FM Reviews
First Monday

FM Reviews

Adobe Systems Incorporated.
PDF Reference: Adobe portable document format, version 1.3.
Second edition.
Boston: Addison-Wesley, 2000.
paper, 679 p., CD-ROM, ISBN 0-201-61588-6, US$49.95.
Addison-Wesley: http://www.awl.com/cseng/

Adobe Systems. PDF Reference.

Anybody new to the world of the Web would be excused for thinking that PDF files have been around for years and years. From release notes, to electronic brochures, from official reports to academic studies, much information is disseminated as PDF files from many Web sites. But what exactly is PDF and how long has it been around?

PDF, or Portable Document Format, was developed by Adobe Systems to achieve a long-standing dream: retaining the exact format of electronic documents, regardless of platform, specifications, environment and fonts settings. In the old days of desktop computing, this was not such a big problem, as most documentation was created as simple, unformatted text (or ASCII text, as many techies would call it). Even after the desktop publishing revolution, you could be nearly sure that the intended reader of a document would have the same fonts installed on their computer as yourself, considering that only a standard set of PostScript typefaces were available.

All this changed with the sophistication and popularisation of software which allowed anyone to create complex documents, including graphics, tables, as well as charts, along with any number of fonts. Nowadays, it would be unrealistic to estimate how many fonts there are, but it can be safely assumed that it must be in the tens of thousands. (Sadly this has diminished the aesthetics of many electronic publications, as many so-called designers do not know that few is better, when it comes to mixing and matching typefaces!)

How can truly universal documents be created? Documents that are relatively small in size, yet preserve exactly the appearance of the original, are interactive, can be indexed, annotated, printed in high-resolution and that can even contain live links to Web pages?

Enter PDF.

First published in 1993, the specifications of this electronic format have been made available over the Internet on a regular basis. However, this book is the first attempt at consolidating all information in one volume. After an introductory chapter and a brief overview of the architecture, all the ins and outs of PDF are formalised in various sections. Thus, from lexical conventions to coordinate systems, from fonts to rendering, to interactive features and file identifiers, everything that makes PDF is accurately listed and explained. Eight appendices covering name registry, linearised PDF, compatibility, example files, and the ever troublesome character set encoding tables round up the volume.

Like many other Adobe manuals, this one, too, is nicely laid out, clearly written and complemented by appropriate illustrations, tables, notes and mathematical formulae. It also includes a CD ROM containing (what else!) a PDF version of the manual itself.

While this is not a book you would read from cover to cover, it is a definite and authoritative reference for anyone involved in creating applications that generate PDF files directly as well as those that need to handle PDF files and modify their contents. While it is not inexpensive, you can be sure that you are securing accurate and reliable information because it comes directly from the very developer of the technology. - Paolo G. Cordone End of Review

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Michael H. Birnbaum (editor).
Psychological experiments on the Internet.
San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 1999.
cloth, 337 p., ISBN 0-120-99980-3, US$59.95.
Academic Press: http://www.academicpress.com/

Michael H. Birnbaum (editor). Psychological experiments on the Internet.

An interesting, technically oriented volume, editor Birnbaum's carefully crafted compilation serves as both handbook and reference for students and researchers, even crossing the border into the technology field.

This book is targeted to psychologists who wish to learn from the experiences of the "early 'pioneers' of Internet research" as they - the new generation of researchers - conduct their own investigations. Birnbaum explains, "There is a great deal of good advice given in these pages from those who have learned the hard way" (p. xv). Birnbaum further suggests in the introduction that readers should avail themselves of the links provided as a "study companion"; for a sample, see these resources at http://psych.fullerton.edu/mbirnbaum/web/IntroWeb.htm

Dr. Birnbaum is a professor of psychology at California State University in Fullerton. His home page describes his research in judgment, decision-making, and behavior. An impressive listing of publications and conference presentations attests to his keen skill as editor. Birnbaum succinctly sets the stage with the opening chapter on psychological experiments conducted via the Internet. Technology has provided researchers with a means to conduct research, but this new arena presents new problems. As Birnbaum explains, this book answers some of the questions and responds to the issues: "(1) how to conduct Internet research; (2) recruitment of special populations; (3) how Internet samples differ demographically from college subject pools; (4) how results of Internet and lab experiments compare" (p. xvi).

Section I deals with some general issues, including how decision-making differs online and in the laboratory; issues surround the validity, advantages and disadvantages of online experiments; and, a history of online experiments. Musch and Reips, authors of the chapter on the (brief) history of Web experimenting, conducted an online survey in order to describe how the medium proved intriguing to researchers. While an all-to-brief preamble opens the chapter, what is interesting is the method and results of the survey of the experiences of the "first generation" of Web-based researchers.

The authors describe how respondents were recruited on the Internet; invitations were disseminated on mailing lists, newsgroups, and personally addressed e-mail. Twenty-nine researchers responded, with the majority from Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Many researchers said that they were interested in reaching a large number of participants for their experiments; in most cases, in order to prevent duplication of responses, the researchers employed some use of passwords, and control of e-mail and IP addresses. Most researchers surveyed preferred to keep their Web experiments accessible to as many as possible, so most of them remained conservative in their approaches of Web experiments. Interestingly, many of the resulting papers have yet to be published. The authors of this chapter draw the conclusion that "it seems that the core areas for Web experiments are those that deal with cognition" (p. 85).

