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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This column contains an assortment of reviews and a correction of an error that occurred in the December issue. The books reviewed include the second edition of a programming classic, a new edition of a hardware guide, a Linux book, a Solaris and NT guide, and a TCP/IP selection. This issue specifically presents mini-reviews of Programming Pearls, Second Edition by Jon Bentley (Addison-Wesley); Upgrading and Repairing PCs, Eleventh Edition by Scott Mueller (Que Books); reviews of Learning Red Hat Linux by Bill McCarty (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.); Sun Blueprints Series Solaris Guide for Windows NT Administrators by Tom Bialaski (Prentice Hall); and Fast Track MCSE TCP/IP by Emmett Dulaney (New Riders).

Notes and Corrections: In my December review of Bill McLain's Do Fish Drink Water? (William Morrow and Company, ISBN 0-688-16512-5, $22.00), I inadvertently connected the atmospheric effect of the “green flash” with the “green moon” phenomenon. The green moon effect, with thanks to reader and astronomer Andrew Young, “can be caused by scattering in monodisperse clouds and sun.”

This is the effect that has been documented with the eruption of Krakatoa in the 1880s. The textbook definition of the “green flash”, as Mr. McLain presents it, is as follows:

“When the sun rises or sets, the spectrum of light waves must pass through the greatest atmospheric thickness of the day. Because water vapor in the atmosphere absorbs the yellow and orange rays and scatters the violet rays, only the red and blue-green light travels toward you. The longer red waves are cut off by the horizon but the shorter blue-green rays are refracted, or bent, and linger for a second beforedisappearing.” [Page 206, Do Fish Drink Water?]

The “green flash” also has a connection to atmospheric mirages. Detailed explanations, pictures, and other links related to the “green flash” (including where and how to see one) may be found at (I did check the link, and the pictures are amazing.) Thank you to Bill McLain for the original data and basic definition and to Andrew Young for the additional quote, the information, and the link. My apologies for any confusion my error may have caused. -- the author.

Programming Pearls
Second Edition
By Jon Bentley
ISBN 0-201-65788-0
239 Pages

Computer programs have an irritating habit of doing what they have been told to do and not what the programmer wants them to do. Since they do not possess any intuitive qualities, it is the responsibility of the programmer or software engineer to analyze the difference between what a program does and what it should do. In Programming Pearls, Second Edition, Jon Bentley examines some problems that programmers have encountered and their accompanying solutions. Through a unique presentation style that combines narration and the Socratic method of questions and answers, the author describes and discusses searching, sorting, string and numerical algorithms (plus several other topics), and some of their practical applications. The original edition was based on Bentley's “Programming Pearls” column published in the Communications of the ACM. He has updated and expanded the examples and topics of the columns for the second edition. The program code is available online at:

Readers acquainted with the first edition will appreciate the modifications and additions in the second edition. New readers will discover a classic and an invaluable programming reference. Programming Pearls is a superb illustration of programming principles and their pragmatic applications.

Upgrading and Repairing PCs
Eleventh Edition
By Scott Mueller
Que Books
ISBN 0-7897-1903-7
1628 Pages
CD-ROM Included

The mechanics of upgrading, maintaining, or building a PC require straightforward guidelines. With luck, the computer works the first time it's started; with knowledge, the computer works every time it is run. Every new technology, component, and peripheral seems to add a few more twists and turns to the process. Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs provides the technician with the most current information about hardware developments coupled with changes in installation and replacement techniques. In the new Eleventh Edition, Mueller has reorganized some of the chapters to reflect new trends and developments. He divided the chapter previously devoted to I/O Interfaces into separate chapters on the IDE and SCSI Interfaces. The printer chapter now includes scanners, and Chapter 5 is dedicated to BIOS considerations.

Internet Connectivity and Local Area Networks also merit their own chapters in the new edition. The CD-ROM contains Que Editions of PartitionMagic and Drive Image, A+ Exam training questions from Heathkit, vendor databases, and the manufacturers' hard drive specification tables. Specific new hardware advances covered include Intel's Socket 370 design for the Celeron processor, RDRAM, the Intel 810 Chipset's properties, and the flex-ATX and WTX form factors. Mueller also details CD/RW and DVD drives, how to avoid common “Buffer Underrun” errors, scanner interfaces, configurations, and resolutions, and hardware troubleshooting suggestions for every category.

This is a necessary reference for every technician. Upgrading and Repairing PCs, Eleventh Edition by Scott Mueller features fundamental information and improved techniques about the latest hardware implementations. Mueller has once again produced an outstanding reference and an essential resource for anyone involved or interested in computer hardware advances and design.

Learning Red Hat Linux
By Bill McCarty
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-627-7
378 Pages
Linux CD-ROM Included

The number of books documenting Linux installation and configuration procedures increases daily (or so it seems). There are visual interpretation, pocket-sized guides, and some books larger and heavier than a notebook computer. Discovering which books contain the information you need in a format you like can be a formidable task. McCarty's Learning Red Hat Linux is one of the more useful and user-friendly Linux books; it clearly explains procedures and provides the reader with the precise answers. I recently set up a client-server network utilizing Red Hat Linux 6.1, and this is one of the two books that I referenced frequently.

