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things we think you should know

It's not clear that most of these questions really are frequently asked (with a few exceptions), but we decided that using the phrase "Frequently Unasked Questions" was fraught with peril and the greater of two evils.

The Basics


ex libris reviews


Who are you?

We are Will and Jane Duquette, and our young sons David and James and daughter Anne, constant readers all, except for David and James, constant listeners, and Anne, our baby-in-residence. But it's only a matter of time.

For what it's worth, Will is a software engineer and aspires to be a published writer; Jane is a part-time bookkeeper and full-time mother, and aspires mostly to be well-rested.

Please feel free to contact either one of us.

Why do you do this?

Vanity, and a warped taste for being a web-master. The website is essentially Will's project; sometimes he thinks we must be overflowing with conceit, to think that anyone else would be interested. But we get a constant stream of visitors to the various areas on our site, and who are we to argue with that?

How do you do this?


We use nothing but the most skilled labor available, on the latest equipment.

But seriously, this site is maintained on a Gateway 2000 Solo notebook computer running Windows ME. A variety of tools have been used to do the job. I started out using the Netscape Navigator Gold HTML editor (that was Version 2.0 of Netscape, if I recall correctly). The results didn't please me, so I started editing the HTML by hand using a Windows 95 text editor called PFedit. Eventually, I migrated to an almost pure Unix tool suite running on my Windows notebook (see below) and to a remarkable tool called Expand. I write the site content in a mixture of HTML and Expand macros, and then let Expand generate all the boilerplate according to some simple rules. I've since moved up to Windows ME, and I've overhauled the appearance of the site several times, but the basic process of creating the site has remained constant since the summer of 1998.

What's the history of wjduquette.com?

In December on 1996, whilst I taking a few weeks off from work to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, I began to experiment with the free web space provided to us by our ISP. I'd been using HTML and the Web at work for several years, and so in a very short time Will & Jane's Books Page was born. Originally it was quite simple: just a log of the books I was reading, with a few comments about each. I updated it every few days for the first few months, and added a variety of other content: information about books to be read aloud, pages devoted to our favorite authors, and the like.

By the following summer I had fallen into the comfortable habit of updating Will & Jane's Books Page about once a month. Moreover, the page was getting rather too long for comfort, and the dated log format was proving to be somewhat inconvenient: since the books I had read most recently were listed first, my comments were often referring to books further down the page. My readers came upon everything in reverse order. I put all these forces together, and the answer was obvious: recast the page as a periodical. ex libris reviews was the result. My original intention was to release a new issue whenever I felt like it, so the first issue of ex libris is dated 23 August 1997. Ever since then, though, ex libris has been released on or about the first of each month.

Over the course of the next year, I continued to review the books I'd read each month and add to the author archives. Bear in mind, I was editing each and every character of each and every page by hand. Mine has always been a content-based site, but nevertheless that's a lot of HTML boiler-plate to maintain. The summer of 1998, inspired by the M4 macro language's cryptic syntax and delighted by the possibilities of the Tcl/Tk language, I wrote Expand, a macro-expander based on Tcl/Tk. I wrote some simple rules in Tcl to produce the necessary HTML boilerplate, and overhauled the site completely. Since that time, maintaining the site has primarily consisted of adding new content; Expand takes care of the rest. In fact, I've completely changed the look of the site several times, including going from a frames-based layout to a table-based layout, without touching the source content files much at all. I just revised the Expand rules, and away we went.

At about the time I revised the rules to dispose of HTML frames all together I created a new top-level page for the site: Will & Jane. Up until then, the main page at our web address was the current issue of ex libris reviews. This was problematic, because we now had a number of mostly unrelated pages: the Expand home page, Will's Tcl resources page, and so on. So ex libris reviews was demoted, and Will & Jane reigned over all. And things went swimmingly on until late January, 2000.

On 31 January 2000, we bought the Internet domain name wjduquette.com and signed up with a real web hosting service: DreamHost. It was an absurd thing to do, and yet oddly necessary. ex libris had succeeded beyond...well, not my wildest dreams, but in the ten months I'd been keeping records we'd gotten over 1500 hits a month. Not bad for a small, not particularly well-advertised book review. Moreover, some of the Tcl-related documents I'd written had become quite popular as well. It was unlikely we'd stay with our current ISP forever, and as soon as we left we'd need to move the site, thus invalidating bookmarks for hundreds (if not thousands!) of readers. Better to move it once, to a new and permanent home, and never have to move it again.