The next four chapters that comprise Section II discuss individual and cross-cultural differences, including personality research, human sexual behavior, and multicultural interpretations of facial features (this case presents "surprise"). Additionally, the final chapter in this section presents a case study in online research. The question posed was "What good comes from all this time and money spent on computers?" Researchers Mueller, Jacobsen, and Schwarzer conducted an online survey and the resulting lessons learned are chronicled. Inspiration for such Web-based research came from marketing surveys that indicated it was feasible to conduct research online. The researchers spent some time to learn how to program by using online guides and help files, in addition to simple discovery methods.

The authors note that non-academic surveys at the time provided no opportunity for informed consent, consideration for privacy/anonymity/confidentiality, or standards in data collection. In addition, providing a "debriefing document" after the answers are submitted is recommended. This follows a basic usability principle called feedback; in this case, participants' actions are recorded and some acknowledgement is provided. (For more information about usability principles, see "What Do Users Want?" by Larry Constantine http://www.foruse.com/Files/Papers/whatusers.pdf)

What researchers want is to be able to begin programming their own online experiments. For the hearty psychologist, then, of special interest is Section III, advanced computer and programming techniques, where researchers learn how to control the Web environment in the context of online psychological labs and the creation and use of questionnaires on the Web. Authorware and Shockwave (both software packages published by Macromedia), Java and JavaScript, and the joys of the client-server relationship are featured. A helpful glossary of Web terms is included immediately following the final chapter. Chapter 10 is particularly helpful with practical HTML programming that also includes Java and JavaScript. Some sample HTML code and JavaScripting are provided as well. Depending on the situation, however, researchers should also be very familiar with industry and other Web guidelines. Authors Baron and Siepman do a fine job of providing a good introduction, but I would have to have seen some nod to those requirements, especially for those new to online psychological research. This is not a book on Web design, but an acknowledgment to that end on those external issues would be helpful.

Non-programming-savvy researchers should avail themselves of this appropriate resource prior to working with the programming types. Doing so will help researchers to understand the jargon of tech-speak. As Mueller, Jacobsen, and Schwarzer write, "We have enhanced our own self-efficacy as a result" (p. 201). While not a neglected audience, it should also be pointed out that the researchers should ask of their programmers to read, or at least scan, the majority of the text as well. - Beth Archibald Tang End of Review

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Bill Calkins.
Solaris 7 administration certification training guide.
Indianapolis, Ind.: New Riders, 2000.
paper, 650 p., ISBN 1-578-70249-6, US$49.99.
New Riders: http://www.newriders.com

Bill Calkins. Solaris 7 administration certification.

Having used one of Bill Calkins' books successfully for the Solaris 2.6 exam part 1 (his part 2 book was not published in time) and finding it an excellent book, I thought that the Solaris 7 book, section 1, would basically be the same book but updated for the exam. However, this was not the case: the book has been completely rewritten and improved, its main aim is still to teach Solaris administration and not to teach you how to pass the exam.

Solaris 7 administration certification is split into 3 sections, with section 1 relating to the part 1 test, Section 2 to the part 2 test and section 3 containing appendices.

Each chapter starts with a list of test objectives, pointing to its main aims, and concludes with a summary which gives information on the scope of the material. This is very useful as a lot of the subjects for part 1 are covered in more detail in the part 2 exam or because sometimes the information is fundamental to understanding the material of part 2. All the subjects necessary to pass the two exams are included in this book, which is well written and straight to the point. References are also made to known Sun freeware software, such as Tcpwrapers.

There are a few odd technical errors and some typesetting problems where screen shots obscure some of the text. However, these are very minor issues and any technical book containing this amount of information is bound to have an occasional mistake.

I would strongly recommend the book to anyone new to Solaris administration even if they have no intention of taking the exams. An experienced Solaris administrator would probably find that he or she knows most of the information presented, but if the intention is to take the test, it is simply necessary to master all details covered here. In this respect, Solaris 7 administration certification provides everything in the depth required to be successful.

Comparatively speaking, the cost of the Sun Admin training course is close to UK£3000, and provides virtually the same information as this book. Thus, in a way the book represents undoubtedly good value. It is important to stress that, in order to be confident enough for the certification test, a certain hands-on experience with using at least two Solaris boxes is necessary, to be in the position of experimenting with some of the techniques explained in the book.

The CD included with the book contains a practical test which is a useful tool. However, there are two major drawbacks with this: first, the database contains about 400 questions, which doesn't seem that many, considering that one could run only a few tests of 80 questions apiece to have exhausted the entire pool available. The second issue is that this practical test only runs under Windows and not on Solaris, which seems a bit of a contradiction.

A great bonus, though, is the fact that the CD also contains a complete copy of the book in PDF format. This is an excellent reference if you work in the field, and having it as a handy PDF file can definitely make things easier. I will be carrying it around with my laptop as one can never have to much information. Let us hope that more publishers will bundle electronic copies of their books in the future. - Richard Gale End of Review

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Jeff Carlson.
Palm organizers.
Berkeley, Calif.: Peachpit Press, 2000.
paper, 321 p., ISBN 0-201-70063-8, US$16.99.
Peachpit Press: http://www.peachpit.com

Jeff Carlson. Palm organizers.

Another title in the Visual Quickstart Guide series by Peachpit Press, this book also aims at covering a subject by using "pictures rather than lengthy explanations." It achieves this by having the inside column of each page dedicated to illustrations and pictures of the devices themselves, of screen shots from pilots, as well as images from various applications running on a Macintosh and Windows desktop computer. In the case of a Palm organizer, you might not think that there would be the need for a 321-page book. However, there is a lot more to a PDA than simply storing telephone numbers. Jeff Carlson, has done a terrific job in putting together a concise, yet comprehensive guide to these small, yet powerful gadgets.

