Perl 5 by Example

There are a large number of simple mistakes in the text of the book that may confuse the novice.
  • Author: David Medinets

  • Publisher: Que

  • Price: $39.99 (includes CD-ROM)

  • ISBN: 0-7897-0866-3

  • Reviewer: Sid Wentworth

Now that Perl 5 has become the de facto standard version of Perl, publishers are getting their books to market as quickly as possible. In the case of Perl 5 by Example, it got there too quickly. Since I have C programming experience and have dabbled with Perl, I was looking for a book that would get me up to speed in a hurry, and learning by example seemed a good way to go.

Perl 5 by Example divides the learning of Perl into four sections: basic, intermediate, advanced and “Perl and the Internet”. The CD included with the book contains the Perl interpreter, all the examples from the book, the book itself, and two other Que books on Perl in HTML format. Each chapter contains review questions and exercises.

This approach is valid, but this book doesn't do a good job of implementation. There are a large number of simple mistakes in the text of the book that may confuse the novice. Examples of errors include spaces in the code that don't match the displayed results, the use, without explanation, of an arrow character to indicate continuation of text and the use of an incorrect technical word—“function” is used where “variable” is correct. There is also the tendency to make poor typographical decisions that could also confuse the novice, e.g., the use of different length hyphens to mean the same thing within a particular chart or the use of italic font in titles that make operator sequences like || appear as //.

Even though I was somewhat unhappy with the book itself, I went on to take a look at the CD. It unfortunately suffers from the same problems. For example, there are links to example files, but the files are not located where the links point.

From my point of view, another drawback is that the book is clearly written for a non-Unix person—maybe less that a non-Unix person. For example, explaining the case sensitivity of variable names seems strange—what language doesn't do this?

If the typographical shortcomings and general errors were corrected, Perl 5 by Example would be worth serious consideration—particularly if you were working with Perl on a Microsoft-based platform. For a Linux (or Unix) user, I would recommend looking for another book.

Sid Wentworth lives in Uzbekistan, where he divides his time between UUCP hacking and raising yaks.


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