Beginning Perl Web Development: From Novice to Professional

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Beginning Perl Web Development: From Novice to Professional
Steve Suehring
Apress, 2005
ISBN1-59059-531-9
US$ 39.99 (US$ 20.00 as ebook)

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Click here for the Italian language review - Clicca qui per la recensione in italiano [Perl.It]

Apress has a bunch of interesting Perl-related books, and the quality of them puts this editor on par with O'Reilly, which has always been the best source of Camel-language books even though in recent times new writings lack. Beginning Perl Web Development is one of these new titles, and - as the name says - it aims to turn a novice into a professional web programmer.

The book starting point is CGI, the true workhorse of web development since it's inception back in 1990. The explanation is in depth: it tells you how to do things using CGI.pm but then it also explains you what CGI.pm does for you. This is quite useful in a world where many web coders (mainly PHP coders) don't even know what an HTTP header is. After this first part, all the core sections of web programming are covered:: accessing web sites and e-mail, interaction with the operating system, database interfacing. Everything is explained in an easy but quite comprehensive way.

There's a section on RSS, which explains how to create and aggregate feeds. However, it lacks any explanation - or even pointer - for Atom feeds management, which are becoming a standard. The section on XML writing and parsing is quite appreciated, and also are the ones on mod_perl (so one can understand from the beginning that Perl code can also be very fast), HTML::Mason and Template Toolkit.

The biggest lack of this book is related to character sets: there's no section, or explanation in other sections, about Unicode and UTF-8. Using Unicode in Perl, especially in not-so-recent versions of the interpreter, often leads to surprises if you don't set things correctly. And - of course - Unicode usage is increasing, so some advice on how to set thing properly would have been appreciated, if not mandatory.

All in all this a good book, even very good at moments. It's well written and walks through the steep path which trains a programmer in order to become a web developer. Some things are lacking, but most of what is needed is inside this book.

Pros:
- You don't even need to know Perl, as the book starts from scratch and there's an appendix on the language. A good Perl book is recommended though.
- There are explanations on how to use mod_perl to improve the speed of your scripts. CGI is still the best for development and small-medium scripts, but it doesn't scale that well for resource-intensive scripts of for high-traffic web sites.

Cons:
- Not even a note regarding Unicode/UTF-8. This is the main problem of the book: not all of us live in the US or the UK - for instance, I don't. ;-)
- Some other useful topics are missing, for instance Atom and mod_fastcgi would have better been covered.

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This page contains a single entry by Michele Beltrame published on March 12, 2006 12:49 PM.

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