The book begins with a chapter introducing all of the basic concepts and illustrating the various models available at present. In fact, considering that it is only a few years since Palm computing was developed, the number of variants has grown considerably; today companies as varied as IBM, Qualcomm and Handspring have all entered this arena (indeed, some only deal with it). Carlson gives the salient characteristics and specifications of the most important models, such as the Palm family, IBM's WorkPad, and Handspring's Visor, as well as an analysis of issues, ranging from batteries to accessories to a brief introduction to Palm Desktop software for Mac and Windows.

Of course, the core of a handheld device is its operating system, and the Palm OS takes up the whole of chapter two. Here the author not only describes how to navigate around, access menus or use Graffiti (the handwriting recognition input system). He gives useful tips on memory management, installation options and preference settings. This section is so useful that it, alone, could allow the reader to start using a Palm right away, without further reading. However, by itself, a handheld device is only practical to a certain extent. Exchanging information with a desktop computer is an essential element of connectivity because it allows for information to be manipulated more easily and also prevents data loss by having contacts, to-do lists as well as calendars synchronized on another machine. The Palm obviously operates on batteries, and I am sure nobody would like to loose years of vital contacts in a matter of seconds, should anything happen to the little electronic companion! HotSynch is the feature that makes this synchronisation possible and it is explained in detail in the third chapter.

From chapter 4 onwards, the book covers, in turn, the various applications which come with the PDA plus some extra optional ones: Agenda, Address Book, Memo Pad, Calculator, Expenses, and some very intriguing and useful third-party "hacks". The pages are filled with pictures and examples which clarify immediately the task at hand. Here and there a good "grey box" with additional information which complements well the rest of the text.

But what would be a PDA without the Internet? Enter the Palm VII, introduced by Palm Computing along with a wireless network called Palm.Net, which provides all sorts of online services, from real-time stock quotes, to weather forecasts, to the possibility of surfing the Net more or less as if sitting in front of an ordinary computer. This section of the book goes into great details with respect to getting the most out of e-mail, Web, newsgroups, telnet, faxing and data protection. In just a few pages the author manages to squeeze a considerable amount of information, operations, options, procedures and advice. The topic might not be too straightforward. However, after going through the author's explanations, the reader feels that it is, after all, not so bad and everything makes sense. Of course, this particular part of the book is not only relevant to owners of the VII model (which comes already "fitted" with the necessary connectivity technology; there are "external" modems also available for the other devices (I have put the word external in quotes because I think there can hardly be anything more external than a PDA!)

The book ends with a section devoted to many third-party applications, all of which fill the most disparate needs of a Palm user: drawing and sketching, reading long texts (that is, using the PDA as an electronic book), data and money management, and games. The plethora of available software is astounding, all the more taking into account that handheld devices are so small and that their capacity (in terms of data storage) is considerably smaller than anything on the PC side.

The three appendices at the end of the book include basic troubleshooting, a complete reference to Graffiti, and give a comprehensive listing of resources dedicated to this platform: books, newsgroups, mail lists and, naturally, Web sites from which to download the software described in the course of the book.

It is a handy way of wrapping up a work that has barely a page in which the information presented is not useful or relevant. Sure, it would have been nice to see many more third-party applications being exemplified. However, the book as it is now is certainly substantial. I only wish that this book would appear in a smaller format, perhaps inside a little pouch the dimensions of the PDA itself! - Paolo G. Cordone End of Review

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H. Frank Cervone.
Solaris 7 performance administration tools.
New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.
paper, 412 p., ISBN 0-072-12211-0, US$49.99.
McGraw-Hill: http://www.mcgraw-hill.com

H. Frank Cervone. Solaris 7 performance administration tools.

This book explains how to tune and monitor the Sun Solaris Unix environment and it claims to cover the SPARC and Intel architecture. Unlike most other books on the subject it is not written by a Sun Microsystems employee!

Solaris provides a number of commands to monitor the system but the information they provide, although very detailed, is difficult to understand and interpret (for example the vmstat command has 22 columns of information that detail the internals of the kernel and memory subsystem); this is exactly where the book comes in handy, demystifing such obscure data.

Solaris 7 performance administration tools is divided into four sections: Section 1 (Preliminaries) equals the initial four chapters and is very general. Here there are few references to Sun or Solaris and in my opinion the section turns out to be of very little interest unless you want to calculate the capacities of your new system using the various formulae provided. Section 2 (operating system structure), on the other hand, contains some good information although it still feels a bit general. There is an explanation of the difference between the 32-bit and 64-bit environments which is very brief and appears to be the only reason the book has Solaris 7 in the title.

Here and there one can find some good explanations, especially those about paging and swapping. However, the chapter on file system is very poor: for example, the author's description of Raid 1 is inaccurate and there is no reference to Raid 0+1; moreover, Cervone states that Sun SPARC hardware does not use IDE disk controllers, whereas the Ultra 5 and 10 both use IDE for their internal disks. I have found that, in a number of places in the book, the information should have been updated for this edition in order to make it really useful.

Unfortunately there really are very few books on this subject. Considering that Solaris 7 performance administration tools documents the Solaris monitoring commands, it could be a valuable reference; alas, it reads far too much like a computer science textbook on operation systems, rather than a specialised book on Solaris 7. - Richard Gale End of Review

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Adam Engst and David Pogue.
Crossing platforms: a Macintosh/Windows phrasebook.
Sebastopol, Calif.: O'Reilly, 1999.
paper, 321 p., ISBN 1-565-92539-4, US$29.95.
O'Reilly: http://www.oreilly.com

Adam Engst and David Pogue. Crossing platforms: a Macintosh/Windows phrasebook.

If you have been part of the Macintosh community for a while, you will probably be familiar with both David Pogue and Adam Engst, two names associated with publications such as MacWorld, and the long-standing online newsletter TidBITS. If you have been following the software industry for a while, you will definitely know that there are several computer operating systems which, over the years, have been competing for an increasingly lucrative market: Mac OS and Windows.

Pogue and Engst had the very smart idea of creating a "bilingual" phrasebook which would allow Macintosh and Windows users to understand one another. At first it might seem a strange endeavour, since most have stuck to what they have been using first or what they have been forced to use (especially in the workplace, and especially with regards to Windows). However, more and more individuals find themselves having to deal with both systems, perhaps because they own a Mac at home but work in a purely PC environment.

Just like a "proper" bilingual dictionary, the book is divided into two main sections. The first one is aimed at Macintosh users and lists, alphabetically, a great number of terms taken from the Mac OS; under each of them, their corresponding Windows name is given along with a detailed description of how to get to that particular command, function, hardware element or technology implementation, in order to configure, set up, troubleshoot or manage a system. So, for example, you can find entries such as "Finder" (translated as "Explorer"), "Network Browser" ("Network Neighborhood"), "Sleep" ("Suspend"), "Trash" ("Recycle Bin"), etc.

The real usefulness of the book lies in the succinct but highly informative descriptions of each entry. Entering a machine's IP number in Mac OS, for instance, is considerably different from using Windows' Network Control Panel, and the authors explain in few precise steps how to configure a PC to connect to a TCP/IP-based network, such as the Internet. By using relevant figures, the book nearly becomes a full user's guide to Windows, and it is an easier way of learning the intricacies of the new OS, because one can always relate back to what's already familiar.

Similarly, part two does the inverse: it lists Windows entries which are then converted into their Mac equivalents. I am sure a Windows die-hard would have difficulties in figuring out how to increase (or decrease) the memory allocation given to a particular application (or should I say "executable"!) running under Mac OS, since Windows' virtual memory scheme ensures that the user is not required to mess around with such delicate settings (on the other hand, it also removes a great deal of flexibility and fine-tuning). Again, Engst and Pogue provide a sound and concise explanation plus indications on how to proceed.

At the beginning of each section, the book sports a "ten most important Windows/Macintosh" differences, which give a good insight into what makes these two worlds so different. One might think that a computer's interface and its functionality cannot differ too much from another. It is surprising how some fundamental concepts have developed along very different ways, with issues such as quitting applications, ejecting disks, the Desktop metaphor and visual controls being quite different between the two OSes.

Given the expertise and calibre of the two authors, one would not expect to find many mistakes and inaccuracies. In fact, I only managed to discover one, which is also very obscure for most readers: on page 214 the creator code of Photoshop is given as iBIM, when it is 8BIM. But that's about it, really.

If I had to give a suggestion for a next edition, I would stress more one of the salient differences between Mac OS and Windows when copying files. In Windows the user has to constantly manually refresh to see changes. For example, the files do not appear automatically in alphabetical (or any other chosen) order and the window needs to be refreshed in order for this to happen. Moreover, because Microsoft's OS does not "think in advance" as much as the Mac OS, the system does not check beforehand whether all files will actually fit on the target media. Instead, it will start copying and, if the space is not sufficient, will simply tell you that it cannot continue!

Overall, this is a must for everyone working with both Macs and Wintel computers. It is easy to consult and the information it contains will save you hours of frustration, just like a good bilingual dictionary is supposed to do! - Paolo G. Cordone End of Review

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Jayne Gackenbach (editor).
Psychology and the Internet: intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications.
San Diego: Academic Press, 1999.
paper, 389 p., ISBN 0-122-71950-6, US$55.00.
Academic Press: http://www.apnet.com/

Jayne Gackenbach (editor). Psychology and the Internet.

I like meaty author and topical indexes and this book does not disappoint. A companion to Michael H. Birnbaum's Psychological experiments on the Internet, its purpose is to bring to light how using the Internet affects our lives. Targeted to those scholars and others interested in behavioral sciences, this book remains reachable to non-psychologist types. "This new medium [the Internet]," the editor writes, "has touched many of our lives in ways that we are just beginning to fully appreciate, and psychologists, like other researchers, are rushing to use, appreciate, study, and comment on this new era of mediated communications" (p. 20). While the term "computer-mediated communication" may grab your attention, it is the quality of the work that will keep it.

The editor, affiliated with Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada, does a fine job of fine-tuning the (mostly) research reviews to provide a useful compilation of empirical studies. The book is divided into three parts, moving from the specific to the general. A good introduction written by the editor and her colleague highlights the title subject, in the context of the Internet as a means of communication. Radio as a form of interaction is an interesting case in point; its purpose and history parallel the development of the Internet. It is also intriguing to read how this interactive medium was eventually taken over so that it ended up as a one-way information vehicle "owned" by the radio stations: "Within 20 years of its invention, infrastructures had been set in place to take control of radio out of the hands of the average person" (p. 9).

The first chapter also sets the stage for the organization of the book:

"And when they focused on the world around them, the world of now, they chose to see it as a break with the immediate past. They began to value not only the now, but also the new: innovation, progress, and moving on toward newer and better ways of living and knowing" (p. 2).

Part one discusses the intrapersonal, the so-called normal and deviant aspects of the self. The section focuses on how Internet enhances our self-awareness; there is discussion of the different aspects of Internet communication, such as maintaining several personas in the online environment. Author Elizabeth Reid wrote in Chapter Two, "The freedom to obscure or re-create aspects of the self on-line allows the exploration and expression of multiple aspects of human existence" (p. 35). Flaming and TMI (Too Much Information) syndrome, or more technically disinhibition, may be two side effects as a result of the virtual anonymity the Internet provides. The implications of excessive self-disclosure and the rise of addiction to the Internet are discussed at length.

