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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Title:
Web Development with Apache and Perl
Author:
Theo Petersen
ISBN:
1 930110 06 5
Publisher:
Manning
Pages:
410pp
Price:
$44.95
Reviewer:
Joe McCool
Subject:
unix; perl
Appeared in:
16-5
Petersen makes a strong case for using Perl on Web development. Perl text handling capabilities are legendary. It is easy to learn. The richness of features derives from its maturity. It is widespread; most systems administrators have access to it and have some sort of notion on its workings.

He also makes a strong case for mod_perl, where the perl code can be built into the web servers directly. mod_perl is stable,. enjoys ongoing development and is well documented. Where Perl is already in house, mod_perl adds considerable leverage.

Considerable attention is given to the installation of mod_perl, where the conventional CPAN installation methods of Perl fall slightly short.

The whole of part 3, 110 pages are devoted to example web sites. These include a store front, office applications, systems administration, build your own portal and a little bit on credit card processing (hardly adequate).

Part 4, 80 pages, is devoted to site management, both content and performance. Here the discussion on development life cycles and phased testing is but a glance at a complex and dangerous subject. Most of us join teams with this already in place or learn precariously through practice.

Security is now a horrendous issue on the web and Petersen's treatment might not be sufficient (9 pages on user authentication and 3 on management).

My main reservation is that Petersen is so taken with the Open Source world that he is inclined to waste a lot of space preaching to the converted. The first few chapters are taken up with a discussion of the ubiquitous nature of Apache and its close cousins: perl, mysql, cgi etc. Most sites thinking of web server applications will already be up to speed on these. A lot of the material on the use of CPAN and installing MySql are already covered in other, less specialised, books.

Thankfully, he does not even pretend to offer an introduction to the Perl language itself. Familiarity with that is assumed.

Despite this, Petersen's book is useful and I am happy to recommend it. Most experienced readers can afford to skip the first few chapters. It is good value for money and well worth the shelf space, but it will probably need accompaniment with a few other texts to get readers up to speed.