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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

To begin the New Year's columns for 1998, I've read and reviewed an Internet/job search book, a tech support guide for the Internet, the second edition of an excellent UNIX book, and a new book on Linux device drivers. Specifically, the reviews include: Using the Internet and the World Wide Web in Your Job Search by Fred E. Jandt & Mary B. Nemnich (JIST Works, Inc.); Internet & Web Answers: Certified Tech Support by Cheryl Kirk (Osborne McGraw-Hill); UNIX for the Impatient, Second Edition by Paul W. Abrahams and Bruce R. Larson and UNIX for the Hyper-Impatient CD-ROM Only (both by Addison-Wesley); and Linux Device Drivers by Alessandro Rubini (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.)

Note: I reviewed a draft of Linux Device Drivers from October 7, 1997. The final book had not yet been published. It should be released later this month (January). At the time of this review, Mr. Rubini was completing a chapter demonstrating how to write drivers for version 2.1.43.

Using the Internet and the World Wide Web in Your Job Search
by Fred E. Jandt & Mary B. Nemnich
JIST Works, Inc.
ISBN 1-56370-292-4
Disk Included

The number of businesses establishing an Internet presence is (and has been) multiplying rapidly. Many businesses now choose to advertise job opportunities on their Web sites rather than in the classified section of a newspaper. Some employers utilize both types of media (with the other cross-referenced) and also post openings at career-related sites and online message boards. Today's job seeker encounters several options: mailing a professionally printed resume, faxing a resume (which will use the receiving company's paper), or emailing a somewhat different resume in ASCII format. (A resume dispatched via email emphasizes different features than its mailed or faxed counterpart.) In Using the Internet and the World Wide Web in Your Job Search, authors Jandt and Nemnich address the following topics: Get On or Get Left Behind, Getting Connected, The World Wide Web, The World Wide Web Classifieds, Walking Through Commercial Services, Venturing "Outside" the World Wide Web, Career Resources, Using Internet Support Groups, Preparing Your Electronic Resume, Submitting Your Electronic Resume, Internet Job-Hunting Netiquette, The Internet Interview, Advice for College Students, and Advice for Employers. They also provide a Glossary to assist the reader. To the experienced computer user, the information in the introductory chapters describes some familiar topics, such as choosing a computer. However, these chapters also discuss personal experiences, freenets, BBSs (Bulletin Board Services), search tools, and browsers. In Chapter Four, The World Wide Web Classifieds, Jandt and Nemnich illustrate the varied types of sites listing available employment opportunities. They also provide four pages of related sites. Chapter Five details the features of the commercial online services, specifically CompuServe and America Online. Other sources, such as Listserv, newsgroups, BBSs, telnet, ftp, veronica, WAIS, and Archie, are examined in Chapter Seven, Career Resources, and support groups are identified in the following chapter.

Jandt and Nemnich concentrate the most essential elements of the book in Chapters Nine through Twelve. These chapters address the electronic resume and how it may vary from its traditional format, how to submit a resume electronically, the rules of job hunting via the Internet, and the Internet interview. Although the fundamental design and concepts of the conventional resume remain important for the electronic version, some additional factors should be considered. (Is it easily scanned? Will an employer's search find the appropriate keywords?) Some companies may even begin the interview process online and complete most of the details through email. Each new technique involves different procedures. The authors demonstrate both good and poor examples of posted resumes and experiences. The concluding chapters focus on college students and employers. The accompanying diskette provides the Watson Resume Builder from Intellimatch, which is explored in Chapter Ten.

Using the Internet and the World Wide Web in Your Job Search presents a logical and intelligent approach for anyone seeking employment. Jandt and Nemnich discuss both old and new approaches to the job search, as well as some unique practices. The book furnishes an extremely visual analysis of the online process, demonstrating progressive screen outputs to display what the user will see at a terminal. The authors explain the computer concepts clearly, relating them to familiar employment search procedures. This is a well-researched and excellently written employment reference for the professional.

Internet & Web Answers: Certified Tech Support
by Cheryl Kirk
Osborne McGraw-Hill
ISBN 0-07-882380-3

Any given computer topic and its accompanying reference book will usually generate more questions than answers, whether the topic concerns a Windows screen saver or a UNIX data manipulation tool. The solutions are usually printed in the documentation, but finding them requires patience, deduction methods worthy of Sherlock Holmes, and time. Since most problems should have been solved yesterday, the time to investigate a solution is minimal, if it exists at all. Internet & Web Answers: Certified Tech Support provides more than 400 answers (and corresponding questions), organized alphabetically by key phrases and grouped by subject. Kirk addresses these 12 general topics: The Top Ten FAQs; Connection Basics; E-mail; Cruising the Web with Netscape Navigator; Cruising the Web with Internet Explorer; File Transferring; Newsgroups; Chat on the Internet; Interactivity, Multimedia Options, and Internet Telephones; Searching the Internet; Creating Web Pages; and Nifty Things on the Net. The Appendix, Internet Error Messages, lists and interprets Connection Problems, Web Browser Errors, Usenet Newsgroup and NNTP Server Errors, FTP Errors, and E-mail Errors. The Table of Contents outlines the divisions of the chapters, and the introduction to each chapter itemizes the questions answered in that chapter.

The questions range from the simple ("Why can't I use my telephone while I'm on the Internet? I do have call-waiting." [page 17]) to the more complex ("I know I can type http:// to see pages stored on Web servers, but are there other protocol commands I can use?" [page 99]) This book is a browser's delight! Many of the answers provide tools and utilities to enable the user to fully customize his or her Internet and Web environment. Kirk's questions, answers, and sidebars are clearly written, and both informative ("What does SMTP stand for ?" [page 59] ) and instructional ("How do I download from more than one site at a time?" [page 168] ) The author also includes italicized hints throughout the book entitled Tip, Note, or Remember. Internet & Web Answers: Certified Tech Support is a superb book providing practical solutions to everyday problems. I found it enlightening (and difficult to put down). Every Internet user will appreciate Kirk's expertise, knowledge, and style.

