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Programming Books Media Book Reviews IT Technology

Professional Linux Programming 194

WrinkledShirt contributed this review of a Professional Linux Programming, a tome he says can "bend light" by its sheer size -- 1155 pages of multi-author, multi-language instruction and examples. Read on for his thoughts on the book's shortcomings as well as its strengths, and remember, lift with your knees, not with your back.
Professional Linux Programming
author Neil Matthew, Richard Stones, et. al.
pages 1155
publisher Wrox
rating 8
reviewer WrinkledShirt
ISBN 1-861003-01-3
summary A brilliant book for anyone wanting to gain new Linux programming skills.

Introduction

Large programming books have a special sort of gravitational pull to them. It's a sort of siren's song for us techie types, with lyrics promising an endless fountain of information, more than you could ever possibly hope to use, superfluous only in the same way that you don't plan on reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica cover-to-cover anytime soon, either.

Unfortunately, this branch of the publishing industry responsible for these books is well aware of this, and as such there's a veritable critical mass of crap in that corner of the bookstore, some of it reading like blood being squeezed from a stone, with any number of useless chapters thrown in there just to meet some predefined page quota. Which is why it's such a relief to get a book like Professional Linux Programming that's 1155 pages long and contains a ton of material, with very little of it page-filler. Unless you already know it all, there is something valuable in this book for just about every Linux developer out there.

The Good

This book is loaded. Go straight to the table of contents if you need to see what I mean. The book's sheer ambition almost makes it worth picking up a copy. We need more like this -- not just for Linux, not just for programming, but for computer references in general.

If you've thought about developing for Linux, you've probably rubbed up against the impression that Linux and C go together like a wink and a smile. This book delivers on that impression, and it delivers huge. There are chapters on how to use C with PostgreSQL and MySQL databases, LDAP services, GTK+/Gnome/libglade and Qt/KDE, Flex and Bison, XML, sockets, RPC and CORBA (using ORBit). There are also sections on applied professional development theory, like design, debugging, security, deployment, and encryption.

If C isn't your bag, you might not find as much to get out of this book, but there are still sections on PHP, Python, documentation, package deployment, internationalization and shell database manipulation. Ever wondered how CVS or patching worked? It's in there. There's even material on device drivers and Beowulf clusters. By the end of this book you'll have more than just proof-of-concept familiarity with just about all the topics. For all but the more exotic subjects, you start at the simplest example, and the complexity gets increased with subsequent scenario, until the point where the chapter gets applied to the book's ongoing case study, which is the development of a hypothetical system to track a DVD store's business operations.

To give you an idea about what sort of depth to expect from this book, I'll talk about what it does with PostgreSQL. It shows you how to install it and maintain it from the command line; walks you through how to create basic databases; gets you comfortable with running SQL queries from the command line or scripts from a file; shows you how to interface with it using C (using both libpq functions and embedded techniques); shows you how to handle different kinds of transactions and cursors; talks about bringing it into PHP; and uses PostgreSQL for the core engine for the case study. Now, database work is obviously going to be getting special treatment when it comes to commerce development, but that's still only one of many subjects that this book tackles, most of which are designed to get you on the ground running before needing to resort to supplementary material.

As an aside, from a coordinating standpoint, this book is a marvel. Content was contributed from 15 separate authors and yet continuity is practically a non-issue.

The Not-So-Good

Typos. Oy vey. It's like getting a buddy to lend you his Ferrari, only to discover that there's a little bit of bird crap on the windshield that nobody can wipe off. Nice car, shame about the bird crap. Now, this book isn't horribly bad for it, but you shouldn't be surprised to find the odd error at the rate of one or two per chapter, usually in the form of an incorrect diagram symbol here or there or a formatting character that didn't quite translate into a code listing. Not too bad, but it's enough to be a mentionable problem. The Wrox people were good about putting up an errata page, but, unfortunately, it's empty. This may speak to the fact that the intended audience are hackers who can probably figure out the problem for themselves anyway.

Then there's the timeliness factor. This is a review of the first edition, which came out in September 2000, and it's unfortunate that with all the new technologies coming out (Bonobo, KParts, Mono, etc.) there isn't a second edition in the works as of yet. As such, people hoping to find useful information on programming with the more volatile APIs (specifically the GUI stuff) might want to look elsewhere. The information in this area isn't completely obsolete, just not as cutting edge as it was when the book first came out. Most of the other chapters are still current, and had this review been done near the publication date, the rating would easily be a 9 out of 10. That it still merits a review at this point, after being out for almost a year and a half, hopefully says something.

There's also the fact that even though this book contains so much, it doesn't really act as a definitive reference in any area that it describes. For instance, I was toying with the idea of making a code mangler for an XML-type language, so the chapter on Flex and Bison had me drooling. It wasn't long after reading it, though, that I found myself needing to go to GNU's Flex website just to get a better listing of all the regular expressions I'd need to use. That's symptomatic of pretty much all the chapters here -- it doesn't take long to outgrow the material when you need to apply it to your personal project. In this sense the title seems misleading; if you wanted to program in some of these areas at a professional level, this book would only be a starting point to another, deeper reference.

