TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Dec 97 Bookshelf

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Programmer's Bookshelf

A Brief Look at Two Books About Perl:
"Learning Perl" and "Perl 5 for Dummies"

by Paul A. Collins, One Click Systems

Okay, Perl may not be the first language that comes to mind when you think of Macintosh software development. Yet its powerful text-processing abilities and no-nonsense syntax make Perl a very useful language to know. It supports OOP, is handy for a one-time app to convert a file, is "write-once, run-almost-anywhere" today, and can be indispensable for web server CGIs on any platform.

Fortunately, there is an excellent Macintosh implementation of Perl 5, MacPerl, ported by Matthias Neeracher (Perl was created by Larry Wall). It even includes a standard file dialog module for your document handling convenience. Beyond running Perl apps on a Mac, it makes a good development platform for creating CGIs and other apps intended to run on, say, a Unix-based web site. MacPerl even has some support for AppleScript and XCMDs.

To get you started, two good Perl tutorial books are Learning Perl by Randal L. Schwartz and Tom Christiansen and -- no kidding -- Perl 5 for Dummies by Paul E. Hoffman.

Learning Perl (a.k.a. The Llama Book) contains the best chapter-length introduction to a language I've ever seen. Within 30 pages I felt I knew just what the language was about and 90% of what I needed to write a dozen different apps. It starts with a one-line "Hello World" app, then builds it up little-by-little into a 80-line login-and-guess-the-secret-word database system, introducing the major concepts of Perl by example. The writing style is concise but complete. In 269 pages they cover language structure and syntax, I/O, regular expressions, files and directories, databases, and text formats. The second edition adds a chapter on CGI programming. Many references are made to Unix functions and conventions, but they are clear enough to be understood without knowing Unix.

Programming Perl, available from the same publisher, is more advanced, comprehensive -- a language reference -- and one huge book. It is very highly regarded, but I haven't needed it for my CGI projects.

Perl 5 for Dummies is surprisingly intelligent. The "programming-for-non-programmers" parts are easy to skip over, and Hoffman clearly documents detailed aspects of the language without being too cute. The introduction to regular expressions (probably the most complex, bewildering, yet powerful part of Perl) is understandable after a couple of readings -- high praise for any description of this arcane syntax.

Hoffman covers MacPerl installation, advantages, and differences from other Perls -- and he writes like a Mac user. Mac topics include "MacPerl: The Mac Interface You Expect," "Opening files is more fun on the Mac," and "Controlling a Mac with MacPerl" (covering Mac-specific file and other functions). "Ten Really Short, Really Useful Perl Programs" contains some gems. "The Great Perl Reference" almost lives up to its name. The alphabetical function list is fine, but the list by chapter should have specified categories and page numbers. Don't miss his "Ten Reasons Why Perl is Better Than Java."

Perl 5 for Dummies is 381 pages and includes a CD ROM containing MacPerl v5.10r2 (as well as Unix and Win32 versions), plus the CPAN script library (as of December '96). CPAN is a huge FTP library of Perl modules and objects from around the world.

There are many aspects of Perl these introductory books don't cover, but by the time you've mastered either or both of them you can rely on Perl's extensive on-line documentation. This is available in "POD" (Plain Old Documentation) format on the Perl 5 for Dummies CD and other formats are available by FTP (including html). Unfortunately, Shuck, the POD reader bundled with MacPerl, crashed several times under Mac OS 8. Mac OS 8 users will have to download the documentation in another format.

URLs

MacPerl is available on many CPAN FTP sites. For a list, see the MacPerl Homepage http://err.ethz.ch/~neeri/macintosh/perl.html or the CPAN/ports directory http://language.perl.com/CPAN/ports/. Documentation in HTML and other formats can be downloaded from http://language.perl.com/info/documentation.html.

Books

  • Learning Perl, Second Edition by Randal L. Schwartz and Tom Christiansen, July 1997, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., ISBN: 1-56592-284-0.
  • Perl 5 For Dummies by Paul E. Hoffman, 1997, IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., ISBN: 0-7645-0044-9.

Lyn Dupre's "BUGS in Writing"

by Michael Rutman, independant consultant

Not that long ago, my writing was awful. No matter how hard I struggled, my memos and internal documents were difficult to read. I took a rhetoric course in college, and I have read the rhetoric manuals, and other guides on style, but they never helped. I've had documentation people try to work with me, but they could never explain what I was doing wrong. Fortunately, I was paid to write code, not memos, so nothing was said. Then I read Lyn Dupre's book, and in two weeks, my writing was vastly improved. The current editor of MacTech, who worked with me before I read Bugs in Writing, was shocked that my writing could improve that much in only 2 weeks.

Most books on prose seem to be authored by people who have never written a bad sentence in their life. While it is great that they know their topic, it doesn't work for me. I always feel out of my depth, and their examples never click in my mind. Lyn Dupre, on the other hand, feels that computer people need their lessons in a different way. Importantly is an adverb, and you should use it as such, to modify a verb. It means to take a given action in an important manner.

In her book, she formats each lesson in 1 to 5 pages. Lessons can be read in any order, and all of them are short enough that leaving the book in the bathroom works well. Each lesson includes good and bad examples. By showing a bad example next to a good example, readers can see exactly what is meant.

For example, in lesson 101, the book discusses the word importantly:

Many people write importantly (an activity modifier, or an adverb) when they mean important (an object modifier, or an adjective). You should tune your ear to catch this error, because a portion of your audience will find the mistake intensely annoying.

BAD: Importantly, the algorithm cannot handle situations with a large state space.

GOOD: Sarah walked importantly in her cheetah bathing suit. Important is the word that you should use in all other cases.

BAD: Importantly, Max forgot to shut the door when he left the house, resulting in an influx of racoons.

GOOD: Most important, remember to provide fresh food and water, and much petting, for your cats.

This lesson actually has 15 examples. In addition, there are 3 footnotes mentioning other points to help readers understand what makes one word good and another bad. Some of her examples are technically correct, but ugly. Whenever she uses an ugly example, she explains why it is ugly and how to avoid ugly but technically correct phrases.

My favorite parts of this book are the examples. Many examples involve computers, but they also involve her pets and friends. While I am sure they are contrived, they at least sound like sentences I would write.

Other lessons include correct use of the words "since," "also," "either" and "both," "only," and many others. She also talks about adverbs and adjectives, full and incomplete infinitives, nonarriving agents, and just about any other topic you can think of. Not all of the lessons are on words, some are on overall style. For example, she talks about how to write proposals, abstracts, dissertations, and also deals with writers' block. If there is any failing of the book, it is the lack of an index.

For anyone that wants to be understood when they write, I recommend you go out and get this book today.

  • BUGS in Writing, by Lyn Dupre, 1995, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, ISBN: 0-201-60019-6.

Paul A. Collins, paul@oneclick.com, owner of One Click Systems, would like to finish up the Perl-based sales-and-download section of his web site and get back to enhancing his commercial email gateway, ClickMail® http://www.oneclick.com/.

Michael Rutman, moose@manicmoose.com, is a software developer with experience developing for several platforms, including Macintosh, NeXTSTEP, Newton, Pilot, and Windows NT. While working at Software Ventures, he lead the development of Snatcher and MicroPhone Pro for NeXTSTEP. He also worked on the MicroPhone Pro for Macintosh product line. He now works as an independant consultant on a variety of projects including encryption, compilers, web based add-rotation software, and ship stevedoring.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Viber 11.9.1 - Send messages and make fr...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device, so... Read more
Vallum 3.3.2 - $15.00
Vallum is a little tool that helps you monitor and block apps connections and throttle apps bandwidth. It is able to intercept connections at the application layer, and hold them while you decide... Read more
Microsoft OneNote 16.31 - Free digital n...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Apple Pages 8.2.1 - Apple's word pr...
Apple Pages is a powerful word processor that gives you everything you need to create documents that look beautiful. And read beautifully. It lets you work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices, and... Read more
Numbers 6.2.1 - Apple's spreadsheet...
With Apple Numbers, sophisticated spreadsheets are just the start. The whole sheet is your canvas. Just add dramatic interactive charts, tables, and images that paint a revealing picture of your data... Read more
f.lux 39.9873 - Adjusts the color of you...
f.lux makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Ever notice how people texting at night have that eerie blue glow? Or wake... Read more
Deeper 2.5.0 - Enable hidden features in...
Deeper is a personalization utility for macOS which allows you to enable and disable the hidden functions of the Finder, Dock, QuickTime, Safari, iTunes, login window, Spotlight, and many of Apple's... Read more
NTFS 15.5.71 - Provides full read and wr...
NTFS breaks down the barriers between Windows and macOS. Paragon NTFS effectively solves the communication problems between the Mac system and NTFS. Write, edit, copy, move, delete files on NTFS... Read more
MTR 5.3.0.0 - The Mac's oldest and...
MTR (was MacTheRipper)--the Mac's oldest and smartest DVD-backup app. MTR - the complete toolbox, not a one-trick, point-and-click extractor. MTR is intended for making fair-use, backup copies of... Read more
Keynote 9.2.1 - Apple's presentatio...
Easily create gorgeous presentations with the all-new Keynote, featuring powerful yet easy-to-use tools and dazzling effects that will make you a very hard act to follow. The Theme Chooser lets you... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Black Desert Mobile gets an official rel...
Pearl Abyss has just announced that its highly-anticipated MMO, Black Desert Mobile, will launch globally for iOS and Android on December 11th. [Read more] | Read more »
Another Eden receives new a episode, cha...
Another Eden, WFS' popular RPG, has received another update that brings new story content to the game alongside a few new heroes to discover. [Read more] | Read more »
Overdox guide - Tips and tricks for begi...
Overdox is a clever battle royale that changes things up by adding MOBA mechanics and melee combat to the mix. This new hybrid game can be quite a bit to take in at first, so we’ve put together a list of tips to help you get a leg up on the... | Read more »
Roterra Extreme - Great Escape is a pers...
Roterra Extreme – Great Escape has been described by developers Dig-It Games as a mini-sequel to their acclaimed title Roterra: Flip the Fairytale. It continues that game's tradition of messing with which way is up, tasking you with solving... | Read more »
Hearthstone: Battlegrounds open beta lau...
Remember earlier this year when auto battlers were the latest hotness? We had Auto Chess, DOTA Underlords, Chess Rush, and more all gunning for our attention. They all had their own reasons to play, but, at least from where I'm standing, most... | Read more »
The House of Da Vinci 2 gets a new gamep...
The House of Da Vinci launched all the way back in 2017. Now, developer Blue Brain Games is gearing up to deliver a second dose of The Room-inspired puzzling. Some fresh details have now emerged, alongside the game's first official trailer. [Read... | Read more »
Shoot 'em up action awaits in Battl...
BattleBrew Productions has just introduced another entry into its award winning, barrelpunk inspired, BattleSky Brigade series. Whilst its previous title BattleSky Brigade TapTap provided fans with idle town building gameplay, this time the... | Read more »
