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Andrew B. King (Ann Arbor, MI United States)

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Web Performance Tuning: Speeding Up the Web
Web Performance Tuning: Speeding Up the Web
by Patrick Killelea
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 41.50
16 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Speed Racer, Oct. 28 2002
Four years in the making, the second edition of "Web Performance Tuning" is some 30% larger (456 vs. 351 pages) than the first, but don't let the increased size slow you down. Patrick Killelea makes good use of it by showing you how to get the best possible performance out of your web server, site, and browser. The primary emphasis is on tuning web server software, but tuning client and server hardware, streamlining content, getting the most bang for your byte are also covered.
Aimed at more advanced system administrators and webmasters, this book provides the tools and techniques you can use to maximize the speed and throughput of your server. The emphasis is on performance monitoring, analysis, and planning. You can't attack a performance problem until you understand it and that means measuring what's actually happening. Lucky for us, Killelea provides free scripts you can use to measure the performance of your web site at his own site patrick dot net.
There you'll find scripts you can use on your Unix server to measure, monitor, and debug any performance problems you're having. Killelea also provides a web-based version of his analysis.cgi script that breaks down the components of web site response time into DNS, connect time, server silence (load), transmission (content size), and close time. Type in your URL and up pops a graph of transmission times, broken down into the above components, complete with a bottleneck analysis and some recommendations.
Speaking of bottlenecks, when it comes to web performance, smoothing out bottlenecks is the name of the game. If your server is low on memory excessive swapping can occur. If you spawn too many processes without mod_perl on board you've got a problem. Killelea's tools and prose show you where the slowdowns occur, and how to fix them for maximum speed.

Everything from low volume sites (1-10,000 hits/day) to high (over 1 million hits/day) can benefit from this in-depth book. Techniques that may work well at lower traffic levels can fall apart once the server heats up. Killelea takes a pragmatic approach to performance tuning with an emphasis on actual testing and measurement rather than overplanning, mathematical modeling, and simple yet expensive solutions.
While bandwidth is steadily increasing, latency stubbornly refuses to decrease. The speed of light isn't changing anytime soon, so addressing latency, especially on the Web, is a high priority. The other parameters of performance are throughput, utilization, and efficiency. This book will help you fine tune them all to make your web site sing.

The GigaLaw Guide to Internet Law: The One-Stop Legal Resource for Conducting Business Online
The GigaLaw Guide to Internet Law: The One-Stop Legal Resource for Conducting Business Online
by Doug Isenberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 24.00
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Cyberlaw Roadmap, Oct. 28 2002
This book is a great introduction to the emerging issues of Internet-related law. Everything from copyright law, domain names and trademarks, patents, privacy, free speech, contracts, and employment law are covered in this latin- and lingo-free guide to Net law. Developers will be especially interested in the sections on copyright, domain names and trademarks, and contracts.
For example, hiring a design firm without a contract may mean that they own the copyright to your web site. The proper copyright notice must include the original year the work was published, not just the current one.

Relevant laws are cited and explained, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, and the "E-Signature" Act.
The book starts well, citing copyright (Playboy v. Sanfilippo) and cybersquatting (Electronics Boutique v. Zuccarini) case studies. I found myself chuckling at the audacity of the defendants in their brazen copying of Playboy's images and squatting trademarked domains.
The author and six expert contributors (many of which are on GigaLaw's Editorial Board) do a fine job highlighting major case law and issues that face developers (and lawyers) on the Internet today. While no substitute for hiring a lawyer, this book shows what to avoid, and what to do to protect yourself...

Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design
Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design
by Eric Meyer
Edition: Paperback
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Pain-free CSS, July 25 2002
Eric Meyer is the acknowledged master of CSS, the new styling mechanism for the Web. His newest book, which completes a CSS book trilogy, reflects this vast experience. On the surface this book is a collection of 13 redesign projects, each illustrating different aspects of CSS layout techniques and HTML. Underneath is a philosophy, a way of thinking, and a collection of ideas. The book makes CSS look relatively easy, when in fact it's not.
The projects illustrate (in full color) how to rework existing designs in CSS, from the simple to the sublime. As you're reading the book, you get the feeling Meyer isn't fighting the medium, he's working with it in almost a Zen-like way. Tables can stay and be styled or go, it doesn't seem to matter to him.
Meyer works within browser bugs and limitations and shows a hack-free path through CSS layout and font styling techniques. Only in the last chapter, where he nearly recreates the layout of the book in CSS, does he resort to voice family hacks to work around browser bugs.
Each of the thirteen projects has the same basic framework. He strips example designs down to pure structural HTML and builds them back up, CSS layer by CSS layer until the design technique is recreated. Everything from hyperlink styles and menu skinning, print style sheets, forms, multicolumn layouts, fixing backgrounds, and recreating the book's own layout in CSS is covered, not an easy task.
Meyer's prose is also easy to take, peppered with pithy quotes and humorous headlines. The net effect feels like you are looking over his shoulder, watching and listening to him redesign web sites that will be "forward compatible" and made to last. Meyer makes learning CSS seem easy. As Jeffrey Zeldman wrote in the foreword, I don't know how he does it.

Web Performance Tuning: Speeding up the Web
Web Performance Tuning: Speeding up the Web
by Patrick Killelea
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 45.19
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.80

4.0 out of 5 stars High Performance Book, June 7 2002
Four years in the making, the second edition of "Web Performance Tuning" is some 30% larger (456 vs. 351 pages) than the first, but don't let the increased size slow you down. Patrick Killelea makes good use of it by showing you how to get the best possible performance out of your web server, site, and browser. The primary emphasis is on tuning web server software, but tuning client and server hardware, streamlining content, getting the most bang for your byte are also covered.
Aimed at more advanced system administrators and webmasters, this book provides the tools and techniques you can use to maximize the speed and throughput of your server. The emphasis is on performance monitoring, analysis, and planning. You can't attack a performance problem until you understand it and that means measuring what's actually happening. Lucky for us, Killelea provides free scripts you can use to measure the performance of your web site at his site Patrick.net.
There you'll find scripts you can use on your Unix server to measure, monitor, and debug any performance problems you're having. Killelea also provides a web-based version of his analysis.cgi script that breaks down the components of web site response time into DNS, connect time, server silence (load), transmission (content size), and close time. Type in your URL and up pops a graph of transmission times, broken down into the above components, complete with a bottleneck analysis and some recommendations.
Speaking of bottlenecks, when it comes to web performance, smoothing out bottlenecks is the name of the game. If your server is low on memory excessive swapping can occur. If you spawn too many processes without mod_perl on board you've got a problem. Killelea's tools and prose show you where the slowdowns occur, and how to fix them for maximum speed.
Everything from low volume sites (1-10,000 hits/day) to high (over 1 million hits/day) can benefit from this in-depth book. Techniques that may work well at lower traffic levels can fall apart once the server heats up. Killelea takes a pragmatic approach to performance tuning with an emphasis on actual testing and measurement rather than overplanning, mathematical modeling, and simple yet expensive solutions.
While bandwidth is steadily increasing, latency stubbornly refuses to decrease. The speed of light isn't changing anytime soon, so addressing latency, especially on the Web, is a high priority. The other parameters of performance are throughput, utilization, and efficiency. This book will help you fine tune them all to make your web site sing.

