Category Archives: books

Chinese preface

Some time ago, 张立强 (hope that comes out right – it’s cut-and-paste from his/her email From: line) contacted me to ask if I’d write a preface for the chinese translation of my book.  I wrote something, but wasn’t very happy with it, so I put it aside.  I only remembered it when 张立强 bugged me about it this week.

So I finally got around to revisiting it.  Realising that the subtleties of language are going to get lost in translation anyway, all it really needed was an ending.  So I had a go, and sent it off.

— but — 

I was foolish enough to mention it on #apache-helpdesk, and they’ve been ribbing me about it ever since.  So, dammit, I’m going to put my poor little effort here:

Apache HTTPD has long been the leading server on the Web.  Apache 2 is more than that: it’s a versatile applications platform.  But for several years, its adoption amongst developers was held back by the lack of good documentation.  There was the code, the mailing list archives, and very little else.  I wrote the Apache Modules Book to try to fill that gap, and make it easier for developers to take advantage of its capabilities.

Two things have really thrilled me since the book was published.  The first is the great reception it’s had, from the first reviews (within weeks of publication) to the regular feedback from readers who find it useful.  The second is the news that it’s being translated into Chinese, bringing it to what must be the biggest and most important developer community outside the English-speaking world!

As you will see from the dedication, I have a dream of how telecoms and the Internet are liberating us from the drudgery of the office of the past.  I can now work from my home for clients anywhere in the world, and with a community of colleagues from every continent.  I don’t even have a car, and in the modern world, my life is far better for it than others who are still living in the past.

Sadly, we cannot hope to integrate the Chinese and English-speaking communities at the level of our day-to-day work.  But we can build bridges to share our work and help each other take advantage of it.  I am delighted to hear that my book is to become one such bridge.  I hope our Chinese readers will find it useful, and I look forward to seeing more applications follow the lead set by mod_fcgid, the first Chinese-developed Apache module to bridge the gap back and achieve widespread recognition in the English-speaking world.

Finally, let us hope that maybe the map of Apache developers at need not always be so skewed as it is now towards the English-speaking “old world” of the Internet in Europe and North America: I look forward to seeing our community enriched by more of the best talent from “new world” countries such as China!



Chinese translation!

It seems my apache modules book is being translated into Chinese.  I’m not quite sure what that really means, given that there are many chinese variants spoken over such a huge country, not to mention diaspora.  But I guess it must be some reasonably universal mandarin, as English is to “the west”.

Anyway, my translator emailed, and asked if I’d like to contribute a preface for the chinese edition.  Well, I guess I can say something about how thrilled and excited I am to be translated for such an important market: surely the biggest and fastest-growing outside the english-speaking world.

With a bit of luck, this might correlate with an increase in activity and contributions coming back to Apache from China.  The language remains a barrier to free growth in the community, and I’ve no idea how much Apache community may already exist in China without announcing themselves to non-chinese-speakers.  Let us hope that where mod_fcgid (a popular, widely-used module from China) has led, others will follow.


I have my first royalty cheque for The Book, covering sales up to the end of June.  It was waiting for me when I got home yesterday.

Eligible sales were 1300 copies, which I understand is not too bad for a specialised techie book’s first six months.  The good reviews it’s got can’t hurt!

Alas, it’s not just a conventionally-miserly royalty: it’s rendered nearly-worthless by being denominated in US dollars.   A payment that might’ve been worth £2400 at the time I was writing the book is reduced to £1800.  Not that I was expecting to get rich on it, but that kind of drop feels like a third-world currency in crisis.  Worse than getting paid in b***** Lire, as I was for most of the 1990s (when I became a millionaire each month, without ever getting rich).

Still, it’s a satisfying outcome to the effort that’s gone into the project: the fun of writing it, the stress of the editing/publishing process, and the pain of the ITIN epic.

Reviews of the modules book

Yesterday, El Reg posted a review of my book. They seemed to like it. And perhaps more importantly, they may have reached a wider audience than previous reviewers, at least judging by the feedback that’s come my way. Though that could also be ‘cos it’s a Brit publication, and I naturally know lots of Brits.

Anyway, I do occasionally check for published reviews (using google of course). Maybe time to summarise what I’ve seen in the past?

If you know of any other independent reviews, please add them in a comment.

To complement the list of third-party reviews, here are my companion site for the book, and the book’s safari page from the publisher.

ITIN at last!

Just three months after my second application, which I travelled to make in person, I finally have an ITIN. That is, a US Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. So finally my publisher can pay royalties on the book. That is, assuming there are no further hurdles in the way.

I must email them soon. It would be nice to hear how sales are going, too. Shame the dollar has lost half its value while I was waiting 😦


I really should use this post to pass on the Executive Summary and Recommendation to anyone else needing an ITIN from the US government:

  • Don’t send them the forms.
  • Do go in person to the nearest embassy, no matter how inconvenient.