The second part discusses interpersonal relationships, both close and relatively distant. How the Internet is used to make friends and meet romantic partners are discussed, as is the more conventional purpose of conducting business. As is expected, a chapter is devoted to the ubiquitous entanglement of sexuality and the Internet. "Sex on the Internet," writes Noonan, "is just history repeating itself" (p. 143). The reader will become, ahem, intimately familiar with the history of sex on the Internet, the nuances of what Noonan terms as human sexuality complex, and how sexual content exists. Finally, the social, political, and personal aspects are also explored. Additional chapters discuss research on male and female use of the Internet, and online communities and related practices of virtual societies.

Finally, part three discusses transpersonal relationships on the Internet. That is, the writers consider how "our concepts of reality [may] be challenged by the increase of time in virtual reality." Chapters in this last section highlight artificial intelligence (the "global brain"), intelligence augmentation (virtual reality and experiences in the environment), and consciousness via the Internet, which "may be a link in the evolution" to a "pure state of being." The authors of the last chapter raise the interesting point that, like atomic power, great potential is brought to bear when humans develop powerful technologies that make use of limited levels of consciousness. " ... [The] dangers [are] less obvious, [take] longer to understand, and are still unsolved. ... Indeed, they may be beyond intellectual comprehension" (p. 348).

Shall we play a game? - Beth Archibald Tang End of Review

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Amy Jo Kim.
Community building on the Web.
Berkeley, Calif.: Peachpit Press, 2000.
paper, 350 pp., ISBN: 0-201-87484-9, US$29.99.
Peachpit Press: http://www.peachpit.com

Amy Jo Kim. Community building on the Web.

Community building is a buzz phrase on the Internet these days. Anyone with a substantial Web presence is finally beginning to realise that creating a coherent community of like-minded people is integral to creating and sustaining user loyalty. This alone may be the vital factor that keeps them coming back to your Web site again and again. Amy Jo Kim was one of the first to pull together the various strands in this new territory and I have been impressed by her work and ideas since I first came across her ideas on the Web several years ago when I began to explore online learning and facilitation. She is a very experienced online designer and communities consultant who has designed online environments for clients such as AOL, eBay, Adobe, MTV, Sony, Amazon, Motley Fool and Yahoo. Now we have her ideas in one place in this highly practical, yet at the same time, thought-provoking book.

While others write about the theory of online experiences, Amy Jo Kim is more down to earth and in a way presents us with a delightful 'cookbook' of ideas and sound practical advice, all the information needed to successfully design, develop, and manage the complexity of an online community presence. Reading Community building on the Web should provide ideas that can be implemented to augment any online community site. I doubt that there is anything in the book that is new to those who have been involved in developing various online communities. What is refreshing however is that disparate elements and ideas have all been bought together in one place. It is a book, which outlines a systematic approach to the planning, design, and development of communities on the Web with many interesting examples, screen shots, helpful checklists, and places to visit. The book is also supported by a Web site - www.naima.com/ - with further information and links.

The book begins with an outline of three design principles, similar to 'mission' statements. Holding firm to these is seen as a necessary prerequisite for evolution of a successful community.

  • Design for Growth and Change: start small, simple, and focused then it can easily be changed or updated to keep pace with the needs and interests of users;
  • Create and Maintain Feedback Loops: ensure constant communication between the community users and the organisation or group;
  • Empower Members over Time: allow community members to take on roles in building and maintaining the community.

She focuses each chapter of the book around nine design strategies, a process she refers to as 'social scaffolding'. These are:

  • Define and articulate your Purpose
  • Build flexible, extensible gathering Places
  • Create meaningful and evolving member Profiles
  • Design for a range of Roles
  • Develop a strong Leadership program
  • Encourage appropriate Etiquette
  • Promote cyclic Events
  • Integrate the Rituals of community life
  • Facilitate member-run Subgroups.

None of these are exactly world-shattering but woven together throughout the book they offer a powerful message and a systematic approach to complex communication tasks and processes. Each chapter contains useful summaries, lists, and charts which highlight for the reader key concepts or important processes. You will find these have eye-catching titles such as

  • 'Top down groups v. bottom up groups'
  • 'Just because you can doesn't mean you should'
  • 'Designing your community personality - graphics v. navigation'
  • 'Membership life cycle'
  • 'Staying in touch with Buddy Lists'.

At the same time each section puts the 'pros and cons' for using different facilities and environments such as real time chat, asynchronous chat, e-mail lists, bulletin boards, events, archives or 'community leaders' and provides interesting examples from the author's extensive knowledge and experience. Community building on the Web is full of useful ideas that can be immediately applied to online communities. It demonstrates how easy it is to set up a community. This book will help readers add a human touch to their online marketing strategies that will help draw new visitors to their sites, to foster community environments, to inspire trust and confidence, and to achieve intended objectives.

She owes some debt to Abraham Maslow and his 'Hierarchy of Needs' and provides an interesting summary of the importance of meeting the basic needs of a community before getting too involved in higher level, more 'fancy' features. Useful advice if you want to be able to hold back the technical IT enthusiast who wants you to incorporate the latest Macromedia Flash features from day one. The book also has a broader allegiance to humanistic and people-centered processes. In an online discussion about the book Amy Jo Kim explains that she had to subject the book to a rigorous editing process to make it more accessible. I suspect that some of the detail omitted could have provided a stronger theoretical argument for her ideas. A pity as there are little touches in the book, like Chapter 9 on emerging sub-groups and nomadic sub-groups, that were intriguing and left me wanting more.

