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iPad Made Simple
by Gary Mazo, Martin Trautschold


Apress
1st edition
May 31, 2010
744 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, June 2010
  (7 of 10)


"iPad Made Simple" is a case where appearances can be deceiving. When I got this book, I thought "but, but, it's bigger and heavier than the iPad." I wondered what there could possibly be to say in so many pages. Then I started reading. There are three reasons the book is so thick. There are LOADS of screenshots, coverage of common apps and a 70 page intro to iTunes.

What I liked best:
1) The screenshots. Now I'm a techie and wound up flipping through them after a while. But for things that weren't obvious like how to select text, the screenshots were great to have.
2) The 35 page quickstart guide at the beginning.
3) The excellent coverage of what apps to look into including a comparison of leading competitors.
4) The tips - synching calendar, free internet radio, etc.
5) Advanced features - voiceover
6) Seeing the word "accelerometer" in a book for beginners - don't worry - they define it

What I would have liked better:
1) The physical size being smaller - I read on the train, so it was a bit inconvenient.
2) It is so specific that it may be out of date faster. For example, if Apple pushes an update to support running more than one app at once.
3) I did notice one or two typos, but they weren't significant.

I also read "iPad Portable Genius" so my recommendation includes when to buy each of the books. The price is only $5 different so that isn't a factor. If you already know about the iPad, want some tips and want to read it on your lap, get "iPad Portable Genius." If you are new to the iPad or plan to read it on a table, get "iPad Made Simple." Either way, enjoy your new iPad!
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of JavaRanch/CodeRanch.

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iPad Portable Genius
by Paul McFedries


Wiley
1st edition
May 3, 2010
336 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, June 2010
  (5 of 10)


"iPad Portable Genius" assumes you already know the basics of using the iPad and want to learn more tips.

What I liked best:
1) The physical size of the book was really cool! It is smaller than the iPad and fits well in the case. Book on one side; iPad on the other. I could try things as I read with everything on my lap!
2) The tips - connect to iTunes to get operation system update, fully discharge battery every month or two, type, wifi into maps to see hotspots
3) Suggestions on sites to look for.

What I would have liked better:
1) Assuming a bit less knowledge like that the reader knows where the ???sleep??? button is.
2) Clearer differentiation between wifi and 3G models. It was there, but not that obvious.
3) More pictures - I couldn't figure out how to select well for copy/paste.

I also read "iPad Made Simple" so my recommendation includes when to buy each of the books. The price is only $5 different so that isn't a factor. If you already know about the iPad, want some tips and want to read it on your lap, get "iPad Portable Genius." If you are new to the iPad or plan to read it on a table, get "iPad Made Simple." Either way, enjoy your new iPad!

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Murach's C# 2008
by Joel Murach


Mike Murach & Associates
1 edition
March 2008
800 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, May 2008
  (9 of 10)


"Murach's C# 2008" follows the Murach style where there are two books in one. The even numbered pages contain text. The odd numbered pages contain related diagrams, tables and bulleted lists.

The book targets beginners to experienced developers in Java/C++/VB/.NET along with being useful for training and reference. I'm a little skeptical when a book tries to be all things to all people, but the author does a great job with this. The "paired page" format really helps with this because you can read the most appropriate one (or both) for you at the time. I'm a Java developer. While I was able to skim some sections, I was never bored.

I particularly liked the focus on idioms and skills. There were a lot of "how to do ________" examples along with techniques such as refactoring. The end of chapter exercises were also great.

The book also walks you through features in Visual Studio 08. I like how the author highlights differences between the professional and express editions. The chapter on using the debugger was excellent.

There were only two minor things I didn't like. First, there was one significant difference from Java that was in the text section and I almost missed it skimming. The other was that sometimes the text would continue after turning the page which made it harder to follow the paired pages. I'm impressed that these are the worst things I can write. I recommend the format.

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Beginning iPhone Development
by Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche


Apress
1 edition
January 2009
494 pages

Reviewed by Mark Spritzler, January 2009
  (9 of 10)


So, I am actually only half way through the book. Because I am doing every single project/code that is in the book. But I am definitely at the point where I can write a fair and accurate review of the book.

