||*--------           At Tonight's Meeting...             ------*|| 
||*--------      Bozeman Linux User Group Meeting         ------*|| 
||*--------             October 31, 2002                  ------*|| 
||*--------                                               ------*|| 
||*--------             Ken Dyke, editor                  ------*|| 
||*--------                                               ------*|| 

Howdy folks, and welcome to another edition of "At Tonight's Meeting..."

||*--------           At Tonight's Meeting...             ------*|| 
||*--------              by Sheri Hall                    ------*||

Wayne and Paula Marshall came from Butte, Jim (last name here) from Missoula, 
Bob Edgar, Mike Stone, Todd Hopkins, Ryan Gantt, Ken Dyke, Kyle Cunningham, 
Chad Armstrong
Thank you to these fine folk for coming and making it a great meeting.

||*--------                The Meeting...                 ------*||

Ken shared some news from the Linux Kernel Mailing List.  Ken made the 
announcement that GnuPG will be the focus of the meeting for next month 
er, next meeting (more on this below).

Kyle did a great presentation about Gentoo.

Kyle gave out a number of Gentoo discs.
Some Yellow Dog Linux distros where handed out.  There was a 'no strings 
attached' Addison Wesley "Advanced Linux Networking" book given away.
Which also brings up the point that Addison Wesley is now another publisher 
that the LUG is able to obtain review copies from.  See details regarding 
this in "Books Available for Review" section.

Wayne filled us in on some of his background.  Especially interesting was 
his use of open source software in building infrastructure in Africa.

Ken's ignorance of basic human convention such as a calendar and holidays was 
pointed out to him.  It seems that Thanksgiving is going to interfer with the 
normally scheduled meeting time next month.  Since Ken was the only one who 
observed Halloween at this month's meeting (see where his social priorities 
lie?).  It is not reasonable to expect folks to observe Thanksgiving at the 
November meeting.  Now that Ken has been made aware of the cultural artifact 
known commonly as a calendar and social constructs such as holidays he sees 
that the December meeting is the day(?) after Christmas.  After conferring 
with Sheri the idea of combining the November and December meetings was 
cognated.  Looking at a calendar (when were these invented and who holds 
patent?) the 12th of December looks like it might be a good date.  Expect 
this issue to come up on the mailing list early next week.


||*------                  Tool Tip                      -------*|| 
||*------                by Ken Dyke                     -------*|| 

At the bash command promt 'CD -' will change the working directory to 
whatever the previous one was where ever in the file tree.

||*------                  PHP News                      -------*|| 
||*------                by Ryan Gantt                   -------*|| 

Ryan has not submitted a column.
Yahoo! has announced that they will begin using PHP for back end support.

||*------                  Doghouse                      -------*|| 

Nothing special.  Just the usual suspects.

||*-----                  Book Reviews                    ------*|| 

"XML and PHP" by Vikram Vaswani
published by New Riders Press
reviewed by Ron Newman


If you haven't taken the time to acquaint yourself with XML or PHP,
here's a nano-course:

* HTML describes what stuff looks like, XML describes what things
  are (this is an address, that is the price of an item).

* You can think of PHP as a simplified C language (no declarations, 
  no pointers) for server scripting.  An Open Source alternative to
  Microsoft's ASP.  Syntactically simpler than Java Server Pages.
  Can do a simplified version of object-oriented programming.
  Includes a rich library of built-in functions which allow you
  do everything from twiddling individual bits to abstracting
  database layers to XML.

Now that you're had the nano-course you can check out the micro-course
in the first chapter of "XML and PHP", by Vikram Vaswani.  There you'll
get a quick overview of both XML and PHP.  If you're already taken a
look at the syntax of XML, this will serve as a handy reminder of the
purpose behind XSL, Schemas, Xlink, etc.  The PHP overview is too brief
to do much beyond give you the flavor of the language, but it serves the
purpose of conveying the relief that one experiences upon encountering
a language that does its job and stays out of your way.