The huge breadth of knowledge also makes some omissions seem glaring. There is nothing on Perl or some of the other popular shell languages. Outside of two chapters, C++ is avoided like the plague. The section on deployment using automake is tiny enough that it's practically not there, which is surprising given the amount of time a reader spends churning out source code throughout the rest of the book. There's also a brief section on multimedia that, given the context of the rest of the topics, just feels out of place. Some of these shortcomings are made up in the intended predecessor to this book, Beginning Linux Programming , so you might want to give that book a whirl as well (TCL, BASH, and Perl all get treatment there).

And just to leave no superficial stone unturned, the cover is just awful -- it looks like a police lineup. Although I suspect there's a focus group somewhere that needs to answer for this, maybe it bodes well knowing that, considering the slightly expensive nature of this book, none of that money went into its outer design.

Conclusion

There are some people who aren't going to want to buy this book. Specialists, or people who want to specialize, likely won't get enough of what they want on any of the subjects here. Also, this isn't so much a learning guide that will give you exercises and quizzes, so if you're still at the stage where you need that sort of thing, this book might be a bit rich. If you're hoping for bleeding-edge stuff, wait for a second edition.

Also, it's taken for granted that the reader understands C pretty well, so if you don't, invest some time in that area first.

However, if you've got the fundamentals of Linux programming down pat but don't know where you want to go next, buy this book. If you're a seasoned developer and just need to get the basics of a new area in order to apply it to your ongoing projects, buy this book. If you're a generalist or a hobbyist, buy this book. If you need to design application prototypes for the Linux platform, buy this book. If you want to compare different APIs without having to commit to buying different textbooks, buy this book. If you get off on knowing you can do more Hello Worlds than any of your friends, buy this book. And if you like your references so big and fat that they bend light, buy this book.

Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1: Application Design
Chapter 2: Concurrent Versions System (CVS)
Chapter 3: Databases
Chapter 4: PostgreSQL interfacing
Chapter 5: MySQL
Chapter 6: Tackling Bugs
Chapter 7: LDAP Directory Services
Chapter 8: GUI programming with GNOME/GTK+
Chapter 9: GUI Building with Glade and GTK+/GNOME
Chapter 10: Flex and Bison
Chapter 11: Testing Tools
Chapter 12: Secure Programming
Chapter 13: GUI programming with KDE/Qt
Chapter 14: Writing the dvdstore GUI using KDE/Qt
Chapter 15: Python
Chapter 16: Creating Web interfaces with PHP
Chapter 17: Embedding and extending Python with C/C++
Chapter 18: Remote Procedure Calls
Chapter 19: Multi-media and Linux
Chapter 20: CORBA.
Chapter 21: Implementing CORBA with ORBit
Chapter 22: Diskless systems
Chapter 23: XML and libxml
Chapter 24: Beowulf Clusters
Chapter 25: Documentation
Chapter 26: Device Drivers
Chapter 27: Distributing the application
Chapter 28: Internationalization
Appendix A: GTK+/GNOME Object Reference
Appendix B: DVD RPC Protocol Definition
Appendix C: Open Source Licenses
Appendix D: Support, Errata & P2P.Wrox.Com

Related Links


You can purchase Professional Linux Programming at Fatbrain.

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Professional Linux Programming

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  • by McSnickered ( 67307 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:13AM (#2887883)
    I own Beginning Linux Programming 2nd ed. and think it's great for reference and instruction. I really wanted to get the Professional book. But after spending about 30 minutes at Borders looking through it, I found that it covered a lot of subjects but it didn't seem to go in any significant depth in any one of them. I think maybe the scope was a bit too big and they should have covered fewer subjects in greater detail.
    • I think maybe the scope was a bit too big and they should have covered fewer subjects in greater detail.

      There are plenty of books and web sites that go into specific topics in as much detail as you could want, and often more. These books are good for giving a very broad overview of lots of things, and teaching you a little about everything and making it easy for you to get into more detail if you like from other sources.

      In other words, I like this series. :-)=-

      • Your point is well taken - I like the series too. But the strength of Beginning Linux Programming is that it doesn't try to cover the world of programming. It covers fewer topics but gives more than just a cursory glance at what xyz can do, and subsequently gives you enough to get you started and also keep you going for quite a while.
  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@gmail3.14159.com minus pi> on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:14AM (#2887887)
    I have this one, i also have the Beginning Linux programming book by the same people. i can heartily recommend both books to anyone looking to get into linux programming in general or advanced c programming with linux in mind. This book covered stuff my C programming book didnt. They also have a huge following on their website, with very good mailing lists for that little extra help if thats what u need.
    • I heartily agree - I definitely recommend visiting the Wrox forums [wrox.com] if you're interested in any of the subject areas their books cover. They do have a slight Microsoft bias in terms of available forums, but there's a fair few Linux-related ones too.
  • The "typos" comment is very telling.

    This sounds to me like a "shovelware" book, albeit too late to have any impact on anything other then the trees that died to print it. Do they pay the authors of these tomes by the pound?

