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About the Author
James Tisdall has worked as a musician, a programmer at Bell Labs (where he programmed for speech research and discovered a formal language for musical rhythm), and as a bioinformaticist at Mercator Genetics in Menlo Park, California, and at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. He has a B.A. in mathematics from the City College of New York and an M.S. in computer science from Columbia University; he is working towards a Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Pennsylvania. In his spare time, Jim teaches computer music at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. He is also the author of O'Reilly's Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics.
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Published in late 2003, this clearly-written book picks up where "Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics" leaves off. Perl is very commonly used in the field of bioinformatics, and this book does a good job of surveying the more advanced topics in perl from the bioinformatics point-of-view. For a more thorough treatment of each of these topics though, the student will need to explore more specialized titles.
While Tisdall's first volume teaches the core of procedural programming in Perl, this one takes you into the world of object-oriented (OO) programming. The first two chapters explore namespaces, modules, packages, references and data structures, all of which are prerequisites to OO programming. Common bioinformatics algorithms are introduced such as dynamic programming and approximate string matching.
The next three chapters, 3-5, are the meat of this title. Here objects, methods and classes are introduced. Rather than just throwing out independent examples, these topics are developed by starting and building upon a Gene class, the first of several through which Tisdall guides the reader. Due to the practicality of these examples, they can even be used and improved by the reader for use in their own work.
After this decent treatment of OO programming the book takes a turn into other realms of perl, each of which seems to have been written as a short introduction and for which other O'Reilly titles offer more complete coverage. These topics include the use of Perl to access relational databases, CGI programming and graphics generation using GD. If interested in any of these the reader should check out "Programming the Perl DBI", "CGI Programming with Perl" and "Perl Graphics Programming", respectively.Read more ›
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"Mastering Perl for Bioinformatics" is the follow-up to Tisdall's earlier "Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics". Both books are part of O'Reilly's lauded "animal books" series; "Beginning" was graced with tadpoles, while "Mastering" sports a frog. Naturally, this book picks up where the earlier one left off, diving headfirst into the details of Perl modules. Chapter two is a quick pass over some basic data structures, with discussion of how you'd implement each in Perl. Subsequent chapters cover object-oriented programming in Perl, using Perl with relational databases, using Perl with web services, generating graphics on the fly with Perl, and the use of the Bioperl suite of libraries. As might be expected, all the coding examples in the book are drawn from reasonably realistic bioinformatics situations. There's a little bit less hand-holding on the biological side in this book, relative to the earlier volume -- which I think is a good idea, as it gives more space to focus on the programming material. The one weakness of this book is that it covers quite a few topics, which means that it doesn't really go into great depth on any of them. The "survey" approach is well done, and it's very nice to have biologically relevant examples and exercises for the breath of material that is addressed, but I think the book might have been stronger if it forewent the "Perl and the Web" and "Perl and Graphics" chapters in favor of more focus on the Bioperl libraries. If you're a bioinformatics programmer who enjoyed "Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics", and you want to get a better idea of what more advanced Perl programming looks like and what sorts of things you can do with Perl, this book is a nice place to start. However, if you're looking for more specific information, other more focused books might be a better choice, if you can live without the biologically focused code examples.
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This first half of the book focuses entirely on Object-Oriented(OO) Perl. The second half follows up with a general survey of various perl implementations of particular programming issues involving databasing, cgi, graphics, modules, etc, and BioPerl.
This book does a good job of applying Perl in OO for Biology in the first half of the book. In the second half he overviews a few broad topics in bioinformatics; he doesn't go super specific, but its a sufficient overview and for me sparked more interest in understanding how I can use perl to handle my informatics issues.
In the first half, the author does an excellent job on detailing the ins and outs of perl references and how to construct complex data structures. Indeed they are a bit strange looking at first, but the author breaks it down really good so pretty much anyone can understand it.
For me the most intriguing part of the book was in the second half, which included relational databases, graphics, and bioperl. In particular, the chapter that covers Perl DBI and DBD::mysql was really cool. That secion was very helpful for me because I am familiar with php/mysql, but have not ever used Perl to interact with Mysql before.
I especially liked the gif draw aka GD chapter. I had no idea how cool GD is. But moreover how it can be integrated with Perl to generate really cool looking plots. Before this book I always used gnuplot. But Tisdall shows you how to get to work with GD pretty good using basic practical examples.
The chapter on BioPerl was especially helpful as well. In particular, he shows you what he did to install the beast. He shows you how to use the CPAN shell and again its really beneficial to read through.Read more ›
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