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O'Reilly Pocket References

Order (or just read more about) Sendmail Pocket Reference from Amazon.com

Order (or just read more about) Javascript Pocket Reference from Amazon.com

Order (or just read more about) Perl 5 Pocket Reference from Amazon.com

These guides are misnamed: they won't fit in a shirt pocket. They might fit in the pocket of a suit, but consider that most who want or need these guides aren't usually found wearing such things. They are small enough to tuck away in a briefcase, duffel bag, or whatever it is you use to haul your stuff around in, though.

And they are handy. Sure, if I know I'm going to be grappling with sendmail outside of my office/library, I'll bring the monster Sendmail reference. The same is true for for any definite Perl project or anything else. But it's when I have to do something that I didn't expect to do that these little guides prove their worth. Obviously they are short on examples, curt with regard to syntax, and often very incomplete. They serve really as nothing more than memory-joggers: if you don't already know how something works, these usually aren't going to get you where you want to be. But memory jogging is often just exactly what I need, so I find these useful.

Of the three (actually, there are more titles in the same format), the Sendmail reference has the most explanatory text, which is good, because the cryptic nature of sendmail probably needs more explanation than most things. It even tries to explain rule sets and m4, or at least enough to remind you of what you are doing.

One gripe about the Javascript reference is that it doesn't warn about the numerous bugs in earlier versions. I suppose, though, that if you don't already know that, the pocket guide isn't of much use to you anyway, but I still wouldn't have minded seeing at least some acknowledgent of some of the more badly broken functions.

I have the most gripes about the Perl reference. Rather than arranging the commands alpabetically, they are grouped by function: string functions, array functions, and so on. So, is "chop" a string function or an array function? How about "join" or "reverse"? Well, it seems that the author feels "chop" and "chomp" belong to the strings section, but the other two are found under arrays. Would you expect to find "sprintf" under one of those? It isn't, it's under Input and Output! I don't know where "tr" is- it isn't under String, and I can't find it anywhere else, either. In spite of my grumbling, this still is useful, and if I don't find something where I expect it, my second guess usually works.

These have found a home in my bag, along with various patch CD's, Skunkware, patch cables, small tools, jumpers, power cable extenders, spare scsi cables, led testers and the like. You never know what you will need on site.



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Perl is designed to give you several ways to do anything, so consider picking the most readable one. (Larry Wall)

What do such machines really do? They increase the number of things we can do without thinking. Things we do without thinking — there's the real danger. (Frank Herbert)












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