I really like(d) this book. I think it explains the pieces of iPhone SDK development, that every newbie needs to learn, in a clear and articulate manner. The examples/projects really help you learn how to develop iPhone apps. Compared to other iPhone books I am reading, this book really cleared things up for me, that the other books don't explain as well as this book does.

The only negative I have about this and the other iPhone books that I have read is that they take many of the classes that you might need to use together, as seperate cases and you will get stuck figuring out how to say combine a NavigationView, TabBarView, and TableView all together.

But for starting out, and even if you have no experience with objective-c, this book is my favorite so far.

More info at Amazon.com




Flex on Rails: Building Rich Internet Applications with Adobe Flex 3 and Rails 2
by Tony Hillerson, Daniel Wanja


Addison-Wesley Professional
ist 2009 edition
Jan 2009
360 pages

Reviewed by Balaji D Loganathan, May 2010
  (9 of 10)


If you know Rails and Flex, and if you are desperately looking for a book that can guide you to Integrate Flex and Rails, then this is the book to buy.

* Firstly, I would like to appreciate the authors for the sample code published in GitHub. They are ready to serve and very well organized.

* It has a right combination of addressing Flex and Rails. This book can sure help you to build enterprise level Flex based application with Rails backend.

* Got lots of tips, collections and recipes that you may not find easily in Internet

* Chapter 8 is very useful in getting an overview of Cairngorm and PureMVC, and the sample codes were also driven with it.

* Has a detailed Chapter on Testing using Fluint, something that is important for developers who loves TDD/Agile

* One thing I very much liked the quality of the sample codes, it address common use-case, well structured. Best of all, the authors updates the code at their blog http://blog.flexonrails.com/

* While the first part of the book gives conceptual details & foundations, the second part of the book gives useful recipes. Especially Authenticating, server push with Juggernaut, File Upload and so on.

* Finally, its worth buying.

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Android User Interface Development Beginner's Guide
by Jason Morris


Packt Publishing
first edition edition
February 2011
304 pages

Reviewed by Amit Ramchandra Ghorpade, May 2011
  (7 of 10)



The book follows a "try-it-yourself" approach and presented in an innovative way. Every example first tells the necessary steps then the code followed by an explanation of what is being done in the example. This style may be helpful for people who seek explanation of how the execution took place. Also the book presents some real life scenarios for examples, good practices and tips for various user interface designs, this will help beginners to understand user interface needs for their applications. Also there is nice information on styling the applications which help to do really cool things with the user interface.
About the cons, you won't find any introduction or detailed explanation as such so if you are really a beginner to Andorid, you may want to check the Android documentation first in order to get the basics of Android application development. Next thing is it does not focus on how to generate a fully programmatic user interface. Although this is not the best way of building user interface on Android, beginners find it easy and more natural than the declarative approach. So I think few examples on entirely programmatic user interface would have added elegance.
Then the very first example is not the traditional "Hello World!" but something more complex for a beginner that tends to dump a bunch of things in one go.

Put together I think it's a good book which you would like to refer at least once before designing your application user interface, but its not a purely newbie stuff.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Packt Publishing
first edition edition
February 2011
304 pages

Reviewed by Rob Spoor, June 2011
  (9 of 10)



The book explicitly says it's a beginner's guide, and that's exactly what you're getting. You don't need any previous knowledge about Android, as long as you can program in Java. The focus really lies on the Android code, with Java code only provided where needed. Only the Android XML documents are recapped in full, but you can get the full code quite easily from the publisher's website. Be aware that the book does not teach you how to use Eclipse or any other IDE - it's all text editor and command line. I applaud this approach, because this way you get to learn the basics. You're not learning to build Android user interfaces in Eclipse, you're learning to build Android user interfaces period.

The book handles topics ranging from the most basic application (Hello World), lists, tabs, layouts and animations, but also user friendliness. That's where in the end this book is focused on - teaching you to create user interfaces that are as friendly and easy as possible. As a result, you won't see much of code for other purposes - no placing phone calls, no accessing the address book, no camera interaction, etc. This makes the book a limited resource for overall Android programming, but then again this is a book about Android user interfaces.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to start programming in Android. For more advanced features you'll definitely need additional resources though.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Getting Started in Electronics
by Forrest Mims


Master Publishing
edition
February 2003
128 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, November 2011
  (10 of 10)



"Getting Started in Electronics" is only 128 pages but covers an incredible amount. It goes over the major parts in electronics. I like the emphasis on how things work - yes a little physics. There are wiring diagrams, pictures of components and a great reference on the covers.

