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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

Spring Comdex 98 provided me with the opportunity to meet many of Sys Admin's readers. I enjoyed all the comments, discussions, and predictions. This column presents a slight variation from my usual content: I reviewed a product (without pages) to help avoid Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI), especially Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I've also included reviews of the following books: BUGS in Writing: A Guide to Debugging Your Prose, Revised Edition by lyn dupre' (Addison-Wesley); The AltaVista Search Revolution, Second Edition by Eric J. Ray, Deborah S. Ray, and Richard Seltzer; Samba: Integrating UNIX and Windows by John D. Blair (SSC), and Interprocess Communications In UNIX: The Nooks & Crannies, Second Edition by John Shapeley Gray (Prentice Hall).

Regular readers of this column are familiar with my interest in preventing any type of wrist/hand injuries or Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). One of the exhibits at Spring Comdex 98, WristGliders, featured small, round discs for wrist support. Approximately 2 1/4" in diameter and 7/8" high, these small supports are cushioned, a bit higher than a wrist pad, and mobile. They smoothly slide under your wrists or hands like a coaster under a piece of furniture on a tiled floor. The mouse WristGlider (which I have been using) features two surfaces for the bottom: felt (for desktops) and plastic (for mouse pads). I tried both, and they worked equally well. Recommended for users with CTD (Cumulative Trauma Disorder), including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, WristGliders allow the user to move without losing support. I found myself using one for my right hand/wrist/forearm and just sliding from the keyboard to the mouse without any hesitation. They are packaged in single packs ($9.95) for mouse support, double packs ($16.95) for keyboard use, or a complete set of three ($23.90) for both. Corporate packaging or logo printing are available for promotional events. Further information can be accessed at

BUGS in Writing: A Guide to Debugging Your Prose
Revised Edition
by lyn dupre'
ISBN 0-201-37921-X

The original edition of this excellent and useful book debuted in 1995. It features a specialized subject for a general audience. Dupre' examines the often confused and misunderstood elements of the English/American language(s), presents relevant principles, and demonstrates ugly, bad, good, and splendid uses of the illustrated concepts. Each chapter describes a particular aspect of writing, the correct usage of the specific construct, provides examples, and furnishes a "principle for lucid writing." Some of the topics include Oxymorons, Contractions, Like Versus Such As, Which Versus That, Abbreviations and Acronyms, Shall Versus Will, Parallelism, Placement of Adverbs, and Troublesome Plurals. The revised edition refines the explanations and both augments and clarifies the examples. BUGS in Writing: A Guide to Debugging Your Prose is a superb and unique book. It also is an easily utilized reference. Dupre's expertise, style, and experience make this an essential and enjoyable source for every writer.

The AltaVista Search Revolution
Second Edition
by Eric J. Ray, Deborah S. Ray, and Richard Seltzer
Osborne McGraw-Hill
ISBN 0-07-882435-4

Every Web traveler possesses an unique itinerary. To successfully locate a destination (without too much frustration), most users employ a search engine. AltaVista ( is one of the most popular utilities for finding information and specific sites. In the newly released second edition of The AltaVista Search Revolution, the authors demonstrate the most effective ways to utilize the AltaVista search engine for maximum results. Ray, Ray, and Seltzer address the following topics: Introduction to AltaVista, Getting Started with AltaVista, Searching for People and Businesses, Refining Your Searches, Advanced Search, Searching Usenet newsgroups, Customizing AltaVista, Providing Information the AltaVista Way, Discovering the AltaVista Search A-Z Reference, and The AltaVista Story. The Appendices provide: (A) A Snapshot of AltaVista, (B) What People Are Searching For, (C) The Most Common Words Found on The World Wide Web, and (D) Behind the Scenes at AltaVista. An excerpt from an issue of Internet Search Advantage published by The Cobb Group appears following the Index.

The Internet is constantly evolving: new technologies emerge, its content changes, and its focus among topics shifts. AltaVista reflects these modifications with its own transformations and remodeling. It currently features a relatively new interface and multiple search options. In addition to simple and advanced queries, the user can designate a search for a person or business or browse by subject. For content providers and Webmasters, the authors also illustrate how AltaVista's spider, Scooter, finds new Web pages, the time frame, and presents some of the criteria used to rank the documents. They also describe how AltaVista stores and retrieves data. The more a user knows about the mechanisms of a search engine, the more effective results his or her queries will produce.