Son of Web Pages That Suck: Learning Good Design By Looking at Bad Design
Son of Web Pages That Suck: Learning Good Design By Looking at Bad Design
by Vincent Flanders
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 2.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and informative, May 16 2002
Vincent Flanders' new "Son of Web Pages That Suck" is the sequel to his best-selling book "Web Pages That Suck." WPTS arose from the site he founded by the same name in 1996, WebPagesThatSuck.com. It seems that WYSIWYG editors have just made it easier for designers to create bad web sites faster, so Flanders felt a second book was needed.
Flanders takes a different approach to teaching usability than the likes of Nielsen and Norman. Through over the top humor and outrageous examples of bad web design he manages to teach good design while keeping us entertained. Flanders uses humor as a teaching aid because he's found that that people tend to learn better when they are entertained.
You'll find yourself laughing as you read this book. The book is peppered with full-color pictures of Flanders and friends in various getups: a devil, an angel, a mechanic, a flasher, and even in the tub ("Splish Splash Pages" chapter). It's all in good fun, as Flanders doesn't take himself too seriously. He makes his points without condescension. He even uses Johnny Cochran-like sayings to illustrate his points:
"If the Bits Don't Flow, People Will Go."
"The Top's Gotta Pop or They're Not Gonna Stop."
The author is a marketing showman, using carnival-like PR:
TREMBLE at the horror that is Mystery Meat Navigation
RUN SCREAMING from splishy splashy Flashy pages...
The book is a hybrid design and usability book aimed at beginning to intermediate designers. The book teaches good design practices through bad mistakes with scathing commentary on numerous really bad web sites. Through his web site's "Daily Sucker" and thousands of email suggestions Flanders has plenty of material to choose from.
The actual advice is common sense stuff that advanced users will already know like keeping text contrast high and file sizes low. However, even after years of preaching the gospel, usability experts are finding web designers repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Flanders shows what not to do, and offers suggestions on how to do it right.
Web design is about working within limitations. Unless you have what Flanders calls "heroin content," make your pages fast loading, easy to navigate, easy to read, and minimize extraneous features. He gives useful pointers throughout the book for graphics optimizers, validators, browser simulators, and includes a CD chock full of useful utilities to shrink and shape up your pages.
Flanders likes to say, somewhat tongue in cheek, that this book is for everybody. It is not quite in that category, but it will have a broader appeal than most web design books with its splashy graphics, non-technical approach, and Flanders' trademark humor. Some college professors have even adopted his book for their Web design courses because it doesn't put their students to sleep. Highly recommended.

Constructing Accessible Web Sites
Constructing Accessible Web Sites
by Michael Burks
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 0.61

4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Current, May 3 2002
This book addresses a pressing need in the increasingly complex world of the Web: accessibility. From 15 to 30% of the general population has some functional limitation when using technology products. Nearly 10% of Internet users have a disability of some kind. That's tens of millions of people in the US and hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Seniors are joining the online throng in droves. All these numbers mean that addressing Web site accessibility issues is no longer an option, it's a necessity.
But accessibility is not just about following standards and adding ALT tags. Everybody has the right to information on the Web, regardless of disability, location, language, or any other factor. This "access for all" viewpoint requires a different approach than the last-minute band-aid accessibility we've seen in the past. This book shows you how to integrate accessibility into your design process to improve your bottom line. As Vint Cerf said recently, "The Internet is for Everybody."
This book is a team effort, written by a cast of eight experts, including Bob Regan of Macromedia. Regan, Senior Product Manager for Accessibility, talks about the new accessibility features of Flash MX, which was just released recently. Each author addresses topics in their areas of expertise. Glasshaus has got the formula down now, hire a bunch of experts, and crank out a book in record time.
Everything from legal issues, assistive technology, accessible content, navigation, and data input to testing for Section 508 compliance are covered in this 415 page book. The authors rate Web development tools for compliance with the W3C's ATAG guidelines on a star system. While Dreamweaver MX, Frontpage, Golive, and BBEdit have improved, they still have a ways to go.
The authors show you how to separate content from presentation with CSS, and test your code for standards and accessibility compliance. You'll learn how to assess and repair accessibility problems on your site with free evaluation and fix-up tools. Finally, the book closes with an in-depth chapter on US Web accessibility law.

