Cover V10, I06


Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

The different backgrounds and levels of expertise within the UNIX community provide us with rich and varied resources. Coincidentally, this month's column reflects that diversity, with book reviews on an alternative Web browser, a book for UNIX novices, a Linux administrator's guide, and a book about affiliate partnerships. Specifically, the reviews include: The Opera 5.x Book: Browsing the Web with Speed and Style by J. S. Lyster, (No Starch Press); Think Unix by Jon Lasser (Que); Red Hat Linux Administrator's Handbook, Second Edition by Mohammed J. Kabir (M & T Books/Hungry Minds Books); and The Complete Guide to Associate and Affiliate Programs on the Net by Daniel Gray (McGraw-Hill).

Reviewer's Note: The copy of the Opera book that I reviewed was an advance copy and in manuscript format. The final bound edition may differ in page length due to typesetting and graphics layouts. --ez

The Opera 5.x Book: Browsing the Web with Speed and Style
J. S. Lyster
Foreword by Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO, Opera Systems
No Starch Press
ISBN 1-886411-47-6
297 Pages
CD-ROM Included

A browser provides a user's access to the Web and, in many cases, also acts as an email client. The two most popular browsers are Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator. An alternative choice is the Opera Web browser, which features many capabilities missing in both Explorer and Navigator. Opera takes less space, doesn't load plug-ins until you need them, possesses full windowing capabilities (so that you can actually work in two or more windows without draining your system's resources), and can save your work until a later date.

One of Opera's strengths is its keystroke alternative. Many users either cannot use a mouse or prefer to use it sparingly. Opera allows the user to rely more on keyboard navigation than on mouse clicks. It also allows cookie options and filters, presentation and kiosk development, and provides Web designers with an ideal testing facility. Because Opera follows the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) guidelines, the same appearance of a Web page will usually have same appearance in Explorer and Navigator. These (and many more) facets of the Opera Web browser are superbly described and demonstrated in The Opera 5.x Book: Browsing the Web with Speed and Style by J. S. Lyster. The author discusses Opera's installation, basic navigation, toolbars, and its more advanced qualities in a step-by-step format.

Lyster approaches the different topics through seven sections: Installation, You've Got Mail, Supercharging Your Browser, Power-Surfing, Going Further, Beyond the Browser, and Alternative Operating Systems plus the Appendices. In Part One, Installation, Lyster presents Getting Started, Surfing In Style, The Software Side of the Net, and Customizing the Browser. In the second part, You've Got Mail, the author discusses Setting Up Email and Instant Messaging, Managing Your Mail, and Newsgroups. Supercharging Your Browser details Adding Java Support, Using External Applications and Plug-Ins, Multimedia: Getting the Most Out of Images and Sound, and Three Utilities That Expand Your Reach. The following section, Power-Surfing, examines Keeping Your Hands on the Keys, Unlocking Opera's Powers, and Privacy and Security; Part Five: Going Further, explains Network Administration and Multiple Users, Extreme Customization, and Opera as a Workhorse. The concluding parts, Beyond the Browser and Alternative Operating Systems survey Completing Your Toolkit, Beyond Windows 95 and 98, and Opera for Linux: The New Frontier, respectively. The Appendices include: A) Keyboard Commands and Shortcuts, B) Guide to the Compact Disc, C) Technical Specifications, and D) Learning About the Web. The accompanying CD-ROM contains Opera for all platforms, the utilities described in the book, and plug-ins (where applicable).

I have been an Opera enthusiast since I realized how much faster it was than other browsers. In The Opera 5.x Book: Browsing the Web with Speed and Style, J. S. Lyster illustrates Opera's capabilities and discusses its possible configurations. The examples are primarily for the Windows 95+ user. However, most of the procedures apply to every platform. BeOS, EPOC, and Windows 3.1 users should read Chapter 19 first; the Linux installation differences are described in Chapter 20. In these two chapters, Lyster reviews the idiosyncrasies, limitations, and workarounds for the other operating systems implementations. The rest of the book discusses guidelines and procedures for all platforms, with few exceptions. Lyster's book is a well-written companion to the features of the Opera Web browser. Users will appreciate his proficient and extensive description of Opera's myriad capabilities and dimensions.

Think Unix
Jon Lasser
ISBN 0-7897-2376-X
290 Pages

Every operating system or computing environment utilizes its own set of commands or processes. When developers or users move from one environment to another, they often feel that they've completely changed countries without the benefit of a translator. This is particularly evident when they move from a non-UNIX, non-command line system to a UNIX environment. Originally, a developer's operating system, the documentation, and commands were logical to developers, who also used a permuted index. These procedures and explanations are often not quite as evident to the new UNIX user, even when the user has a computing background.

Most beginning books are written for the complete novice, not for someone who knows a computer system other than UNIX. To address this forgotten audience, Jon Lasser has written Think Unix. He discusses the way that the UNIX system works and attempts to describe how the UNIX community thinks. Lasser examines the topics through four sections: UNIX Concepts, Shell Concepts, X Window System Concepts, and the Appendices. In the first section, UNIX Concepts, Lasser details UNIX Documentation, Files and Processes, Redirection and Pipes, Networking, and vi, Dotfiles, and Regular Expressions. Shell Concepts contains Muddling Through Shells, Variables and Quoting, Conditional Execution and Loops, and Shell Scripts and More. The X section, X Window System Concepts, analyzes Thinking Like X and Configuring X; Appendices includes: A) Answers to Practice Problems, B) Glossary and References, and the Index.

As Lasser explains the topics and demonstrates how to create files or change directories or group and use filters, he reinforces the principles discussed with sets of practice problems. He also addresses the various topics with a sense of humor, even through the footnotes. When a technique or procedure doesn't follow an expected pattern, or seem to make sense (at least from the learner's viewpoint), he clearly states that it doesn't, even though that is the accepted way it is done. Lasser explains the concepts and their accompanying implementations clearly, illustrates their use through numerous examples, and reinforces the processes used in a very clear style. This is an excellent book that any UNIX novice can appreciate.

Red Hat Linux Administrator's Handbook
Second Edition
Mohammed J. Kabir
M & T Books
ISBN 0-7645-4797-6
693 Pages

The original Red Hat Linux Administrator's Handbook covered the distributions through 6.1. The newly released second edition updates the material to reflect changes through Red Hat 7.0. The approach remains the same; this book is a quick and thorough reference for systems administrators. Kabir presents the material through three sections. The initial part, Installation and Basic Configuration, addresses Getting Started, Boot Up and Shutdown Configuration, File Permissions, and Using Linuxconf. The central part of the book, Advanced Configuration, concentrates on User Administration, Process Administration, Network Administration, DNS Service, E-mail Service, FTP Service, Sharing Files and Printers with Samba, Web Service Using Apache, Using NFS File Servers, and Configuring X Windows. These chapters illustrate how to set up your server to accomplish the more complex and most essential tasks. The final section, Troubleshooting, analyzes the problems that can occur, demonstrates how to protect your system against intrusion through chapters on Security and Network Security and also details how to keep your system current with a chapter on Customizing the Kernel. The Appendices contain A) Common Commands and B) Linux Resources.

Kabir is a superb author with demonstrated expertise with Apache, Samba, server installation, and network installation. He writes clearly and demonstrates server installation and configuration in an effective manner. This is an essential utility for every Linux systems administrator.

The Complete Guide to Associate and
Affiliate Programs on the Net

Daniel Gray
ISBN 0-07-135310-0
228 Pages

Whether it's a single frame, or one of several banners in a row, the appearance of advertisements for other sites has become common practice. Participants are not limited to commercial sites; individuals are also encouraged to join associate or affiliate partnership programs. In The Complete Guide to Associate and Affiliate Programs on the Net, author Daniel Gray explains what the partnership programs involve, issues to consider before becoming an associate or affiliate, some success stories, and the top merchants. The author addresses the topics in the following order: Why Become an Associate or Affiliate?, Building Your Affiliate Site, Search Engine Tuning, Keeping Track, Merchant Profiles, Affiliate Success Stories, and The Top 100 Directory. Within the chapters, Gray demonstrates how to select the right affiliate partnerships for your site, lists pertinent affiliate-related resources, and suggests effective page designs. The importance of careful selection and page design cannot be overemphasized. Many sites clutter their pages with affiliate banners and obscure the primary information onthe page. Conflicting partnerships can also become a problem. Gray details the importance of keeping statistics in addition to the legal responsibilities of an affiliate, including taxes.

With The Complete Guide to Associate and Affiliate Programs on the Net, author Daniel Gray presents realistic information and expectations for anyone considering an affiliate partnership. He examines the practices and procedures that every would-be affiliate should follow. This is an excellent reference and required reading for anyone about to establish an associate/affiliate partnership.

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 15 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: