First Monday

Technical Help with the Internet: new books

As the Internet becomes increasingly complicated and differentiated, there is a growing need for documentation, any kind of sensible and readable literature to deal with the day-to-day battles with servers, software, and files. These books provide many advantages in these virtual trials, with tips and common sense mixed with just the right arcane data. One right sentence, one properly phrased hint means hours saved from monitor glare and keyboard frustration. These books prove that there is always help for even the most absurd Net problem, just around the corner of the nearest bookstore's "computer literature" section. - ejv

Paul Albitz and Cricket Liu
2nd edition.
Sebastopol, Calif.: O'Reilly & Associates, 1997.
paper, 418 p., ISBN 1-56592-236-0, $US32.95
O'Reilly & Associates: - "fully qualified domain names" on the Internet, they're used to identify remote machines to contact for service. These names are really for humans to use; computers use numeric addresses like to specify an origin or destination address. DNS is the protocol for mapping an TCP/IP host name to an number and vice versa. BIND is a program that implements the DNS mapping protocol on an Internet server, be it Unix or Windows NT.

In my job I've never been involved in maintaining any of our DNS servers. I thought there wasn't much to it - add some data in the proper but simple format and you're done. This book proved me wrong - there are many opportunities to mis-configure a DNS server and make a network unusable. In the second edition of DNS and BIND you'll be given the background to understand DNS, learn how to correctly configure a server, and be able to diagnose problems when they occur. BIND versions 4.8.3 and the newest version, 4.9.4, are covered and you're told how to obtain and install them.

Whether you're new to DNS and have to take over the maintenance of an existing server, or you're creating one from scratch, this book will help you in your task. - Tim Eisler, Paranet,

Joan Bannan
Intranet Document Management: A Guide for Webmasters and Content Providers.
Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Developers Press, 1997.
paper, 295 p., ISBN 0-201-87379-6, $US29.95
Addison-Wesley Developers Press:

As the Intranet becomes a crucial element in corporations and other organizations, there is a growing need to understand the implications of this medium as a gateway for information. Joan Bannan provides an introduction to the Intranet in this book for those ready to supply "content" in this environment. Eleven chapters and two appendices examine the Intranet issues, from security to electronic mail to databases and very large documents. In spite of your best efforts, an Intranet may lead to a chaotic mix of servers, files, and individuals. The last chapter "Controlling the Chaos," examines the consequences of a successful and organic Intranet, and the kinds of techniques you'll need to restore order. Well organized and well written, this book will be useful to managers, administrators, and others as well as to MIS staff. Intranet Document Management will provide welcome relief to those making the serious transition from isolated and fragile information systems to networked resources accessible to all.- ejv

Jeffrey E. F. Friedl
Mastering Regular Expressions: Powerful Techniques for Perl and Other Tools.
Sebastopol, Calif.: O'Reilly & Associates, 1997.
paper, 342 p., ISBN 1-56592-257-3, $US29.95
O'Reilly & Associates:

This book increased my productivity within the first week that I started reading it. A regular expression is a powerful means of extracting and modifying data and I improved a small reporting program by using techniques I learned in this book. Later, with a larger assignment and with this Mastering Regular Expressions, I was able to write a Perl script to handle the problem in half an hour. The use of a regular expression in the Awk, Tcl, Perl, and Python scripting languages and in the vi and GNU Emacs editor are discussed. Useful pop quizzes are sprinkled throughout, more so in the earlier chapters, to test your understanding. Examples of World Wide Web CGI programming are occasionally provided by showing how to parse HTML. Whether you write scripts in Perl or use the grep command occasionally, this book will help you accomplish your tasks in less time. - Tim Eisler, Paranet,

Greg Helmstetter
Increasing Hits and Selling More on your Web Site.
New York: Wiley, 1997.
paper, 374 p., ISBN 0-471-16944-7, $US24.95

