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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:
Perl Resource Kit - Win 32 edition
Author:
various
ISBN:
1 56592 409 6
Publisher:
O'Reilly
Pages:
5 volumes + CD
Price:
£99.95
Reviewer:
Adrian Wontroba
Subject:
perl
Appeared in:
11-6

In Brief

Perl 5.005 for win32 systems, WWW server API support, ActiveX support, a large chunk of the CPAN archive, a graphical debugger, 1,500+ pages of useful documentation.

What you get on paper

Perl Utilities Guide, Brian Jepson, 279 pp

Installation. Package Management. Perl overview. Perl development, including basic Perl, this is in just 50 pages, so if you don't know Perl, you'll really need to buy other books. Web Server APIs (ISAPI and WSAPI, mod_perl for Apache), Perlscript - an ActiveX scripting engine allowing the incorporation of Perl within an ActiveX scripting host. Writing extensions for Perl. Perl and Component Object Model objects. Where to find the updated Perl FAQ. Active Server Pages reference material. Perl Utilities (perldoc and friends).

Programming with Perl Modules, Erik Olson, 350 pp

Shows how to use some of the more popular Perl modules, including some win32 and NT specific ones. A useful adjunct to the Module Reference manuals. Some Perl documentation is a bit, ahh, terse (8-) Introduces the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network and describes how to develop a module fit for CPAN, and how to submit it.

The Perl Module Reference Volumes 1 and 2, David Futato, 1106 pp

The POD (Plain Old Documentation) for a large number of Perl modules in the CPAN archive. Yes, if you get the modules you can print, and do other things, to the documentation, but printed copies can be useful. While the modules documented were proved to build and install by the providers, there is no guarantee that they actually work.

A sample copy of the Perl Journal

People deeply interested in Perl might like to subscribe to this. The articles range from the informative to the funny (this was the spring 1998 edition).

What you get on CD

  • A win32 version of the Perl 5.005 interpreter and associated tools, plus sources (that is, of the Perl distribution). You don't get sources to ActiveState's proprietary code.
  • The ActiveState Perl debugger - a nice simple to use graphical debugger for Perl. It will evolve to be ActiveState's IDE.
  • A large number of installable Perl modules from the CPAN archive, here called packages.
  • The Perl Package Manager and the Visual Package Manager - the latter being an easy way to install and update packages, from the issue CD or ActiveState's web site.
  • Lots of help / documentation files, as both HTML and HTMLhelp. Those for a package are installed when the package is installed.
  • Example files from the Utilities Guide and Programming with Modules.
  • dmake4.1 and egcs1.0.2-mingw32 are provided (but are not supported) should you need a C compilation system.

Installation

READ CHAPTER 2 OF THE UTILITIES GUIDE - and then it is easy.

Updates

  • A resource kit service pack update is available from www.activestate.com.
  • More recent updates are also available for the Perl Development Kit and the debugger, which are available to PRK owners.
  • Later versions of many of the modules are also available from ActiveState, and may be installed with the visual package manager.

Licencing

While Perl source may be free, this collection definitely isn't. You get a single machine licence, with a clause allowing the primary user of a desktop machine to also install it on a notebook under some circumstances. Despite this, there is provision for network installation. O'Reilly will presumably sell additional licence packs.

Support

  • 30 days of free support once you register the product.
  • Chargeable support available thereafter.
  • Plus of course, the Perl community.

Use

Well, its Perl. Pure Perl things work. The Visual Package Manager uses a special purpose web server, written of course in Perl - which is a rather good installation test (8-). Some UNIX constructs are not supported (alarm, fork, SysV IPC etc.). I'm using Perl for data reduction on a NT system. My need to do this arose shortly after I saw the review copy in Mick's office. I'd hoped to use it to analyse NT PerfMon data or output files. To my delight, I found a module which read NT performance data from the kernel. To my dispair it didn't work (its dll may be out of date). To my shame, I have not yet downloaded newer versions of the packages from the ActiveState web site. I've toyed with it on a Windows98 notebook, where it works well. I have not tried any GUI modules (there is a Tk interface).

The ActiveState debugger is a delight, and is invoked with the `perl -d'.

Recommendation

Good if you need a comprehensive Perl implementation for Win32, and can afford it.

(This review was written for the UK Unix User Grouphttp://www.ukuug.org/and is reproduced with their permission.)