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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

Selecting books to review becomes more challenging each month. This issue includes a revised TCP/IP classic, a Web training book, a C programming favorite, a Linux book, and a Web design book. The specific books that I reviewed for this issue are: TCP/IP Network Administration, Second Edition, by Craig Hunt (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.); Web-Based Training Cookbook by Brandon Hall (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); A Book on C: Programming in C, Fourth Edition, by Al Kelley and Ira Pohl (Addison Wesley Longman); The No B.S. Guide to Linux by Bob Rankin (no starch press); and The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites by David Sachs and Henry Stair (Prentice Hall).

TCP/IP Network Administration
Second Edition
by Craig Hunt
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-322-7

In 1995, I was asked to compile a selection of the ten most useful and essential books I had read or reviewed. Among my favorites was an O'Reilly trio: Essential System Administration by AEleen Frisch (Second Edition ISBN 1-56592-127-5), System Performance Tuning by Mike Loukides (ISBN 0-937175-60-9), and TCP/IP Network Administration by Craig Hunt. The second edition of Hunt's superb book is even more useful and informative than the original edition. Hunt has retained the organization and format of the original version and has updated and expanded the material. He addresses the topics in the following chapter sequence: Overview of TCP/IP, Delivering the Data, Network Services, Getting Started, Basic Configuration, Configuring the Interface, Configuring Routing, Configuring DNS Name Service, Configuring Network Servers, sendmail, Troubleshooting TCP/IP, Network Security, and Internet Information Resources. The Appendices include (A) PPP Tools, (B) A gated Reference, (C) A named Reference, (D) A dhcpd Reference, (E) A sendmail Reference, and (F) Selected TCP/IP Headers. The examples utilize both Solaris and Linux, and the BIND and sendmail versions are also current. Hunt describes developments in routing protocols and increases coverage on topics that now warrant separate books, such as Network Security. The Appendices provide thorough command/syntax references for some of the utilities discussed (i.e., pppd, dip, gated, named, dhcpd, and sendmail. The first edition included references on gated, named, and sendmail. However, the second edition references reflect the individual software changes and are much more extensive and detailed.

TCP/IP Network Administration, Second Edition, is an extraordinary and outstanding revision of a classic and indispensable reference. Hunt illustrates each topic thoroughly and precisely. This is a necessary resource for any and every system administrator. It continues to be among the best books that I have encountered. I highly recommend it!

Web-Based Training Cookbook
by Brandon Hall
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN 0-471-18021-1
CD-ROM Included

Training both new and current employees has customarily been an integral part of business. Technologies and procedures change rapidly, and every organization's staff should reflect these changes. In the Web-Based Training Cookbook, Hall demonstrates the advantages of Web-based instructional methods. He divides the book into four sections: What You Need to Know About Web-Based Training; Planning, Developing, and Implementing Web-Based Training; Creating Web-Based Training; and the Appendixes. The initial section introduces the principles of WBT and examines its three fundamental types: (1) Text and Graphics, (2) Interactive, and (3) Interactive Multimedia. The differences among them depend on the level of user input. The first is essentially a presentation of information, the second type features some interaction (i.e., exercises, text entry, and testing). The third variety transports the user into a simulated environment where he or she must respond to events in realtime situations. Part I: What You Need to Know About Web-Based Training includes Examples of Web-Based Training, FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions about Web-Based Training, Internet Technology Basics, and Hardware and Software You Need. The second section, Planning, Developing, and Implementing Web-Based Training, examines The Development Process, Building A Business Case for Web-Based Training, Planning for Technology and Converting Your Curriculum, Designing Courses for the Web, Online Testing, and Program Administration. In the third segment, Creating Web-Based Training, the author addresses the three types of online training and their attributes: Level 1 Courses: Text and Graphics, Level 2 Courses: Interactive Text and Graphics, and Level 3 Courses: Interactive Multimedia. The Appendixes contain: (A) Sample Proposal, (B) Criteria for Evaluating Programs, (C) Legal Issues, (D) Online Curriculum Providers, (E) Sample Code, and (F) About the CD-ROM and Web Site.

Hall presents the essential guidelines and structures of Web-based training. He also discusses how an organization can evaluate and customize courses for a particular purpose, audience, product, or service. The author analyzes the various tools and utilities available, including off-the-shelf courses and features numerous examples of WBT courses currently in use throughout the book. (There are also hyperlinks to the mentioned sites on the CD-ROM.) The Web-Based Training Cookbook is an excellent reference for any organization contemplating a Web-based course. Brandon Hall describes the necessary resources and shows how to implement a course from the planning phase through to completion. He presents the facts (and also the FAQs) in a clearly readable style and provides both textual and visual examples with each concept. This is a superb working book for anyone involved in online training development or implementation.

A Book on C: Programming in C
Fourth Edition
by Al Kelley and Ira Pohl
Addison Wesley Longman
ISBN 0-201-18399-4

Since the debut of Kelley's and Pohl's original edition in 1984, C programming (and programming environments in general) has changed or progressed (depending on your point of view) a great deal. Traditional (or pre-ANSI) C and ANSI C co-exist, and C++ and Java alternately share the programming spotlight. The original edition of this book featured a logical, well-written approach to the C language for both beginning and experienced programmers. The fourth edition fortunately retains the structure, organization, and style of the previous versions. The authors address the topics in the following sequence, beginning with Chapter 0: Starting from Zero; An Overview of C; Lexical Elements, Operators, and the C System; The Fundamental Data Types; Flow of Control; Functions; Arrays, Pointers, and Strings; Bitwise Operators and Enumeration Types; The Preprocessor; Structures and Unions; Structures and List Processing; Input/Output and the Operating System; Advanced Applications; Moving from C to C++; and Moving from C to Java. The Appendices contain: (A) The Standard Library, (B) Language Syntax, (C) ANSI C Compared to Traditional C, (D) ASCII Character Codes, and (E) Operator Precedence and Associativity.