    The fact of the matter is anything Unix programming related or C related has been done already and done well. These attempts to cash in by vendors like WROX (and their ilk, like QUE) by slapping "Linux" on the cover are just that, attempts to cash in.

    You want a decent Linux book, make sure it's in a nutshell and/or has a funky animal on the cover.
    • I've got the beginners book, and reckon it's a cut above the QUE and SAMS tomes. As an overview of many topics it's great.

      Probably as good as O'Reilly, which can sometimes be a little too terse (when I want documentation that only makes sense when you understand the topic anyway, I'll read a man page).

      The one thing I can't stand about Wrox is the author pictures on the covers - definitely prefer the animals...
    • Granted, typos are annoying. The value of these books goes beyond a compilation of information, but the wealth of information is organized in an easily digestible way. Its like reading a newspaper on a lazy afternoon. Compare to that of taking a casual interest and reading through the howtos and other documentation through the net. This book can be taken around the house or at appointments for casual reading. The Beginning Linux book was an enjoyable read and the Professional Linux book appears to be on scale with those huge electronic engineers books for reference or learning technical knowledge in spare time.
    • This sounds to me like a "shovelware" book, albeit too late to have any impact on anything other then the trees that died to print it. Do they pay the authors of these tomes by the pound?

      I wrote some of Professional Oracle 8i Application Programming [wrox.com], and was paid by the page.

      The fact of the matter is anything Unix programming related or C related has been done already and done well. These attempts to cash in by vendors like WROX (and their ilk, like QUE) by slapping "Linux" on the cover are just that, attempts to cash in.

      Unix and C, perhaps, but there are all the layered products to consider also.
    • by Scooter ( 8281 ) <owen@nOsPaM.annicnova.force9.net> on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @11:47AM (#2888562)
      "Do they pay the authors of these tomes by the pound? "

      Almost. I wrote a few chapters for an "Unleashed" Linux book by Sams which they canned unfortunateley, and they pay by the chapter which has to be around the 20 page mark (given a standard font, ruler settings etc.). They don't pay very much either - it was about $600/chapter back in 1999 (and they never paid anyway)and it was taking me about a week to 10 days to do one - as it's not like you're just offering your $.02 in a web forum - every claim, and fact has to be checked as much as possible.

      Yes indeed - C is still C when it's in a Linux environment. I think there is a place for these "lets cover everything" books but I think it's more appropriate at the "introduction" end of the market - I have a copy of Wrox's "Beggining Linux Programing" and its good - I still look in now if I need to see how to do soemthing simple in a language I don't really use that often - say like "what's the syntax of an if statement in Perl then?" a quicj flick through to an example will often provide the answers.

      Yes - the funky animal books are more in line with what I want: just the facts.
      • I have bought a couple of books o the 2" type. Judging by those, I have simply concluded that no book thicker than 1" (OK 1 1/2" if it's hardcover) is worth reading.

        The best book I've (re)read recently is _The AWK Programming Language_, which I bought for 1 buck at a library sale of old books. I wonder why a library would sell such a classic, but now at least it has a loving home. This book is 220 pages including index and content listing, and quite a bit can be learned from it - and it is a joy to read. I look forward to the day I dig up a copy of _The UNIX Programming Environment_ in a heap of cheap books.

        Small is beautiful!

        -Lasse
    • This sounds to me like a "shovelware" book, albeit too late to have any impact on anything other then the trees that died to print it. Do they pay the authors of these tomes by the pound?

      I co-wrote Pro VB 6 XML for Wrox, and choose royalties. (Paid better, long term, than the flat rate!) If you're writing just one or two chapters for a book you're likely to be offered only flat rate, which is per page. But the editors don't encourage cruft.

      Also, I don't think Wrox is merely trying to "cash in", though they are in business to sell books. The folks I've dealt with are sincerly interested in developing atttention to Linux and open source development.

  • Is it me or? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by funkman ( 13736 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:17AM (#2887902)
    Does every review end up being a 7 or 8 lately? Where are the really great books or really bad books? Or is the Book Review going to turn into here is the latest above average book we have reviewed
    • Re:Is it me or? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Masem ( 1171 )
      If /. was, say, a professional computing site/magazine, I would simply chalk it up to that... I've yet to see such a site given anything less than 'average or above' reviews, save for once in a while when they really slam a product.

      Here, I think because we have readers submitting book reviews, the reviewers are buying and reviewing books that would be of interest to them, and because of that, most of these books would already rank somewhat average-like because of the content. In addition, the reviewers have the ability to pre-review books at a store...if they're considering a book based on title alone, and open it up to see crap, they're not going to buy it nor review it. Thus, because these non-professional reviewers are only buying books that will already have some interest to /. reading in content and quality, I would expect very very few "less than average" books to be reviewed.

      Maybe /. ought to solicate some of these reviewers with $40-50 and ask them to go out and review a book that most here would expect to be crap, just so that we see what those reviewers say about the opposite end of the spectrum. Or maybe the reviewers should consider that a 0-10 scale on /. is not the same as a 0-10 for any book review, as our bottom rung would probably fall around a 3 or 4 on a normal scale, with our average expection (our 5) being a 6 or 7 on the unadjusted scale.