Useable Web Menus
Useable Web Menus
by TBA
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Copious Code, April 11 2002
This review is from: Useable Web Menus (Paperback)
Aimed at intermediate to advanced developers, "Constructing Usable Web Menus" homes in on what works, and what doesn't when designing menus for the Web. Chock full of copious amounts of code and screenshots, the book offer a good, albeit incomplete, overview of available menu options for webmasters and guidelines for effective menu design.
The book is one of the first in a series of how-tos from Glasshaus, a new imprint from Wrox Press. This new series is designed to teach "web professional to web professional" and is slanted towards the more proficient practioners of the craft.
The first two chapters of the 227 page book offer guidelines for good menu design (rules, info architecture) while the final four chapters show how to create various types of menus through JavaScript, DHTML, Flash, and PHP/MySQL to populate client-side menus.
The first part of the book deals primarily with usability and information architecture. Here's a list of the "12 Rules for Web Menu Usability" from the first chapter:
1. Menus must be considerate of the user's main task
2. Menus must be distinct from content
3. Menus must be clearly readable
4. Menus must be easily scanned for information
5. Menus must be easily operated
6. Menus must behave as your target user would expect
7. Menus must load quickly as possible
8. Menus must be consistent across a site
9. Menus must put a higher premium on usability than branding
10. Menus must be localizable
11. Menus must be accessible to the handicapped
12. Menus must work on multiple browsers
All good advice. On the last point the authors do an admirable job, claiming their code works on most modern browsers, including IE4+, Netscape 4+, and Opera 5+ for the PC and IE4+, Netscape 6+, and Opera 5+ for the Mac. They make some good points, especially that menus be clearly readable and fast loading. I've seen many a site with slow loading, tiny text menus that are difficult to use, especially for users with older eyes or motor impairments. Designers would be well-advised to follow their guidelines.
However, the authors' coverage of menu designs is somewhat incomplete, and their research needs a refresh. They don't cover simple CSS menus that don't require JavaScript. Perhaps this was because they decided to include Netscape 4 among their target browsers. They also cite Miller's 1956 7+-2 paper, then say it is out of date, but offer no more recent data on the limits of short term memory and menu design (Microsoft's depth versus breadth research for example).
Expandable menus are covered, but hierarchical menus get just one screen shot, from MSDN. While some may question the use of slow-loading or overly complex menus on Web sites, hierarchical menus are in use on many popular sites...Overall the book gives developers a good overview of menus on the Web, and how to create them.

Hot Text: Web Writing that Works
Hot Text: Web Writing that Works
by Lisa Price
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 33.60
44 used & new from CDN$ 3.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Erudite and Entertaining, Feb. 14 2002
Want to learn how to write for the Web? Read this book. Hot Text shows how to grab your audience's attention and never let it go. Based on extensive research, the book is a fun yet in-depth how-to guide for effective writing on the Web.
Every place you use text on the Web is thoroughly explored. From headlines to links to menu design you'll learn how to make your text stand out from the crowd. In addition to conventional writing wisdom like using the active voice and one idea per paragraph the authors urge readers to adopt an object-based approach to writing for the Web.
Object-based text invites reuse. With each object answering one question, personalization and repurposing become easier. Your writing will also improve. Having an object model is like a DTD for your prose. Extraneous fluff falls away naturally.
Writing for the Web is different. Computers are cold, so warm up your text to "push through" the screen. Develop an attitude. Write in a genre. Go gonzo. Pull a Rageboy. Be outrageous. Oh, and make sure you spellcheck that last post on your blog.
The authors are both professional writers and it shows. Sentences flow seamlessly from one idea to the next. Hot Text is so good it could be used as a textbook for "Writing for the Web" classes.

So cut out that marketing blather. Halve your text, then halve it again. Cut out those adverbs and adjectives. Re-invert that pyramid. Get to the point. Write tight. Write right. Go gonzo!
There are other Web writing books, but none as erudite or entertaining. It was a real pleasure to read such a well-written book. Highly recommended.

