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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

Regular readers of this column know that I try to include reviews of an assortment of titles in each column. This issue contains more variety than usual, with a few mini-reviews of selected newer editions in addition to the usual column. The number of topics within the computer field continues to increase. Books (or more correctly, the authors) keep us up to date with new technology and also document new developments within familiar specialties. In this column, I have included two smaller reviews on ATM and Internet theory books, a beginning UNIX book, an Internet Encyclopedia, and an Open Source book. The titles are: ATM: Foundation for Broadband Networks, Volume 1, Second Edition by Uyless Black (Prentice Hall), Computer Networks and Internets, Second Edition by Douglas E. Comer and CD-ROM by Ralph Droms (Prentice Hall), SAMS Teach Yourself UNIX in 24 Hours, Second Edition by Dave Taylor and James C. Armstrong Jr. (SAMS Publishing), Desktop Encyclopedia of the Internet by Nathan J. Muller (Artech House), and Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution Edited by Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman, and Mark Stone (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.)

ATM: Foundation for Broadband Networks, Volume 1
Second Edition
By Uyless Black
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-083218-9
ATM Resource Library
ISBN 0-13-083778-4

ATM: Foundation for Broadband Networks, Volume 1 is available singly or within the ATM Resource Library. This initial volume provides fundamental information about Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), its structure, models, and operation. The second edition includes modifications and additions, particularly regarding voice over ATM, IP Internetworking, and protection switching. Black makes the most substantial revisions to the advanced chapters: Traffic Management, Call and Connection Control, and Internetworking with ATM Networks. Black is an excellent source for communications knowledge and expertise and presents the material in a logical and straightforward manner. This is a superior introduction to a complex subject.

Computer Networks and Internets
Second Edition
By Douglas E. Comer
CD-ROM by Ralph Droms
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-083617-6

This book was designed to answer the questions "How Do Computer Networks and Internets Work?" Comer addresses the solutions through four sections: Low- Level Transmission, Packet Switching, Internetworking, and Network Applications. (It is suitable for textbook and class use, as well as for professional study.) The second edition possesses three completely new chapters (2, 11, and 32) plus modifications and revisions throughout the book. The new chapters are: Motivation and Tools, Long-Distance Digital Connection Technologies, and RPC and Middleware. The range of topics within this book extends from communication and networking basics, protocols, client- server paradigms, the Web, and security. Comer provides instructor assistance, exercises, and demonstrates the concepts in an easily understandable manner. It is an excellent book, with or without a class!

SAMS Teach Yourself UNIX in 24 Hours
Second Edition
By Dave Taylor and James C. Armstrong Jr.
SAMS Publishing
ISBN 0-672-31480-0
529 Pages
Quick Command Reference Included

The popularity of UNIX systems and accompanying demand for UNIX-knowledgeable users continue to grow. Whether utilizing it as a user, programmer, administrator, or Internet designer, many professionals have added UNIX knowledge to their skills. The SAMS Teach Yourself UNIX in 24 Hours by Taylor and Armstrong provides an excellent method not only to learn UNIX, but also to learn about UNIX. In the 24 hours or lessons (versus chapters) presented in this edition, the reader will progress from introductory concepts through intermediate practices to more advanced ideas via a step-by-step process. The Introduction explains the format of the chapters and how to effectively use them. Each chapter (hour/lesson) has been designed to take one hour. Several factors may vary the time period, such as the reader's experience (although no experience is required). The fundamental design of a chapter features an introduction, a discussion of the chapter's topic, the tasks, and the workshops. Tasks are similar to chapter sections, with the added structure of a Description, Action, and Summary; workshops reinforce essential terms and furnish additional exercises.

Throughout the chapters, Taylor and Armstrong include "Just A Minutes," which further discuss the current topic, "Time Savers," which present tips and shortcuts, and "Cautions," which emphasize possible problems. The book begins with What Is This UNIX Stuff?, Getting Onto the System and Using the Command Line, Moving About the File System, Listing Files and Managing Disk Usage, Ownership and Permissions, and Creating, Moving, Renaming, and Deleting Files and Directories. Hour Seven demonstrates Looking Into Files (and examines one of my favorite commands, file). The authors continue with Filters and Piping, Wildcards and Regular Expressions, Introduction to the vi Editor, Advanced vi Tricks, Tools, and Techniques, An Overview of the Emacs Editor, Introduction to Command Shells, Getting the Most Out of the C Shell, and Basic Shell Programming.

The more advanced topics explore: Job Control, Printing in the UNIX Environment, Searching for Information and Files, Communications with Others, Using Telnet and FTP, C Programming In UNIX, Perl Programming in UNIX, Working with the Apache Web Server, and Variations on the UNIX Theme. Taylor and Armstrong also furnish a very helpful glossary preceding the Index. In the final chapter, the authors examine two UNIX-look programs: the MKS toolkit ( and MachTen ( My experiences with the MKS (Mortice Kern Systems) Toolkit have always been excellent ones; it has prevented many frustrating and time-consuming encounters with "bad command" error messages while using both UNIX and Windows systems. MKS is constantly improving not only the basic Toolkit, but also their supplementary packages as well. MachTen provides the same irritation-saving devices for Macintosh users, utilizing a complete UNIX implementation.