      • I've yet to see such a site given anything less than 'average or above' reviews

        Not about books, but The Filthy Critic [bigempire.com] does call movies the way he sees them.
      • Thus, because these non-professional reviewers are only buying books that will already have some interest to /. reading in content and quality, I would expect very very few "less than average" books to be reviewed.

        And those ones that are reviewed and given low marks are more likely to be a public safety warning than anything else.

        e.g. "I bought this book, please don't make the same mistake..."
    • by timothy ( 36799 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:34AM (#2888010) Journal
      Remember, Slashdot book reviews are submitted by people who read the books and jotted down their thoughts.

      It's true that most Slashdot book reviews fill the 7-9 range, but that shouldn't be *that* surprising -- how many people *bother* with the time and hassle of finishing a book they think is awful (or just well below par) in order to write a review of it? Paid reviewers on a contract, assigned books whether they like 'em or not, Yes -- but that's not how we do it :) Instead, we rely mostly on self-selection; hopefully this means that people distill their good and their bad book experiences, but since people (rationally) try to minimize their bad experiences anyhow, it's natural that they instead choose to finish, enjoy and pass on ones they like.

      We may decline book review submissions that are hard to read, abusive, don't fit our book review guidelines well enough, etc, but never for a low rating. That rating is up to the reviewer.
    • Or is the Book Review going to turn into
      here is the latest above average book we have reviewed

      Some periodicals don't want to print negative reviews. One editor at a local paper said she had limited space and more reviews (and books to review) than she could fit, so she just printed the positive reviews. Her attitude is that it is better to promote the good authors than warn against the bad.

      I think she may be right. Remember Sturgeon's law: 95% of anything is crap. Finding the pearls is a more difficult task and more valuable service.

    • I gave "Teach Yourself UML in 24 Hours" a 5.5 rating. That was only two book reviews ago.

      To be honest, the rating is a bit of an afterthought. The first book review I did for Slashdot had a rating assigned for me.

      It's easy to say whether or not a piece of work is good or bad. It's much harder to evaluate it in terms of who it would be helpful for, since all but the crappiest of the crappy books are helpful to somebody. Not speaking for other reviewers, but I try to read the book and review it in terms of what the book is trying to be, who it is geared for, and how close to success it gets.
      • it's because the reviewer didn't include one ;) -- and it's (intended) to be based on what the reviewer seems to think about the book.

        However, it's an oversight to have not mailed you on that one -- usually, this has happened only when reviewers submit a review lacking a valid email address. Many reviewers send in reviews that lack (nearly) all of the information in the table at the top of the review. (Not Wrinkled, though! :))

        Admittedly, the numbers are somewhat subjective (even though they're *numbers* and people therefore try to assign them sometimes a great deal of objectivity), and obviously different reviewers have different takes on what a "5" means, or a "9" ... very few reviewers give "10" ratings, for instance. That's probably because it's like calling a restaurant "perfect" and thereby inviting greater scrutiny than if you'd simply callled it "very good" or even "superb."

        If anyone would like to come up with a perfectly fair way to assign ratings, I'd add it to the book review guidelines, too ;)
    • Just flipping through the book in the store before I buy it generally weeds out the bad books, so I would assume most of the 1- or 2-rated books never get purchased (at least not by savvy Slashdotters).

      Now if they had magazine reviews, I'd drop a dime on the new XML Journal. That's definitely a 2.
  • Typos (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jargoone ( 166102 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:19AM (#2887911)
    I think a certain number of typos in a book that I pay for should allow me to receive a refund. Particularly in a technical manual, when you are trying to learn something, typos can really lead you down the wrong path. Especially with the number of readers that would be willing to proofread for free prior to the book being published, there is no excuse.
    • Re:Typos (Score:3, Interesting)

      by foobar104 ( 206452 )
      I think a certain number of typos in a book that I pay for should allow me to receive a refund.

      Knuth still offers a bounty for every error-- typographical, factual, logical, whatever-- found in any of his books. If I recall, the bounty for errors in TAOCP is up to $2.56 per item.

      The result? Pretty damn near error-free books. Go, capitalism.
    • Re:Typos (Score:3, Interesting)

      by (H)elix1 ( 231155 )
      A close friend of mine wrote a Perl book that was published by one of the biggies. He figures he made well under minimum wage for the time spent - not one of those template style books for sure.

      Anyhow, there were a few fubars on his part, but the editors(?) introduced a lot of bugs in the code when they horked around with the format. Deadlines prevented a solid review of the changes. A second revision fixed it, but just like us in the field - some times you have to hit a deadline.

      It was a hoot hearing him sigh that while the second revision was "patched", he liked the artwork on the first revision....
      • Re:Typos (Score:3, Funny)

        by Mignon ( 34109 )
        A close friend of mine wrote a Perl book... but the editors(?) introduced a lot of bugs in the code when they horked around with the format.

        They would have done even more damage if it had been a Python book.

      • I wrote the chapters in PLP on CORBA, and found, when I went through it, there were some tpyos that I was pretty sure I had not introduced. (There was one place where it looks like someone rewrote some material; didn't read like something I'd write...)

