Review: Perl Resource Kit for Unix (O'Reilly and Associates)

When ORA first contacted me to ask for permission to distribute my Text::Template module in the PRK, I was delighted, particularly since they said they'd send me a free copy once it came out. I like getting things for free.

But when it arrived, I was puzzled. It has three big pieces, and whi;e I can imagine people for whom some of the pieces are useful, I can't imagine anyone who wants all of the pieces, which you have to buy together.

For example, the most interesting and novel part of the package is Larry Wall's `JPL', which is a kit for integrating Perl and Java. Maybe this is the answer to someone's prayer. But I can imagine that person turning their eyes to heaven (Or Sebastopol, which must be nearly the same) and saying `Thank you! But what did you throw in all that other stuff for?'

Patwardhan and Irving's book Programming with Perl Modules looks nice (although I didn't read it because I already know how to use most of that stuff) and I can imagine someone who would be very happy with it. But is this this person the same one who prayed for JPL? Probably not.

The PRK comes with a CD with a snapshot of a lot of stuff that is already on CPAN, which would be nice, except that all that stuff is already on CPAN---and the versions on the CD are out-of-date. There are two fat books of module documentation, which is just typeset versions of the PODs tat the various module authors supplied. These books, therefore, were written by a collaboration of about four hundred people. Some of them write well, and some of them don't, and the editing is sparse or nonexistent. Some of the documentation is complete, and correct, and some isn't. And anyway, it's on CPAN, so why pay good money for out-of-date versions?

Someone suggested that the real reason this part of the PRK exists is for people with pointy-haired bosses who wouldn't let them use CPAN modules because they hadn't come in a pretty box. Here's the pretty box---problem solved.

I can believe that those people exist, and if you have that problem, PRK might be the solution you need. But are you also the person who prayed for JPL or who wants to read the Patwardhan book? Probably not. And once you have the box, you might as well put it in the closet, because the Boss won't know the difference if you get fresh versions direct from CPAN. (``Sure, Boss. It came with the PRK'')

It wasn't too long before the PRK moved off my convenient Perl shelf into my hidden closet with the other things that I never use that are too expensive to throw away. It sure does take up a lot of space! And unless you're someone doing Perl-Java integration who wants a book about programming with Perl modules and whose boss has forbidden CPAN, I think yours will probably end up doing the same thing.

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