It's the kind of book you have to read many times to get everything out of it. First read was great though.

The only thing I don't like is that it is handwritten font on graph paper like in a real engineering notebook. I loved the O'Reilly series which was also on graph paper. The difference is that a typed font was used for the main text and only the notes in the margin looked handwritten. By contrast, having everything look handwritten made it hard to skim. I used a highlighter to solve that problem on subsequent reads.

And I used the highlighter a lot which means there was lots of information. I bought this book directly from http://www.forrestmims.com/. It came in less than 5 days which was quite impressive.

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JBoss AS 5 Development
by Francesco Marchioni


PACKT Publishing
1 edition
December 2009
416 pages

Reviewed by Jaikiran Pai, March 2010
  (9 of 10)


Francesco's "JBoss AS5 Development" book is a well written and a handy book for developers who use JBoss AS in their development environment and who wish to have a detailed understanding of the server.

The book starts off with introducing JBoss AS and its evolution from the previous AS-4.x version to the current AS-5 version. While doing so, it provides a brief overview of the core architectural difference between these versions. The initial few chapters mainly focus on setting up the development environment which includes JBoss AS, Eclipse (with JBoss Tools Plugin). It's good to see that the author is *not* rushing the readers to coding applications and instead is providing the necessary background to get familiar with the server.

The book covers various other JavaEE technologies including JPA, JSF, WebServices etc... Each major technology has a separate chapter and follows a common pattern where it starts off with a brief introduction of the technology and then moves on, to show how use can develop and deploy applications using those technologies on JBoss.

This book also covers JBoss AS specific configuration files and tools. It provides a good technical overview about the contents of the configuration files, including detailed explanation of important configuration options.

The book is well paced and you won't feel bored or overwhelmed by the information being presented. The author has managed to produce a well written to cover useful information for developers who use JBoss AS.

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The Developer's Guide to Social Programming:Building Social Context Using Facebook, Google Friend Connect...
by Mark D. Hawker


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
August 25, 2010
336 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, September 2010
  (7 of 10)


The book assumes you know PHP, JavaScript, CSS and assorted feed technologies. You don't have to be an expert, but you should be comfortable reading code in these languages.

My favorite things in the book were the flowcharts for the authentication/authorization model and the intro to some concepts. In particular, Twitter's OAuth really stood out as an excellent chapter.

The twitter chapters felt more rushed than the rest of the book. In some ways, I felt like the API was being thrown at me. The diagram form was mostly good, but the descriptions were very rapid fire. I say "mostly" because two of the UML like diagrams were in a font that was too small to read.

The author does recognize technology changes quickly and says to follow his blog/site for updates.


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of JavaRanch.

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FXRuby -- Create Lean and Mean GUIs with Ruby
by Lyle Johnson


The Pragmatic Programmers
1 edition
April 2008
228 pages

Reviewed by Jesper de Jong, May 2008
  (8 of 10)


This book is about FXRuby, a library for developing GUIs with Ruby. It's a Ruby binding to the FOX toolkit. The book consists of two parts. The first part (chapters 1 to 6) is a gentle introduction to FXRuby, in which you build a simple photobook application step by step. The second part (chapters 7 to 14) is a more thorough overview of how FXRuby works and how to use all the different available widgets to build a GUI. Some advanced topics, such as FXRuby's support for OpenGL graphics, are not covered in the book. The book also does not contain a complete reference to the library - the author refers you to the online RDoc documentation. The book is written by Lyle Johnson, the lead developer of FXRuby.

I like the way the book is set up; if you're new to FXRuby, like I was when I started reading the book, then the first part is a nice and easy tutorial, and the second part is a good reference to most of FXRuby's features if you're using it in your own applications. So the book is useful for beginners and experienced users alike.

For anyone who wants to create a good GUI for their Ruby application, I would recommend them to have a look at FXRuby and this book.