        There were indeed some deadline issues, which makes it difficult to generate a flawless product.

        This is going to be a problem with any situation where there is urgency in getting the book pushed out. Donald Knuth may have the "clout" to get Addison Wesley to wait for him to be happy with the results; that is definitely not going to be the case for these sorts of books with garish red covers.

    • What industry are you in?? Nobody assumes a flawless product anymore. I know that it can be frustrating being mislead by what a book or document is saying, but if you are reading this particular book, you should have the empirical insight by this point to figure out what is wrong.
  • I love paper, the kind you can dog ear, fall asleep with over your eyes when the light gets too bright, and if trapped in a snowstorm use as kindling.

    I have had acouple of the MONSTER programming volumes for years, there are great for refrence, altohug admittedly Ive never read a monster like this cover to cover.

    Looking at my bookshelf, well, I can honestly say I am single handedly responsible for the deforestation of the Amazon, oh well, call me a collector of things paper......
  • am I the only one (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Syre ( 234917 )
    Am I the only one who thinks this is rather transparent marketing on the part of slashdot?

    Notice the link to Fatbrain.com... it has a "from" parameter, which almost certainly gives slashdot a kickback for any purchases.

    Without that link, I still might suspect product placement, but with it this article counts mainly as an advertisement, it seems.
    • Am I the only one who thinks this is rather transparent marketing on the part of slashdot?

      No, and I applaud Slashdot for taking on the entrepreneurial spirit and helping our capitalist society move along smoothly by using sound, honest business practices. This was a well thought out review, with good points and bad points for people that might be interested in buying something. This is nowhere akin to some obviously biased ZDNET review of some Microsoft product. What's more, it's written by a Slashdot member who thought he could share his thoughts on this subject. Anyhow he explicitly states whom he believes this product would help, and sent his review to slashdot because it would reach the largest target audience. What, so you don't believe slashdot should be trying to make money? Do you think Slashdot should host this site for your amusement and live in boxes to make sure you're false idealism is satisfied? Welcome to the real world you communist, hippie-dumbfuck.
  • by CyberGarp ( 242942 ) <Shawn AT Garbett DOT org> on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:30AM (#2887975) Homepage
    The much awaited new doorstop from WROX press has arrived. It's in the traditional red to coordinate with the theme of their current line of doorstops. This latest addition is really large in case the door has a high clearance and extra heavy for those doors with large springs. It also features a fashionable "Linux" on the cover so you can be the envy of your guests, assuming you ever have any.
  • by saider ( 177166 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:32AM (#2887995)
    Like ants at a picnic, there are plenty of similies in this review. No doubt the work of someone who has actually read things other than programming manuals.
  • by simetra ( 155655 )
    I bought a different Wrox book, and found so many typos that I emailed Wrox offering to tell them all the errors I found, in exchange for a free book. I never heard back from them. Other than the typos, the book was fine. In fact, the typos caused me to stop and pay closer attention, so perhaps it's actually a good training tool?

    Really though, I suspect Wrox doesn't have a proof-reader. Or, their proof-reader is drunk all the time.

    • I'm not sure where you sent your email about errata to Wrox, but everyone writing to support@wrox.com gets a reply. Wrox do not provide free books to readers submitting errata. If you find an error in one of our books like a spelling mistake or a faulty piece of code, we are very grateful for this sort of advice and feedback. By sending in errata you may save another reader hours of frustration, and of course, you will be helping us provide even higher quality information.
      • Great. So you can make more money at my expense? Thanks. I'll be sure to help you, your highness.

      • That would be a LOT of work... without any compensation? No thanks.

        Oh, I did get a reply, saying something like it'll be forwarded to someone concerned, blah blah blah, but I never heard back after that. Oh well.
      • But in the payment for the book is supposed to be the money for this effort. You are assuming once it's published that no more work should be paid for its correction?

        Publishing errors, then not rewarding those (IMHO really helpful) readers who submit corrections are the 2 best ways to drop a book review from a 8 to a 7.
  • by hardburn ( 141468 )

    Am I alone in thinking Wrox generaly sucks? Their Beginning Java 2 [wrox.com] book was used in my Java course last year. The book is OK if you're just learning Java, but is almost useless as a referance (possibly because they want you to buy the referance [wrox.com] as a seperate book). Don't get me started on that Ivor Horton guy (aka, "Evil Horn").

    • I wouldn't say generally. Some of their Java tomes are horrible, and I didn't especially like their first edition of Beginning Linux Programming as a beginners book. Mainly because a lot of the topics, techniques etc were at least five years out of date. And because they made odd choices what to cover like TCL instead of Perl/Python.

      But their Professional series, especially Professional Linux Deployment, are pretty good if you just need to look something up and actually would like to see worked examples. For example, PLD is as far as I know the only book that actually takes you line by line throuh setting up Samba, or installing and configuring a ftp demon from scratch. While we are gerneralizing shamelessly, I like O'Reily or AW, but the first often decribes things in the same amount of detail as the help pages and AW usually turn the description of minor tasks into a 100 page CS class.
    • Basically all companies make you buy a seperate book for references, hey some companies have two books just to cover the core API's. Usually how-to's are set for the total newbie in a given area, and the references for the day-to-day coder. You can maybe get by with the reference if you have the right mindset to learn that way, and there is usually a decent bit of how-to in references anyway.

