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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The UNIX Programming Environment
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Authors: Brian W. Kernighan, Rob Pike
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Oldies but goldies

Merely half an inch thick, and employing the same cover design - or lack of it - as the C Programming Language, this is probably the least pretentious looking book on my bookshelf. However, the look is misleading - there are very few books, regardless of length, that aim to teach you as much as this one, and even fewer than succeed in it.

Unix programming environment might sound a rather ambitious title nowadays, when a tutorial on each specialized tool can easily exceed 400 pages. However, this one actually delivers everything that it promises. Kernighan and Pike start with the basic description of Unix file system and the basic set of commands, continue with the command shell, redirection and piping. Next come the filters: regular expressions, grep, sort, sed and awk. At that point, the reader is ready for the full-fledged treatment of the command shell programming. Next come standard I/O and Unix system calls, followed by the program development tools: make, lex and yacc. The course is concluded with a chapter on document formatting with troff.

The chapters on I/O and system calls imply familiarity with the C programming language. The already mentioned tutorial on C by Kernighan and Ritchie, written in much the same style and spirit, can serve as the introduction to it. Also, while the book keeps up with its age remarkably well, there are some points where the described Unix system differs from the modern POSIX systems (most user commands are however backward compatible and still accept the old syntax). The required changes are really minor, but can nevertheles annoy an innocent reader.

The book belongs to nowadays rare breed of books on computers written for engineers and CS students rather than for dummies and idiots. Although primarily written for individual study, it can be used for one-semester course on Unix (like in C Programming Language, the exercises are lacking solutions, though). I would love to see it made-up with POSIX syntax and generally reflecting the changes made to Unix during the past 15 years.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Microsoft Windows 2000 Scripting Guide
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft Corporation
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Destined to be a classic

I completely agree with Alex. This book is a significant achievement. The authors explain Windows scripting concepts and operations in clear, practical terms with examples that are immediately useful. Even more importantly, they knit together the underlying structures that support scripting in a way that no other publication on the market can match.
Each chapter is logically structured with just the right mix of theory and implementation. Each major concept builds on the preceding topics to build a clear, cogent picture of how scripts interact with the various elements of the system. The editorial quality is excellent throughout. I have not encountered proofing errors or other production flaws.
I highly recommend this book to any system administrator who wants to use VB scripting to simplify daily operations. It is the best in its class, bar none.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Head First Servlets & JSP
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Bryan Basham, Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The Bible

Prior to reading this book I had no exposure to servlets or jsp. After reading this book a couple of times and studing the actual specifications, I crossed my fingers and took the test. I got 82% on the test (which is a great mark for the test).

The book covers all the objectives of the test in a very humorous way. The repitition helped ensure the concepts. The Mock Exams were an excellent guide to gauge my understanding of the material.

If you follow the books instructions (read each chapter, do the activities, take the mock test until you get 80%) you will do great.

The javaranch provided a great place to discuss concepts from the book. The authors of the contribute to the forum as well.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: XSLT
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Doug Tidwell
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
One of the best.

I have bought and studied every book on XSLT that I can find. In my opinion, this is one of the best.
I delayed getting it originally because of some of the reviews, but after having read one of the author's articles in IBM developerWorks articles, I immediately rushed out ot get it. I'm kinda sorry now I waited.
The book treats the XSLT transformer Xalan as a command line utility to isolate and develop XSLT as a hands on approach.
There is no Java or other managing code to divert the directed discussion.
As such, it sets the stage for the next steps, in other books, adding Java and server functionality to the picture.
The authors tone is friendly, but not overly intrusive. It is a good read.
He anticipates questions and problems, and deals with some unique issues such as "emulating a for loop" that I haven't seen elsewhere.
His explanation of the case study - the tutorial builder from ibm developerworks - is a great example.
I enjoyed reading the book and I'd recommend it with 10 stars if they had it.
The negative reviews make sense only if they were really due to the difficulty of grokking XSLT. They are not really due to this book by any means I can see.
I'm sorry those readers didn't have a better time with the book. I don't think it would serve as an XSLT for beginners. It is for the next stage after that.
I intend to use it in every XML class I teach, after introducing the basics to cover the first stages of transformming with XSLT prior to intruducing Java.
Thanks to the author for writing it, and to O'Reilly for publishing it.