Ready to promote your Web site? What's the best way to attract readers and advertisers to your server? Greg Helmstetter's excellent book is the best place to learn more about the basics of Web promotion and attraction. In three parts, the opening five chapters help you create a Web strategy. What are you trying to sell? How complex do you want your site to be? This portion of the book asks some hard questions that need to be answered by you and your organization. The second part examines Web promotion. What can you do to publicize your server? How do you analyze the traffic? Who will be interested in your logs? The final section of the book treats your business model and the organization of your server. Your work is never done on your site, if you expect your customers to continually revisit your server. For anyone with an interest in taking their Web work to a larger audience, this book provides much practical information and a great deal of food for thought. - ejv

Mark Lutz
Programming Python.
with a CD-ROM.
Sebastopol, Calif.: O'Reilly & Associates, 1996.
paper, 880 p., ISBN 1-56592-197-6, $US44.95
O'Reilly & Associates:

Programming Python opens with a manic, stream-of-consciousness description of the features of the Python programming language. Settling down and becoming more organized, the remainder of the book provides a thorough reference manual and effective users guide to Python. Relatively new, Python can be used to write a variety of applications such as GUIs and CGI scripts. Interfaces to the Sybase and Oracle databases and the mSQL shareware database are included. The CD-ROM is readable on a variety of computers (Mac, Windows, or Unix) and provides both ready-to-use binaries and source code to build an Python interpreter yourself. I used the compact disk on a MS Windows 95 computer and was quickly able to test examples from the book. Combining features of other programming languages like Perl, Tcl, Icon, Smalltalk and Scheme, Python may be an ultimate replacement for any and all of these. Programming Python will certainly convince you. - Tim Eisler, Paranet,

Ray E. Metz and Gail Junion-Metz
Using the World Wide Web and Creating Home Pages: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians.
New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1996.
paper, 269 p., ISBN 1-55570-241-4, $US49.95

cover of book

Focusing upon the Web for libraries and providing patrons with Web access, this book introduces readers to a wide range of basic concepts such as Web browsers; getting an Internet connection; learning about and teaching the Web; and, designing and developing a Web site. Like many Internet introductions, this book covers the basic concepts. Where it distinguishes itself is perhaps in its coverage of the issues the Internet raises for libraries, and its recommendations for leading discussions and teaching the Internet to staff and patrons. In the Web design section, philosophy of design as well as techniques are discussed. In addition to its concisely written and well-organized text, the book includes numerous figures illustrating concepts, a glossary chapter, an appendix filled with samples of Web pages, several bibliographies, and an index. Libraries looking for a single introductory how-to book will be well served by this one. - James Hodson, University of Illinois at Chicago,

Morgan Stern
The NetWare to Internet Connection.
San Francisco: SYBEX, 1996.
paper, 488 p.,ISBN 0-78211-706-6, $US34.99

This book has a very specific audience: the Novell NetWare 3.1x or 4.x network administrator who needs to connect the local network to the Internet. The author assumes some basic familiarity with networks in general and NetWare in particular, but he does not expect the reader to know much, if anything about the Internet, UNIX, TCP/IP, or the World Wide Web.

The work begins with a description of the Internet, including origins, growth, and some of the things one can do on the Internet. Next is a discussion, at times fairly technical, of the TCP/IP protocol suite. Then Stern examines different types of Internet connectivity and service providers. With that general background, the next 300 pages cover such topics as preparing the NetWare network and its workstations for the Internet, setting up a Web server, designing Web pages, FTP servers, security and firewalls, and a chapter tying it all together. Appendices discuss the TCPCON utility, the \ETC directory, Internet standards and RFCs, and HTML formatting. Finally, there is a glossary of terms.

Although this is Stern's first book, he has spent several years as a computer consultant (he is a Novell Master CNE) and technical writer. The book is well done in all respects. It provides solid, understandable explanations of the various issues involved with connecting a LAN to the Internet. A particularly effective mechanism is the authors use of icons to highlight useful notes and warnings. This reviewer has no hesitation in recommending the volume to its intended audience. - Dan Marmion, Western Michigan University, dan.marmion@WMICH.EDU

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