      I think you are too hard on wrox. I thought they really sucked to, until I actually started using them. The vast array of topics ina given field make it totally worth the money, IF you need the information. I have good eye sight, so the small print is actually more comfortable for me to read than other books.
    • nope, I really liked Wrox books and I think the layout style is really clear

      I esp. like
      Beginning Linux Programming,
      Beginning Visual C++
      and a delphi book I had
    • I think they are generally inconsistant. (But who's not these days)
  • by proxima ( 165692 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:41AM (#2888056)
    Most Linux programming books deal almost exclusively with C, since a good number of programs (and the kernel) are C. However, I am looking for a high-quality book about Linux programming with C++.

    I have a good C++ book that covers the fundamentals of OO programming and the language, but I would like a book that is a bit more Linux-specific. Makefiles, QT, gtk-- (perhaps), database programming would all be nice. I have seen QT books, but I am looking for something a bit more general/comprehensive. Any recommendations?

    • You could do worse than Jesse Liberty and David Hovarth's "Teach yourself C++ for Linux in 21 days", published by Sams. There is also Tom Swans "Tom Swan's GNU C++ for Linux", published by Que (I think).
    • I don't know of a good Linux C++ book... C++ really isn't the default language for Linux, and it shows, especially in gcc and the standard library. It's gotten alot better in the past few years, but it still has a ways to go. Not to say that Windows is any better... VC++ is even worse (although the APIs are all there).

      My advice:

      Use the STLPort, not the GNU Standard C++ Library. It actually conforms to the spec, and has fewer bugs. This is huge if you're going to be doing multithreaded programming.

      Use the Boost libraries. They're gonna be put into the next generation standard, and it is good stuff.

      Databases: check out the OTL (Oracle Template Library) for interfacing with Oracle. I haven't done too much with other DBs. The OTL web page makes it look like a "make money fast" scheme, but it works, and the mainainer apparently has no life, and has nothing better to do than patch it whenever a user whines or Oracle changes versions :)

      Makefiles: look at the man/info pages for "make", or look at the (old but still good) O'Reilly book on Make. There's really no difference between C and C++ there.

      I haven't done much with GUI dev, so I don't know of a good ref for QT or gtk--. I can say that FLTK has good online docs, and is quite easy to use.

      As many others have said elsewhere: the best documentation is usually on the project page for the tool you're interested in. Finding the right tool, though, can be hard.

    • Most Linux programming books deal almost exclusively with C, since a good number of programs (and the kernel) are C. However, I am looking for a high-quality book about Linux programming with C++.

      You'll have a hard time finding such a book, and there's a good reason for this -- Linux books tend to document the POSIX and X/Open APIs. Basically, the traditional APIs are all C based. There are books for C++ libraries like Qt and KDE, but the Qt documentation is so good that you're better off just using the online version. If you're fond of dead trees, I suggest you print out the tutorials.

      Regarding learning C++ on Linux, I'd suggest you focus on mastering C++ (BTW, one book is NOT enough. Not even close), and try to learn some of the C APIs. It's also interesting to try things like wrapping things in classes (eg Sockets)

      Cheers,

  • by wls ( 95790 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @10:47AM (#2888116) Homepage
    What I really want to see is a book that assumes you know how to sling code, but addresses the specifics on how to become part of the coding community.

    I've seen lots of lists that say:
    0. Get the latest version of the code from CVS.
    1. Read and understand the code.
    2. Make changes.
    3. Send your patches to the maintainer.
    4. Hope they get accepted.

    There are a lot of programmers out there who don't have the minimum set of knowledge to perform the admin part of steps, but do have the technical know how to write solid code.

    How many people have code but don't know how to set up a good makefile, but could if a decent template were explained? How many people would like to have configure scripts, but aren't sure how the magic works? How many people aren't sure how to put their code in CVS or upload it to SourceForge? How many people want to know how to build packages, whether by RPM or some other means? How many people don't know what questions users need answered in documentation, nor how to put it in a man/info page?

    Simply making a breadth, but shallow, offering consisting of nicely printed man pages that are indexed hasn't helped much. It'd be nice if someone took a simple project and followed it end-to-end.

    (At serious risk to my inbox, if enough contributors send me suggestions, tidbits, or the process as _they_ see it, I'll make a decent effort and putting something together.)
    • I am only in Comp Sci 1 right now in college, but am starting to really get into Linux and once I DO know how to program would like to make a contribution to the "cause". But I haven't the faintest idea of how to. I would buy a book like this. I think you should go for it if you get more people to support you and publish something like this. As long as it doesn't weight more than me, I will go down to the local bookstore and buy it. A good manual that can be read from cover to cover and executed and then used as a reference would be great, especiall if it was under 200 pages, and in an easy to read format and well priced.
    • Well, I'm flicking through my copy of PLiP now, (although you could of course find this out by reading the Table of contents given above) - and I find that chapter 2 (that's chapter TWO) covers using CVS. The reason it's covered so early? This is a book about developing open source software. It talks about using make, and even covers issues like documentation and distribution builds. It's all about becoming an effective member of the development community.
      • My problem is that books that act like do-it-all toaster ovens are usually very incomplete in their depth. I have a number of printed resources that fall into this category on my reference shelves.

