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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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  • Just a question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrsPReDiToR ( 736605 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:22PM (#8091902)
    Are they in your opinion worth reading if you haven't learnt perl yet? Its on my list to learn this year
  • Damn CMP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Roadmaster ( 96317 ) <roadmr AT tomechangosubanana DOT com> on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:23PM (#8091909) Homepage Journal
    I'll never forgive CMP for running Byte Magazine into the ground only 4 months after I subscribed. They robbed me of 8 months' worth of subscription money and they even had the nerve to suggest switching my subscription to Windows Magazine. The horror! at least Byte was more encompassing and had general-interest articles about other platforms and computer science in general, not just Windows blabber and publicity. The thieves.. filthy little thieves... Don't ever let CMP run your magazine.
  • Re:Just a question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:38PM (#8092099)
    Without having read the books you're referring to: probably not. I say that because Perl Journal material is/was pretty esoteric, and you'll spend a lot more time trying to figure out what they heck they're talking about than you will learning sleek, elegant, re-usable, intuitive, versatile, and fast coding methods. Which is what Perl really shines at.

    Further, Perl is a language that rewards exploration. You'll discover 20 wrong ways of doing things, and one day you'll settle into one you like for your own reasons. There's often not a 'best way' in Perl, only 'your way'.

    Not trying to scare you off. TPJ just isn't the best place to start.
  • Re:Best of Perl? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sisukapalli1 ( 471175 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:58PM (#8092322)
    The only reason for Perl's popularity is the elitists who get kicks out of other people not understanding their code.
    Perl encourages people to write very compact, easily readable code in perl. Ofcourse, some familiarity with basic syntax is needed. However, many people write code in perl just like they are writing AWK or C code.

    Just to contrast, have you seen any C++ code generated by Visual Studio? How would that code look to someone not familiar with the environment?

    Here is a cut down example of easy to understand code from the CGI page... well, lameness filter is complaining too much. Anyway, if you do perldoc CGI, you will see how it looks.


1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes