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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month's column attempts to provide a little something for everyone -- from email style to protocols, Web server, manual pages, Web images, and investing. Specifically, the books include The Elements of E-mail Style by David Angell and Brent Heslop (Addison-Wesley), Routing in the Internet, Second Edition by Christian Huitema (Prentice Hall), Professional Apache by Peter Wainwright (Wrox Press), Solaris 7 Reference by Janice Winsor (Sun Microsystems Press, A Prentice Hall Title), Photoshop for the Web, Second Edition by Mikkel Aaland (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.), and Getting Started in Online Investing by David L. Brown and Kassandra Bentley (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

One of the books that I reviewed in 1994 was a very handy and helpful compact guide to writing email, The Elements of E-mail Style by David Angell and Brent Heslop (Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-201-62709-4, $12.95). Currently in its fourth printing, it provides a transition from snail mail to its electronic counterpart, illustrating what practices remain intact, and how some other procedures change for the electronic medium. This is a valuable little book that everyone with email access should read and keep as a reference, preferably close to their computers.

Routing in the Internet
Second Edition
Christian Huitema
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-022647-5
384 Pages

The details and blueprints of the Internet's architecture may be found within the protocols that it utilizes. A thorough analysis of the routing protocols demonstrates the various ways that Internet communications are completed. Huitema has updated the second edition to include IPv6 considerations, expanded BGPv4 information, Quality of Service (QoS) technologies, and extended multicasting and mobile IP data. The author presents four major divisions: Architecture and Protocols, Interior Routing Protocols, Exterior Routing Protocols, and New Developments. Part I describes the basics of the Internet and routing protocols through The Internet Architecture, The Internet Protocol, and From IPv4 to IPv6. Part II: Interior Routing Protocols contains Why is RIP (Routing Information Protocol) so Simple?, Why is OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) so Complex?, and Other Routing Protocols. In the third part, Exterior Routing Protocols, Huitema explores EGP: A First Step Toward the Global Internet, With BGP and CIDR Toward the World Wide Internet, Growing Pains from CIDR to IPv6, and Policy Routing. The concluding section, New Developments, discusses IP Multicast Routing, Mobility, Network Service Quality and Resource Reservation, and Toward the New IP.

Routing in the Internet is a superbly written explanation of the protocols employed by the Internet. Huitema clearly analyzes and describes how each protocol design has been used. This is a valuable revision to a familiar and essential Internet classic and helpful for anyone concerned with Internet communication.

Professional Apache
Peter Wainwright
Wrox Press
ISBN 1-861003-02-1
616 Pages

The Apache server is used by multiple platforms including Linux, Solaris, Windows, and FreeBSD to provide various services as they are needed or requested by a Web browser or network. Apache's configuration files determine its specific response to service petitions. In Professional Apache, Peter Wainwright addresses the problems that administrators commonly encounter and these respective solutions. More importantly, the author demonstrates the fundamental concepts, options, and directives to customize Apache to your needs. The text actually possesses two distinct parts: the main part of the book informs, details, and instructs while the appendices provide easily referenced data.

Wainwright begins the book with Apache and the Internet, a graceful introduction to the Apache server, networking, useful tools, and potential server hardware configurations. The following chapter, Getting Started with Apache, discusses ways to obtain and install Apache and its basic configuration. Building Apache the Way You Want it describes the process of builiding Apache from the source code and the available options. The fourth chapter, Configuring Apache the Way You Want it, examines the configuration files, directives, options and overrides, restricting access, the environment, and controlling robots. In Deciding What the Client Needs, the author addresses content handling, error handling and responses, aliases and redirection, and server-side image maps. Server Side Includes, CGI, Actions and Handlers, CGI Wrappers, and FastCGI are explained in Chapter 6: Delivering Dynamic Content. The author reviews the configuration and management of Hosting More than One Web Site in the succeeding chapter.

Wainwright surveys system performance, tuning, and security throughout the next three sections: Improving Apache's Performance, Monitoring Apache, and Securing Apache. The final chapter, Extending Apache, features the essentials of mod_perl, PHP, and Apache JServ. The Appendices contain Useful RFCs, Apache Variants, The Apache License, Environment Variables, Server Side Includes, Regular Expressions, Third Party Apache Modules, HTTP Headers and Status Codes, Directives by Modules, and Directives by Name.

The Professional Apache book was written for Web administrators using, configuring, maintaining, and refining the Apache server on a daily basis. It is an outstanding book, whether the reader is searching for a specific answer, a procedure, or trying to better understand the software. Wainwright demonstrates a writing style that is precise and engaging combined with thorough and knowledgeable content. (I originally began browsing the book to find an answer. I found it, but kept reading for another 350 pages.) The transitions from one topic to another are smooth and cohesive and the descriptions, augmented by figures and examples, are effectively presented. Professional Apache is an important addition to both the Apache server documentation and every administrator's reference library.

