3-in-1: Mini Book Reviews

by Pat Eyler

Living in the suburbs of Seattle, I was happy to learn that I could ride the commuter train into town for my new job. Not only did it cut my commute time, but I was able to spend the time it did take reading. Because not everyone has the luxury of an extra few hours a week to slog through their reading list, I thought I'd better do something to share my lucky break before I started feeling guilty.

I'm not about to give up my new-found reading time, so maybe the best way to share is to let you know about the books I've had a chance to read. In addition to a short review of each book, I'll rate them on a scale of one to ten (be forewarned, I don't give out many tens).

This time around, I've got three titles to tell you about: Extending and Embedding Perl, LDAP Programming, Management, and Integration and An Introduction to Programming in Emacs Lisp, 2nd Edition.

Extending and Embedding Perl

Title: Extending and Embedding PerlAuthor: Tim Jenness and Simon CozensPublisher: Manning PublicationsISBN: 1-930110-82-0

Extending and Embedding Perl is an excellent book. Tim and Simon have done a great job of presenting a hairy topic in a readable way. This is a great book, one worth reading even if you don't plan on doing the kind of deep hacking it describes.

Starting out with a look at C from a Perl programmer's perspective, they quickly build into extending Perl with XS and, to a lesser extent, with SWIG, Inline and PDL. This jaunt covers seven chapters, about three quarters of the book.

Following their explanation of extending Perl, the authors run through embedding Perl in C applications and hacking Perl (with two chapters each). There's not as much content here, but what's there is meaty.

The book is quite thorough and, at times, dense reading. A healthy serving of code examples helps keep explanations clear, and Manning's layout of code listings makes the reader's life even better.

There really isn't any other book to compare Extending and Embedding Perl to, but even if there were another book in this space it's hard to imagine that anyone would be able to top this one. It gets nine stars.

LDAP Programming, Management and Integration

Title: LDAP Programming, Management and IntegrationAuthor: Clayton DonleyPublisher: Independent Publishers GroupISBN: 1-930110-40-5

Clayton does a good job of presenting LDAP in this book. The first five chapters explain LDAP concepts you'll need to make use of this protocol. The second section (another five chapters) covers LDAP management. The third section discusses integrating LDAP services into applications and comprises three chapters. This whole book weighs in at 271 pages (without the appendices).

Being a Perl user, I found the first two sections (which use Perl exclusively) the more useful. The third section focuses more Java-based solutions and, thus, was less interesting to me. The content was still worthwhile, even if I had to translate it as I went along. I think the book would have been better either using both Java and Perl throughout the text, or picking one or the other and using it exclusively.

Clayton's explanations are well written. His examples and illustrations provide extra depth that help clarify the text. The code examples in this book aren't laid out as well as the ones in Embedding and Extending Perl, but they are explained well in the surrounding text.

This is a solid book and will probably see a fair amount of use. I'm giving it seven stars.

An Introduction to Programming in Emacs Lisp, 2nd Edition

Title: An Introduction to Programming in Emacs Lisp, 2nd EditionAuthor: Robert J. ChassellPublisher: Free Software FoundationISBN: 1882114-43-4

Because learning Emacs Lisp is my New Year's resolution, and this was the first book I wanted to use, I thought I'd share my impressions of it with you. Robert Chassell has done an excellent job of making Emacs Lisp approachable. His writing style is easy to read, and he manages to introduce the Lisp jargon fairly painlessly.

The book starts out a bit slow (you're in the third chapter before you learn how to define functions), but this is probably good for a neophyte Lisper. I'd feel very comfortable giving this book to a computer savvy, novice programmer to work through with minimal help.

The code examples are clearly explained and well laid out. The exercises are thought-provoking and should lead to interesting side projects. After reading this book, I'm excited to move on and start doing something more with Emacs Lisp--I guess you can't ask for much more than that from an introduction. This book gets eight stars.

It's worth noting that An Introduction to Emacs Lisp is available freely, in a number of formats. I think that paying for a copy is a good investment in free software though. You might consider buying a copy yourself.

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