It all seems so logical, so sensible and a matter of following the three principles and nine steps. It is hard not to be bounced along by the enthusiasm that exudes from the book and her equally engaging and readable writing style. But I would say 'read with care', following this recipe cannot be an absolute guarantee of success. While Amy Jo Kim does not gloss over difficulties, everyday reality is seldom so systematic. If you want to read about the complexity of establishing online identity and persona then this is not the book to read. The examples are also predominantly drawn from 'American' sources, which is not surprising given U.S. dominance on the Web. It would have been useful to have had some acknowledgment of the global context of the Web and cultural differences. I know that many of the examples cited have a membership that goes far beyond the U.S. but it's not that apparent.

Still there is much in what she advocates. If you are thinking of building a community on your Web site, if an over-enthusiastic executive wants 'consumer involvement' or you have an existing community in need of a re-charge then I would unhesitatingly say 'read this book'. You can read all of it or one section and it still makes sense. The chapters and sub-headings made it easy to skim through for ideas or inspiration. If you don't find yourself nodding in agreement I would be most surprised. There will be something there for all of you. It certainly sent me off on an orgy of surfing her examples and Web sites. - Wendy P. Clark End of Review

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Bennet P. Lientz and Kathryn P. Rea.
Dynamic e-business implementation management: how to effectively manage e-business implementation.
San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 2000.
paper, 266 p., ISBN 0-124-49980-5, US$29.95.
Academic Press: http://www.academicpress.com/

Bennet P. Lientz and Kathryn P. Rea. Dynamic e-business implementation management.

The implementation of e-business places substantial demands on the internal business organisation. E-business is complex and dynamic and Lientz and Rea present management methods that are adaptive, dynamic and flexible for E-business environments.

The emphasis for this book is not on "what" e-business is, but more on the "how" of managing e-business implementation. This is covered thoroughly by discussions treating both resource and risk management. The authors tackle the complexity of implementing e-business in a structured fashion, making it easy to use for someone about to launch into such a project. The book is organized in a step-by-step approach with defined bullet points and consistently structured chapters, emphasizing methodologies and processes.

Milestones are identified and lessons learned are explicit. Dynamic e-business implementation management follows the practices and examples of four companies that have been successful in e-business. E-business examples at the end of each chapter are helpful in identifying how different companies can implement electronic commerce and overcome some problems by following the described stages. This process is especially helpful in understanding and gaining perspective.

There are several sub-projects that take place during the implementation and operation of e-business both within the project and across the organisation carrying out other tasks. E-business forces changes that occur across a range of departments within the organisation and which in turn create additional complexity.

Political, technical, organisational, competitive, management, and process issues arise and each are treated in this book in a defined, adaptive approach. Human factor issues of leadership, team management, and methods of communication are discussed as well as more process-oriented areas of managing technology and measuring the effectiveness of certain resources.

The authors have thus created a work which is ideal for an e-business manager or someone about to go into such a position. It is a little too practical for someone wanting to learn more about the basics of e-business (or the "what" of e-business). However, it does bring up interesting and notable points.

The book is not designed to be read from cover to cover but more like a reference work, suitable for specific cases or situations as they develop and when details are required. Perhaps the best approach to this book would be to skim through it to get a feel of what is covered and then go to a given section when needed. From a format standpoint, the heavily bullet-pointed nature of the text makes it difficult to simply read. The "Lessons Learned" sections are great for summaries, but a little difficult because they do not convey too clearly the nature of a specific core concept. Overall, this book has is potentially useful for those involved in e-business or for for those ready to launch an e-business venture.- Amie Peters End of Review

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Linda McCarthy.
Intranet security: stories from the trenches.
Mountain View, Calif.: Sun Microsystems Press, 1998 (distributed by Prentice Hall PTR).
paper, 260 p., ISBN 0-138-94759-7, US$29.95.
Prentice Hall PTR: http://www.phptr.com/

Linda McCarthy. Intranet security: stories from the trenches.

Linda McCarthy is a security expert who audits computer systems and networks for security vulnerabilities. As such, this book contains accounts of some of these audits. Some are after hacking incidents, others just routine checks. Each chapter examines a different real-life exploit that the author has experienced.

This is not a "how-to-hack" description of a given incident but rather an explanation of how incidents were handled by mangers and administrators, about what what was done or not done, and why the systems were vulnerable. There are examples from major banks, pharmaceutical companies, and large manufacturing businesses. For obvious reasons, all company names and individuals have been changed. The author includes a full post-mortem of each incident as well as insights into how it could have been avoided. Interestingly, the book also includes a checklist for you to see how your own company measures up.

This book makes the point that network security is as much about good management and well-organized procedures as about the technical aspects of firewalls and intrusion detection systems. I think many reading this book will identify their company in the examples included in the book, because security failures are becoming more widespread.

Intranet Security is certainly well written and very interesting; there are many lessons to be learnt from it. Since it is a non-technical book, it does not pretend to prescribe how to secure a system or what operating system to use. I am sure this will be of interest to managers, executives, and administrators, certainly anyone with responsibility for IT infrastructure or budget. - Richard Gale End of Review

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Daniel A. Menascé and Virgilio A. F. Almeida.
Scaling for e-business: technologies, models, performance and capacity planning.
Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall PTR, 2000.
cloth, 449 pp., ISBN 0-130-86328-9, US$49.99.
Prentice Hall: http://www.phptr.com

Daniel A. Menascé and Virgilio A. F. Almeida. Scaling for e-business.