        Let's use your CVS example and assume that I've been using PVCS successfully for a decade.

        I want to make the switch from PVCS to CVS. So, I bought the reference card, the reference book, the O'Reily book, and an OpenSource book that covers CVS.

        First thing these things tell me to do is seek out "the Cederqvist." Let's furthermore assume I get past this and realize it's the bible of CVS. I may run into another problem... how do I read a TeX file, a PS file, or such. So, let's assume I get past _that_ and have HTML, Text, or PDF. (There is implicit knowledge needed to perform a primitive level of fundamental tasks.)

        Going straight to CVS's Cederqvist v1.11.1p1 -- section 1.1 tells us it's a version control system and it can record the history of our source files. This statement assumes we already know what we're looking at, have an idea of what the software does, and we're trying to learn the commands to it.

        Back out a level... why would I want version control? What real world reason would make me want to use it? Many colleges don't address that, as many students don't work in teams for credit. They tend to encounter version control the moment they get assigned to a development team, and never having to do it before, they view it as overhead.

        A good manual should show parallels to real world problems and solutions, in addition to documenting every featured option.

        It's not until you get bitten in the butt by your own actions or those of your co-workers, that you start to see value in it. It's not until you use version control to identify and resolve a really hideous bug that you get an awe and sense of appreciation of it. It's not until you have to produce a production level patch that you get a sincere respect for it. And it's not until you start doing parallel development that you realize how much you should have had this back at day one.

        By section 1.3.2 we see some examples -- we're shown the solution without knowing the problem it's designed to solve.

        By section 2, on page 7, we're instantly in the guts of how the repository works. Details that never need be known -- unless CVS has limitations that we have to compensate for manually. Much later we learn this is the case. This goes on for pages and pages.

        I'm glad the information is covered, but is this was a _user_ is looking for when he picks up a all-text 166 page manual and hits page 7?

        As life goes on, we learn about tags and stickiness. We still are left to extrapolate why we need them. Life would come together in a snap if someone said "users of PVCS and SourceSafe may recognize sticky tags as static labels; the reason we use _these_ terms instead are...."

        But just because you know what a tool does, or how to invoke commands doesn't mean you're using it right. There are at least five different kinds of branching I can come up with off the top of my head, depending on what goal you're trying to accomplish.

        Anyone who's inherited a version control system and seen a branch of a branch of a branch of a branch of a branch and no one could justify why knows what I'm talking about.

        Just as the argument is made that "because you learned the language doesn't mean you know how to program" extends to configuration management, too. "Just cause you know how to do CVS doesn't mean you know how to do CM." And this equally applied to using autoconf, make, rpm, LaTeX documentation, etc.

        There are right ways, wrong ways, and the effective way. Let's be honest here, our admired gurus are gurus because they know not just how to play by the unwritten rules, but also when and how to break them.

        What I really want to see is a book that doesn't discuss the tool, but discusses the real world best OpenSource practices, and uses the real tools we use as examples to teach it.
    • Karl Fogel's Open Source Development with CVS covers some of that. It's well worth reading [slashdot.org].
      • It's available online [red-bean.com] aswell.

        A.

      • Actually, that was the book I was refering to. :)

        It's got a fairly good CVS overview, then goes into a bit about OpenSource, and then hops to advanced CVS stuff.

        Still, there's a gap -- what's the RIGHT way to use a tool. Or, assuming I now know CVS, how could this apply to SourceForge?

        Show me a project, show me how you made a patch, show me how you submitted it.
    • There are a lot of programmers out there who don't have the minimum set of knowledge to perform the admin part of steps, but do have the technical know how to write solid code.

      I remember the first patch someone sent me. I was overjoyed that someone was actually using my program! Then I realized I didn't know how to apply a patch. So I patched it manually through cut-n-paste. Never again.

      (at least I knew how to write a makefile rather than letting some IDE do it for me)
    • How many people have code but don't know how to set up a good makefile, but could if a decent template were explained? How many people would like to have configure scripts, but aren't sure how the magic works? How many people aren't sure how to put their code in CVS or upload it to SourceForge?

      I doubt if you've actually tried doing this stuff, and failed for lack of documenation. Yes, make, autoconf, etc are difficult programs, but there are many books and web sites on the topic. I'm sure if you allocated 8 hours and a 6-pick of Dew to the task, you'd get the basic idea.

      CVs and sourceforge are *much* easier than they appear. There is a book called "open source development using CVS" which covers CVS in excruciating detail. If you want to learn CVS I'd suggest just diving in with the basic functions, and don't worry about learning how to use a more difficult feature (like branching) until you feel the need for it.

