administrator, and user.
Mastering The Internet
by Glee Harrah Cady and Pat McGregor
The Internet reflects the ideas, likes, and dislikes of its users. Since it is subject to the whims of its participants, the Internet constantly changes. (It is remarkable that it retains any degree of stability.) A few authors capture snapshots of the Internet as it evolves, and some manage to isolate its identifiable elements. Cady and McGregor belong to this latter group. Mastering the Internet demonstrated how the Internet works, its resources, and how to contribute to its information store. The second edition is divided into five major sections plus the Appendices: Becoming an Effective Internet User, The Internet Toolkit, Becoming an Information Provider, Internet Resources, and An Internet User's Glossary. The Appendices contain: (A) Hobbes' Internet Timeline v2.4a; (B) User Guidelines: Two Views; (C) Internet Protocols for Business Users; (D) K-12 Internetworking Guidelines; (E) Electronic Access to Potentially Offensive Material and Pornography; (F) Windows 95 and the Internet; (G) Internet Content Regulation in the Telecommunications Act of 1996; and (H) Using the Compact Disk.
Several major concepts have either emerged or developed since the original edition. For example, the World Wide Web, which shared a chapter with Gopher in the previous edition, now merits its own chapter. Sound and animation developments progress daily and are becoming increasingly popular, and business via the Internet is no longer restricted to the adventurous pioneers. The CD-ROM contains Netcom's NetCruiser, Microsoft's Internet Assistant and Internet Explorer, and a selection of utilities, including ftp, telnet, Gopher, Eudora, and HTML tools.
Cady and McGregor present a readable, knowledgeable approach to the Internet. They demonstrate how the reader can obtain information with selected Internet tools, and they provide excellent explanations and techniques. This superior book displays a slightly different approach to the Internet and its resources, and the complete appendices alone merit perusal.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).