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Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets 1st Edition

120 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0131774292
ISBN-10: 0131774298
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Editorial Reviews Review

Defying the stereotypical notion that technical books tend to be boring, Expert C Programming offers a lively and often humorous look at many aspects of C--from how memory is laid out to the details of pointers and arrays. The author reveals his points through invaluable anecdotes, such as stories of costly bugs, and through folklore, such as the contents of Donald Knuth's first publication. Each chapter ends with a section entitled "Some Light Relief," which discusses topics (topics that some may consider to be "recreational"), such as programming contests. A fabulous appendix on job interview questions finishes the book.

From the Back Cover

This is a very different book on the C language! In an easy, conversational style, Peter van der Linden, of Sun's compiler and OS kernel group, presents dozens of astonishing examples drawn from practical experience, including:

  • Software that blew up the space probe to Venus
  • The C bug that shut down the entire AT&T phone system
  • C programmer job interview secrets
  • Why programmers can't tell Halloween from Christmas day
  • The C code for a complete BASIC interpreter

Expert C Programming reveals the coding techniques used by the best C programmers. It relates C to other languages, and includes an introduction to C++ that can be understood by an programmer without weeks of mind-bending study. Covering both the IBM PC and UNIX systems, it is an entertaining and educational romp through C showing how experts really use it. Expert C Programming is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about the implementation, practical use, and folklore of C.

"Not just clearly written, but fun to read. The tone and style of this text should make this a popular book with professional programmers. However, the tone of this book will make it very popular with undergraduates. Appendix A alone would make the purchase of this book a must. It's filled with great advice."

—Professor Jack Beidler, Chairman, Department of Computer Science, University of Scranton

"So that's why extern char *cp isn't the same as extern char cp. I knew that it didn't work despite their superficial equivalence, but I didn't know why. I also love the job interview test questions on C."

—David S. Platt, Rolling Thunder Computing

"In Expert C Programming, Peter van der Linden combines C language expertise and a subtle sense of humor to deliver a C programming book that stands out from the pack. In a genre too often known for windy, lifeless prose, van der Linden's crisp language, tongue-in-cheek attitude, and real-world examples engage and instruct."

—John Barry, author of Sunburst, Technobabble, and other books


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1st edition (June 24, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131774298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131774292
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By SciFi Fan on May 31, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book exposes many C programming language obscurities - particularly related to pointers, memory usage, and compiling. All of these things are things that you need in order to become an advanced C programmer.
This book is full of little nuggets. I keep it by my desk, and when I have a free moment, I turn to a page at random and read the section that catches my eye. It is a great way to learn something new or reinforce something you know.
If you are looking for a "bag of tricks" book with canned routines, this is not the book for you. For a good bag of tricks, check out "Mastering Algorithms with C," ISBN 1-56592-453-3.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Welzel on October 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
This title has been sitting on my shelf for years, but for some reason I decided to start flipping through it the other day. It's sad to admit this, but I couldn't put it down! I really wish I had taken the time to read this years ago.
In a reasonably short title, this book covers more about the nooks and crannies of C than almost any other book I have come across -- and does it in a way that keeps the reader's attention. Subtle aspects of the language are presented in detail and accompanied by interesting stories and suggestions (called "Handy Heuristics" in the book) for improving your own code.
The book then steps a bit outside of the language to explain (briefly) how linkers work and how executable are structured. This information helps to round out the language specific material and is something you won't find in too many other places.
The only downside to this title is that the information is probably a bit dated and somewhat Sun specific. However, I wouldn't let either of these items prevent you from adding this to your software development collection.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Alexandros Gezerlis on November 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Peter van der Linden's "Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets", published in 1994, is already a classic. It explicitly assumes the reader knows how to program in C (according to the author, this "should be every programmer's second book on C"). In that sense, it is similar to Scott Meyers' "Effective C++" (originally published in 1991). Of course, C is a much smaller language than C++ but, even so, it does have some non-trivial aspects, which are precisely what van der Linden zeroes in on. Given the nature of this text, any review of its good and bad points needs to get down to the nitty-gritty.

The Good: Dennis Ritchie, in his essay on "The Development of the C language", wrote that "Two ideas are most characteristic of C among languages of its class: the relationship between arrays and pointers, and the way in which declaration syntax mimics expression syntax." In the book under review, van der Linden is at his finest when discussing precisely these two topics. Starting with arrays & pointers: the book includes 3 chapters on the subject, first tackling the classic "defined as array / external declaration as pointer" problem. Later, the author returns to the root of the confusion, namely that even though arrays and pointers are distinct entities in declarations/definitions, there is one major exception: a function can have an array parameter, but the argument will be converted to a pointer before the call (though this rule isn't recursive). As a result, even though arrays are not modifiable lvalues, you can use assignment inside a function since the argument will have been converted to a pointer.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Hollister Herhold on March 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
A short aside on the author - Peter van der Linden is probably one of the better technical writers out there. Both this book and "Just Java" are a pleasure to read. He's also a good public speaker, if you get a chance to see him in the valley.
Where this book stands out is its lucid explanations of "under the hood" material. What really happens when your program is loaded in? Why aren't pointers and arrays the same? (Bet you thought they were.) This book explains it all.
The section on interview questions is required reading for interviewers and interviewees alike.
In short, a great book. My dog-eared copy has been handed around the office so many times that I had to take it back and force everyone else to get their own copy (which they quickly did).
Only one minor gripe - there are a number of typos in the printing I have. Peter is VERY good about posting errata on his website however, so I can't let this detract from my 5 star rating.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By James C. Smith on October 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
As the name implies, this book in not a tutorial or an introduction to C. It is for people that already know C and know it well. No matter how much you know about C, this book will teach you something new. Peter has been working at Sun writing C compilers and using C for years so he really knows what he is talking about. He covers using C in both a UNIX and PC environment. Peter exposes a lot of the shortcoming of C and problems you should watch out for such as incorrect operator presidencies, falling through case statements, and how arrays and pointers are NOT the same. The book also has a lot of great history about C including stories like the "software that blew up the space probe to Venus" and "The C bug that shut down the entire AT&T phone system."
One of the things I like best about this book is the authors style and sense of humor. Here is a quote from the author on this subject. "Few authors convey the idea that anyone might enjoy programming. All the wonderment was squeezed out by long boring passages of prose. Useful perhaps, if you can stay awake long enough to read it. But programming isn't like that. Programming is a marvelous, vital, challenging activity, and books on programming should brim over with enthusiasm for it."
In addition to all the talk about C, there is also one chapter about C++ which gives you brief introduction to OOP concepts, terminology, and how it is all used is C++. Not only does Peter teach you how to use these things, he also explains how the compiler implements them. He, then goes on to explain the answer to the question, "Just what is a protected abstract virtual base pure virtual private destuctor, and when was the last time you needed one."
This book is great for anyone hat knows a lot about C but want to know it all.
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