Books for the IT library

We review a few IT-related books, including telecom reference tomes, a book on the theory and practice of tagging, and a book on the use of scripting in Second Life.

Last week I discussed the issue of virtualization technologies being less than transparent for some applications that you might want to run in them.

To throw some fuel on this fire a Gearhead reader, A. Non from Boston, wrote to say “I’m hearing that issues in SAP and Oracle environments are severe enough that some customers are being told to de-install VMware or the vendors will not continue support!” As far as I can make out, SAP only approved VMware’s ESX Server 3.0 last November (other VM environments are not supported) and Oracle only approves use of its own Oracle Virtual Server for virtualization. Comments anyone?

While I continue to do some research into this topic I thought I’d cover something a little different this week: What I’ve been reading.

First up are a couple of reference books by my old friend and fellow laborer in the Network World salt mines, Ray Horak. The first tome (at 560 pages, a tome it verily is) is the Webster’s New World Telecom Dictionary.

What’s remarkable about this work is it defines over 4,600 telecom terms and, scanning through it, it appears there are more TLAs (three-letter acronyms) involved than the mind can comfortably encompass. I’ve found the dictionary incredibly useful when researching, and every now and then I find an interesting snippet of trivia (did you know Bob Metcalfe’s middle name is “Melancton”?).

Ray’s second tome (791 pages!) is the Telecommunications and Data Communications Handbook, an exhaustive survey of communications technologies supposedly for non-engineers. I write “supposedly” because the book frequently gets technical. Its value to engineers and management is as a starting point, and the topics covered include everything from CATV and fax through to VoIP, WiMAX and ZigBee. In fact it might be said the book covers comms from Access Point to ZigBee (actually the index starts at “AAL Type 1” – ATM Adaptation Layer 1 – and ends at “zone” but I thought that sounded less sexy).

These are both valuable reference books, and every corporate IT library should have copies. Highly recommended.

My next book choice is Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web, by Gene Smith, which I will discuss at greater length in my Network World Web Applications newsletter in the near future. Bottom line: If you are working with social media this book provides a great framework for thinking about the context and value of tagging and covers a lot of useful information along with technical and practical advice. Highly recommended.

Now, is your organization doing anything with Second Life? I’d be interested to find out what your involvement might be because I’ve just received a set of books that cover an aspect of SL that I didn’t know was so sophisticated: Scripting in Second Life.

The titles are Introduction to Linden Scripting Language for Second Life, Scripting Recipes for Second Life, and Introduction to Textures, Animation, Audio and Sculpting in Second Life, by Jeff Heaton.

On the con side, these books are not well-written, they contain mistakes and are leaden. That said, on the pro side, they do the job, and I haven’t seen any other titles that provide as good an introduction to Linden Scripting Language (LSL).

This scripting language is interesting because of the context of its use. While it a similar to C and JavaScript, it isn’t a fully fleshed out high-level language. But learning LSL is difficult because there are no other books on the subject and, while there are a few online primers available, none go as deep as Heaton’s books. Recommended with reservations.

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