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David Cross "davorg" (London, UK)

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Mod_Perl Developers Cookbook (Developer's Library)
Mod_Perl Developers Cookbook (Developer's Library)
by Geoffrey Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: 24.74

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book mod_perl programmers have been waiting for, 31 Dec 2002
Over the last few years mod_perl has become a serious force in web development. If you're building a web site to run on an Apache server and you want to write the code in Perl, then you're going to want to install mod_perl on your server too as it's the best way to avoid many of the performance issues with traditional CGI. It's taken a while for publishers to wake up to the fact, however, and there haven't been many books in the shops. It looks like this will be the year that this changes. A number of mod_perl books are about to be published and this is the first.
This book uses the popular "cookbook" approach, where the content is broken down into short "recipes" each of which addresses a specific problem. There are almost two hundred of these recipes in the book arranged into chapters which discuss particular areas of mod_perl development. In my opinion the cookbook approach works much better in some chapters than in others.
It's the start of the book where the cookbook approach seems most forced. In chapter 1 problems like "You want to compile and build mod_perl from source on a Unix platform" provide slightly awkward introductions to explainations about obtaining and installing mod_perl on various platforms (kudos to the authors for being up-to-date enough to include OS X in list list). All the information you want is there however, so by the end of the chapter you'll have mod_perl up and running.
Chapter 2 looks at configuration options. It tell you how to get your CGI programs running under mod_perl using the Apache::Registry module which simulates a standard CGI environment so that your CGI programs can run almost unchanged. This will give you an immediate performance increase as you no longer have the performance hit of starting up a Perl interpreter each time one of your CGI programs is run. This chapter also addresses issues like caching database connections and using mod_perl as a proxy server.
We then get to part II of the book. In this section we look at the mod_perl API which gives us to the full functionality of Apache. This allows us to write Perl code which is executed at any time during any of the stages of Apache's processing.
Chapter 3 introduces the Apache request object which is at the heart of the API and discusses various ways to get useful information both out of and back into the object. Chapter 4 serves a similar purpose for the Apache server object which contains information about the web server and its configuration.
In chapter 5 the authors look at Uniform Resource Indentifiers (URIs) and discuss many methods for processing them. Chapter 6 moves from the logical world of URIs to the physical world of files. This chapter starts by explaining the Apache::File module before looking at many ways to handle files in mod_perl.
The previous few chapters have built up a useful toolkit of techniques to use in a mod_perl environment, in chapters 7 and 8 we start to pull those techniques together and look in more detail at creating handlers - which are the building blocks of mod_perl applications. Chapter 7 deal with the creation of handlers and chapter 8 looks at how you can interact with them to build a complete application.
Chapter 9 is one of the most useful chapters in the book as it deals with benchmarking and tuning mod_perl applications. It serves as a useful guide to a number of techniques for squeezing the last drops of performance out of your web site. Chapter 10 is a useful introduction to using Object Oriented Perl to create your handlers. Whilst the information is all good, this is, unfortunately, another chapter where the cookbook format seems a little strained.
Part III of the book goes into great detail about the Apache lifecycle. Each chapter looks at a small number of Apache's processing stages and suggests ways that handlers can be used during that stage. This is the widest ranging part of the book and it's full of example code that really demonstrates the power of the Apache API. I'll just mention one particular chapter in this section. Chapter 15 talks about the content generation phrase. This is the phase that creates the actual content that goes back to the user's browser and, as such, is the most important phase of the whole transaction. I was particularly pleased to see that the authors took up most of this chapter looking at methods that separate the actual data from the presentation. They have at recipes that look at all of the commonly used Perl templating systems and a few more recipes cover the generation of output from XML.
Finally, two appendices give a brief reference to mod_perl hooks, build flags and constants and a third gives a good selection of pointers to further resources.
This is the book that mod_perl programmers have been waiting for. The three authors are all well-known experts in the field and it's great that they have shared their knowledge through this book. If you write mod_perl applications, then you really should read this book.

Red Hat Linux 8 Bible
Red Hat Linux 8 Bible
by Christopher Negus
Edition: Paperback