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The Technical and Social History of Software Engineering
by Capers Jones


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
November 2013
496 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, January 2014
  (7 of 10)



"The Technical and Social History of Software Engineering" sounded like an interesting book. Plus it is written by Capers Jones, who I've heard of because of function points.

Most of the book covers computer history by time periods. It starts with the history of counting and goes to the present. Well, actually the future as Capers includes some speculation about the rest of this decade and his thoughts for beyond. For example, Google Glass could provide closed captioning for the deaf.

While I don't know exactly how old Capers is, the preface says he was born before World War II. (1939). This allows him to include a good number of personal experiences as he went through the history. I liked this as I would never have imagined things like the National Institute of Health time sharing on IRS computers.

The chapters by decade show the approximate penetration and distribution of application types. I would have liked to see this in a summary graphical form at the end. Similarly for the statistics of applications by function point.

There were a few non-technical historical summaries. Some seemed relevant. Others seemed like more commentary on society and politics which is something I'd rather not see in a computer book.

I learned a lot in the book. From a "computer" originally being a person who computes to how headhunters got started. I also liked the examples of how modern tools could have prevented historical famous software errors.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Log Everything!
by Mike Lohmann, Stefan Schadwinkel


Developer.Press
1 edition
November 2013
54 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, November 2013
  (1 of 10)



The first book I read from this publisher (HTML5 Security) was really great. Two of my fellow moderators at CodeRanch reviewed other books from this publisher and gave poor reviews. I decided to review another book to see if the problem was the book or expectations. For a $3 PDF, you aren't expecting a full book. However, I am expecting accuracy, proofreading and saving me a good amount of time in research, a unique view or something.

My biggest problem is that this book needed an editor/proofreader. There were enough spelling and grammar errors to make the book hard to read. I didn't realize how important commas were to reading until they were missing in so many places. Even one of the author's bios had typos/spelling errors.

Let's suppose I can get past this issue. I couldn't, but let's suppose. The book walks you through a PHP project and how the authors did logging. The authors say they were motivated to write the book due to projects lacking in logging requirements. There are a few references to a project "log everything" making me think this was a project on the internet and this book is a form of project documentation/background. Couldn't find any source code online. I read the intro several times and still had trouble figuring out what the goal was.

A third of page 6 and all of page 7 was a code example. The code is commented, but I'm not a fan of a book dumping code on you. On the bright side, I'm not a PHP developer and found the code easy to read.

I did like the references to other projects like Monolog and Symfony2. The description of message flow types and exchanges was good. As was the intro to Casalog.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend you buy this. Even at $3, I don't think it is worth it. I suspect that books from DeveloperPress are heavily dependent on the author and I was lucky with HTML5 Security.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Python Cookbook
by David Beazley, Brian K. Jones


O'Reilly Media
third edition edition
May 2013
706 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, June 2013
  (9 of 10)



The "Python Cookbook" (3rd edition) is over 600 pages full of content. The recipes vary extensively in difficulty and scope. From simple string concatenation to writing a (BNF) recursive decent parsers.

The book covers Python 3.3. The authors warn some recipes aren't backward compatible with 2.X. While I would have liked more on the transition, I'm not a Python developer - I just do some scripts. It's entirely possible nobody cares about compatibility.

My favorite recipe was on CSV. Paring was shown but a library was also covered along with the reasons to not implement it yourself.

The recipes assume a working knowledge of Python. I have just enough knowledge to be able to follow them. And the book is a great resource with common idioms and techniques. It is certainly an advanced book and I highly recommend it. (If you are starting out with Python, I recommend reading "Think Python" first.)

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Clojure Made Simple
by John Stevenson


Developer.Press
edition
March 2013
67 pages

Reviewed by Christophe Verré, May 2013
  (3 of 10)



This book is an introduction to Clojure giving just a shallow overview of the language. The intention is good, and we can feel the author's enthusiasm, but it is way too short. The "filter" function for example. The author claims that "it also gives you a taste of the lazy aspect of Clojure", and he then admits that "[laziness] is a great facility, much larger than [he is] able to give in the above example". The only taste I had here was a taste of not-enough. What is laziness ?