Or failing that, pay one of the agents listed on their webpages to do the whole job. In retrospect, I’d probably have been better off stumping up some utterly exorbitant fee to have KPMG (who are an accredited agent and have an office in Plymouth) do it for me.

Serious Errata

Under firm instructions from the publisher, I compiled a list of errata for the book as soon as I received it.  These were all trivial matters: typos, and layout of code examples.

Now I’ve had a question from a reader that led to detecting a much more serious error: a broken code example on Page 141 (I won’t repeat the details here, but I’ve posted the fix on the errata page).  My correspondent posted his code, I found an error in it, and traced the error back to mine.

What’s puzzling is how it got there in the first place.  After verifying that there is indeed an error, I followed the link from the book’s companion page, and checked the module I’d drawn the example from.    The module itself is correct.  So where did the erroneous version come from, and why did neither I nor my reviewers pick up on it?  I guess I must’ve been simplifying for the book, and it was an unfortunate chance that noone noticed.

Certainly in the latter part of the publishing process, including when compiling that first errata list under pressure, I wouldn’t have been looking for anything like that: I was just trying to limit the damage done in copyediting and typesetting.

Ouch 😦

Apache Training

In the last two years ApacheCon (Stuttgart 2005 and Dublin 2006) I’ve given a tutorial in Apache Module development. The first one I presented jointly with Paul Querna, and my performance was not good (Paul’s was clearly better). The second one was basically solo (though Will Rowe made a contribution), and my own performance was much better, helped by the fact that I could use substantially-complete material from The Book as tutorial notes, as well as by my experience from the previous year. The Dublin tutorial was rated excellent in the attendee feedback sent after the conference by the ApacheCon organisers.

This year, I’ve just heard it seems to be dead, due to insufficient numbers of attendees. Actually I only heard I was giving it a couple of weeks ago when I signed up for ApacheCon and saw it listed amongst the courses available: I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

I’m not sure what’s changed. This year it’s had no publicity from me(!), but I’ve no idea how much it had from the organisers in each of the three years. I’m not aware of any great macroeconomic trends or major changes in the popularity of Apache likely to have had this effect. Could being earlier in the year have an effect? The biggest change is that the book is now in print (and has been favourably reviewed). Can it be that prospective attendees are buying the book instead of signing up for the tutorial?

Phantom books?

If you go to one of the usual online booksellers (like Amazon or Barnes&Noble) and search for “Apache Modules”, you’ll get two results, both of which are expected if you know the subject.  You might get an extra result or two from general Apache books that mention modules.

Out of interest, I just tried the same search at Waterstones, one of the most likely UK high street booksellers to have such books on the shelf.  And there I got not two but four results.  The other two are titles I am also aware of, but which were both long-since abandoned by their authors and/or publishers.

These books never existed, beyond their ISBNs and optimistic publicity.  Yet you can buy them online, in exactly the same way you buy a real book!  Entering the ISBNs at Amazon, I can buy them there too, though at least an innocent search there doesn’t lead me to them.

What happens to your order for such a phantom book?

Getting paid from the US

The book is out, but I still have a hurdle to clear before I can see any royalties. This one is the US Government, which requires me to wade through a mountain of obscure documents (thanks to my publisher for helping steer me there) and complete a form (ditto) in order to be paid royalties. Comes of having an american publisher:-(

Specifically, the publisher needs a US taxpayer number to pay me. But I’m not a US taxpayer. I’m not even eligible to be a US taxpayer. So instead, I need something called an ITIN, which involves filling a form W-7. And that form has a subtext:

You’re a scumbag perpetrating a fraud on us. We know you’re really just a stooge for someone who wants to hide money from us (though you don’t have permission to live or work in America). Taxation treaty? What taxation treaty? All your money are belong to us!

Anyway, I need to submit my passport with the form. The original [shudder], or a notarised copy.

Notarised? Yep, that means going to a Notary Public, who then signs that he’s seen me with the original passport, and it’s genuine, and it’s me. Today I went to a notary for that. Seems the underlying premise is that Notary == someone we grudgingly trust, because there’s no way we trust a scumbag like you. Yeah, great. A nice little earner for the Notary, and a PITA for anyone needing to use one.

Once upon a time, any professional person might normally have seen as trustworthy: it was the natural authority of those in the educated classes. Interesting that a country seen as having so much less of a class system than us should nevertheless have classism so ferociously enshrined into its law.

In fairness, the notary told me that notaries are ten-a-penny in America, so finding and going to one doesn’t seem such a big deal to an American.


I’ve been through the main body of the book, and made a list of corrections to appear in the second printing. That’s using the “folded and gathered sheets” sent by the publisher with my first copy.

Here is the list of errata in brief.