Solaris 7 Reference
Janice Winsor
Sun Microsystems Press
A Prentice Hall Title
ISBN 0-13-020048-4
1551 Pages

The Solaris 7 Reference provides the reader and user with a ready-to-use collection of the manual pages for the Solaris 7 system. The Table of Contents presents an alphabetical listing of all the commands (except the FMLI commands, which are not included). The Introduction to the Reference also offers the list of commands in a functional grouping organization. Whether you are an administrator, programmer, or user, the Solaris 7 Reference furnishes a convenient resource for the User commands (Section 1). The Table of Contents and Introduction offer the reader a choice of lookup methods; the Index furnishes yet another way to access the commands. This reference provides valuable shortcuts to the system's commands, their syntax, descriptions, bugs, options, and is thoroughly cross-referenced. Winsor, a recognized Solaris author, has produced an excellent resource and aid for anyone seeking Solaris certification.

Photoshop for the Web
Second Edition
Mikkel Aaland
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-641-2
230 Pages

The original edition of Photoshop for the Web illustrated how to effectively use Photoshop to create spectacular images that could also be efficiently downloaded. In addition to the procedures and examples provided in the first edition, Aaland also demonstrates the new capabilities that Photoshop 5.5 and its accompanying ImageReady 2.0 software possess. For example, Photoshop 5.5 offers a new “Save for Web” option and ImageReady 2.0 provides a Web graphics feature to Photoshop 5.5. In the updated second edition, Aaland discusses: Making Photoshop Web-Friendly, Improving Photos for the Web, Making Great GIFs, Creating GIFs from Scratch, Special Effects with Transparent GIFs, JPEG: All the Color You Want, Creating Background Tiles, Photoshop Web Type, Creating Navigational Graphics, Importing Vectors into Photoshop, Laying out Pages in Photoshop, and ImageReady 2.0. The Appendices include: The PNG Format, Third-Party Software, and Contributor Notes.

The information and procedures discussed within the book are well-written and easy to follow. Many of the shaded sidebars include shortcuts or tips; others furnish additional information for the user. Several of the techniques vary slightly between the Windows and Macintosh platforms. In those cases, Aaland documents how they vary and how each appears. He also notes if the examples differ from Photoshop 4 to 5 and presents the methods for each version, where applicable. Aaland demonstrates what elements contribute to the completed graphics and how to implement them. Photoshop for the Web is an excellent book that illustrates how to create and improve images through the use of Photoshop and ImageReady.

Getting Started in Online Investing
David L. Brown and Kassandra Bentley
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN 0-471-31703-9
258 Pages

Most businesses have experienced some changes due to the Internet and the proliferation of the personal computer. The financial and investment sector has sustained more major innovations than any other field, with the exception of high tech. The introduction of computer procedures has transformed the ways reports are produced, records are accessed, and trades are executed. The brokerages have expanded (and continue to develop) new services, and business hours have been extended with after-hours trading. The most radical transition has been with the investors. Observers who knew vaguely what the stock market was are now avid participants in stocks, bonds, and futures.

In Getting Started in Online Investing, authors Brown and Bentley present the basic principles that online investors should know before they start trading. They examine research, investments, brokers, and market trends beginning with Online Investing: Where the Street Meets the Web. Following the introduction, Brown and Bentley discuss several different aspects of investing, including: Easing In: A Quick Tour of Yahoo! Finance, Finding Investment Ideas: Lists & Picks & Searches & Screens, Doing Your Homework: Checking Facts, Pondering Patterns, The Bottom Line: Managing Your Portfolio Online, Bulls versus Bears: Keeping Up with the Market, The Online Brokers: Trading on the Web, Mutual Fund Madness: Where the Funds Are, The FYI Chapter: Bonds, Options, Futures, and the Global Market, and Nurtured by the Net: IPOs, DPOs, DRIPs, DSPs, Chats, and Banks. The Epilogue surveys Continuing Education, which is followed by a Glossary. Each chapter contains a summary and additional Web sites; most chapters highlight a few additional Web sites for the reader's consideration.

Brown and Bentley review the elements of investing for the online user; they explain the concepts and processes in a direct and easy to follow format, interspersed with helpful tips and essential terms for the reader's convenience. Getting Started in Online Investing is a logical resource for anyone beginning this intriguing and fast-paced avocation.

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: