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Scrounged books are not always good.

by Marza (Vicar)
on May 20, 2006 at 21:11 UTC ( #550731=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I have been doing cube cleanup for some people who left. Normally, if a book is left behind, that is a hint to toss it. However, the office manager wants to put them in the library; especially for beginners. She thinks they are good since they are "freebies."

I figured why not post a topic here incase some newbies are wondering about them and possibly save them from wasting time and learning bad habits.

NT Perl in 21 days ISBN 0672310473

Perl Black Book 2nd Edition ISBN 1576104656

Perl 5 Interactive Course: Certified Edition ISBN 1571691138

Keep or toss and why?

Any other titles that should be avoided?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by Zaxo (Archbishop) on May 20, 2006 at 23:03 UTC

    I've never seen that one, but in my experience the Foo in 21 Days books are not fit to keep around. Much wrongness explainable only by the author having just 21 days experience in the subject.

    After Compline,

      So that would be a "get your feet wet but don't take it as gospel?" or avoid it outright.....

        Use as kindling, IMO. The worst computer-related book I have ever had the misfortune to encounter was from the "21 Days" series. It wasn't the Perl in 21 Days book specifically, but it was so horrifically terrible that I feel comfortable condemning that one too without looking at it. We're not just talking here about a book that excels in mediocrity, like the For Dummies books that present things in suboptimal ways, contain mistakes, and leave out important information. The "21 Days" book that I read was MUCH worse than that. It was the "warn others to stay away" kind of bad. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

        Sanity? Oh, yeah, I've got all kinds of sanity. In fact, I've developed whole new kinds of sanity. Why, I've got so much sanity it's driving me crazy.
Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by bradcathey (Prior) on May 21, 2006 at 11:43 UTC

    Ahhhhh, the Black Book.

    That's how I started my Perl journery. As a graphic designer, 5 years ago I expressed to an IT friend that I wanted to learn CGI, not knowing what in the heck I was talking about. He handed me the Black Book and told me I needed to learn Perl. So, I sat down at the computer one Saturday afternoon and started writing my first program.

    I did okay for a couple of years, cranking out what I now know to be really bad--but working--code. Then I stumbled into the the Monastery. And boy, did I ever get a wake up call! Strict, placeholders, CPAN, OO, etc.

    Now I have a book shelf with about 8 O'Reilly books and a few XP as a monk. So, while it's not a great book, it got me started and was an okay reference for the first couple of years.

    "The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men." George Eliot
Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by TedPride (Priest) on May 21, 2006 at 03:37 UTC
    Some of those may be bad books for teaching you to be a -good- Perl programmer, but the important thing is to get people interested in Perl in the first place. I started with with the Matt Wright script archive book and Teach Yourself CGI Programming with Perl 5 in a Week, neither of which are that great, but they taught me enough to get started writing / modifying basic Perl scripts.

    I say keep the books - not everyone has money for new, better books. If you think the books aren't first-notch, just paste a blurb on the inside cover telling people where to go to learn more (perlfunc, perlvar, and here).

      I did give the 21 days a scan and it's obviously dated and at best a "get your feet wet" type of book.

      She has final say over it. If she won't get rid of it, I will put in a disclaimer. Good idea! Thanks!

Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by dbwiz (Curate) on May 20, 2006 at 21:55 UTC
Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by Ninthwave (Chaplain) on May 21, 2006 at 05:09 UTC

    Have your boss get a trial account as I see they now do enterprise. (though I cannot find the pricing, I know you were talking about freebies sorry, but a tech industry should not rely on stale print libraries unless the internal code is going to stay locked in versions akin to the stale print reference.)

    If you have coders, have a code friendly library at a cost that meets the volume of usage.

    That said I never throw out books, I like reference material. Someday I may read them and someday I may learn to code well.

    Sorry I have to plug safari, I found it to be a truly great service and is changing my way of approaching tech books. But that said the Black Book is a great reference for looking up things quickly especially when search terms are just confusing you in google. Though I can not remember the edition we had at the last place I worked. Do they even still sell those.... something to look for.

    "No matter where you go, there you are." BB
      Sorry I have to plug safari, I found it to be a truly great service and is changing my way of approaching tech books.

      I have it; I found it very useful. The great thing is that you can check out a book without buying it. This avoids the "shelf-creep" that happens when you wind up getting marginally useful books that you hate to throw out, but never really use. They just take up space. With Safari you can read the entire book if you want, and decide whether it's worth adding to your paper library. It has already saved me a pile of money on books, as well as allowed me to check out subjects that I would otherwise have skipped because of the price of buying a whole book on the subject.

Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by Popcorn Dave (Abbot) on May 20, 2006 at 22:39 UTC
    The only one on your list I can speak to is the black book.

    I like having a copy of that around as a quick reference when I'm having a brain fart about a particular function, but it's not something I'd necessarily give someone to learn Perl. And I'd only keep it if it's the large fat copy, and not it's slimmed down cousin.

    Of course it's a few years old, so that may factor in to your decision as well.

    Useless trivia: In the 2004 Las Vegas phone book there are approximately 28 pages of ads for massage, but almost 200 for lawyers.
      I like having a copy of that around as a quick reference when I'm having a brain fart about a particular function

      If I was having a brain fart about a particular function, (e.g.: the order of the values returned by localtime) then I'd use perldoc with the -f (for function) option:

      perldoc -f localtime

      Not only would this be quicker than grabbing a book and locating the correct page, I'd be able to cut-and-paste the example code as well.

Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by Herkum (Parson) on May 21, 2006 at 13:31 UTC

    I got started on the NT Perl in 21 days (in 1996) for only one reason; it was the only thing that showed how to programmatically edit NT Accounts (except for learning MS-C++).

    There are better books out there, I trashed it a long time ago, and if you notice your co-worker trashed his... That should tell you something about it!

Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by jdtoronto (Prior) on May 22, 2006 at 15:42 UTC
    NT Perl in 21 days? Do whatever you can to get it out of the place as quickly as possible.

    Perl Black Book? Getting a little dated now, but it is basically accurate, being little more than a rewrite of the basic Perl documentation. As someone else said, always useful during brain farts and usually eaasier to find things in than in the docs.

    Perl 5 Interactive Course? Not seen it, but given that it is by Jon Orwant it may well be quite okay! I am not sure if I have read anything he wrote himself, but he did a great job as editor of "The Perl Journal".


Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by ciderpunx (Vicar) on May 22, 2006 at 10:09 UTC
    Perl Black Book 2nd Edition
    I can't comment on the Perl Black Book, but I had the Java one and it was one of the most unmitigatedly dreadful computer books I've ever read!

    I guess that my preference when training people is to have high quality(OK, I probably mean O'Reilly) reference material about. Much more important, though, is access to someone else who can support them to learn. Ideally this would be a more experienced developer acting as a kind of mentor. Perlmonks and similar communities can act like an 'online mentor'.

    That all having been said, I always hang on to books, because at some point they'll have something useful in them, even if its just to serve as a warning never to write technical documents like this ;-).

    As Günther Grass said, "Even bad books are books, and therefore sacred".
      The Perl Black Book is apparently much better than the Java one... I'll add to its list of upvotes, as it is my #1 Perl reference book. O'Reillys are definitely the way to go for learning the material, but, when my brain is out to lunch and I just need a quick reminder, I can find it a lot faster in Perl Black Book than by locating the right animal and looking there.
        Okey dokey - just goes to show you can't judge a book by looking at the cover - or in this case 'series' I guess.

Re: Scrounged books are not always good.
by sarani (Sexton) on May 24, 2006 at 06:58 UTC
    As a newbie who'se just been through the which-book-to-buy routine: If you don't have the Camel (and other Animals) in your library, then keep the Black Book, else toss.

    It's ok as a second choice, and it's a whole lot more difficult to live with, but it's staple, and it makes sense - which is good for newbies.
    Can't speak for the others, have never seen them.

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