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Beginning Perl

Good, abeit slightly overcomplicated introduction to Perl

This is a good book which is a unique mix of intro and intermediate material. It is now also available as electronic edition including Kindle Edition from Amazon.

It is suitable for one semester course in Perl. Version covered is Perl 5.8 not 5.10. Some issues covered such as dereferencing of arguments in subroutines are rarely covered even in intermediate books. This is definitely much better and cheaper book then Learning Perl (ignore the lemmings effect in Amazon reviews of this pretty weak book).

The strong point of the book is the set of examples (you can download them) which illustrates basic material of each chapter. Running them is a must for studying Perl with this book.

Examples are often sometimes overcomplicated (like most Perl books authors Simon Cozen tries to impress reader with his knowledge of intricacies of Perl and often loses the sense of proportion; but he is not as bad as Randal Schwartz who is a pathological "overcomplicator" ;-). Still they are very helpful in understanding the language. A very useful exercise that I successfully tried with my students is the simplification of examples provided.

Due to this the book is the best for programmers moving from other languages then to "plain vanilla" beginners. It might be also useful for Unix system administrators who know Unix shell reasonably well.

The range of topics covered is really impressive:

Chapter 1: First Steps In Perl
Chapter 2: Working with Simple Values
Chapter 3: Lists and Hashes
Chapter 4: Loops and Decisions
Chapter 5: Regular Expressions
Chapter 6: Files and Data
Chapter 7: References
Chapter 8: Subroutines
Chapter 9: Running and Debugging Perl
Chapter 10: Modules
Chapter 11: Object-Oriented Perl
Chapter 12: Introduction to CGI
Chapter 13: Perl and Databases
Chapter 14: The World of Perl
Appendix A: Regular Expressions
Appendix B: Special Variables
Appendix C: Function Reference
Appendix D: The Perl Standard Modules
Appendix E: Command Line Reference
Appendix F: The ASCII Character Set
Appendix G: Licenses
Appendix H: Solutions to Exercises
Appendix J: Support, Errata and P2P.Wrox.Com

Simon Cozens definitely knows the language well and it shows.

The book covered a lot of intermediate topics like references, databases, OO concepts, CGI, etc.

Lists and hashes are explained well although the author often abuses lists and uses them where they do not belong. Both are introduced early in the book.

Regular expressions are explained OK. I like the approach the author takes in writing a small program which demonstrates various concepts.
The book covers both DBM databases and SQL databases. MySQL is used to demonstrate how PERL interacts with an SQL database. Most Linux distributions have MySQL installed by default, the book also contains useful information about installation and basic configuration, that helps to make MySQL up and running.

DBM, which are simple key-value pair databases are covered in more detail. The author demonstrates complex data storage using DBM files. Normally DBM can only store a single value for any key.

As for SQL only fairly simple SQL commands are covered, but then it is an introductory books and it's naive to expect full SQL coverage.

In CGI chapter the author introduces CGI environment variables and HTTP commands such as GET and POST first. Then he switches to the module which is standard module in Perl but unfortunately introduces a lot of overcomplexity in the topic. CGI security issues are also mentioned.

Basic networking is covered in chapter 14. The Net::FTP module is covered in chapter 11, Object-Oriented Perl which makes this chapter simultaneously an extension of networking chapter.

The set of examples from the book greatly enhances the value of the book. It is mostly error free and immediately usable. Also each chapter has exercises with the answers. That makes the book perfectly suitable for the classroom.

All-in-all this is a solid introduction to Perl which is attractive not only due to the price.



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