The AltaVista Search Revolution, Second Edition, is a valuable guide for the Internet user. It demonstrates the concepts that govern a successful query. Ray, Ray, and Seltzer clarify how the search engine works, discuss elements of a profitable inquiry, and show examples of searches that have been productive. The authors describe the methods clearly and employ numerous examples. They utilize Tips, Notes, and Remember sidebars to accompany the text, tables, and diagrams. This is an excellent book for every level of Internet user, a delight to read, and an outstanding search reference.

Samba: Integrating UNIX and Windows
by John D. Blair
SSC (Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc.)
ISBN 1-57831-006-7
CD-ROM Included

Integrating two operating systems can generate more questions than solutions. For example, some of the issues that are immediately apparent include "do they [the operating systems] recognize each other?" or "how can I get this operating system to know what device (or file) that operating system has?" This becomes even more important if the systems share devices or files, depending on which system's terminology is being used. Fortunately for administrators who must integrate UNIX (or UNIX-like) environments with a Windows environment, Samba has been developed. This utility allows a UNIX machine to utilize the Microsoft networking protocol and permits users to access a file within a Windows program even though it really exists on a remote filesystem. Samba is available under the GNU Public License.

Samba: Integrating UNIX and Windows presents its concepts and procedures in a cohesive and logical format. In a combination introduction, tutorial, reference, and instruction guide, Blair describes and discusses the following topics: Introduction, Windows Networking Protocols, Downloading and Building Samba, Components of the Samba Suite, Global Configuration Options, Service Configuration Options, Browser Configuration Options, Access Control Configuration Examples, Service Configuration Examples, Other Tricks and Techniques, Diagnosing Problems, and The Linux SMB (Server Message Block) Filesystem. The accompanying CD-ROM includes the Samba FTP Archive (including Samba 1.9.18), The Samba Mailing List Digest Archives, CIFS (Common Internet File System) Documentation, Example Scripts, Miscellaneous Other Files, and Glimpse. Blair also provides links to the Samba Web Page, The Samba FAQ, Mailing List Archives, the DES Library, SMB Clients, Other SMB Servers, and CIFS (Common Internet File System.)

Samba: Integrating UNIX and Windows is a superior book, which presents the concepts, structures, and procedures for implementing Samba clearly and precisely. Blair discusses both the Windows networking issues and the UNIX processes involved. He details the Samba components (which is my favorite chapter), surveys the global and service configuration parameters, provides examples, and illustrates troubleshooting techniques. Blair logically and carefully differentiates terms for divergent ideas. This book will be a an essential and valuable addition to any administrator's library. I highly recommend it for anyone involved with Linux administration.

Interprocess Communications in UNIX: The Nooks & Crannies
Second Edition
by John Shapeley Gray
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-899592-3

The concepts of UNIX processes, and exactly what is happening at what time is not always readily apparent. Many separate techniques and procedures contribute to the UNIX environment and its design and appearances and several of these elements seamlessly interface with one another. In Interprocess Communications in UNIX: The Nooks & Crannies, Gray examines IPCs with the experience of a specialist. The second edition addresses Programs and Processes, Processing Environment, Using Processes, Primitive Communications, Pipes, Message Queues, Semaphores, Shared Memory, Remote Procedure Calls, Sockets, and Threads. The Appendices contain (A) Using UNIX Manual Pages, (B) UNIX Error Messages, (C) RPC Syntax Diagrams, and (D) Bibliography. (The second edition primarily added the Threads chapter.) Gray expects the reader to know the C language, have some familiarity with a UNIX environment, and knowledge of a UNIX editor. He approaches the topics through careful explanations and precise descriptions of how each procedure works. Diagrams, figures, and tables augment every textual discussion. The author also employs sample code to illustrate the concepts and includes brief exercises for the reader.

Interprocess Communications in UNIX: The Nooks & Crannies, Second Edition, is a well-written addition to the UNIX programmer's library. Gray explores the UNIX programming environment, discussing its elements and idiosyncrasies as he proceeds. He includes system calls, library functions, fork/exec and parent/child processes, semaphores, makefiles, error messages, pipes and filters, and sockets. This book provides a valuable source and easily referenced for UNIX programmers. The author's expertise and descriptions make this an outstanding book.

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 (