Book review: The Definitive Guide to GCC, Second Edition by <i>William von Hagen</i>

Book review: The Definitive Guide to GCC, Second Edition by William von Hagen


Without the GNU Compiler collection GCC it would be difficult to imagine that free software would have had such a rapid penetration into the market place. Historically speaking, having a free high quality set of compilers acted as a bootstrap for the highly active GNU project and beyond and was thus an important, the important, winning factor. If you want to use GCC (including version 4) to its utmost, The Definitive Guide to GCC, Second Edition, written by William von Hagen and published by Apress, is almost certainly for you.

The book’s coverThe book’s cover

My first impressions of this extensive, dense, and well written tome was positive. The book is thick and detailed with well chosen subjects. The author’s words radiate hard earned background knowledge. I was even provoked into thinking deeper. Having spent roughly 40% of my business life designing or programming Java structures, I found Chapter 4: Using GCC Java Compiler so thought provoking that this critic was motiviated to run competitive comparison tests against Sun and IBM’s compilers.

The author’s words radiate hard earned background knowledge

The contents

William von Hagen’s book encompasses 584 pages, 14 chapters, and 3 appendices. Written in tutorial fashion the book focuses on the meaning behind the options and how to use the GCC tool set effectively. Supporting tools, optimization, and troubleshooting are also mentioned to the required level.

The languages covered by the author were C, C++, FORTRAN, Java, and C cross compilers; the Ada language is ignored. Most interestingly, optimization and code analysis chapters are included. GCC has a standardized set of optimization and coverage options that work with all compilers in the suite. This ergonomic design based on uniformity can only help with the learning curve as you move from one language to the next. The author places in context the supporting tools autoconf, automake, and libtool with practical examples.

I found this thick book nicely engrossing, but at times a little difficult to read due to the density of content. As stated previously, for practical reasons the Java chapter was my favorite. Further, Chapter 9 trouble shooting GCC is worth the price of the book in itself. Why learn from pain when you can reference the definitive guide.

Why learn from pain when you can reference the definitive guide

Being Java in bias, I particularly enjoyed the mentioning of jcf-dump on pages 94-95, and envisage using this small but effective tool in projects to help create quick and dirty summary reports.

Who’s this book for?

Not for the faint at heart, the book serves programmers that wish to use GCC to its optimum.

Relevance to free software

GNU GCC is a significant enabling technology. Without GCC it is difficult to imagine that such a wide range of free software would be available and so quickly over the span of the last two decades. Using a free set of high quality compilers with a consistent front end, developers have the tools at hand to write applications without worrying about licensing or compiler specific issues. Historically, GCC has acted as a bootstrap tool that a vast swathe of free software projects have wielded to create their products. Therefore, the book a definitive guide to GCC is all about free software

Pros

If you want to be at your most effective with compiling, profiling or debugging with GCC this book delivers content you will more than likely need, an excellent tutorial for an excellent tool.

Cons

GNU GCC at heart is a set of compilers. A book on GCC is bound to focus on how to manage the set. If you are, for example, looking for a book that takes you through the knowledge chain that covers the basics of C programming, compiling, and profiling, etc., all the way through to a finished product (including an installer), then this book only provides the middle link. Further, the book touches on compiler theory but to the depth of more theoretical treaties.

Title The Definitive Guide to GCC, Second Edition
Author William von Hagen
Publisher APRESS
ISBN 1590595858
Year 2006
Pages 584
CD included No
FS Oriented 10
Over all score 9

In short

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Biography

Alan Berg Bsc. MSc. PGCE, has been a lead developer at the Central Computer Services at the University of Amsterdam since 1998. In his spare time, he writes articles, book reviews and has authored three books. He has a degree, two masters and a teaching qualification. In previous incarnations, he was a technical writer, an Internet/Linux course writer, and a science teacher. He likes to get his hands dirty with the building and gluing of systems. He remains agile by playing computer games with his sons who (sadly) consistently beat him physically, mentally and morally at least twice in any given day.

You may contact him at reply.to.berg At chello.nl