Monday, 30 May 2011

Learning Perl by Randal Schwartz - O'Reilly Review

As part of the O'Reilly Review Program I have been reading "Learning Perl by Randal Schwartz".

First of all I must say that I have no previous Perl, or in fact, any scripting knowledge whatsoever. So obviously it would be wise to pick up this language whilst reviewing the book. It only makes sense!

The first chapter starts out at the very basics, using strings, which was very easy to understand. There are a lot of footnotes in this book, with a bit of mild humour. I must admit, I was slightly put off by the large number of foot notes during the first few chapters as it constantly switches your attention to something slightly off topic. A matter of opinion maybe, but switching from the main content to footnotes, then realising the footnotes threw a spanner into the works did send me off path on more than one occasion. Maybe I was thinking too much into it, desperately trying to ensure I take everything in*.

Gradually the book becomes more advanced and at times I did have to read a chapter or two a few times over to ensure I understand the content, particularly with REGEX, but I must admit this is an area where I've always struggled with the hundreds/thousands? of ways to match text. As Larry says, there's more than one way to do it...

I do love the structure of this book, a subject is always followed by Q and A time. All Technology Education books should be structured in the same was as "Learning Perl". It really is a fantastic way to learn, by doing. The chapters are nicely sized as well, so within an hour or two you can read a chapter, complete the exercises and review the answers.

The authors use characters in their examples that the reader can relate to (more so Americans). From beginning to end they use the Flintstones, Fred, Wilma, Barney etc. This is a nice touch.

My only request to improve the book would be to add more module based information in. The chapter on CPAN is quite short. I was hoping to dig in to more modules such as the ever popular DBI and TK. Their reasoning behind excluding these type of modules on an in-depth basis would probably be down to the amount volume this would add to a concise book. You could write a whole book on DBI and TK respectively.

Overall a good read, which leaves you wanting to learn more, therefore I have since moved on to "Intermediate Perl" by the same authors. My Perl has come a long way since reading the book so I am always re-writing the scripts completed in the past as per the best practices. Intermediate Perl follows on with this kind of approach.

* Yes, I've got my own footnote. I've started reading Intermediate Perl, where Randal mentions to read the book the whole way through, ignoring the footnotes until the second time round. Wish I'd have done this in the first place!


Randal L. Schwartz said...

You were distracted by the footnotes on your first read through because you must've skipped over the instruction we give very early in the book: "Don't read the footnotes on your first readthrough... only when you come back later again."

Otherwise, thanks for the review!

Dale said...

I think I missed that part in the "Learning Perl" book, I was that eager to get going! Thanks for the comment. Any more upcoming Perl books planned for the near future?