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Perl Programming Books Media The Media Book Reviews

Best of The Perl Journal 123

honestpuck writes "Computer magazines come and go at an unrelenting pace. The Perl Journal was one of the better ones before Jon Orwant, the editor and publisher, passed it to CMP. It is therefore pleasing to find he has taken all the articles published over the five year period, removed the chaff and published the rest in three volumes." Read on for honestpuck's lowdown on what you can expect in this set.
Computer Science & Perl Programming
author Jon Orwant (Editor)
pages 710
publisher O'Reilly and Associates
rating 8 (7 and 6 for other vols) - Well written, some flaws
reviewer Tony Williams
ISBN 0596003102 (0596003110 and 0596003129 for other vols)
summary Well edited compendium of magazine articles on Perl

All three volumes reveal a good hand at choosing articles and editing the contributions; after spending three years as a magazine editor I know that not all the contributors could have written this well. The writing is consistently good, tight, well edited and readable.

Across them all you will find articles by almost every major contributor to Perl and a great many of the people who have contributed major modules to CPAN. It's good to feel that perhaps a few cents from your book purchase is flowing into each of these pockets and repaying their work.

Viewing the 3 books as a whole my one real concern is that perhaps a little tighter restrictions on the article choice may have been better -- some of the articles are really only of historical interest, discussing methods overtaken by further development in Perl or the modules available. You may also find only one or two of the volumes contain articles of particular interest to you, I discovered that my favourites were spread across all three and bemoaned the semi-arbitrary division of topics as I only closely read about two books worth from the three volumes -- of course your milage may vary.

The first and largest volume, Computer Science & Perl Programming, is the one volume where I read and enjoyed almost every one of the seventy articles (by 41 different authors) included. The topics covered vary widely, from an essential trilogy of articles about regular expressions by Jeffrey Friedl to some esoteric discussion of Perl internals by Chip Salzenburg.

The second volume, Web, Graphics and Perl/Tk, contains 39 articles, around half of which are devoted to topics such as mod_perl, spidering, and other web stuff. Here is where you can find yourself reading an article about topics now made redundant by changes to Perl and its modules. The graphics section is an eclectic mix while the Perl/Tk section adds up to a fairly good tutorial on the topic.

The third volume, Games, Diversions and Perl Culture, collects 47 articles on a broad range of topics: 15 of them are about various sorts of language processing in Perl that I found extremely interesting. It also includes the Obfuscated Perl Contests, the Poetry Contest and a bunch of other "silliness." An article on how the magazine's covers were photographed seemed particularly pointless.

I'd recommend the first volume for almost anyone interested in Perl. The second might be worth purchasing if you wanted the web coverage. The third is worth it if you want the coverage of language processing or have an interest in the culture that surrounds Perl. Check the O'Reilly pages for one, two and three to see the tables of contents, index, grab the code examples and download a sample chapter (the third volume has two example chapters.) I've given the first volume an 8 but the other two get 7 and 6 respectively as the article choices make them less useful, though the quality of writing and editing is as good.

I think all three would be a marvelous addition to any decent tech library - they seem perfect for a library as they have all the benefits of a five year collection of TPJ without the problems of magazine storage, cataloging and conservation. For everyone else, grab the first one and then decide based on the content for the other two.

You can purchase Best of the Perl Journal (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3) from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Best of The Perl Journal

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  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:27PM (#8091960)
    Perl: Great thing to write, but people aren't sufficently motivated to read it unless they're trying to find something to use against you :|

    Oh, enough of that already. The bottom line is that a programming language you are unfamiliar with looks like gobbledygook. I suppose you think Chinese and Russian are gobbledygook, too.
  • Re:Just a question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mekkab ( 133181 ) * on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:36PM (#8092072) Homepage Journal
    YES. While learning perl hands on, I found a bunch of TPJs to be invaluable resources. Heck, I've still got a bunch kicking around (one or two that were pre-glossy covered), thats how useful they are. If I ever need to Perl again, I've got them as references.

    I'd skip volume 3 (sounds kinda silly) unless you are a completist. Volume 2 sounds like the most useful and valuable- sure the article on Regular Expressions was GOOD, (I think I only read the first one) and understanding Perl internals would be a bonus, but the code examples of the web stuff is the best bet for my money.

    So get (or borrow) Volume 2, if you like, get Volume 1, and if you become a raving perl maniac, have someone get you Vol 3 for a birthday present.
  • by Daytona955i ( 448665 ) <> on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:02PM (#8092359)
    Haven't looked at much perl code have you? Sure perl is known for it's obfuscated code contests and it's Haiku poetry []. But I think this misconception arises from it's flexibility. I think it also comes from regular expressions which can get quite cryptic quite fast, especially if you don't know what it means.

    However, as someone who just started learning perl, I think it's a great language. Learn a little about the language and then say it's hard to read. Heck, I could put all my c code on one line, does that mean it's a hard to read language?
  • Re:Just a question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mekkab ( 133181 ) * on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:06PM (#8092406) Homepage Journal
    Good luck.
    The Camel Book is a great resource, too.

    The secret to perl:
    In other programming languages, when the compiler can't figure out what you are doing, it cries and gives you a cryptic error message.

    In Perl, the compiler narrows it down to a few choices, flips a coin, and goes with one interpretation. Never mind that it wasn't what you intended! Frequent use of debug statements and USE STRICT pragma and USE WARNINGS pragma should help your code.
  • Re:Best of Perl? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sisukapalli1 ( 471175 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @06:01PM (#8093079)
    Some junior scripters and sysadmins that use perl probably haven't spent 1/100th time on "learning perl" as they would have spent on "learning C".

    Consequently, people get stuck with a very limited set of tools in the language, and (many are stuck in the perl4 syntax I believe), and write code accordingly. To a newcomer that reads such code, it becomes a nightmare.

    I found Visual Basic code written by someone very complicated. Turns out that the code was written in a very adhoc manner. Not being familiar with Visual Basic, I could have easily concluded VB is hard to read. Being mature :), I spent the time on asking for help and later easily understood the code.


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