McCarty addresses the topics in the following order: Why Run Linux?, Preparing to Install Linux, Installing Linux, Issuing Linux Commands, Installing And Configuring the X Window System, Using the X Window System, Configuring And Administering Linux, Using Linux Applications And Clients, Playing Linux Games, Setting Up A Linux-Based LAN, Getting Connected to the Internet, Setting Up A Linux-Based WAN, and Conquering the BASH Shell. The Appendices include: A) Linux Directory Tree, B) Principal Linux Files, C) The Red Hat Package Manager, D) Managing the Boot Process, and E) Linux Command Quick Reference. A Glossary and the Index complete the book. The enclosed CD-ROM features a copy of Red Hat 6.0, WordPerfect for Linux, the backup utility PerfectBackup, and EZStart. The EZStart is a program that will allow you to install Red Hat Linux on a Windows computer. Any necessary information about the Linux CD-ROM, the distribution, and the additional files is documented in the README.1ST file on the CD-ROM.

McCarty describes the Linux system and illustrates its installation utilizing a step-by-step technique, with numerous accompanying diagrams and screen shots. He also details the configurations of assorted devices and services, such as communications and printers. The author illustrates some of the more popular Linux applications and how to use them. Throughout the book, McCarty's procedures are easy to read, understand, and implement. He begins the book with several anecdotes about casual computer users (as opposed to the technical geeks whose native tongue is TCP/IP) and how they turned to Linux.

The author also provides a wealth of knowledge in the Appendices, for anyone with a stubborn piece of hardware that should work but is taking a vacation. Learning Red Hat Linux presents an ideal introduction to Linux. The text is well written, logically organized, and easy to follow and understand. More advanced and detailed information appears in the Appendices, and the only software required is included with the book. McCarty's Learning Red Hat Linux is an excellent package for the beginner, the curious casual user, or as a quick reference guide.

Sun Blueprints Series
Solaris Guide for Windows NT Administrators
By Tom Bialaski
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-025854-7
146 Pages

Interfacing systems can be a frustrating experience, particularly if a system's documentation lacks the one or two fragments that allow the systems to seamlessly fit together. This volume of the Sun Blueprints Series shows the essential approaches that both the Solaris and the Windows NT systems utilize and how to integrate them. Bialaski addresses the following topics: Introduction, Understanding Solaris User Account Management, Service and Task Management, TCP/IP Administration, File Sharing Administration, Printer Administration, Email Administration, and Web Services Administration. Each topic demonstrates both the Solaris procedure and the Windows NT approach to the same task. Bialaski demonstrates how to implement each service on the separate systems and also how to direct the systems to recognize the other's presence. He also details troubleshooting procedures and common error messages, their probable causes, and the corresponding solution.

The Sun Blueprints Series is an extremely specific and precise resource for administrators. The Solaris Guide for Windows NT Administrators provides the necessary directions for a successful integration. (Ideally, each of these could also be used to harmonize each of the documented systems with another system. For example, an administrator could integrate Solaris with Linux, or Linux with Windows NT.) Bialaski describes the exact procedures and commands an administrator should utilize to implement a service. This is a superb book for a select audience. Every administrator will appreciate its specialized and exact techniques and its succinct descriptions. This book provides excellent and quickly referenced answers to extremely definitive questions.

Fast Track MCSE TCP/IP
By Emmett Dulaney
New Riders
ISBN 1-56205-937-8
359 Pages
Fast Track MCSE 6-In-1
ISBN 1-56205-909-2

Many of the certification help books, whether they were written for MCSE, DB2, or A+ certification candidates, provide accurate and straightforward information about specific topics. This particular volume addresses TCP/IP. The others in the original boxed set, which are also available individually, discuss Networking Essentials, Windows NT Server 4, Internet Information Server 4, Windows NT Workstation 4, and the Windows NT Server 4 Enterprise. The TCP/IP selection contains ten sections, three of which are relevant only to MCSE applicants. The other seven segments present TCP/IP concepts, installation and configuration procedures, the dynamics of the TCP/IP protocol suite, troubleshooting, a summary, and an excellent glossary.

The first chapter, Planning, describes the concepts, protocols, standards, fault tolerance, and an introduction to TCP/IP. In the second chapter, Dulaney explains Installation and Configuration, including DHCP, WINS, DNS, HOSTS, and LMHOSTS, Subnet Masks, and SNMP. Connectivity, the third section, examines Remote Execution Utilities (i.e., Telnet), Data Transfer Utilities (i.e., FTP, TFTP, HTTP, and Web Browsers) RAS Servers, Dial-Up Networking, plus PPP, SLIP, and Modem connections.

The Monitoring and Optimization section discusses the Performance and Network Monitors, NSLOOKUP, IPCONFIG, SNMP, Ping, TRACERT, and related utilities. The following chapter analyzes Troubleshooting, and illustrates IP Addressing Problems, Microsoft IP Configuration Troubleshooting Utilities, and Name Resolution Problems. The Objective Review Notes, Insider's Spin on Exam 70-059, and Sample Test Questions are the relevant sections for those seeking certification. The Fast Facts Review is more of a summary, and the Hotlist of Exam-Critical Concept furnishes an excellent glossary. The concluding chapter, Did You Know?, explores related topics that are not on the exam, such as Packet Switching.

The Fast Track MCSE TCP/IP book was written by a superb and knowledgeable author. The concepts and procedures furnish an excellent reference for anyone interested in TCP/IP, and the text provides the essential theories and techniques necessary for its installation. This is a logical and well-written book on an occasionally complex topic. n

About the Author

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 13 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. Her writing has also appeared in Linux Magazine, Performance Computing, and Network Administrator. Elizabeth can be reached at: