by Cye H. Waldman, Ph.D.

Copyright 1997 Cye Waldman. All rights reserved.

"The only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves."

—E. M. Forster


My particular interest in the Web has always been in authoring Web pages. My experience has been that there isn’t anything worth knowing about this pursuit that cannot be found in books. That has been the overriding reason for my interest in all manner of books about authoring for the Web. It has also inspired me to develop the WWWiz book list, where you can find over 3,500 titles on Web development in more than 20 languages.

In this column I’ll be calling out some of the more notable titles that have crossed my desk. These brief reviews are intended to spark your imagination and inspire you to think beyond your current Web authoring efforts. To learn more about these books visit their Web sites.

The Book Reviews

Web Design Template Sourcebook by Lisa Schmeiser (New Riders, $45/CD-ROM) boasts over 300 Web page templates for getting your Web site started. After an obligatory skills primer covering the basics of HTML the author gets into the meat of the book. There are chapters on Text-Heavy Materials (e.g., annual reports, business plans, papers, magazine articles, etc.); Frequently Updated Contents (e.g., news releases, announcements, calendars); Corporate/Promotional Web Sites (e.g., company reports, media kits, brochures, and catalogs); Forms (e.g., order forms and surveys); and Multifunctional sites (a bit of everything). The book finished off with some alternatives to HTML templates with an overview of the emerging technologies of dynamic HTML, style sheets, and layering. Of course, the templates come with complete source code on the CD-ROM and you can use them as-is or as a jumping-off point for your own creative juices.

Winn L. Rosch Hardware Bible, Premiere Edition by Winn L. Rosch (Sams Publishing, $65/CD-ROM) is an exhaustive book on all aspects of PC hardware. The book can be read at many levels depending on your own level of technical expertise. For the novice it can provide a general background on the workings of a microprocessor or memory or hard disks. The expert can benefit from the detailed discussions of expansion buses and networks. There are 25 chapters covering every aspect of your system. Unlike the previous edition of the book, this one is Internet-aware throughout. The book is so large (over 1200 pages) that they have relegated some of the information to the CD-ROM, so it contains the complete text of the book and then some. In fact, there are five complete appendices on the CD-ROM that aren't available in the print version. These include chapters on PC History and Health and Safety. Moreover, the CD-ROM is in HTML format for easy access with your favorite browser. All-in-all this is a fun book just to browse through on paper or on screen.

The Web Publishing and Programming Resource Kit (, $150/3 CD-ROMs) is's magnum opus on Web publishing. This set contains seven original texts and 3 CD-ROMs. All of the books are new, i.e., they didn't just grab a bunch of old books and repackage them. The set was obviously carefully planned and coordinated. The seven volumes in the set are

  1. HTML
  2. Java and JavaScript
  3. Activex and VBScript
  4. CGI Programming with Perl, Visual Basic, and C
  5. Server Programming APIs: NSAPI and ISAPI Extensions
  6. Web Page Design
  7. Graphics, Animation, and Multimedia
The first volume is by far the largest and it also contains a hefty cross-referenced Master Index for all the books. The three CD-ROMs contain
  1. Volumes 1-5 in HTML format; examples from the books; and a Java security tutorial.
  2. 600 MB of third party software (shareware, trial versions of commercial software, graphics library, scripts, etc.).
  3. The Best of TUCOWS. A 600 MB collection covering every aspect of Internet software and then some.
To my casual observation the material in the books seems to be up-to-date. My principal objection is that the book on Java and JavaScript is probably too small to cover either topic is sufficient detail. But if you're looking for an instant Web publishing library this might be just the place to start.

Curiously, has also just come out with another complete Web publishing set, Laura Lemay's Electronic Web Workshop (, $60/2 CD-ROMs). This set contains only one book Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in a Week, 3rd Ed. by Laura Lemay but has ten searchable books plus a collection of Web publishing tools on the two CD-ROMs. The ten books on the first CD-ROM contains over 6500 pages of information, they are:

  1. Teach Yourself Web publishing with HTML 3.2 in a Week, 3rd Ed.
  2. Laura Lemay's Guide to Sizzling Web Site Design
  3. Laura Lemay's Web Workshop: 3D Graphics and VRML 2
  4. Laura Lemay's Web Workshop: ActiveX and VBScript
  5. Laura Lemay's Web Workshop: Creating Commercial Web Pages
  6. Laura Lemay's Web Workshop: Microsoft FrontPage 97, 2nd Ed.
  7. Laura Lemay's Web Workshop: Graphics and Web Page Design
  8. Laura Lemay's Web Workshop: JavaScript
  9. Laura Lemay's Web Workshop: Netscape Navigator Gold 3, Deluxe Edition
  10. Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in 14 Days, Professional Reference Edition
The second CD-ROM contains the usual panoply of Internet and Web software.

I don't have this set so I can't make a fair comparison of these two approaches to the "total" Web library. There are some differences worth noting. First, one set is heavily oriented toward printed material whereas the other in pricipally available only on CD-ROM. Second, the Lemay set has some older material which will soon be replaced by new software releases such as Frontpage 98 and Netscape Composer (replacing Navigator Gold). So with a substantial price difference it's a toss-up. Another question is how much reading you can stand to do from acomputer screen.

O'Reilly & Associates has just released its Java Language Reference, 2nd Ed. by Mark Grand thus completing the trilogy of reference books on the Java programming language, Version 1.1. The other books in the series are Java Fundamental Classes Reference by Mark Grand and Jonathan Knudsen and Java AWT Reference by John Zukowski. The Java Language Reference is just that, a guide to the definitions, syntax, and control structures of the language. The second edition includes updated information on the new Java features. The book is not intended as a tutorial on the language and is geared for serious programmers. The ten chapters in the book cover the data types, expressions, declarations, control structures, program structure, threads, exception handling, and a lengthy chapter (almost half the book) on the java.lang package. The book is riddled with railroad diagrams and code snippets to illustrate the important points.

Much has been written about how the Internet is changing the fabric of our society, but the late Timothy Leary's vision of cybeculture is unique. The path from "turn on, tune in, drop out" of the 60's to "turn on, tune in, boot up" of the 90's is not a striaght one. Chaos & Cyberculture by Timoth Leary (Ronin Publishing, $20) is a collection of articles and essays (by Leary and others) from the past decade describing how the computer is revolutionizing communication and empowering the individual. This book touches on those topics most others shy away from: drugs, sex, religion, and politics. There are also interviews with the likes of WIlliam S. Burroughs and David Byrne. Embrace chaos!

Official Netscape JavaScript 1.2 Book, 2nd Ed. by Peter Kent and John Kent (Netscape Press/Ventana, $30) contains both tutorials and ready-to-use-scripts. The book is billed as a "Nonprogrammer's Guide to Creating Interactive Web Pages." The book begins with the obligatory what is JavaScript/where did it come from then has a chapter which shows quick scripts you can implement right away. To whet the appetite, as it were. The tutorials then begin in earnest. Each chapter introduces a new programming concept and demonstrates it with examples. Frankly, I'm confused about what the different JavaScript versions connote (because I've seen conflicting information) but let me assure you the content of this book is up to date. The new JavaScript features for Netscape Communicator (such as layers, style sheets, etc.) are covered in this book. There is no CD-ROM, but the book's resources can be found online.

The Official Netscape Composer Book. by Alan Simpson (Netscape Press/Ventana, $40/ CD-ROM) begins, but does not end, with Netscape's Composer Web page authoring program, a part of the Netscape Communicator suite. The first half of the book covers all the basic skills for creating Web pages with Composer. The second half covers advanced Web page authoring techniques that aren't available with Composer. Let's face it folks, there is never going to be an award winning page developed in a drag-n-drop program. Forget it. So when push comes to shove you're going to have to get your hands dirty. Simpson covers images, animations, image maps, frames, JavaScript, layers, Java applets, and more. The CD-ROM has an unusual bunch of software (more often than not I say the usual panoply of software) including an image map program, two frame generation programs, and an applet construction program.

The Official HTML Publishing for Netscape, 2nd Ed. . by Gayle Kidder and Stuart Harris (Netscape Press/Ventana, $50/ CD-ROM) serves the same purpose as Simpson's book but is geared for those inclined to program for themselves. The book is divided into six sections of several chapters each covering basic HTML, images, intermediate HTML (tables, frames, style sheets), dynamic HTML (sound, multimedia, Java, JavaScript), advanced HTML (forms, CGI, databases), and Appendices (HTML tags, reference material, etc.). The CD-ROM has, you guessed it, the usual panoply of software. I've recommended the previous version of this book and am satisfied to recommend this one as well.

My overriding feeling in reviewing these books is that I'm glad I learned HTML when there were maybe 30(?) HTML tags instead of God knows how many there are now. For that matter, I'm glad I started with personal computers in 1978 with a an Apple ][. (And that was before there were any modems for PCs.) Learning new things as they came out has been easy. The prospect of buying a computer and having to come up to speed now on everything at once is quite terrifying.

For a total change of pace take a look at The Interactive Book, A Guide to the Interactive Revolution by Celia Pearce (New Riders, $40). I don't know what to make of this book. It's a collection of essays on the interactive revolution as perceived by the author, a self-proclaimed member of the "digiterati," or "artificial intelligentsia" as she likes to call it. I thought this was very funny because I put the emphasis on the word artificial. Besides, how many people do you know who tell you they are a member of the intelligentsia? Do they have a degree for that? Anyway, there is plenty to read here. I'll leave it for you to separate the useful from the digibable. (Hey, I made that up!)

The time-space continuum has not allowed me to review the following books that I also thought were of interest:

Moths to the Flame: The Seductions of Computer Technology by Gregory J.E. Rawlins (MIT Press, $10) explores the potential future impacts of computer technology. The first few chapters looks at the "local" aspects of computer technology: privacy, virtual reality, publishing, and computer networks. The remaining chapters look at the "global" social issues such as warfare, jobs, and the future itself. The book is well-written and often humorous. Rawlins brings us an interesting perspective on the future written in an accessible style. Moths to the Flame is now available in paperback for only $10. I have previously recommended Rawlins's more recent book Slaves of the Machine here as well.

Designing with JavaScript: A Guide for the Rest of Us by Nick Heinle (O'Reilly & Associates, $40/CD-ROM) is Heinle's magnum opus, reflecting his long, distinguished career as a Web developer. I'm only kidding, Heinle is only seventeen years old. Yet, this is a carefully crafted book that will bring you up to speed on developing JavaScript and dynamic HTML. The book is up-to-date in that it covers JavaScript 1.2 for both Microsoft and Netscape browser versions 4.0. The book covers the spectrum of things you'd want to do with JavaScript: windows, frames, forms, designing for different browsers, cookies, dynamic HTML, and layers. A final chapter on advanced applications covers user-defined objects and a couple of larger example projects. This book offers a different approach to learning JavaScript than a "programmer's" book. It teaches by example, starting with simple scripts and building therefrom. This book is in O'Reilly's Web Review Studio Series and its emphasis is appropriately more on design than programming. By the time you finish the book you will be comfortable enough with JavaScript to build your own scripts.

Drag-n-Drop CGI: Enhance Your Web Site Without Programming by Bob Weil and Chris Baron (Addison-Wesley, $33/CD-ROM) is a book to help non-programmers jazz-up their Web sites with CGI-Perl and JavaScripts. After introducing you to these subjects the authors take you into specific applications. Among other things, the book includes mouse-over JavaScript "hints," a Perl visitor counter, scrolling text with JavaScript, random or regular graphics changing with Perl, remote controls with JavaScript, forms processing and searching with Perl, and a complete online store system in Perl. There are also instructions for dealing with your ISP—many of them won't let you post your own Perl scripts. The CD-ROM contains a the scripts from the book plus some other goodies, including a 30-day trail version of NetObjects Fusion 2.0 (for Windows 95/NT).

JDBC Database Access With Java: A Tutorial and Annotated Reference by Graham Hamilton, Rick Cattell, and Maydene Fisher (Addison-Wesley, $38) is both a tutorial and reference manual for JDBC, the programming interface that allows you to access databases from Java. The authors recommend some knowledge of both Java and SQL (if you have to ask this isn't for you!). Basically, JDBC allows you access a remote database, process data via SQL statements, and publish the results on a Web site. I'm not a database person so I can't appreciate the details, but it's apparent that the tutorial is replete with many examples and sample code and the reference manual contains an extensive listing of the classes, interfaces, methods, and fields, with explanations of what they mean and do with many examples of their usage.

Official Netscape JavaScript 1.2 Programmer's Reference by Peter Kent and Kent Multer (Netscape Press/Ventana, $40/CD-ROM) is just that, a detailed language reference, with an alphabetical listing of all the functions. Each listing gives the version of JavaScript for which the function is applicable, its syntax, a brief discussion, an example, and related functions. A nice bonus is a quick reference table toward the beginning of the book with a complete listing of the functions with page reference numbers. Several chapters at the beginning of the book discuss the basics of JavaScript. The companion CD-ROM has an HTML version of the book if you'd rather not let your finger do the walking. The authors missed a great opportunity to avail themselves of the real power of HTML by not cross-linking the "related functions" on the CD-ROM. Quel dommage! I have recently also recommended Peter Kent's Official Netscape JavaScript 1.2 Book, 2nd Ed. here and am pleased to recommend this companion volume as well.

The Photoshop Plug-ins Book by Daniel Gray (Ventana, $40/CD-ROM) shows you how to get more out of Photoshop with plug-ins. Everybody knows Photoshop is the de facto standard graphics manipulation program. But did you you know there are literally dozens of third-party plug-ins you can use to enhance it capabilities? This book covers most of the plug-ins available for Photoshop 4.0. Each of the 42 chapters covers one or more plug-ins with a description of who should use it, what it does, why to use it, and how to use it. One entire section of six chapters is on plug-ins for optimizing images for the Web. There is also a guide to additional plug-ins not covered in the book. The companion multi-platform CD-ROM contains over 30 plug-ins (or, at least, demo versions) plus Internet links for more plug-ins and useful sites. Also note that many of the plug-ins are compatible with other graphics programs as well.

Cye H. Waldman, Ph.D. is a technical and engineering consultant based in Encinitas, CA, and a chronic Webaholic.