Although I was initially a bit skeptical of the SAMS Teach Yourself ... In 24 Hours series (recalling other projects "easily" completed in short periods of time), I have become a supporter of the 24 Hour books. Their topics reflect knowledge that is current and in demand; the authors are experienced professionals who not only have demonstrated technical proficiency, but also know how to write and convey that expertise to others. Taylor and Armstrong effectively illustrate these attributes. The result is an exceptional book written in an enlightening, superior, and completely understandable style. The authors guide the reader through UNIX fundamentals, progressing to more complex aspects and procedures of the UNIX operating system with a clear and realistic approach. Taylor and Armstrong detail how to elicit and manage the system's information, create files and programs, interface with an Apache Web Server, and automate repetitive tasks through shell programming. SAMS Teach Yourself UNIX in 24 Hours is a superb book for anyone who wants to learn more than the basic UNIX command set.

Desktop Encyclopedia of the Internet
By Nathan J. Muller
Artech House
ISBN 0-89006-729-5
559 Pages

Computer professionals occasionally lapse into acronym-babble, which sounds deceptively like English, French, or German, but can be understood only by other technical professionals. An acronym laden discussion resembles spoken encryption, alphabet soup, or simple nonsense to the uninitiated, containing terms like HTTP, XML, ISP, AIX, VRML, Atapi, SCSI, IDE, SGML, Perl, ISDN, IP, SNMP, Png, Jpg, MFC, and CGI. The confusion increases when a single acronym possesses different translations. (For example, ATM can mean Asynchronous Transfer Mode, Adobe Type Manager, or in its most general use, Automatic Teller Machine. The last term has been included in several computer dictionaries.) Despite the proliferation of acronyms, discussion of related concepts remain clear (most of the time) and non-technical friends and neighbors patiently manage to talk with us without a translator.

In the Desktop Encyclopedia of the Internet, Muller discusses Internet concepts and their accompanying terms completely in non-technical English. The author explains the topics and illustrates how the various technologies interface. He also explores the principles and practices of the Internet in a thorough and unique manner. This encyclopedia is arranged alphabetically by topic, with a Table of Contents and an Acronyms listing. Each entry features a definition of the term or subject, a description of how it works, and a conclusion. Muller includes illustrations and cross-references where applicable. The Table of Contents reflects the broad range of technologies that the author addresses. The Acronym listing permits access for those who know the acronym, but not its expanded form. Since the articles are arranged by their proper names and not the acronym, this list is an essential utility. (For example, TCP/IP can be discovered under Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol and HTML is detailed under Hypertext Markup Language, etc.)

The Desktop Encyclopedia of the Internet provides a superior and intriguing analysis of Internet technologies and standards. Muller's article format illustrates a complete overview of the Internet's structure and capabilities. This is an outstanding resource and an informative Internet reference.

Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution
Edited by Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman,
and Mark Stone
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-582-3
272 Pages

Neither the concept nor the practice of open source code is new; its recent popularity is. News stories monitor its support as the number of participants increases. Knowledge about the definition, uses, and origins of Open Source has become an essential commodity. Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution gathers thoughts, reflections, predictions, and opinions from today's leaders of the Open Source movement. This collection includes: A Brief History of Hackerdom by Eric S. Raymond; Twenty Years of Berkeley UNIX: From AT&T-Owned to Freely Redistributable by Marshall Kirk McKusick; The Internet Engineering Task Force by Scott Bradner; The GNU Operating System and the Free Software Movement by Richard Stallman; Future of Cygnus Solutions: An Entrepreneur's Account by Michael Tiemann; and Software Engineering by Paul Vixie.

Further contributions include: The Linux Edge by Linus Torvalds; Giving It Away: How Red Hat Software Stumbled Across a New Economic Model and Helped Improve an Industry by Robert Young; Diligence, Patience, and Humility by Larry Wall; Open Source as a Business Strategy by Brian Behlendorf; The Open Source Definition by Bruce Perens; Hardware, Software, and Infoware by Tim O'Reilly; Freeing the Source: The Story of Mozilla by Jim Hamerly and Tom Paquin with Susan Walton; and The Revenge of the Hackers by Eric S. Raymond. Additional background is given in the Appendixes: Appendix A) The Tanenbaum-Torvalds Debate, Appendix B) The Open Source Definition Version 1.0, and brief biographies of the contributors.

Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution provides a valuable and unique snapshot of the Open Source processes and developments as they currently exist. This book illustrates a technical and historical perspective to past and perhaps future developments of the software industry.

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 (