UNIX for the Impatient
Second Edition
by Paul W. Abrahams and Bruce R. Larson
ISBN 0-201-82376-4

UNIX for the Impatient CD-ROM Version
Second Edition
ISBN 0-201-41979-3

UNIX for the Hyper-Impatient CD-ROM Only
ISBN 0-201-41991-2

The original edition of UNIX for the Impatient appeared in 1992. The authors used AT&T's System V with BSD 4.3 variations for their explanations and examples; they directed the text to those readers accustomed to technical manuals. The second edition employs the POSIX.2 standard (with digressions to pre-POSIX commands that are still in use) and recognizes the affordable editions of UNIX or UNIX-like operating systems (notably Linux and FreeBSD) that allow users to access UNIX at home as well as at work. Abrahams and Larson address the subsequent topics: Introduction, Concepts, Operations on Files, Data Manipulation Using Filters, Utility Programs, The Korn and POSIX Shells, Other Shells, Standard Editors, The GNU Emacs Editor, Emacs Utilities, Mailers and Newsreaders, Communicating with Remote Computers, The X Window System, and Managing Your System. The Appendices contain (A) Alphabetical Summary of Commands, (B) Comparison of MS-DOS and UNIX, (C) Resources, and (D) Glossary. Following the Index, directions for Using the CD-ROM (for the CD-ROM version of the book) instruct the user how to install the accompanying CD-ROM and the DynaText browsers for UNIX, Windows, and Macintosh platforms. (This information appears in pamphlet form for the CD-ROM without the book, UNIX for the Hyper-Impatient.)

In the introduction, Abrahams and Larson recommend how to use this book. Logically, the procedure appears reasonable: examine the general synopsis preceding the Table of Contents, scan a chapter to determine the text's organization and style, and inspect the Alphabetical Summary and the Index. Realistically (assuming that the user has more than 30 seconds to find a solution), the reader will wander a few pages in either direction, noticing other intriguing sections. UNIX for the Impatient (or the Hyper-Impatient) encompasses many topics not usually addressed in an introductory book (e.g., remote communications, X Window, and system administration). Some of the subjects reflect a surprising range and depth of the material. For example, the chapter on Utility Programs discusses login procedures, processes, terminal options, disk usage, strings, expressions, document processing (nroff, troff, Tex, and Latex), and version control with RCS. The authors explain the Korn, POSIX, C shell, and Bash shells, and describe the vi, ex, ed, and GNU Emacs editors. Managing Your System clarifies system administration concepts and procedures for single user system administrators (when the user is the administrator), for users of larger systems, and for readers endeavoring to understand the administration vocabulary. The CD-ROM features the entire book with Hypertext links, allowing the reader to inspect a cross-reference, advance to another section, or return to his or her place. The second edition is available in book format, CD-ROM format, and a combination of the two. The CD-ROM version of the book has the identical information in the last section that the CD-ROM version possesses in booklet form.

Abrahams and Larson have produced a superior and outstanding revision of their original text. Their writing style is superb, and readers will discover some new or previously overlooked facet of the UNIX operating system every time they open the book. The Alphabetical Summary of Commands with its cross-references alone merits the price of the book (and/or CD-ROM.) UNIX for the Impatient, Second Edition (UNIX for the Hyper-Impatient) will prove to be an excellent contribution to any UNIX user's or administrator's library. I highly recommend it for every level of UNIX user and administrator.

Linux Device Drivers
by Alessandro Rubini
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-292-1
$29.95 (estimated)
Release date: January, 1998

As use of the Linux operating system becomes more prevalent, the desire or need to support existing peripherals and develop new hardware also becomes more important. Device drivers are the essential interpreters between the device and the applications that use it. Rubini describes the role of the programmer and demonstrates the process of writing Linux drivers. In the first chapter, An Introduction to the Linux Kernel, he specifies the three device types of UNIX and Linux: character devices, block devices, and network interfaces. The book illustrates written code and implementations of the varied types that the reader can test through the examples. (The author does note that the examples in Chapters 8 and 9 do need some hardware support, a soldering iron, and a little solder.) Chapter 2, Building and Running Modules, explores the concept of modularization. Rubini addresses the following topics: Char Drivers, Debugging Techniques, Enhanced Char Driver Operations, Flow of Time, Getting Hold of Memory Hardware Management, Interrupt Handling, Judicious Use of Data Types, Kernel and Advanced Modularization, Loading Block Drivers, Mmap and DMA, Network Drivers, Overview of Peripheral Buses, and Physical Layout of the Kernel Source.

The author begins his discussion of kernel programming by designing and implementing a char driver that accesses a memory area of the kernel. The programmer can run tests on the completed driver, confirming that the memory area can be accessed. Rubini then discusses debugging techniques, as a safety precaution. The char driver can be written and tested without any hardware changes. Rubini endeavors to present a progressive approach to the reader and his presentation level remains consistent. Although the reader should be proficient in programming, the author keeps the concepts readable and understandable. (He even keeps the hardware support at a minimal level.) Linux Device Drivers fills a void in the published Linux support area. Rubini's writing style is clear and direct; the examples illustrate the concepts without becoming overly complicated. This is a thorough book, which guides the reader through the different types of device drivers, their mechanisms, and issues relative to the kernel and kernel programming. Linux Device Drivers will become a valuable, productive, and effective guide to the considerations of writing device drivers that every Linux programmer will want and need.

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 (