TER, Volume 6, Number 1, February 1999

ter - telecommunications electronic reviews

Volume 6, Issue 1, February 1999

Telecommunications Electronic Reviews (TER) is a publication of the Library and Information Technology Association.

Telecommunications Electronic Reviews (ISSN: 1075-9972) is a periodical copyright © 1999 by the American Library Association. Documents in this issue, subject to copyright by the American Library Association or by the authors of the documents, may be reproduced for noncommercial, educational, or scientific purposes granted by Sections 107 and 108 of the Copyright Revision Act of 1976, provided that the copyright statement and source for that material are clearly acknowledged and that the material is reproduced without alteration. None of these documents may be reproduced or adapted for commercial distribution without the prior written permission of the designated copyright holder for the specific documents.


REVIEW OF: Allen C. Benson. Neal-Schuman Complete Internet Companion for Librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1997.

by Brad Eden

There are many Internet guides currently on the market. Most deal with search and retrieval strategies, some with the technical logistics of connecting to and/or setting up computer equipment for the Internet, still others deal with issues such as security and electronic publishing. Most of them require some previous knowledge of the Internet, either by knowing its history or through personal use; very few deal with the Internet from a basic, no experience level (the "for Dummies" series comes to mind). The Neal-Schuman Complete Internet Companion for Librarians contains all of the above, being both "complete" and "for librarians."

The book is divided into six parts: Essential Background; What You Need to Get Ready; Tools and Resources; Communication Systems; Your Library as an Electronic Publisher; and Appendixes. Part I is subdivided into a short history of the Internet, a discussion of Internet addressing systems, a short introduction to copyright and digital information, and the librarian's role in a global network environment. Part II deals with connecting to the Internet, choosing hardware and software needed for establishing a basic connection, developing a software toolbox, and general security and virus protection. Part III introduces UNIX commands, as well as the basic file retrieval systems on the Internet such as Lynx, search engines, ftp, telnet, gopher, and Archie. Online library catalogs, free-nets, and a section called "Integrating Tools into Traditional Reference Practice" address librarians' questions and concerns regarding the incorporation of the Internet into the library. Part IV discusses e-mail, mailing lists, and Usenet News. Part V deals with the Internet as a vehicle for the publication and distribution of information through electronic means (e.g., ejournals, ezines, digital libraries, and creating digital documents). Part VI contains a list of appendixes.

This book definitely lives up to its title. I have personally never seen a more complete or thorough guide to the Internet; not only that, but it is written for the beginning Internet user, so that its usefulness is doubly valuable. For instance, if I would have had access to this manual when I was setting up my Internet connection at home, the section on Trumpet Winsock/SLIP connection would have saved me almost a week of problems with my Internet provider. In addition, the author provides the Internet address for the "Librarian's Homepage Generator," where even the most novice librarian can set up at least a startup home page for their library with a minimum amount of time and effort. The appendixes are especially useful: a section on library discussion lists, another on job-hunting online for librarians, a discussion on file types and the software that creates them (i.e., all of those funny characters that come after a file name, like .z, .arc, .zoo, .tar.z, .bin, .hqz), and a section on how to keep up with what's new on the Internet.

This large manual (it is an inch and a quarter thick) as well as all of the information contained within make it an easy recommendation as a reference work for every type and size of library. In addition, every librarian should have a personal copy of this manual. It has been designed specifically for librarians, whether a beginning or experienced user. Even after ten years of using the Internet, I found much of the technical discussion useful and helpful. I think that every librarian should run, not walk, to obtain a copy of this extremely well-written and thorough manual to the Internet for librarians.

Dr. Brad Eden (beden@nhmccd.edu) is Coordinator of Technical Services/Automated Library Services at North Harris Montgomery Community College District in Houston, Texas.

Copyright © 1999 by Brad Eden. This document may be reproduced in whole or in part for noncommercial, educational, or scientific purposes, provided that the preceding copyright statement and source are clearly acknowledged. All other rights are reserved. For permission to reproduce or adapt this document or any part of it for commercial distribution, address requests to the author at beden@nhmccd.edu.

REVIEW OF: Lisa Champelli and Howard Rosenbaum. Webmaster. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 1997.

by Steven Eisenberg

Webmaster is a great book, if unfortunately named. I thought it was going to be one of the many books concerning the ins-and-outs of setting up a web server and running a big website. Rather, this is a terrific book leading the reader through all the issues to consider when setting up a library home page and making Internet access points available at an institution. It's actually even more, it's worthwhile for anyone considering any school computer system that connects to the Internet or has e-mail capabilities.

As the World Wide Web becomes more ubiquitous (How often do you now see the familiar www.companyname.com on almost everything?), a debate about the future of books, libraries, and librarians rages on. One part of this debate involves the role that books and printed material will play in our future. Because of the central role that libraries have played in communities and schools in dealing with printed material, familiar questions arise: Do we need libraries anymore? Will information sources via networking and computers become so personalized that librarians will cease to have a role?

Books are not going away. I'm reviewing a book right now. For years we have heard and--ironically--read about how books would be replaced. We've all heard about the "paperless office," but the opposite seems to be happening. Almost every computer is attached to a printer, more and bigger bookstores are opening, and new magazine titles sprout up. It is also a fact that we live in a digital age--an age where information is delivered in bits. The Internet and the web are exploding. Being online is the newest "in" thing, and increasingly it is a requirement to participate. But a ticket to participate is a little more difficult than buying a book--you need a computer and a way to get connected, such as a modem. Libraries are places people can go to get connected. So, it appears that bits and books will coexist.

Another part of the debate concerns what's floating out there in all those bits. Those bits offer the good, the bad, and the ugly. Much has been written about the dangers of smut and pornography. How can users, especially children, be protected from exposure to these kinds of things? What are the implications and concerns that must be addressed when libraries provide Internet access?

Many students now begin their research by going first to the Internet for one of the many search engines. These students, however, waste a tremendous amount of time because they don't know either how to locate the relevant information among the oftentimes thousands of answers they retrieve or how to evaluate the worth of a site they have located. How can students be helped to search more efficiently and to wade through the information they receive more intelligently? These are important questions and responsibilities. Librarians have traditionally played a role in addressing these questions and will need to do so for the foreseeable future. How to approach these and other issues is what Lisa Champelli and Howard Rosenbaum do very well.

Setting up a library home page is a logical and sensible approach to extend the library into cyberspace--an electronic version of the information desk, a place where patrons can begin. How to set this up and what issues to consider are topics for which Champelli and Rosenbaum provide in-depth discussions. They begin with the question, why are you setting up a site? "Resist the temptation to establish a site simply because everyone else is!" (p. 2) Once the reason for a site has been established, the look and feel of the home page needs to be planned. How should it be laid out? This is more complicated and important than it seems: "...testing revealed that [an] initial design, based on the library's departmental structure, was confusing to members of the public who didn't know what to expect from headings titled Reference,' Circulation,'...." (p. 7)

From here the authors move to an important discussion of acceptable use, censoring, blocking, monitoring, and filtering. If these terms confuse you, don't worry. The authors clearly define these concepts and, more importantly, help the reader evaluate each one in light of the library's mission and audience. I found myself reaching for this book frequently to clarify issues in setting up my own school's library site.

The web is not going away, and it is definitely not a fad. It is here to stay, and so are libraries and librarians. If anything, the role of the latter two is more important than ever.

Included with Webmaster is a useful CD that includes links to helpful sites as well as templates for setting up a library website. Training and curriculum issues are also covered. The Appendix contains the text of the Communications Decency Act and a New Users' FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). This book is an excellent resource and a valuable tool for both librarians and educators who face the challenges of providing Internet use. Read this book.

Steven Eisenberg (SEisenberg@EHSHOUSTON.ORG) is Director of Technology at Episcopal High School in Houston, Texas.

Copyright © 1999 by the American Library Association. This document may be reproduced in whole or in part for noncommercial, educational, or scientific purposes, provided that the preceding copyright statement and source are clearly acknowledged. All other rights are reserved. For permission to reproduce or adapt this document or any part of it for commercial distribution, address requests to Office of Rights and Permissions, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.

REVIEW OF: Ken Arnold and James Gosling. The Java Programming Language, Second Edition. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1998.

by Martin R. Kalfatovic

In May 1997, reviewer James Powell in TER, Volume 4, Issue 5 stated, "If only Javan rhinos were as common as Java books...There are probably more books about Java than books about the assassinations of Kennedy and Lincoln combined." Needless to say, as Java has remained the hot new buzzword in programming languages, the number of Java books continues to grow.

In some circles and the popular media, Java has become more than just a programming language; Java has become a bit and byte Joan of Arc that will lead the armies of France against the English and crown the Dauphin the King. Or at least, break the hegemony of Microsoft and its operating systems in the Digital World.

The key to Java's strength is that it runs in an open-systems and platform-independent environment. This strength comes with a price in terms of program size, often sluggish and sometimes quirky response, and the inability (at present) to handle certain tasks well (e.g. printing). Whether Java will be able to play up its strengths, overcome its faults, and emerge, as Linux did in the field of operating systems, a viable low-cost alternative to the current dominant software paradigm, is yet to be seen.

The Java Programming Language by Arnold and Gosling is not designed for the novice or beginning Java programmer, but is designed to sit on the reference shelf of a seasoned Java code writer. As part of the publisher's thirteen part (at the time of the writing of this review) Java Series, The Java Programming Language is a starting point for a larger reference library for those working with Java.

Arnold and Gosling open their book with a quick tour of the Java programming language and coding conventions. Major chapters are devoted to Java concepts (or their implementation in Java). These include classes and objects; extending classes; interfaces; tokens, operators, and expressions; controlling program flow; strings; threads; documentation comments; the I/O package; utilities; and system programming. Java's ability to handle Unicode, multiple time zones, and calendar systems is also covered. Of particular usefulness is the chapter on standard packages. This chapter provides concise descriptions with examples of the core Java classes (e.g. java.applet, java.lang, java.beans, java.security, etc.). Appendixes provide a list of Java runtime exceptions, Unicode digits, operator precedence, etc. A "Further Reading" list is provided which, as proof of currency, is composed primarily of Internet URLs. An extended table of contents and a carefully done and thorough index make finding concepts quick and easy.

Page layout, type fonts, organizational structure, and other physical attributes of the book are consistent and well-done. A nice touch are the quirky and entertaining quotations at the head and foot of each chapter (e.g. "Computers are useless--they can only give you answers" by Picasso or "First things first, but not necessarily in that order" from Dr. Who).

Choosing from among the hundreds (and soon to be thousands if current trends hold!) of Java books can be daunting. This title is recommended for the more advanced Java programmer.

Martin R. Kalfatovic (mkalfato@sil.si.edu) is the Information Access Coordinator for Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 1999 by the American Library Association. This document may be reproduced in whole or in part for noncommercial, educational, or scientific purposes, provided that the preceding copyright statement and source are clearly acknowledged. All other rights are reserved. For permission to reproduce or adapt this document or any part of it for commercial distribution, address requests to Office of Rights and Permissions, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.

REVIEW OF: Patrick Niemeyer and Joshua Peck. Exploring Java, 2nd Edition. Cambridge, MA: O'Reilly, 1997.

by William S. Williams

A colleague of mine glanced at the stack of books on my desk the other day and noticed that Exploring Java was open to the first chapter. He picked it up and perused the index, exclaiming, "Not another Java book!" This is not to say that Niemeyer and Peck's work is "just another Java book." In fact, Exploring Java is an integral part of the very comprehensive Java Series produced by O'Reilly publishing. This book is a simple, yet thorough, tour through the many features of the most popular of the object- oriented programming languages today. Exploring Java is an ideal book for an introduction to programming in Java, especially for the programmer experienced with other languages (namely C++), except that there are no exercises with which to work, and as such, the work seems to exist on a more theoretical plane.

