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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month's reviews include an Internet Quick Reference, a Linux Guide, a Perl and Web implementation book, and a marketing and design book. Specifically, they are: Internet In A Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference by Valerie Quercia (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.), Linux User's Resource by James Mohr (Prentice Hall), Web Client Programming with Perl by Clinton Wong (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.), and Web Marketing Cookbook by Janice M. King, Paul Knight, and James H. Mason (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) I hope that you find them as interesting and valuable as I did.

Internet In A Nutshell
A Desktop Quick Reference
by Valerie Quercia
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-323-5

The many facets of the Internet (email, telnet, ftp, and the World Wide Web, to name a few) possess different interfaces and require individual commands. Regardless of a user's proficiency, he or she will occasionally pause while mentally searching for a command. Internet In A Nutshell has been designed just for those moments. It discusses the Internet's utilities, tips, and their respective commands in an easily referenced style. Quercia addresses the topics in eight sections: Getting Oriented, Your Browser Inside Out, Finding Stuff, Email and News, File Handling, Helpers and Plug-ins, Web Authoring, and Internet Relay Chat. Part I: Getting Oriented introduces the concepts of the Internet and the contents of the book. In Part II: Your Browser Inside Out, the author describes Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The following section, Part III: Finding Stuff, examines Internet Addressing, Landmark Sites and Other Resources, Internet Directories and Search Engines, Finding People and Places, and Accessing Libraries and Other Resources with Telnet. Part IV: Email and News details the topics: Why Email And News?, Email Strategies and Survival Tips, Mailing Lists, Getting Along in Usenet, Netscape Messenger and Collabra Discussions, MSIE (Microsoft Internet Explorer) Internet Mail, and MSIE Internet News. In Part V: File Handling, Quercia explains File Types and Extensions, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and File Transfer, FTP Command Reference, and File Compression and Archiving; Part VI: Helpers and Plug-ins details Helper Applications plus Plug-ins and ActiveX Controls. Part VII: Web Authoring illustrates Authoring for the Web; HTML (HyperText Markup Language) Tags and Attributes; Color Names and Values; and GIFs, Applets, and Other Enhancements. The concluding section, Part VIII: Internet Relay Chat, explores It's About Chat and provides an IRC Command Reference. The author also includes a glossary.

Quercia introduces each topic individually and clearly discusses its concepts and purposes. She demonstrates the various capabilities of the Internet and how the reader can access them, why any user would want to utilize these features, and how the user can discover exactly what software he or she employs. Commands for each specific Internet utility are displayed in an easily found and referenced table format, so that the reader/user can quickly locate a command. The inclusion of the Web Authoring section increases the value and use of the book. This section transforms Internet In A Nutshell from a user's guide to a resource for users and beginning designers. Quercia has produced a superb book and an excellent reference. Every Internet user will want access to this book.

Linux User's Resource
by James Mohr
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-842378-4
CD-ROM Included

The popularity of the Linux operating system can be attributed to its widespread availability, its universal Internet support, and its flexibility. Linux can either be downloaded via the Internet or purchased as a software package. Since Linux has always been obtainable through the Internet, any problem (and its corresponding solution) has also been documented on the Internet. The system can be installed on a computer with MS-DOS partitions or on an older 386 with no problems, due to its minimal space requirements. Learning its basic command set and structure is similar to learning the UNIX operating system, and most knowledge, experience, and texts should apply equally to both systems. Mohr designed the Linux User's Resource to extend other Linux documentation and provide the information beyond the scope of the introductory material. The author also demonstrates the use of software applications and illustrates guidelines for Linux Web server implementation. Mohr addresses these objectives through the following chapters: Introduction to Operating Systems, The Linux Basics, Shells and Basic Utilities, Editing Files, Basic System Administration, The Operating System and Its Environment, The X-Window System, The Computer Itself, Talking to Other Machines, Installing and Upgrading, System Monitoring, Problem Solving, Linux in Your Business, Building an Internet Server, and Business on the Internet. The Appendices include a Glossary and Suggested Reading. The companion CD-ROM contains Linux Pro 4.1 from WorkGroup Solutions, HTML (HyperText Markup Language) examples, and links to some important Linux sites.

Mohr discusses, explains, and evaluates numerous capabilities of a Linux system throughout the book. He explores shell programming uses, syntax, and scripting, assorted editing utilities (vi, emacs, sed, awk, and Perl), interpreting administration files, the kernel, and hardware factors. The author also analyzes TCP/IP, firewalls, how to survey system processes, troubleshooting, different Linux implementations (Red Hat, Caldera Open Linux, Deutsche Linux Distribution, Slackware, Linux Pro, and Craftworks Linux), application software (development, databases, back-up, and text processing), and Linux as an Internet server. Mohr approaches each topic from a practical and understandable perspective. The author intended to produce an easily read and intelligible text. He succeeded admirably. Linux User's Resource is an informative pragmatic supplement to the existing Linux library; it provides techniques and solutions to everyday problems and situations. It also bridges the distance between the introductory user books and the system administration documentation and provides a connection between Linux implementation and business applications using Linux. This is an excellent and effective addition to the existing Linux documentation.