And so we did, to wjduquette.com. You'll never have to update your bookmarks again.

In June of 2002, we signed up with the Amazon Honor System so that we could accept donations from our readers. If you'd like to support us, please, feel free!

What's your privacy policy?

If you send us e-mail, we'll probably respond. That's only polite.

If you subscribe to ex libris, your name goes on a mailing list that is managed by our web hosting service; under their terms and conditions, we are forbidden from abusing the mailing list. We will only use it for announcing monthly updates to ex libris and other news related to the status of the web site. Note that we can't guarantee that our web hosting service will not abuse the ex libris mailing list.

Note, however, that guest reviewers are encouraged to allow us to include their e-mail address in their reviews.

How I can I help support wjduquette.com?

You can support the maintenance of the wjduquette.com website, including ex libris reviews, the ex libris author archives, our Tcl pages, and so forth, by clicking on the Amazon Honor System pay box in the right hand column of this and every page on this site. Amazon.com will accept your credit card and protect your privacy; any money you choose to give will be sent directly to us, less a small processing fee.

What are the names of the novels in Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers saga?

In the years since I first added an Alexandre Dumas page to our site, this question has generated more e-mail than any other topic--in fact, more than any other collection of topics. Somehow that page got listed at the top of the results for one or more search engines, because people keep finding it and asking the question.

The answer is fairly complicated, and may be found on our Alexandre Dumas page.

When will Jan Karon's next Mitford book come out?

See our Jan Karon page.

How can I write reviews for ex libris?

If you're interested in reviewing books for ex libris on a regular, occasional, or even one-time basis, drop Will a line and let him know. Then, read a book, review it, and send Will the review. Beyond that, there are a few things to know:

  • ex libris is Will's hobby and labor of love; this has a number of implications. First of all, as Editor-in-Chief, Head-Reviewer, and Lord High Everything-Else, his word is final. Second, he's not getting paid for this; neither will you.
  • With your first review, please include a short bio (two to four sentences). We're not looking for your name-and-address or other deeply personal information here, but rather something to give our readers an idea of who you are and where you're coming from. See our reviewers page for an idea of what we're after. We encourage you to include your personal e-mail address in your bio.
  • ex libris is a family website. Will won't print reviews of out-and-out pornography, or reviews that are graphically obscene. That doesn't mean that only squeaky clean books can be reviewed--just that the reviews themselves need to be suitable for a general audience.
  • Reviews will be edited (as needed) for spelling, grammar, and ex libris-style; in extreme cases, they might be rejected altogether. However, we will never change your words in a way that mis-states your opinions. If after your review is printed you don't like what we've done with it, then please let us know; we can fix the wording retroactively or pull the review altogether.
  • A new issue of ex libris appears on or about the first day of each calendar month. To get a review in a particular month's issue, please get it to me five-to-seven days before the end of the month. The penalty for missing this deadline is severe--you might not get printed until the following month. :-)
  • If all of that suits you, we'd be glad to get reviews from you!

How can I get my book reviewed by ex libris?

If you've written a book and you'd like Will to review it on ex libris, drop him a line and tell him about it. He'll consider reviewing most anything...but here are some things to know ahead of time:

  • Electronic-books will not be reviewed; Will needs a real book.
  • Look through the back issues of ex libris and at our Authors page to get a feeling for the kind of books Will usually reads. It's a fairly wide range, but if your book falls outside of it then your book is unlikely to get a fair review.
  • Will reviews everything he reads, but he reads whatever he feels like reading at the time, whether he's read it before or not. Your book will get reviewed when Will wants to review it--but if it falls within his regular reading habits, it's more likely to be reviewed quickly.

What Unix-style tools exist for Win 9X/ME/NT?

An amazing variety! Among the ones I use on a regular basis are the following; you can find links to the relevant websites on our Software Tools page:

  • The Cygwin Tool Suite. This includes a vast quantity of GNU software, including bash, GNU make, and gcc.
  • NT Emacs. This is the best port of the GNU Emacs text editor to the Windows 95/98/NT platform. Emacs: it's not just an editor, it's a religion.
  • Tcl/Tk. Just about the world's best scripting language. I'd have a hard time maintaining this site without it.
  • Perl. I don't much use Perl, myself, but no set of Unix tools would be complete without it.

Note that all of these tools are available for download and use completely free of charge.

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