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Erlang and OTP in Action Paperback – December 8, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 500 pages
  • Publisher: Manning Publications; 1 edition (December 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933988789
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933988788
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #747,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I fell in love with this book after reading about half of it and previewing the rest.

Erlang is quite radically different from O-O/Imperative languages such as C# and Java, and I expected a steep learning curve, when I started reading Joe Armstrong's book Programming Erlang: Software for a Concurrent World. It is overall a good book, but some parts of Joe's book were not very clear to me even in the earlier several chapters, so I also got the O'Reilly Erlang book Erlang Programming. It was a bit of an easier read, but I still had some issues. [[And all this despite some background from graduate school in the late 80s and early 90s in the underlying CompSci topics such as Unification and Deductive Databases, Functional Programming, Lambda Calculus, Gul Agha's Actors Concurrent programming and Distributed Databases]]. In particular, the OTP coverage in the last 2 books left me a bit perplexed. Then I got this, Logan et al's book, and started from the first chapter, and I must say I admire the authors' ability to serve up concise yet clear explanations with a more practical tone and real world examples. Now all makes sense, both OTP and Erlang, in just a few days! Chapter 2 was a quick but great introduction to Erlang programming. And the OTP and tool introduction chapters have been even better. This is the book to get if you intend to use Erlang for real-world production applications as opposed to a passing 'academic interest'.
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Format: Paperback
An excellent book on Erlang, with an emphasis on writing production-worthy code.

The book is divided into 3 sections, as follows:
1) Erlang and OTP basics.
2) Building a production Erlang application.
3) Integration and tuning.

Section one covers basics of Erling and the OTP framework. Material is presented in a format suitable for beginners, with plenty of simple diagrams every couple of pages to illustrate key concepts. OTP in particular is covered in great detail, something intermediate-and-above users will appreciate. Section one alone would be a good Erlang book, but there is much more.

Section two built upon an application-building scenario. The scenario is a web application that's suffering from poor performance, so Erlang is used to build a caching mechanism. Erlang is strong on networking, so the reader builds everything needed from the bottom up. This section adds much value, as there is a pointed difference between knowing language syntax and knowing best practices in writing an application. (This book gives you the best practices as well as the language basics.) The chapters in this part of the book usually start by describing some desired functionality, then explaining how Erlang can provide that functionality, then finally going step-by-step through implementing the change. It reads like an in-depth tutorial.

Section three is about integrating your Erlang application with external entities. Integration-by-messaging is covered via JSON, while deeper integration needs are explained as Erlang's language integration mechanisms are explained. One notable point: JInterface, the Erlang-Java interface, is given a whole chapter (other Erlang books give this topic very little coverage in comparison.
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Erlang is considered the bete noire of programming languages with it's weird syntax and radical constructs. It's roots are in Prolog. Erlang is not pretty like Ruby but it has raw and brute power. It has a reputation of being very difficult to learn and even more difficult to master. But it is a language of many great virtues. In my opinion it is the only language which handles the concurrent programming problem properly. Erlang has all of the language constructs to build massive concurrent systems. This is the siren call or mantra as massive distributed systems start to become ever more important in application development. Erlang eschews threads for processes. Processes are the basic unit of concurrency in Erlang. Erlang processes are very lightweight and a computer with commodity hardware can easily host hundreds of thousands of Erlang processes. What makes this magic possible is BEAM, the Erlang virtual machine. Beam is the Bodgan Abtsract Erlang Machine. BEAM has been refined over some twenty years. Erlang is a functional programming language and message passing is the basic unit of inter-process communication in Erlang. The Erlang concurrent programming model implements the Actor design pattern. Erlang was developed from the git go to solve some very hard concurrent programming problems at the Swedish Telecom provider Eriksson; and the lineage shows in the language. Erlang is very pragmatic.

One of the strange aspects about Erlang is that it eschews the use of the assignment operator. In fact, Erlang does not have an assignment operator and the = operator is a pattern matching operator. In Chapter 2, the authors comment that once you get used to the pattern matching operator you will wonder how you ever lived without it.
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