Kelley and Pohl feature "dissections" of many of the examples throughout the book. (These detailed explanations resemble the analyses given by Holmes following his "elementary" statement to Watson.) The authors have produced a multi-purpose text: A Book on C: Programming in C, Fourth Edition may be utilized as a springboard to either C++ or Java, a programming text (for either beginning or advanced classes), an operating systems text, and a C reference book. (It can even be used to learn C!) This book has been a favorite of mine for several years. I appreciate its clarity, the authors' outstanding expertise, and the valuable examples. This is an excellent book, which I recommend to anyone interested in the C programming language or operating systems theory. The reader will use it again and again.

The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites
by David Sachs and Henry Stair
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-490087-1

The principle incentive for creating a Web site is to attract visitors. Depending on the type of site constructed, the number and importance of hits varies. An electronic commerce site and business will analyze the statistics more seriously than an entertainment, information, or user's home page webmaster or originator. In The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites, Sachs and Stair examine the qualities that makes a Web page memorable or mediocre. They describe these attributes, their respective characteristics, and present examples through the following chapters: World Wide Web Review; What Is An Effective Web Site?; Key 1 - Visually Appealing; Key 2 - Valuable, Useful, or Fun; Key 3 - Current and Timely; Key 4 - Easy to Find and Use; Key 5 - Intuitive On-Page Navigation; Key 6 - Involve the Visitor; Key 7 - Responsive to Its Users; and New and Emerging Web Features. The Appendices include: (A) Guide to Web Sites and (B) Color Figures. Each of the chapters that illustrate a key concept (not to be confused with public, private, or car keys) contains an introduction of the individual key (e.g., visually appealing), technical points and tips, examples, and a summary. (Some key chapters may warrant an additional section.) The authors include a minimum of 14 examples per chapter, and each example also follows a pattern. A reproduction of the site's appearance is on the right page; a description of the site appears on the facing page. Sachs and Stair briefly discuss the site, provide its URL, detail its key feature, and review the pitfalls and potential fixes for each example. This allows the reader to view the page, read how it might be improved, and decide if they would like to construct a similar page.

Sachs and Stair have produced a visual tour with a guide's accompanying commentary for the reader/designer. The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites provides a catalog of styles and demonstrates various Web site formats, including each entry's advantages and disadvantages. This excellent book presents the essential considerations for Web page design in an easily read and quickly referenced format. The authors outline what works, how to implement it, and display sites that demonstrate these concepts. The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites is a valuable reference and guidebook for Webmasters, designers, and clients.

The No B.S. Guide to Linux
by Bob Rankin
no starch press
Distributed by Publishers Group West
ISBN 1-886411-04-2
CD-ROM Included

The Linux operating system continues to increase in popularity. More computer users are installing it on their home computers. Of course, this task can become a little more difficult than it sounds. However, in The No B.S. Guide to Linux, author Bob Rankin simplifies the installation directions and presents "Just What You Need to Know to: Install, Optimize, and Use Linux," (according to the book's front cover and subtitle). In reality, Rankin provides the setup instructions, system highlights, and a copy of Linux. He illustrates the installation procedures in ten easy steps:

"Step 1: Repartition your hard disk with DOS FDISK.
Step 2: Start the installation with the INSTALL command.
Step 3: Use cfdisk to create swap and boot partitions.
Step 4: Define your host name.
Step 5: Select Linux components to install.
Step 6: Configure X Window.
Step 7: Copy Linux files from the CD-ROM to the hard drive.
Step 8: Configure hardware for Linux.
Step 9: Install LILO.
Step 10: Shut down and reboot. " [pages 14-15]

Linux can be installed utilizing a minimum of 100MB hard disk space, although 200MB-300MB is recommended for all the components. Rankin describes the various aspects of Linux installation and use through the following chapters: Installing Linux On Your PC; Living In A Shell; The Linux File System; Important Linux Commands; Text Editors; Slicing and Dicing: The X Window System; Rolling Your Own - Linux Programming; Managing Your Email; Compression, Encoding, and Encryption; Connecting To The Internet; Linux Does DOS and Windows; and Learning More About Linux. The Appendices include: (A) What's On The CD-ROM?, (B) Linux Hardware Compatibility How-To, (C) The GNU General Public License, (D) Table of DOS and UNIX Equivalences, and a Glossary of Terms. The accompanying CD-ROM provides Linux Pro 4.1a from Workgroup Solutions, Inc., which contains an enhanced version of Red Hat Linux, the Linux Encyclopedia, the Apache Web Server, and an assorted selection of tools, compilers, and games.

Rankin presents a logical and entertaining introduction to the Linux operating system and its installation and configuration procedures. He also illustrates its capabilities and features through its commands and utilities. The author describes three text editors: vi, emacs, and pico, discusses different types of shells and shell programming, utilizing bash and pdksh in the examples, and demonstrates DOS access through Linux. Rankin's suggested responses to hardware configuration questions combined with the appendix on Linux hardware compatibility simplify that segment of the installation process. The No B.S. Guide to Linux is an excellent, humorous, and effective primer for any user.

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 (