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wide but shallow overview of Red Hat Linux, 31 Dec 2002
This review is from: Red Hat Linux 8 Bible (Paperback)
I've never been much of a fan of large computer books and, to be honest, this one hasn't done much to change my opinion. These large books often seem a little confused about who their target audience. They often cover everything from very basic concepts through to very complex ones and I don't really believe that anyone really needs that breadth of coverage. Or, at least, not all at the same time and from the same book.
This book is a great example of that. It comes complete with three CDs containing Red Hat Linux (which, I assume, are the same as or very similar to the three that come with Red Hat's own shrink-wrapped product) and it therefore starts with installing Red Hat Linux. However, some thousand or so pages later, the same book is talking about some really quite advanced systems administration tasks. I'm really not sure that the same audience will need both of those ends of the spectrum.
Let's take a look at the contents in more detail.
Chapter 1 gives a useful review of Red Hat Linux. It pretty much assumes that the reader knows nothing about Linux and goes into some detail about what Linux is and where it comes from. It even takes time out at one point to explain what an operating system is. The book does score a few early points for knowing the difference bwtween "hackers" and "crackers" and using the terms correctly. This chapter ends with a more detailed look at Red Hat Linux and some of the changes that were introduced with version 8.0. Chapter 2 covers the installation of Red Hat Linux. It does a good job of explaining this in a way that would be clear to someone with no previous knowledge of how to do this.
Chapter 3 is the start of the second major section of the book which introduces the day-to-day use of Red Hat Linux. In chapter 3 we look at logging into the system and get an introduction to using Unix from the command line. Chapter 4 goes into a similar level of detail on using the two GUI environments - Gnome and KDE. For a beginner, it may have made more sense to have these chapters the other way round as most Red Hat installations will boot straight into a GUI environment and one of Red Hat's changes for version 8.0 was to make it far harder to work out how to get a shell window open.
Chapter 5 starts to look at at Linux applications. It begins with a table of common Windows applications and their Linux counterparts. It then goes on to discuss finding, downloading and installing new applications where, to my mind, it would have been more sensible to first look at using some of the pre-installed applications. The chapter also includes details on using the Red Hat Packager Manager (rpm) and running Windows applications using WINE.
Chapters 6 to 9 each look at a separate application area and present a very brief overview of the applications available in that area. Chapter 6 is about producing documents, chapter 7 about games, chapter 8 about multimedia and chapter 9 about the Internet. In all of these chapters the overviews are necessarily very short and it's hard to see how anyone could get much useful work done after reading them. It would be better if the chapters contained references to further reading, but they don't even mention the man pages.
Chapter 10 starts the next section of the book which is about system administration. It contains a useful overview of a number of the most common adminstrative tasks like mounting disk drives, monitoring system usage or setting the date and time. Chapter 11 is about administering users. Chapter 12 looks at automating system tasks. It includes an introduction to shell scripting and a useful description of the start-up and shutdown cycle. Chapter 13 covers backing up and restoring files. Chapter 14 is possibly the most useful chapter in the book for the complete Linux beginner as it contains an overview of security issues. This is particularly important with the increase in the number of people who leave their computers permanently attached to their broadband connections.
The forth and final section looks at networking with chapters on setting up a LAN, a print server, a file server, a mail server and many other shared resources. This section also includes a chapter on getting your network connected to the internet. As with much of the rest of the book, space constraints prevent these chapters from going into a great amount of depth and there are very few references to other material.
So what did I think overall? Well, as I said above, it's too big. But on the other hand it's too small. It's too big in that it covers too large a range of topics that very few people are likely to be interested in all of it. It's too small in that it just doesn't have the space to go into great depth about most of the topics is covers. I think that it would be far more useful if was three books - "Red Hat 8 Linux Users Bible", "Red Hat 8 Linux Admin Bible" and "Red Hat 8 Networking Bible". Each of them could be smaller than this volume, but still cover the material in more detail.
Having said that, the material all seems accurate. The few times I noticed something that I thought was wrong, on checking I found that I was mistaken. So if want you really want is a broad (but in places shallow) overview of Red Hat Linux then this could well be the book for you.
And it's also cheaper than the "official" Red Hat Linux products

Web Development with Apache and Perl: How to Build Powerful Web Sites with Open Source Tools
Web Development with Apache and Perl: How to Build Powerful Web Sites with Open Source Tools
by Peterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 34.21

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction To Web Development, 5 July 2002
Too many people are being convinced (by the marketing departments of certain large companies) that the best way to build interactive web sites is to use some proprietary architecture.
This book proves that this just isn't the case. The best way to build sites is using Open Source tools like Apache and Perl. The book opens with one of the best arguments in favour of Open Source software that I've read for some time. It then goes on to look in more detail at a number of techniques, before putting them all together in a well thought out set of case studies.

Perl and CGI for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide (Visual QuickStart Guides)
Perl and CGI for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide (Visual QuickStart Guides)
by Elizabeth Castro
Edition: Paperback

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best of a Bad Bunch, 4 April 2002
Just about any book that claims to teach both Perl and CGI programming to complete beginners does it very badly. I don't know why that it, but this genre seems to attract authors who don't know what they're talking about. Sure they explain things in very a very easy to understand manner - but the information they pass on is usually incomplete.
The first edition of this book was very much in that camp. The Perl you learnt from it was terrible. The second edition is much better. It now includes a number of acknowledged Perl "best practices" that other books ignore, including "use strict", "-wT" and "".
My problem is that whilst it uses these features, I don't think it really explains _why_ you should use them. It all sounds a bit too close to "cargo-cult" programming to me (where you program simply by copying existing code, you don't make any effort to understand what's going on).
If you want a simple introduction to programming in Perl to write CGI programs then this book is head and shoulders above any of its competitors. However, if you want to understand more about Perl and CGI then you've be better off reading "Elements of Programming with Perl" following by "CGI Programming with Perl".

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