Exploring Java begins with a discussion of the omnipresent applet. Niemeyer and Peck use the applet to introduce the reader to the use of classes, packages, and methods. Starting with the compilation of a very simple applet, the authors add various levels of complexity to the applet until they have included introductory aspects of all the major facets of the Java programming language, including threads and synchronization, as well as exception handling and garbage collection. The "Hello Web!" applet becomes more than the obligatory "hello world" first statement in Java; it becomes a microcosm of the language. Additionally, as part of the introduction, Niemeyer and Peck provide a cursory discussion of the "Tools of the Trade" by which they mean to include the Java interpreter, the class path, the Java compiler, as well as JAR files (Java ARchive files--like TAR files in the UNIX environment). This chapter, providing a brief overview of the syntax and usage of the Java interpreter and compiler, is the perfect place to start for the beginning or intermediate programmer.

The chapter entitled "The Java Language" gives the reader a formative look at the "framework of the Java language" including data types, error handling, comments, statements and expressions. While this chapter provides a decent amount of detail regarding these subjects, the reader, without a few years of programming under his or her belt, may find some of the truths contained here somewhat elusive. A programmer with more experience may find the portion of a page devoted to garbage collection a little light.

As noted above, there are no exercises as found in many introductory programming works, but there are examples. In fact, the code snippets included in the chapters on objects and classes are copious and quite beneficial. The chapter on basic utility classes includes a discussion of several of the java.util classes. For example, the "object-oriented equivalent" of C's strtok, the java.util.StringTokenizer supports parsing of text strings into delimited chunks based on the use of white space or other specified delimiters. Also included in this discussion are java.lang.math, java.util.Hashtable, and java.util.Vector which make for quite heady reading.

Niemeyer and Peck's coverage of handling input/output in Java is extremely well done. In Java, most I/O is dealt with as streams of data. Java provides simple methods for printing, character conversion, writing, and reading data. The discussion of these features in Java is quite in-depth. Data compression and decompression are also covered. While the authors' coverage of these topics is limited to their application in the Java language, Niemeyer and Peck point the reader interested in compression algorithms to outside sources.

Niemeyer and Peck do not write without a sense of humor. Theirs is a wry one, and not without merit. Nowhere is this more evident than in their discussion of Java network programming and the complexity of socket programming in the past. Java allows the network programmer a little freedom by hiding many of the network programming details found while programming sockets in C. I found this chapter to be the most fascinating and the most entertaining. In addition, the authors delve fairly deeply into RMI (Remote Method Invocation), the rough equivalent of RPC (remote procedure calls) in C. Included here are the use of the RMI compiler, handling remote objects, and the RMI registry. A brief nod is given to CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) which has seen its popularity rise in recent years given its ability to interface with applications written in languages other than Java. As the authors stipulate, however, RMI is much less complicated to implement than CORBA, despite its deficiencies in some areas (the authors fail to mention what those areas might be).

A portion of the work includes a lengthy overview of the Abstract Windowing Toolkit, or AWT, and the many layout managers included in the Java API. Given the vast amount of information available on the design and architecture of GUI environments--not just in Java, but in TCL/TK, for example, the authors do a remarkable job of distilling the information into a useful and practical two chapters. It would be fairly easy to become quite well-versed with the layout managers in Java by covering these fifty or so pages.

There is a chapter on Java Beans and using the Java Beans API which has become the most exciting development in Java since Java itself. Programming with Java Beans allows you to reuse code and design code frameworks and to do all of the design and implementation in a graphical application builder. This chapter is fairly long and supplies much useful information, but the authors admit that it is only a brief overview and suggest Rob Englander's Developing Java Beans as a primary resource.

When all is said and done, Exploring Java is just what the title suggests--an exploration of all the facets of the language. It is not a book with which one would learn Java in three weeks (or some other ridiculous amount of time), but it is an introductory reference for those readers interested in an overview of the language and its functionality.

William S. Williams (bill.williams@netsco.com) is a Systems Engineer for Netsco, Inc., a Java development firm that specializes in Java-based network computing solutions.

Copyright © 1999 by William S. Williams. This document may be reproduced in whole or in part for noncommercial, educational, or scientific purposes, provided that the preceding copyright statement and source are clearly acknowledged. All other rights are reserved. For permission to reproduce or adapt this document or any part of it for commercial distribution, address requests to the author at bill.williams@netsco.com.

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