Considering that only a few years ago words such as "e-commerce" and "e-business" did not exist, the number of books written and released yearly on these subjects is simply staggering. While many of the titles discuss marketing strategies and techniques with the goal of attracting and retaining online customers, Scaling for e-business takes a different approach to the whole domain of planning and maintaining those electronic infrastructures needed to cope with the demands of customers in an ever increasingly competitive area.

The keyword throughout the book is "quantitative methods". The text presented is not for the faint-hearted, as it goes into considerable technical and mathematical details. In fact, the "who should read this book" section mentions primarily graduate and senior-level computer science students as well as students in e-commerce and MBA programs. However, this should not be too off-putting, as many of the methodologies illustrated can (with a little study) be useful to anybody involved in serious e-commerce development.

The book is very well organised, with fifteen chapters grouped in five main sections, covering all the necessary aspects of electronic commerce. At the end of each chapter, a bibliography enhances the main text. Moreover, a special Web site has been set up, which provides the various Microsoft Excel workbooks mentioned along the way.

The first section deals with an overall description of the various models used by the authors in order to assess the requirements of e-business Web sites. Thus, for example, Business-to-Business and Customer and Resource models are introduced, as well as an overview of the quantitative approach. An analysis of customer behaviour follows in the next chapter, which, by using the Customer Behaviour Model Graph, helps visualising the different routes an online visitor can take within the site itself. Next, the authors take a look at the anatomy of e-business functions, that is, how various servers and software are interact together in order to process requests. I found this chapter particularly enlightening, as it introduces the notation of Client/Server Interaction Diagram (CSID) and provides many examples of real-life situations, together with their optimal resolutions ("suppose that the Web server, the application server, and the database server run on different machines all connected to the same LAN, what is the average number of bytes that cross the LAN for each execution of the e-business function represented by the CSID of Fig. 3.5?")

The infrastructure and its scalability and performance are the subjects of the second section. Here, the quantitative analysis of authentication and payment services is explained; technologies discussed include, among others, Netscape's SSL, the RSA, DES and MD5 encryption algorithms, certificates, public and private keys. It is necessarily a rather dense part of the book, because it deals with complex issues; however, the rewards of understanding it are huge.

Part III includes an assessment of capacity planning and the performance laws: everything you need to know about Utilisation Law, Forced Flow Law and Service Demand Law is masterfully presented by ways of several examples. Here Menascé and Almeida evaluate in particular the customer demand and workload, traffic bursts and present some forecasting techniques.

The remainder of Scaling for e-business consists of case studies in which the application of the models described so far is used to solve typical problems relating to e-business situations, in terms of hardware and software. Such studies encompass both Business-to-Consumer and Business-to-Business scenarios and the authors chose intelligent examples, such as a store delivering online music - what could be more topical than this? Finally, a short fifth section provides a useful recap of the main issues as well as some thoughts on future perspectives and challenges of e-commerce itself. A comprehensive glossary rounds up the volume.

It is difficult to describe precisely the quality of the material in this book. Although the level of mathematical sophistication required to understand some of the sections is undoubtedly high, most formulae, tables, graphs and illustrations make sense in the context of the text and can be easily absorbed. The combination of theoretical and practical advice is simply commendable here. This, along with a clear, concise style and a focused analysis of the issues at hand make this book an essential reading for the IT professional and the academic researcher alike. - Paolo G. Cordone End of Review

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Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio.
Robo sapiens: evolution of a new species.
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000.
cloth, 239 pp., ISBN 0-262-13382-2, US$29.95.
MIT Press: http://mitpress.mit.edu

Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. Robo sapiens: evolution of a new species.

Dedicated to a little-publicised field of modern technology, yet one which is bound to become more and more prominent in the future, Robo sapiens is unquestionably a fascinating and intriguing book, like few I have seen recently. The creation of photographer Peter Menzel and former television producer Faith D'Aluisio, it describes in about 240 large-size pages, the advancements made in the field of robotics over the past forty or so years, concentrating on the latest developments and on the interaction between various scientific and technical disciplines.

At first, you might think that writing about mechanical contraptions could end up being an extremely boring and dry endeavour. However, the authors have found a perfect balance in the blend of technical information and interviews. In the course of the book relevant scientists discuss their goals and beliefs, all framed by the stunning photographs by Menzel, which give this book a most vivid insight into a world of expensive research, cunning creativity and hunger for knowledge.

The material is broadly divided into six sections, including an introduction, methodology used in preparing the book, a glossary, and recommended readings. Although the various sections carry names such as "Electric dreams", "Bio logical", "Remote possibilities", and "Work mates", they appears to constitute a consolidated continuum, rather than dividing the book into really separate and distinct compartments. Just like in an ordinary photography album, about 55 profiles are presented on a handful of pages each. These are in the format of a fact file, outlining name of the robot, its purpose, inspiration, dimensions, sensory details and power supply, the number of lines of programming code, its cost and status. The main part of each profile is taken up by an extensive and informative interview with the creator(s) of the robots (mainly from Japan and the United States), carried out by D'Aluisio.

To complement these descriptions, one or more photographs show some of the actions or feats performed by these intelligent machines. This latter element was particularly important to me, as sometimes it seemed difficult to visualise exactly how a specific robot could look by only using the explanations given in the text. And in the end, this was probably always supposed to be a pictorial celebration of modern robotics!