In the crowded world of technical books, it seems the majority are bloated
collections of information exploiting the latest hype or "click here and
you'll see this dialog" handholding. O'Reily publishing made a name for
themselves by bucking this trend and putting out useful tomes that tend
to be both readable and a fraction of the weight (and dead tree count)
of many others.  New Riders, the publisher of this book, is following
suit with some good writing, good editing, and high quality content.
The three I've read, "MySQL", "Advanced PHP for Web Programming", and now
"XML and PHP", have all been good.  What I like about Vaswani's writing
in "XML and PHP" is that he has a sense of humor and turns a good phrase,
but never strays from the focus or gets condescending.

After the short refresher on PHP and XML mentioned above, we dive right
into SAX, a processor for eating up XML and spitting out each element
it finds.  This is followed by a discussion of PHP's Document Object
Model (DOM) functions, with which you can read an entire XML document
into memory and then refer to its component parts in terms of parent
and children nodes and their data.  This leads to perhaps the most
immediately useful section of the book, a discussion on the differences
between the serial approach SAX takes and the holistic DOM method and
in what situations you would use one over the other.

As we move through new topics and their examples, I like how the complete
code is given each time, rather than illustrating only the bit being
discussed.  This way, you continually see how the whole fits together,
and the PHP syntax is clean enough that it takes little effort to scan
the listing for the function of interest.

A full chapter on using PHP's XSLT processor, detailed treatments of the
various ways of passing both data and commands via XML (WDDX, SOAP, and
XML-RPC ), simplified DOM traversal with Xpath, a extensive comparison
of relational databases and XML, how to export data from MySQL into XML -
it's all here.	What if you don't have compile access to your server and
thus can't make use of all the PHP XML functions?  There are several Open
Source alternatives given fair treatment, with both caveats and benefits.

XML is a very generalized beast, and there are several ways of doing
anything.  As one example, XSLT is a mechanism for translating XML into
other formats such as HTML, but it can also be used as a mini-language
to do some of the processing you might otherwise do in PHP.  As our
knowledge and thus the varied options mount toward the end of the book,
alternate solutions to the same problem are presented in turn.	This could
easily become pedantic, but the quick pace makes for easy reading.
In addition, a chapter on real-world case studies summarizes the concepts
for us.

The real question with any book is whether buying it is money well-spent.
In many cases you can do as well with online forums, help files, man
pages, etc.  In the case of PHP and XML, however, I wouldn't recommend
self-help.  You'll burn up a lot of time and if your time is worth
anything at all you'll come out ahead by coughing up the 40 bucks for
this book.

I give this one two thumbs up.	Recommended.

Ron Newman



||*-----           Books Available for Review              -----*|| 

Due to the great response/demand for this feature I have been working
with publishers to increase the selection of books available.  I have
succeeded in establishing a couple of relationships for keeping book
reviewers busy.  The guidelines given to me by these publishers vary
somewhat but the the following outline encompasses behavior that will
avoid feelings of abuse and exploitation all around.

Please read and follow these guidelines in ordering review copies of
books. 

1) Limit one book per month. 
2) Publish a review before ordering another book. 
3) When selecting a book for review choose one that has been 
   published within the past year or so. 
4) We are a Linux User Group.  Please keep this in mind when 
   selecting titles.  (For example, Photoshop does not run on 
   Linux so it would be inappropriate to ask for "Photoshop 7: 
   The Complete Reference") 
5) If there were a fifth item it would go here. 

We have not developed a guide for the review itself so until then you
might give Slashdot's book review guide a look see: 
(slashdot.org/book.review.guidelines.shtml)

Send reviews to Ken to be published in the next issue of "At Tonight's 
Meeting...".  Please make the files ascii text only with lines wrapped
at 75 characters (to fit an 80 character wide screen).  Check out the 
fmt command.  I will use 'fmt -u foo.bar' to format files that do not 
fit an 80 character screen.  This will likely result in mangling of any 
layout you desire.  As noted in the Slashdot guideline, do not fear of 
making your review too long.  You have taken the time to read the book 
don't wimp out and write a too short a review that does not tell the rest 
of us fully what you think of the book. 

The following books are available for review: 
www.osborne.com
www.oreilly.com/catalog/prdindex.html
The book from New Riders Press has already been spoken for. 

||*-----                     EOF                           -----*|| 

September 2002 :: "At Tonight's Meeting..." index page :: January 2003

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