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Review Review: Mastering Perl

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Mastering Perl

    Author: Brian D. Foy
    Format: Paperback: 342 pages
    Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Inc. (July 16, 2007)
    ISBN-10: 0596527241
    ISBN-13: 978-0596527242

    Review by James Pyles
    August 27, 2007

    I guess I was a tad surprised that O'Reilly's "Mastering Perl" is a first edition. After all, Learning Perl is in it's fourth edition and was published over 2 years ago. I was also surprised (I guess I don't keep up) that O'Reilly had published the first edition of Intermediate Perl over a year ago. Usually for a particular programming language, O'Reilly publishes a "Learning" and a "Mastering" book. I know Perl is no cake walk, but does it really need this much attention? Also, why wait four editions into "Learning Perl" before publishing more advanced texts on this language?

    Even reading the back cover of this book, I got the sense that it might be walking a fine line between an advanced perl tutorial and a collection of "cookbook" type solutions. That said, the book does state that its focus is teaching the reader to create reusable Perl software which is an industry standard procedure. Reusing code would seem to be a no brainer in principle. After all, who wants to reinvent, or in this case, rewrite the wheel over and over again? The trick is how to pull off writing reusable code. This book is supposed to be about "a way of thinking about Perl programming" rather than "tips and tricks". That seems more like philosophy than tutorials. Let's see how this book pulls it off.

    This book is the programming equivalent of a mother's warning to a child to not run while holding scissors. What I mean is that there are a lot of "adult" toys and techniques in this book that are not meant for the novice. Yes, it's possible for the beginning programmer who is still trying to grasp Perl basics to get lost, but the greater "danger" is to not recognize the potential "gotchas" in this book that the author might not warn you about.

    To be fair, Foy does make a disclaimer statement that just because he includes a tool in his book doesn't mean that he recommends it. In other words (and to twist the Latin) "Let the programmer beware". Not every technique included in this book is "clean" or comes without its own baggage. On the other hand, if you have progressed in your knowledge of Perl to be ready for this book in general, you'll know the occasional pitfall when you see it.

    Pitfalls aside, "Mastering Perl" is really about "mastering Perl". When you have worked through the previous O'Reilly books on Perl (or have accumulated the equivalent experience), you will be at the perfect stage to take on Foy's material. It's not the sort of book you have to read cover-to-cover and makes an excellent reference guide for those of you who eat, breathe, and sleep Perl and would also like to take snacks and catnaps with the language. In other words, even for the experienced Perl developer, this one has content that will fill the gaps.

    Foy writes in a clear and to-the-point manner so absorbing the material won't be hindered by his style. If you are a Perl programmer transitioning from experienced to masters or are responsible for teaching such people, "Mastering Perl" definitely belongs on your bookshelf. It's a text whose time has come.
     
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  2. hbroomhall

    hbroomhall Petabyte Poster Gold Member

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    That's one for the bookshelf then! :biggrin Thanks!

    Harry.
     
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  3. stuPeas

    stuPeas Megabyte Poster

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    Cheers Trip. I think this one will stay OFF my bookshelf for a little while longer then.:D
     
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  4. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    I did provide links to both the Learning and Intermediate Perl books. You could give those a go. :wink:
     
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  5. stuPeas

    stuPeas Megabyte Poster

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    Cheers Trip. I've already got quite a few beginner and intermediate Perl texts, but not enough time (and need) to go through them thoroughly yet. :biggrin
     
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  6. brian d foy

    brian d foy New Member

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    Well, O’Reilly published “Advanced Perl Programming” a long time ago, before “Learning Perl Objects, References, and Modules” which is really the first edition of "Intermediate Perl". “Advanced Perl Programming” got a second and much different edition since then, so to replace the intent of the original "Advanced Perl Programming", I wrote "Mastering Perl". Also, “Programming Perl” is was O’Rellly’s second Perl book, and it has everything abou the language itself, but as a language reference and not a guide to writing and working with real Perl programs.

    Now, as for “Mastering Perl”, it’s not that people need more Perl syntax, but that they need more on the wisdom of applying Perl to specific tasks, such as debugging, program configuration, program logging, and so on. “Mastering Perl” is much more a book about programming than it is Perl. I took everything I wished programmers knew about actually working with Perl for real-life applications, yet had seemingly never been told, and put it into "Mastering Perl". Now, I can just give them the book rather than pointing them to various and scattered resources. I wish I had been able to write it sooner, and it had been on my mind for a while. First I updated "Learning Perl", then I updated "Intermediate Perl", and finally, took a year to write the third in the series.

    And, taken together, the page count of “Learning Perl”, “Intermediate Perl”, and “Mastering Perl” are still less than “Programming Perl”. At Stonehenge, we write our books to target a training class of one week. That works out to about 300 pages, and that’s the length of our books. You go as far as you want because not everyone needs to advance to the highest levels of Perl. All four of those books, I think, are still less than the page count of "Programming Python", which is a real toe-breaker. :)
     
  7. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Greeting, Brian. Thanks for coming by and sharing your insights. It's a pleasure to have the author of a book reviewed here lend his comments. :)
     
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  8. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Hmph! That's not what you told me when I gave my comments for my book! :noway

    heeheehee... just kidding... :p

    Welcome to the forums, Brian!
     
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  9. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Geez. Some people's kids. :rolleyes:

    :biggrin
     
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  10. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Listen, ancient one...

    ...ah, never mind, you probably can't hear/see me anyway... :rolleyes:

    :p
     
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  11. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    What's that, Sonny?

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. hbroomhall

    hbroomhall Petabyte Poster Gold Member

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    Greetings Brian and thanks a lot for the rapid overview of the Perl books. I have some of the early Perl books and hadn't really got round to investigating what was out there now, so your posting has cleared up a lot of points!

    Harry.
     
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