Web Client Programming with Perl
by Clinton Wong
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-214-X

The Web's appearance on an Internet user's screen is not an unusual sight. Unfortunately, it isn't out of the ordinary to see the same user 20 minutes later still trying to elicit the information from the same site and 8 screens later. (This procedure resembles the irritating telephone menus/answering messages: "Press 1 for Accounting, press 2 for New 20 for Customer Service.") UNIX users, administrators, and programmers are accustomed to writing shell programs or scripts to accomplish repetitive tasks. In Web Client Programming with Perl, Wong demonstrates how to use the same techniques on the Web. He addresses these procedures through the following chapters: Introduction, Demystifying the Browser, Learning HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), The Socket Library, The LWP (Library for World Wide Web access in Perl) Library, Example LWP programs, and Graphical Examples with Perl/Tk. The Appendices feature (A) HTTP Headers, (B) Reference Tables, and (C) The Robot Exclusion Standard. The author's intention is to show readers:

" the Web works and how to write software that is more flexible, dynamic, and powerful than the typical web browser. The goal here is not to rewrite the browser, but to give you the ability to retrieve, manipulate, and redistribute web-based information in an automated fashion." [Preface, page vii]

Most UNIX veterans typically endeavor to envision exactly what is occurring during any given operation that is computer-related, especially if there is a problem. (I usually do not try to fix my car, however. I leave that to someone with mechanic's tools and more knowledge!) The author does assume some prerequisite knowledge: the concepts of client/server operations and TCP/IP, Internet familiarity, and the Perl language. Wong does explain the necessary socket library, after he has thoroughly explored HTTP and the implementation procedures for automating any given task.

The author's excitement and vivid interest in his topic are contagious, and he writes with a sense of humor that is appealing as well as informative. The topic itself illustrates a departure from many of the other Web/Perl books that demonstrate how to use the Web or construct a site. Web Client Programming with Perl establishes how to customize a Web browser to accomplish tasks with little effort, after the initial programming. This is an excellent book, particularly for those who require information from the Web often. This is a book for those who are accustomed to finding information quickly, even from the Web. I highly recommend it.

Web Marketing Cookbook
by Janice M. King, Paul Knight, and James H. Mason
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN 0-471-17911-6
CD-ROM Included

The haste for businesses to develop a Web presence can result in a less than impressive appearance or site. The content may be excellent, but it can lose something in the translation to a Web page. Written for both businesses and non-profit organizations, the Web Marketing Cookbook demonstrates how to convert printed material to online content with a minimum of technical expertise and time. King, Knight, and Mason separate the book into three sections: Entering the Kitchen, Cooking Techniques for Web Communication, and Web Marketing Resources. The first section, Entering the Kitchen, addresses Web Marketing: Entree or Appetizer?, Web Communications by Industry, Web Marketing Templates, and Cooking Up Riches with Web Commerce. The chapter pertaining to Web Marketing Templates includes every possible template: advertisement, article, brochure, catalog contents and page, company profile, contents page, coupon, event calendar and registration form, FAQ page, locator, newsletter, press release, price/parts lists, product inquiry and product order forms, profile, selection guide, seminar description, services list, starter page, visitor registration/survey form, and what's new page. Cooking Techniques for Web Communication illustrates design issues: Planning Your Menu, Text Ingredients, Visual and Multimedia Ingredients, Navigation: Guiding Visitors Through Your Buffet, Guidelines and Makeovers, Serving It Well Done: Legal and International Factors for Web Promotion, and Advanced Web Possibilities. The final division, Web Marketing Resources, contains the Appendices: (A) Guide to the CD-ROM, (B) Implementing and Maintaining a Web Site, and (C) Resources. This section also includes References, Glossary, and the Index. The CD-ROM consists of templates, buttons and banners, image and multimedia files, scripts, and tools.

This is a well-organized and clearly written guide to Web site design and content. In addition to the appearance of the proposed Web site, the authors explore topics such as generating Web site traffic, local area marketing, helping visitors discover your site, ordering methods, marketing, and completing transactions. The templates alone merit the price of the book, and the design principles are not only extremely valuable, but are also tailored to the type of marketing that your specific program demands. King, Knight, and Mason can assist you in creating an excellent Web page for your needs, using the latest in technology without requiring intensive technical expertise. This is an ideal book for the small business owner trying to establish a creative and competitive Web presence. This is a superior guidebook to several different techniques and an excellent addition to any designer's bookshelf.

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 (