Klaus Fielk Monterey, 12 September 2002
Book report on the book
"In-line / On-line
Fundamentals of the
and the World Wide Web"
by Raymond Greenlaw & Ellen Hepp published by MCGraw-Hill Higher Education in 2002
The book "Inline/Online: Fundamentals of the Internet and the World Wide Web" by R.Greenlaw & E.Hepp is dedicated to Laurel and Celest, and to Mark, Andrew, Elisa, and Crissy. It contains 720 pages (24 pgs Introduction + 696 Main body) and it is subdivided into 14 chapters.
The authors purpose is to help the reader "learn enough" about the internet so he will become "Internet literate" and is able to comfortably perform basic functions. Some of these are:
sending and receiving electronic mail (email),
browsing the World Wide Web,
coding in Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML),
using search engines, applications such as FTP and Telnet, chatrooms, newsgroups, downloading and installing plug-ins, understanding basics of security and copyrightÖ.
To accomplish this, the authors first give a detailed description of their goal, of what kind of reader they had in mind, while writing it, the organization of the text, and the use of icons to highlight certain passages. The authors introduce accompanying material such as on-line presentations, the online learning center and online supplements where the reader can find full HTML source code for all the examples presented in the book and has the opportunity to practice.
The use of the Internet is compared to the Appalachian Trail, one of the largest continuous footpaths in the world, thus subject to continuous development. The process of learning, exploring and improving is seen to be endless and the authors intend to be "guides on the long journey". In an analogy to the different passages of the trail, the book is structured in chapters, which are steps on the journey along this path. The goal is to open the readers eyes to view the world differently.
The authors have achieved their first goal, as far as I am concerned, by their layout, the use of pictures, colors and icons, structure, and easy to read text. The analogy ĖThe Appalachian Trail- with the short narration of the authorís forthcoming of their adventures along the trail at the start of each new chapter. All this captured my attention and made me curious of what might follow.
The first chapter starts with the primary and most popular service of the Internet: electronic mail or email. The authors describe the fundamental principles, the basics that all different mail programs have in common, and in passing point out, that in order to get along with all kinds of different applications, it is essential to understand the basics first. Advantages and disadvantages are outlined, userids, passwords and the composition of email addresses are explained. Using a particular application and a mail example, they introduce the reader step by step into message composition, mail features, mail service, protocols, in general terms, the technical background. Very useful indeed, the authors introduce the reader in the informal rules of network etiquette, "netiquette". At the end of each subchapter the reader can make use of several exercises. Thus, the book can be used well in class.
Chapter two provides the background necessary to start using the World Wide Web and to create WebPages. The authors describe the use of browsers, HTML basics and web page installation. They provide the reader with good links and useful hints of "doís and doníts". Again the learning is done in small easy to comprehend steps, giving hints, that following chapters will provide deeper or more detailed information. Thus the reader can indeed experience the guidance along the trail.
The third chapter deals with the definition of the Internet and its history, the transition from a means for research to the use by broad public and economy. Physical components, network connections, models and protocols are briefly described. Problems and shortcomings are addressed, but also current ideas and projects working on solutions. The "problem" of reliability of information due to no governmental regulation is mentioned and a list of useful questions is provided to ask for self-evaluation.
Chapter four gives a definition of the World Wide Web, deals with plug-ins and writing styles, the key points for effective presentations. Several examples illustrate the authorís points and hints for a better design, and better coding. The authors keep reminding the reader that there are always different options to bear in mind, while creating presentations: different browsers, applications and possibilities to code.
Chapter five introduces and educates the reader in the basics of search machines, whereas chapter six outlines the basics and the use of Telnet, Rlogin and FTP. Furthermore it defines viruses, Trojan horse programs, worms and the recommended precautions by the authors.
The next chapter goes deeper into HTML coding. It provides the reader with several additional tools to improve the knowledge gained so far, such as lists, tables, tags and debugging, while chapter eight deals with graphics principles and pictures. The authors outline the pros and cons of different types, such as gif, jpg, png. The authors provide additional HTML-tools, like forms, editors, converters, cgi scripts and cascading style sheets in chapter nine. These all contribute to the continuous improvement of the readers knowledge and abilities to code and properly style his presentations.
Chapter ten deals with the history and the description of newsgroups, mailing lists and chatrooms, thus improving the readerís knowledge and abilities to cope with still more useful "net-tools".
In chapter eleven the authors address the advantages and disadvantages of electronic publishing in more detail. They outline copyright and credit issues and introduce the reader into electronic media, such as on-line magazines, journals and newspapers.
Chapter twelve delves deeper into Web programming, teaching the reader about advanced methods to create presentations. In particular, the reader is shown how to program the basic elements in the Java Script programming language. He is introduced into object-oriented programming, working with guest books and using applets.
The overall topic of chapter 13 is multimedia. The authors describe how to play and display multimedia documents, outline audio and video installation, and their use on web pages. However, they donít forget to address current concerns about their (mis)use in the Web. Finally, the authors briefly introduce virtual reality as another "exciting extension of the Web".
The last chapter deals with security. Starting with the principles of cookies, which in brief were adressed in previous chapters, the authors outline the means used by companies and other "users" to collect data about the reader, while using the Web. The authors describe the problems and the risks arising out of complex software and operating systems and outline means to deal with these risks, such as the use of secure documents, digital signatures and firewalls.
The appendix contains information on ISPs, text editing, basic UNIX, HTML tags, acronyms and very helpful blank sheets, encouraging the reader to make notes of imminent ideas for his own presentations, while following the authorís path.
To summarize, the book provides the reader with initial information about the electronic world and itís composition. It offers, tools to access and rules to easily move around this new dimension. In my opinion, the authors achieve their goal of introducing the reader to this new world and to help guide his first steps on this path, by incrementally describing basic facts, illustrating the information with thoroughly chosen examples, making it both: easy to read and learn as well as interesting. Designing the individual steps for the achievement of only a part of the overall goal enables them to outline their points in small chapters. They frequently alter the topics, constantly improving the readerís knowledge, and at the same time capture his attention. Thus the analogy of the Appalachian trail is met, and the small episodes at the beginning of each chapter liven up the learning atmosphere. The reader, having found his footing on the new worldís ground, the accompanying icons, hints, and links to more detailed information, can then independently lead his own way along the path of improvement.
I enjoyed reading the book and Iíd like to recommend the book to all who have not yet or only recently discovered their interest in the electronic world. Itís helpful and fun reading.