Arcade classic R-Type Dimensions EX blas...
If you're a long time fan of shmups and have been looking for something to play lately, Tozai Games may have just released an ideal game for you on iOS. R-Type Dimensions EX brings the first R-Type and its sequel to iOS devices. [Read more] | Read more »
Intense VR first-person shooter Colonicl...
Our latest VR obsession is Colonicle, an intense VR FPS, recently released on Oculus and Google Play, courtesy of From Fake Eyes and Goboogie Games. It's a pulse-pounding multiplayer shooter which should appeal to genre fanatics and newcomers alike... | Read more »
PUBG Mobile's incoming update bring...
PUGB Mobile's newest Royale Pass season they're calling Fury of the Wasteland arrives tomorrow and with it comes a fair chunk of new content to the game. We'll be seeing a new map, weapon and even a companion system. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Weekend Sale: Apple AirPods Pro for $234.98 a...
Abt Electronics has Apple’s new AirPods Pro in stock and on sale today for $234.98 including free shipping and free returns. Their price is $15 off Apple’s MSRP for these AirPods and tie Amazon... Read more
New 2019 16″ MacBook Pros on sale for $100 of...
Apple Authorized Reseller Adorama has new 2019 16″ MacBook Pros on sale today for $100 off Apple’s MSRP, each including free shipping. In addition, Adorama charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents... Read more
Apple Watch Series 3 GPS models on sale for l...
Amazon has Apple Watch Series 3 GPS models on sale starting at only $179. There prices are the lowest we’ve ever seen for these models from any Apple reseller. Choose Amazon as the seller rather than... Read more
iOS Bug In Facebook News Feed Lets Device Ca...
NEWS: 11.15.19- Users of the Facebook social media platform’s mobile app running on iOS devices won’t, like, this piece of news one bit in where a bug in the News Feed gave access to the camera... Read more
16″ MacBook Pros on sale! Preorder at Amazon...
Apple’s new 16″ MacBook Pros were only introduced yesterday, but Amazon is already offering a $100 discount on preorders. Prices for the base 6-Core 16″ MacBook Pros start at $2299: – 2019 16″ 2.6GHz... Read more
Use our exclusive MacBook Price Trackers to f...
Our Apple award-winning MacBook price trackers are the best place to look for the best sales & lowest prices on new and clearance MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros–including Apple’s new 16″ MacBook... Read more
New November Verizon iPhone deal: Get an iPho...
Verizon has the 64GB iPhone Xr on sale for 50% off for a limited time, plus they will include a free $200 prepaid MasterCard and a free Amazon Echo Dot. That reduces their price for the 64GB iPhone... Read more
Apple cuts prices on clearance, refurbished 2...
Apple has clearance 2018 15″ 6-Core Touch Bar MacBook Pros, Certified Refurbished, now available starting at only $1829. Each model features a new outer case, shipping is free, and an Apple 1-year... Read more
Up to $450 price drop on clearance 15″ MacBoo...
B&H Photo has dropped prices Apple’s 2019 15″ 6-Core and 8-Core MacBook Pros by $400-$450 off original MSRP, starting at $1999, with free overnight shipping available to many addresses in the US... Read more
Here’s how to save $200 on Apple’s new 16″ Ma...
Apple has released details of their Education discount associated with the new 2019 16″ 6-Core and 8-Core MacBook Pros. Take $200 off the price of the new 8-Core model (now $2599) and $200 off the 16... Read more

Jobs Board

Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**746887BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 001512-Ankeny-Store **Job Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**746836BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Store NUmber or Department:** 000341-Scranton-Store **Job Description:** **What Read more
QA Manager, *Apple* - CBS Corporation (Unit...
# QA Manager, Apple **REF#:** 35331 **CBS BUSINESS UNIT:** CBS Interactive **JOB TYPE:** Full-Time Staff **JOB SCHEDULE:** **JOB LOCATION:** Burbank, CA **ABOUT Read more
*Apple* Mobility Pro - Best Buy (United Stat...
**744315BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 000662-Auburn AL-Store **Job Description:** At Best Read more
Nurse Practitioner - Field Based (San Bernard...
Nurse Practitioner - Field Based (San Bernardino, CA, Apple Valley, Hesperia) **Location:** **United States** **New** **Requisition #:** PS30312 **Post Date:** 4 Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.