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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

The latest reviews include an upgrading book, an administration book, a graphics guide, and a networking collection. Specifically, the books are: Rescued By Upgrading Your PC, Third Edition by Kris Jamsa (Jamsa Press); Simply AIX 4.3, Second Edition by Casey Cannon, Scott Trent, and Carolyn Jones (Prentice Hall); The Artists' Guide to the GIMP by Michael J. Hammel (Specialized System Consultants, Inc. (SSC)); and The Networking CD Bookshelf (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.).

Rescued By Upgrading Your PC
Third Edition
By Kris Jamsa
Jamsa Press
ISBN 1-884133-64-9
282 Pages

Many users harbor misconceptions regarding the difficulty of upgrading their computer hardware. They will rewire their homes, replace faucets, and completely overhaul their car's transmission without hesitation. However, replacing a component or peripheral within a personal computer is often elevated to the same plane as microbiology, neurosurgery, and setting the time on a VCR. Jamsa's Rescued By Upgrading Your PC, Third Edition dispels the mysteries surrounding installation procedures and upgrading techniques. Jamsa addresses the individual topics through four major sections: Getting Started with PC Upgrades, Common Motherboard Upgrades, Common Hardware Upgrades, and Software Upgrades. Some of the new hardware instructions in the third edition include zip drives, the Universal Serial Bus (USB), and Infrared Devices (IR). Jamsa's approach to each topic discusses related concepts and provides clearly written and easily followed directions. Each section is color-coded (for those of us who lose our places all too quickly) and the illustrations, screen representations, and shaded sidebars complement the written procedures. The author details guidelines for improving both relatively new and legacy computers. Rescued By Upgrading Your PC, Third Edition is an excellent book for beginners and a splendid reference for visual explanations.

Simply AIX 4.3
Second Edition
By Casey Cannon, Scott Trent, and Carolyn Jones
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-021344-6
334 Pages

AIX (Advanced Interactive Executive) is IBM's UNIX-like operating system that utilizes the RISC System 6000 (RS/6000) hardware. Both Windows and UNIX users will recognize AIX's interfaces, and administrators will identify the administration shell and its procedures. In Simply AIX 4.3, Second Edition, Cannon, Trent, and Jones discuss the environments, commands, utilities, and the more complex considerations for system administrators. Following the Preface and Forewords, the authors present a section entitled the Overview. This unique section briefly describes some of the attributes of the AIX system, the features of the book, an historical perspective, and a synopsis of each chapter. The preview of the chapters possesses summaries of each section within the chapters along with an individual customized introduction to the book for Managers, System Managers, Novices, and Windows/DOS Users. This transitional section allows the reader to easily select which chapters to read and in what order. Cannon, Trent, and Jones address these topics in the following order: Customizing Your Environment, Using AIX, I Know Windows/DOS, What's AIX?, Editors, Installing AIX, Setting Up Peripherals, Communicating with the World, SMIT Happens! Administering AIX, AIX Speaks Your Language: Internationalization, All the Help You Need, Gathering Up the Pieces, and Kick Start Your Enterprise: The RS/6000 System Family. The Appendices contain: A) Directory Commands, B) File Manipulation Commands, C) Backup Commands, D) Miscellaneous Commands, and E) Connectivity Commands.

Written for the novice/intermediate/advanced user/administrator, this book employs diverse topics and approaches. The first chapter explains what the Common Desktop Environment (CDE) is and how to use it. The second chapter, Using AIX, begins with the heading "Commands - Are These Real Words?" and describes the familiar UNIX commands, shell programming basics, and AIX commands. The following section is devoted to the Windows/DOS user, illustrating the similarities and providing "Crib Notes: DOS to AIX." The Editors chapter surveys the four most popular editors used on the AIX system: vi, Emacs, the CDE (Common Desktop Environment) text editor, and Ined. The authors illustrate some of the differences among the editors through tables and reference charts. Administration information concentrates on system installation, communication, the Software Management Interface Tool (SMIT), the Distributed Software Management Information Tool (DSMIT), and some of the command line equivalents for frequent system administration tasks. Chapter 10, All the Help You Need, lists the help resources available and how to access them: online documentation via hypertext links, faxback services, Internet sites, message boards, RS/6000 Talk Radio, and newsgroups.

Simply AIX 4.3, Second Edition demonstrates the versatility of the AIX system:

You can install AIX on stand-alone systems (a system that starts up by itself); you can manage the installation and configuration of diskless, dataless, or stand-alone systems from a network installation server; or you can get AIX preinstalled at the factory. [Page 85]

Cannon, Trent, and Jones use humor effectively to provide information about the latest version of AIX. They utilize photographs, screen shots, tables, explanations, bibliographies, examples, and question and answer dialogues to describe procedures ranging from the CDE (Common Desktop Environment) to backup and restore practices. The Appendices also provide many of the basic commands arranged by topic. This is a valuable learning tool for the novice and a unique and worthwhile introduction to AIX system administration.

The Artists' Guide to the GIMP
By Michael J. Hammel
Specialized System Consultants, Inc. (SSC)
ISBN 1-57831-011-3
340 Pages
CD-ROM Included

The GIMP (also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a graphics utility for UNIX and UNIX-like systems, including Linux, Sun Solaris, SGI IRIX, HP-UX, and FreeBSD. In many ways, it resembles Adobe Photoshop for the Windows and Macintosh platforms. Hammel's experience with the GIMP coupled with his writing ability led to this text and tutorial. The Preface to The Artists' Guide to the GIMP not only recounts the author's involvement in the GIMP, but in a much larger sense, also illustrates the essence of Open Source contributions and cooperation. In Chapter One, the Introduction, Hammel documents the necessary information a user must evaluate prior to any program's installation. He details system requirements and administration options regarding hardware and software issues. The book possesses two major sections; the first, Part One - Guided Tour, describes the features of the GIMP program and demonstrates how to implement them. Part Two visually illustrates most of the plug-ins available and discusses how to use them. In Chapter Two, GIMP Basics, Hammel explains some fundamental graphics terminology and concepts. He examines raster images, pixels, RGB, CMYK, hue, saturation, and lightness, to name a few. Chapter Three, GIMP Windows, describes the Toolbox, Menus, and Dialogs. The Toolbox is opened further in the following chapter.

Succeeding chapters clarify Selections, Layers and Channels, Colors and Text, Drawing and Painting, Using Transforms, Gradients, and the final chapter of the Guided Tour reviews Scanning, Printing, and Print Media. In Part Two, Filters and Script-Fu Effects, Hammel shows the various effects and includes a description of what they do and how they may be employed. (This format is much preferable to and less time-consuming than my original "try it" and "undo" method.) The author displays the following effects: Artistic, Blur, Colors, Distorts, Edge-Detect and Combine, Enhance, Glass Effects, Light Effects, Map and Miscellaneous, Noise, Render, and Script-Fu. A Glossary precedes the Appendices, which contain A) the gimprc file, B) Keyboard Shortcuts, and C) Adding Fonts to Your System. The accompanying CD-ROM features GIMP distributions and plug-ins, the images from the book, graphics documentation, links, a gallery of images from the author, and much more.

This is an extraordinary and exquisitely published book. It illustrates many fundamental graphics concepts and procedures, as well as specific practices utilized in GIMP. Hammell's superb writing style and extensive GIMP knowledge make The Artists' Guide to the GIMP the essential reference for artists and non-artists alike. If you use or appreciate graphics, you will love this book.

The Networking CD Bookshelf
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-523-8
CD-ROM Library

The Networking CD Bookshelf provides an outstanding collection of networking resources in a small and unassuming package. It contains one printed book and six complete books on CD-ROM in HTML format. The printed book, which is also in electronic format on the CD-ROM features DNS and BIND, Third Edition by Paul Albitz and Cricket Liu. The other selections include: TCP/IP Network Administration, Second Edition by Craig Hunt, Building Internet Firewalls by D. Brent Chapman and Elizabeth D. Zwicky, Practical UNIX and Internet Security, Second Edition by Simson Garfinkel and Gene Spafford, the sendmail Desktop Reference by Bryan Costales and Eric Allman, and sendmail, Second Edition by Bryan Costales and Eric Allman. The HTML format of the CD-ROM is extremely easy and quick to access and can be used by any Web browser. This is an exceptional collection (which I have previously reviewed individually) by excellent authors in a portable format.

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 (