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Perls of Wisdom

by marvell (Pilgrim)
on Apr 14, 2005 at 19:48 UTC ( #447942=bookreview: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??
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Review Synopsis: A disappointing collection of outdated articles.

For anyone who has read The Perl Journal or any of the collected publications, you might, as I did, be mistaken to assume this is a similar text. It's not. Yes, it is the case that each of the articles have come from a column or magazine, but they lack the quality of TPJ and the organisation or other volumes.

The books starts with a quick preface, and no forward. This gives you no real idea about what's to come, who the book is for and how to use it, though most of us know how to use books these days.

The user level of this book is advertised as Intermediate-Advanced, but it's not. This becomes apparent very quickly in the first chapter, entitled Advanced Perl Tutorials. Some of it is old, back as far as 1995. It's pretty basic stuff and after the Context article, we get onto what becomes quite an unfortunate theme of the book.

Each article is verbatim from the magazine and it prepended by a few words from Randal. These often go a long the lines of "this came out before some module I wrote" or "I would have done it differently". This is a shame and I wonder why it was that the articles were not used as a basis for the book and updated to use newer modules and improved in ways admitted.

There's quite a lot of Finding Files type examples which wear a bit thin, but the Object stuff is great, although not enough and I'd be inclined to bye his other book, should that be what you want to read about.

Chapters on Text Processing are dull, unless you've not done much of it, HTML and XML should have been using newer modules.

Then starts my least favourite part of the book. Many, if not most, of the following articles, especially at the end of the book consists of an explanation of a huge listing of code. It's dull, most of the code is dull and there are some neat tricks which could have been summarised. I must have missed some, since I could not be bothered reading through all the dull bits. Needle in a haystack territory.

The Webmaster's Toolkit illustrates very well that these articles should stay in the context of a magazine. Individually, and with other things to read, you would have a go, if they were relevant, but as it happens, they're probably not. In this way, they form a collection of huge listings about things that might be useful to some people some times. They probably belong in a webmaster's toolkit book, with lots and lots more, prepended by some specific web oriented techniques.

At the end of it all, the index is pants. I tried to find something interesting to show someone and ended up searching the web for it instead, since all of these articles are there somewhere.

In summary, it's not Intermediate-Advanced, it's not full of things to learn, it's quite a dull read and you'd be better off reading the articles in magazines and spending your money on other books. This is a real shame because Randal Schwartz is otherwise, an excellent author.

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Re: Perls of Wisdom
by merlyn (Sage) on Apr 14, 2005 at 20:28 UTC
    As I said before:
    I had very little to do with the book, mostly because I had already written all the text over the years. I did help nudge the selection process a bit and write a sidebar for some of the columns to bring the subjects up to date or give a bit of "behind the scenes" for the writing.

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker
    Be sure to read my standard disclaimer if this is a reply.

Re: Perls of Wisdom
by chas (Priest) on Apr 15, 2005 at 21:52 UTC
    I bought the book recently and read it over a few days, and enjoyed it. Some things (especially in the Webmaster's Toolkit section) I skimmed rather quickly but I observed bits of code and/or techniques that I mentally noted with the idea that I might look them up in the future when I was doing something related. Even in a fairly simple article like "Finding Old Things" I found several things that were illuminating. For example, if I had attempted something similar myelf, I might not have thought about the problem of symlinks pointing to directories above the current one (until my code broke and I was forced to.)
    Generally, I enjoy reading well written code, and for me the read was quite pleasurable. I am glad to have the book. It may not be one that I frequently refer to, but it provided me with the chance to read a bunch of interesting articles that I wouldn't have otherwise.

      Do you think you would need more than one page to summarise your learning from the book?

      You could have always read any of the articles online, where you would have also had more choice.

      Steve Marvell

        "Do you think you would need more than one page to summarise your learning from the book?"
        Probably, although I haven't actually done that. Even if it were only one page, I think that would make it worthwhile to me.
        "You could have always read any of the articles online, where you would have also had more choice."
        I guess so, but reading online tends to give me a headache, and I like to read in bed which I can't do easily with my machine (and printing out articles tends to be more expensive for me than buying a book.)
        I wasn't really attempting to debate the OP's views; I had enjoyed reading the book and thought another opinion might be of interest.
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