The Return of Mini Book Reviews

by Pat Eyler

2003 was a busy year, and that cut into my reading and writing time. I therefore took a hiatus from my mini-reviews, but this article presents five books and three reviews for your reading pleasure. I've got a big stack of books to catch up on, so hopefully, I can clear the decks and some more reviews ready for you in the coming months. If you're interested in seeing my reading list, please take a look at my home page. You also can make requests and leave recommendations there if you like.

Computer Science & Perl Programming

Jon Orwant, Editor

O'Reilly, 2003

ISBN: 0-596-00310-2

Games, Diversions & Perl Culture

Jon Orwant, Editor

O'Reilly, 2003

ISBN: 0-596-00312-9

I grabbed two volumes of this three-volume set, and I'm really impressed. The books collect some of the best articles from The Perl Journal. As with most collections, I like some articles more than others. The books do a great job of capturing the sense of joy and adventure the Perl community is so well-known for. Instead of reviewing the books separately, I'm bundling them together; it seems like the right thing to do.

Perl & Computer Science is the larger of the two books, filling 710 pages and and containing 71 chapters in eight sections. "Perfect Programming", by Nathan Torkington, "Memoization", by Mark Jason Dominus, and "Using Other Languages from Perl" , by Brian Ingerson, stood out to me as exceptionally good reads. Even with the emphasis being on weightier topics, this was still a fun book to read.

Games, Diversions & Perl Culture weighs in at 538 pages and 48 chapters. It includes some wonderful articles, such as "Wherefore Art Thou", by Larry Wall, and "Just Another Perl Haiku", by Damian Conway. Although this is the more lighthearted of the two books, it is no lightweight.

Most of the articles made me want to sit down and write some code; the best ones helped me write code better. Whether you're a long time Perl hacker or just getting your feet wet, these books would be a welcome addition to your bookshelf. I'm giving these two titles nine stars each.

Essential CVS

Jennifer Vesperman

O'Reilly, 2003

ISBN: 0-596-00459-1

Jennifer has put together a solid book on CVS. Its 307 pages and 11 chapters are broken into four sections. The first three sections cover an introduction to CVS, using CVS and administering CVS, respectively. The fourth is a reference section, which covers command-line options, commands and a variety of shorter topics. Additionally, two appendices cover a variety of CVS clients, GUI and otherwise, and administration tools.

The book is typeset and laid out well, as you'd expect from an O'Reilly title. Most of the time, the examples and diagrams are clear and add to the text rather than bulking it up, but I could have done without screenshots of multiple GUI package installers. The book makes easy reading while providing enough depth to be useful.

This is a good book on CVS and certainly a nice addition to most developer's bookshelves. If you already own Karl Fogel's Open Source Development with CVS or are a long-term CVS user, you probably won't get a lot of value out of it, however. I give this book seven stars; it's a solid value, but could be replaced with another title.

The Linux Development Platform

Rafeeq Ur Rehman and Christopher Paul

Prentice Hall, 2003

ISBN: 0-13-009115-4

I really wanted to like this book, but there simply are too many problems with it. The typesetting, poor organization and poor copyediting combine to make this a bad choice for someone looking for a good introduction to Linux.

The authors repeat themselves several times in what looks like cut-n-paste blobs of text. Several times they focused on out-of-date (at the time of publication) releases of software. Their treatment of GCC especially highlights these issues.

I can't really recommend this book to anyone and give it four stars. Given this initial bad impression, I was concerned about the Bruce Perens Open Source series of which this book is a part. I have since had the chance to look over some additional books from the series and am feeling better about it. I'll be reviewing more of them soon.

Finally, I also picked up a copy of Practical mod_perl. As a technical reviewer of this work, I can't really write a review of it, but I am really happy with the way it turned out. I hope you'll take a look at it if you have any interest in the mod_perl environment. Thanks, Eric and Stas, for a great resource.

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