Book review: Pro Apache XML by <i>Poornachandra Sarang, Ph.D.</i>

Book review: Pro Apache XML by Poornachandra Sarang, Ph.D.


Pro Apache XML, authored by Poornachandra Sarang, PhD, and published by Apress, clearly explains XML, and, in specific, the Apache Software Foundation-related projects. eXtensible Markup Language (XML) is a human readable, machine-understandable text format. Web services send XML messages and XML acts as the underlying structure in configuration files for many modern frameworks and thus applications. In fact, the next quality-jump in the office suite is XML (zip compressed) document formats that are, in theory, easily translatable into other formats. XML is therefore important for IT service builders, programmers, system administrators and decision makers in general. The Apache Software Foundation covers a vast range of mark-up related scenarios with their high standard projects from parsing and translating, web services, security, web site generation and document generation.

The book’s coverThe book’s cover

My first impression of this well-balanced and accurate book is that, if you wish to know what the Apache Software Foundation has achieved with projects related to manipulating XML, then this is an excellent, broad and well grounded and thorough introduction.

An excellent, broad and well grounded and thorough introduction

The contents

Being 504 pages in extent, with ten specific chapters, the tome covers all the required details for accurate and successful manipulation without fuss. Starting from the basics of XML in Chapter 1, the book quickly focuses in on practical realities. Areas covered include: what is XML, processing of the format, web services, XSLT (translation), XSL-FO (device and print formatting), XML security, an example XML data base and two CMS or web publishing projects, Cocoon and Forrest.

The main thread that binds the chapters together is an example brokerage project, which helps explain how all the Apache jigsaw project pieces fit together to create a decent whole. Cocoon is a web framework that uses a pluggable and straightforward-to-configure-via-XML structure to separate the management of logic, content, and style. Forrest uses Cocoon as the basis of its easy to deploy web site creation framework.

My favorite chapter of the book was the XML security chapter. In particular, I liked listing 8-5, which programmatically explains how to sign and attach a digital certificate—potentially very useful code as part of your data security structures.

Who’s this book for?

The book is practical and best read by Java programmers that wish to understand and manipulate XML. The author Poornachandra Sarang has also done an excellent job of describing the rudiments of the underlying theory of what XML, transformations and SOAP are. Therefore, I can imagine that the book is well suited for students as well.

Relevance to free software

XML is taking over from plain old text as the messenger of choice for organizational data exchange. The markup language is going to have deep impact on office document formats now and to a greater extent in the near future. Therefore, programmers who understand and apply Apache or similar frameworks will have a competitive advantage in the market place.

Relevance to free software; everything mentioned in Pro Apache XML is free software. XML is also an open standard; therefore, the book is purely about free software.

Pros

An excellent introduction to XML and a reasonably detailed description of the related Apache Software Foundation projects. This practical book pushes the necessary knowledge towards you allowing you to become effective with Java XML related libraries and some larger frameworks.

An excellent introduction to XML and a reasonably detailed description of the related Apache Software Foundation projects

Note: with my security hat on using free software code is very reassuring, every line of the source code from every library or framework applied is well, yes, open and not hidden by the stealth-cloaking device of proprietary licensing. A particularly positive aspect when you consider that you may call the libraries when using encryption, passing such trivial things as personal or banking information. If you don’t have the right to examine the source code that defends your business processes you are placing unnecessary faith in old business practices and automatic updates.

Cons

If you are looking for a thoroughly detailed description of transformations, XPATH, SOAP, and not so much the practical Java realities, then perhaps this is not the book for you.

Title Pro Apache XML
Author Poornachandra Sarang
Publisher Apress
ISBN 1590596412
Year 2006
Pages 504
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