So, what exactly are these robots capable of? Anything from walking unaided down a flight of stairs, to swimming in a tank like a fish, from performing surgical operations, to mimicking the complex movements of a gecko or hanging from a cable like a long-arm ape. Many of the accomplishments illustrated are certainly amazing per se, if only because, as it turns out, replicating what nature seemingly does very easily is an extraordinarily difficult task for a human-made machine. However, what the book really illustrates is the diversity of approaches that roboticists take when deciding on how to build a thinking robot. If you thought that their aim was identical, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the research behind a robot can vary from an interest in cognitive learning and artificial intelligence, to the underlying muscular physical processes of erect walking, to the psychology of human interaction. Of course, there is the whole question of whether it makes more sense to create a robot which is merely useful for a particular purpose (regardless of its shape) or, instead, to give priority to a human-like aspect. This naturally leads to a more ethical debate about our acceptability of such creatures in our homes and everyday life. Overall, this debate is very challenging, as the following quote by Mark Tilden exemplifies: "the fact is, people want a character that essentially is a metal embodiment of a human personality, except it must be perfect and under your control."

It is obvious from this book that there has been huge progress in terms of understanding and implementing those natural mechanisms that can then be used, not only for entertainment purposes, but also for serious applications, such as replacing human limbs or searching for abandoned mines. In fact, in their dialogues, most roboticists seemed to have as primary goal for their efforts the improvement of human life: certainly a reassuring attitude, considering that the fear of being "taken over" by machines is becoming increasingly relevant and will be even more so in the future. Surprising enough, the initial introduction does seem to concentrate on this "battle" between human and machine, inevitably using as a starting point Karel Capek's play R.U.R. in which he coined the term 'robot'. After the first 20 pages or so, though, I personally felt that there is still a long way to go before robots can really catch up with the human brain, especially with respect to creativity, ingenuity and emotions [1]. I admit it: other readers might come to a different conclusion, but that is the beauty of this book!

Overall, Robo sapiens represents a welcome addition to the library of any technology lover; its language is clear, the content factual and the presentation spectacular. For me, however, its statement is what counts most: through the work done on robots, we might start appreciating more the complexity of nature, with its incredible capability of adaptation and transformation which created all living organisms. - Paolo G. Cordone

Note

1. For anybody interested in a more mathematical treatment of intelligent machines and artificial intelligence, I would recommend the book by Roger Penrose called Shadows of The mind: a search for the missing science of consciousness published by Oxford University Press in 1994 (ISBN 0-198-53978-9). End of Review

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Vivek Sharma and Rajiv Sharma.
Developing e-commerce sites: an integrated approach.
Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 2000.
paper, 617 p., ISBN 0-201-65764-3, US$39.95.
Addison-Wesley: http://www.awl.com/cseng/

Vivek Sharma and Rajiv Sharma. Developing e-commerce sites: an integrated approach.

A handful of years ago, creating a Web site was a matter of putting together some interesting text plus, perhaps, a few digitised graphics in a simple-looking design, with no tables, frames, scrolling text, animations, and any other interactive element. Today developing a full-fledged site has become a fiendish complex task, more so when a server is meant to be an e-commerce site.

What renders this endeavour even more complicated is the number of technologies involved. Plain HTML is not sufficient any longer, because it does not provide the functionality to handle commercial transactions and cannot, on its own, interact with other parts of a business (such as customer or product databases, invoicing systems, and so on). Thus, knowledge of JavaScript, Java, Servlets, SQL connectivity, Web servers, and CGI scripting, to list only a few, is required. And even provided that this knowledge is there, what often causes headache is the way all these elements are supposed to interact with one another.

Here, I felt, is where Developing e-commerce sites really shines. Unlike many other books on the market, the authors have set about to take a more "integrated approach" (which is also the subtitle of the book) and have written a clear and practical guide to incrementally develop a professional e-commerce site, by combining general information with actual code examples. these examples immediately give the reader a certain hands-on opportunity to try out the relevant technology. One warning, however: despite the fact that many chapters feature a short introduction on what follows, this should not be taken as a sign that the book is meant for the beginner. In fact, nearly 200 out of the total 620 pages are taken up by code describing a complete e-commerce solution! According to the prefatory notes, the intended audience comprises rather software professionals, technical developers, consultants and 'semi-technical' managers: in short, all those people who want to learn how to develop applications for e-commerce and who are professionally involved in doing so.

The 17 chapters that make up the book are so characterised as to progress gradually from general and straightforward to the more specific and advanced. Thus, after a brief description of the basics of the Internet and its terminology, the various technologies are examined one by one, starting from HTML and Java to Servlets, JDBC, SQL to XML. Subsequently, the authors get down to issues such as credit card verification, security (including firewalls, ciphers and SSL), management systems for ordering, shipping, inventory and reporting as well as the installation and configuration instructions for many popular tools (Apache, Jserv, JDBC, mSQL, Oracle and JavaMail). Each discussion assesses their capabilities and drawbacks which, in the context of this book, is very important, as all elements of a site have to eventually fit together in an optimal way, so that knowing 'what to use where' is a paramount preoccupation for the serious Web developer.

And the developer will be probably grateful to the authors for providing additional snippets of real code in many of the chapters (also included on the accompanying CD-ROM): everything from internationalised help screens for worldwide audiences to a registration system, from XML data extraction from a database to advertisements tracking and even a stock analyser; the examples are simply too numerous to be listed here. All of them, however, give not only a practical insight into what can be achieved with the appropriate tool, but they also demonstrate that the integration of different Internet technologies can serve the most disparate needs in a very effective and efficient way.

Of course, it does also take experimentation as well as sheer skill and ingenuity to find the best solution to a given problem, especially when the variables involved are as complex as in a full-fledged e-commerce site. In my opinion Developing e-commerce sites is possibly the fastest way to bring you there. And while it might not be the only book you need for your site, it is definitely the first one you should read. - Paolo G. Cordone End of Review


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