      These issues:

      1. Read and understand the code.
      2. Make changes.
      4. Hope they get accepted.

      Are all specific to the project and the development community you want to join. I think that as you get into open development, you will most likely find that projects always want help, and they don't expect (or even want) everyone to be a seasoned hacker. If you're a beginner, lurk on the mailing list for a while, read the code, then introduce yourself. Read the bug tracker on sourceforge and see if there's any housekeeping you can do there, or any small bugs that need fixing. Send a diff against the current source. Or send a big diff. Get involved. Answer people's questions. Ask for CVS write access.

      You're asking how to join a community. The answer is listen & learn, introduce yourself, make some friends, find something to do. It's no different than real life.
  • Twice I fell for the same mistake, $quot;Beginning/Prof. Linux Programming"

    Linux is of course more than just the kernel, but the subjects covered in these books are mostly not Linux specific.
    On the other hand, good books about beginning/advanced Linux Kernel Programming are hard to find or don't exist at all.

    Or can someone recommend some good books on how to program (modules/networking/drivers) for the Linux Kernel?

  • by Joohn ( 310344 )
    These books always try to cover too large fields. I guess reading the title is enough to realize that. I have bought a couple of programming books like this one, and they are always very interesting. But they never go in to the depth of any area, so it's quite impossible to acctually learn any real programming from them. So, it usually ends up with the fact that I'm finding the information I wanted where I should have looked in the first place, on the web.
    • These books always try to cover too large fields. I guess reading the title is enough to realize that. I have bought a couple of programming books like this one, and they are always very interesting. But they never go in to the depth of any area, so it's quite impossible to acctually learn any real programming from them. So, it usually ends up with the fact that I'm finding the information I wanted where I should have looked in the first place, on the web.

      The books are intended as a primer to get you up to speed, so that you'll be able to work with the reference docs once you're done with their tutorial. You won't find this much in the way of good tutorial material on the web. And in my experience, it works. I don't know why you're going to the web all the time, most of the stuff in this book has reasonable reference documentation.

  • No. Mass bends light.

    Large size does not equate to super-massiveness. A nebula is not a black hole.

    Size * density, on the other hand ...
    • All mass warps space, so it doesn't matter if the book was one page or one million pages -- it would still bend light.

      :)

      Of course the detectability of it spacial warp is dependent on total mass, perhaps that is what was meant by the author of the book?

      --Pete
  • by smoon ( 16873 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2002 @11:55AM (#2888602) Homepage
    I've got this book, and actually read quite a bit of it. My only complaint is that it's too big to effectively balance on your desk and work with next to a computer. Maybe I just need a bigger desk.

    On the other hand, it sure would be nice to have this in a 3 or 4-volume boxed set. I'd pay a few bucks more for that format -- smaller (300-400) page books are a lot easier to handle.
  • Of course it bends light, all masses do so.

    As it's only a book, though, I would challenge anyone to measure the effect it has on a passing light ray :-)

    </physics nerd>

    Cheers,

    Tim
    • Well, the equation for the bending of light is
      alpha = 2 * G * M / (c^2 * R)

      R in this case is the distance of closest approach of the light, measured from the center of mass. G is the gravitational constant, c is the speed of light, and M is the mass of the object. Of course, this only holds if the object bending the light is a sphere, but approx. the book is a sphere. It will not affect the result that much :)

      (g / c^2) is a constant = approx. 10^-27 m/kg

      So the only thing we need to measure is the ratio of the mass to the radius...assume thats about .5 kg/m... that makes the angle the light is bent to be approx. 10^-27 radiens, which is really, really small.

      To compare, the Sun has a mass to radius ratio of about 2.86x10^21 kg/m and thus bends light by about 4.2x10^-6 radiens, which is measerable. For the earth, m/r equals approx. 10^18 kg/m
  • ...that's about the size of the typical introductory C++ book these days, isn't it?
    • ..that's about the size of the typical introductory C++ book these days, isn't it?

      This is part of the "telephone book" trend. Because C++ is popular, there are a lot of heavy C++ books written by incompetents. I wonder if they think anyone's going to actually read all of those pages ?

      FYI, if you're looking for a more concise, yet readable intro to C++, see "Accelerated C++", Koenig and Moo. The book is 300 pages long, and it covers all the essentials. Accelerated C++ has introduced iterators, exceptions, std::string, std::vector and std::list by page 100, whereas most books are still explaining if/then at that stage.

  • London Drugs (local discount pharmacy, housewares, computer store) is currently having another of their computer book sales where they sell off overstock they grabbed from somewhere.

    Although a lot of the stuff is outdated (Win95 Resource Kit?, please.) much is suprisingly up-to-date and a valuable reference.

    The fun part is paying C$9.95 for a book that has a list price of C$79.99 on the back.
  • I have the Beginning Linux Programming, and the one that came with visual C++. They all seem to be rather well written books. My only complaint about Beginning Linux Programming, was that some of the chapters didn't totally pertain to "Linux Programming". The chapters on TCL, perl, ncurses, bash programming, and these chapters were great and very informative (also gnome, gtk, etc. etc.), but chpaters like HTML. Come on, that's total filler. If the professional book is anything like the first one, it'll probably be a really good and informative book, all except a few chapters

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