JavaScript: The Definitive Guide: The Definitive Guide, 4th Edition
JavaScript: The Definitive Guide: The Definitive Guide, 4th Edition
by David Flanagan
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from CDN$ 4.31

5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive JavaScript Reference, Dec 6 2001
Once again David Flanagan has created the definitive reference text for JavaScript. The most popular scripting language on the Web, JavaScript is nearly ubiquitous now. The fourth edition has been updated all the way from JavaScript 1.2 in the third edition to cover JavaScript 1.5 (ECMAScript-262 Version 3), the W3C DOM standard (Levels 1 and 2), while retaining the old legacy "Level 0" DOM for backwards compatibility.
Older editions emphasized Netscape over Explorer, as Netscape had more market share. This edition has almost completely purged this emphasis, and instead focused on standards-compliance for cross-browser scripting. With the proliferation of implementations, it is no longer practical for one book to document every quirk and workaround associated with all browsers. Focusing instead on specifications instead of implementations makes this book easier to read with a longer shelf-life, and your scripts more portable and maintainable.
With the release of JavaScript 1.5, better browser support, open source JavaScript interpreters (one in C and one in Java), and its availability on a multitude of platforms, JavaScript has become a mature language. This book reflects that. The fourth edition splits the reference section into three parts. Core JavaScript, which should work anywhere. Client-side JavaScript, which deals with browser-specific language material, and the W3C DOM has a section of its own now. The DOM defines a standard API that is distinct from the legacy API of traditional client-side JavaScript. Flanagan has found that depending on the browser platforms they are targeting, developers typically use one API or the other and usually do not need to switch back and forth.
The book is huge, some 916 pages long. In order to accommodate all the new material Flanagan omitted reference pages for the trivial properties of objects. Everything is covered in the object reference page, just not twice as before. Flanagan has left out some non-cross-platform features, like Netscape's nifty .jar ARCHIVE source file attribute, which is not supported by Internet Explorer.
While not a JavaScript in 24 hours how-to, this book has plenty of illustrative examples and explanatory text. This combination of explanatory material and matching extensive reference sections make this a must-have book for any JavaScript programmer. Highly recommended.

Designing with JavaScript: Creating Dynamic Web Pages
Designing with JavaScript: Creating Dynamic Web Pages
by Nick Heinle
Edition: Paperback
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Practical Real-World Scripting, Nov. 30 2001
Most JavaScript books force you to slog through reams of reference material before you get to the good stuff. This book is not one of them. Nick Heinle, former WebReference expert and WebCoder wunderkind, and Bill Pena have updated Heinle's first edition into O'Reilly's patented Web Studio style intro to JavaScript.
Aimed at beginning to intermediate scripters, DWJ2 skips the dry stuff and dives right into practical real-world examples of useful scripts you can easily add to your own pages. Everything from simple descriptive links and remotes, to frames, form validation and arrays, through sniffing, rollovers, personalization through cookies, and more advanced topics are covered.
A brief DHTML chapter follows, with some simplified examples of drop-down menus (non-hierarchical), sliding tabs, and scrolling layers with clipping, useful for news feeds.
The advanced chapter covers object-oriented scripting and shows how to create a quiz to test your readers. Relational select menus (2-level) illustrate using two-dimensional arrays nicely.
I especially enjoyed the section on cross-browser style objects, where the authors demonstrate the use of Netscape's xbStyle object. xbStyle is a simple abstraction layer that removes the complexity of accessing style properties. Using xbStyle you can grab, hide, and move layers without worrying about implementation details of specific browsers.
The coolest thing about xbStyle is the layer grabbing technique. xbStyle implements a W3C-like document.getElementById() method for 4.0 browsers! For these older browsers, xbStyle redefines this method, to make its use seamless for scripters manipulating layers (DIVs). This example demonstrates the leveraging power of a well-executed API. This book is a good intro by example to JavaScript.

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