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

Cocktail 8.3.1 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
QuarkXPress 11.0.0.0 - Desktop publishin...
With QuarkXPress, you can communicate in all the ways you need to -- and always look professional -- in print and digital media, all in a single tool. Features include: Easy to Use -- QuarkXPress is... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 9.50 - File, phot...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
PDFpenPro 7.1.1 - Advanced PDF toolkit f...
PDFpenPro allows users to edit PDF's easily. Add text, images and signatures. Fill out PDF forms. Merge or split PDF documents. Reorder and delete pages. Create fillable forms and tables of content... Read more
Garmin Express 4.0.18.0 - Manage your Ga...
Garmin Express is your essential tool for managing your Garmin devices. Update maps, golf courses and device software. You can even register your device. Update maps Update software Register your... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.6.4 - Organize your digita...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.6.4 - Create custom photo gall...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Microsoft Remote Desktop 8.0.16 - Connec...
With Microsoft Remote Desktop, you can connect to a remote PC and your work resources from almost anywhere. Experience the power of Windows with RemoteFX in a Remote Desktop client designed to help... Read more
Spotify 1.0.4.90. - Stream music, create...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
djay Pro 1.1 - Transform your Mac into a...
djay Pro provides a complete toolkit for performing DJs. Its unique modern interface is built around a sophisticated integration with iTunes and Spotify, giving you instant access to millions of... Read more

Create Your Perfect Vacation Day With Ma...
The Make My Day app, by Lonely Planet, gives you access to a new series of mobile guidebooks that focus on some of the worlds most famous cities. [Read more] | Read more »
Jelly Reef (Games)
Jelly Reef 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: You are the ocean. Touch the sea with your fingers and guide jellyfish through a roguelike underwater world. | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: April 20-24, 2015
The Apps of April How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many... | Read more »
The Dynamic Duo of Tile and Your Apple W...
If you often lose things like your wallet, keys, purse, or pants, Tile could be your new best friend. [Read more] | Read more »
Desktop Dungeons: Enhanced Edition is Co...
Desktop Dungeons, the puzzle roguelike game, is adventuring onto your mobile devices soon, giving you all the excitement of Desktop Dungeons wherever you go. [Read more] | Read more »
Now You Can Control ProCamera 8 With You...
ProCamera 8 + HDR, the photo, video, and editing app by Cocologics, recently updated to add Apple Watch controls and a few other fun functions. [Read more] | Read more »
Discover Your Reflexes With Minimalist G...
Discover O, BYOF Studios, may look simple at first with its' color matching premise and swipe controls, but as you speed up the task becomes more daunting. [Read more] | Read more »
Here's Another Roundup of Notable A...
Now that the Apple Watch is publically available (kind of), even more apps and games have been popping up for it. Some of them are updates to existing software, others are brand new. The main thing is that they're all for the Apple Watch, and if you... | Read more »
Use Batting Average and the Apple Watch...
Batting Average, by Pixolini, is designed to help you manage your statistics. Every time you go to bat, you can use your Apple Watch to track  your swings, strikes, and hits. [Read more] | Read more »
Celebrate Studio Pango's 3rd Annive...
It is time to party, Pangoland pals! Studio Pango is celebrating their 3rd birthday and their gift to you is a new update to Pangoland. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Sale! New 11-inch 128GB MacBook Air for $799,...
Best Buy has the new 2015 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $799.99. That’s $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this new model from any reseller. Choose free home shipping... Read more
Final day for Best Buy’s 4 Day Sale: Up to $3...
Best Buy has the new 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $799.99 through April 27th. That’s $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this new model from any reseller. Choose... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $50 off Mac...
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through May 9, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage of... Read more
Save up to $300 on a new Mac, $30 on an iPad,...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Zoho Business Apps for Apple Watch Put Select...
Pleasanton, California based Zoho has launched Zoho Business Apps for Apple Watch, a line of apps that extends Zoho business applications to let users perform select functions from an Apple Watch.... Read more
Universal Stylus Initiative Launched to Creat...
OEMs, stylus and touch controller manufacturers have announced the launch of Universal Stylus Initiative (USI), a new organization formed to develop and promote an industry specification for an... Read more
Amazon Shopping App for Apple Watch
With the new Amazon shopping app for Apple Watch, Amazon customers with one of the wearable devices can simply tap the app on the watch to purchase items in seconds, or save an idea for later. The... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2799, $200 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3719.99... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available for...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for $100 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $199, $100... Read more
Intel Compute Stick: A New Mini-Computing For...
The Intel Compute Stick, a new pocket-sized computer based on a quad-core Intel Atom processor running Windows 8.1 with Bing, is available now through Intel Authorized Dealers across much of the... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Support Technician IV - Jack Henry a...
Job Description Jack Henry & Associates is seeking an Apple Support Technician. This position while acting independently, ensures the proper day-to-day control of Read more
*Apple* iOS Specialist - TCML (United States...
AppleiOS Specialist Senior Apple /iOS Administrator/Engineer responsible for configuration and distribution of desktop, laptop and mobile devices to State Employees Read more
*Apple* Client Systems Solution Specialist -...
…drive revenue and profit in assigned sales segment and/or region specific to the Apple brand and product sets. This person will work directly with CDW Account Managers Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Support Technician IV - Jack Henry a...
Job Description Jack Henry & Associates is seeking an Apple Support Technician. This position while acting independently, ensures the proper day-to-day control of Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.