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Wicked Cool Shell Scripts
Author: Dave Taylor
Pages: 341
Publisher: No Starch
ISBN: 1-59327-012-7
Summary: An enlightening collection of shell scripts
Review Date: 24 August, 2009

I have a confession to make. This book has been sitting patiently on my shelf for several years now waiting for a review. For many books in the computer field, a review several years after the publish date of the book is pointless, as the march of progress in the industry has usually rendered the book obsolete. Happily there are a few books in the field that remain useful for years and years after their publishing date. Wicked Cool Shell Scripts is one of those fortunate few.

Wicked Cool Shell Scripts is a collection of 101 Bourne Shell scripts that perform various tasks ranging from simple file manipulation and basic system administration, to tasks where I'd normally be reaching for Perl like web scraping and CGI scripts. Accompanying each script is a commentary about the interesting points of the script, as well as suggestions for how the script could be further modified and improved.

"Wicked cool" is a label I'd rarely apply to a shell script, and the scripts in this book rarely win that ribbon from me either. Were I choosing the title for this work, I'd probably go with something like "101 illustrative and interesting shell scripts," though such would probably not sell too many copies. In all honesty I can't say that during the time I've owned this book I've used much of the code provided. That said, the value I found in the book was a broadening of my vision of what is possible with a humble shell script, as well as lessons on the less-frequently used features of Bourne Shell. Despite the corny title, the book is useful, and has been one of those I have pulled off the shelf from time to time when I have a need for dusting off my shell skills.

Since it's not a reference work it can be a challenge to find what you're looking for if you approach the book in that manner. But after reading through the book, you'll probably have a better idea of how to approach any particular problem you're trying to solve with a shell script. You'll be familiar with a number of common "idioms" used in shell scripting—and that, I think, is the main reason to buy the book.

Wicked Cool Shell Scripts is easy to read, and useful for those who have some familiarity with shell scripting. It would probably be a stretch for someone completely new to the craft, though.

Overall Rating: 7/10

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Daniel Hanks

I'm a system administrator working for Omniture

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