The description claims that the book "introduces you to the important parts of the Clojure language in a practical way", but you're left with one-liner code samples. Nothing practical. The content is not bad and displays well on my Kindle, but I don't think it's worth buying. Go to clojure-doc.org instead.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Getting Started with Raspberry Pi (Make: Projects)
by Matt Richardson, Shawn Wallace


O'Reilly Media
1 edition
December 2012
180 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, February 2013
  (10 of 10)



O'Reilly's "Getting Started with Raspberry Pi" is a really great book. I don't know where to start so here's a list of things I liked.

From Make:Projects which is very practical
Starts out strong - each part of the Pi and what you need to use it
Good tips - how to connect via wifi and without internet
Nice troubleshooting section
Practical examples from a "hello world with leds" program to building a web-lamp
A whole chapter on webcams. [This is the project we wanted it for]
Coverage of basic Linux, Python, breadboards and more. And for making it easily skim'able so you didn't gloss over important parts hidden in things you already know.
Less than half of the price of the Pi itself ($15 for hard copy and less than $10 for e-book)

I used the book and Pi to help out with Raspberry Pi on a local FIRST robotics team's robot for camera vision. The book was really helpful and the robot will most likely be demo'd at the NYC 2013 MakerFaire. So special thanks to O'Reilly for the book. You'll be seeing the benefits in practice in the fall! And good luck to the team in competition. I hope the Pi brings you great luck.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Python for Data Analysis
by Wes McKinney


O'Reilly Media
edition
October 2012
400 pages

Reviewed by Deepak Bala, August 2012
  (7 of 10)



I managed to catch an early release version of this book. It bears resemblance to another book from Oreilly - 'Mining the social web', (MTSW) although the examples in this book are not restricted to social web sites.

There are a couple of python libraries that the author takes you through before getting you to work on examples. The chapters on these libraries serve as references when you want to revisit technique X on data structure Y. The illustrations include analyzing bit.ly data / twitter tweets etc. To use any of these libraries you MUST know python.

What I like:

* Chapters explaining library functions serve as a good reference to come back to later.
* The author has taken time to point out pitfalls while using libraries. This includes tips on how to use them practically (Say reading a huge CSV file in patches and aggregating the result)
* Pragmatic examples based on data out there USDA food database / baby names :)

Areas for improvement:

* I really wish the illustrations and library usage were married together. The pandas library needs getting used to for a newcomer. When you read 10 pages of instructions on how to use the library, you forget what you read on page-1. It would have been much easier had the author explained them side by side.

* I don't think the introduction to python was necessary towards the end of the book. It seemed like a weird place to put it. If you wanted to introduce users to python before they use pandas and numpy, you'd rather want to put that as the first chapter and tell those who already know python to skip it. IMHO if you do not know python, following some of the examples will be harder since you need to learn python AND libraries like pandas.


Overall a nice book. I would recommend readers to read this book and then follow it up with MTSW. I dont think the author of MTSW used pandas on any of the use cases, so using the knowledge learned here should help (I've not read MTSW yet and searching the book for 'pandas' threw up no results)

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Think Python
by Allen B. Downey


O'Reilly Media
1 edition
August 2012
300 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, September 2012
  (10 of 10)



"Think Python" is available online (http://www.greenteapress.com/thinkpython/) which means you can decide if you like it first. Personally, I wanted to write in my copy making the paper copy a great thing. Inexpensive too for a computer book. It's one of those great books I know I'll refer to again. Can't imagine why you'd buy the Kindle version though.

The book is targetted at those learning Python. It's appropriate whether you are new to programming or coming from another language. And most importantly, it is NOT a "Learn Python in X days" type book. Those have their place, but this book targets those who actually are/want to be developers. Hence the subtitle "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist."

Each chapter ends with debugging tips, a glossary of terms and numerous exercises for practice. Common idioms are covered in addition to syntax, techniques and algorithms. Recursion is presented in a not scary, approachable way.

The author uses the term "state diagram" to refer to the state of variables in an object. I've never seen this usage before (being more used to the UML state diagram) and look forward to asking the author about it in his coderanch.com book promotion next month.

I think this makes for a great first Python book. To be followed by one that teaches the Python libraries. It teaches you how to think in Python. And how to be a developer; not just a coder.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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The iOS 5 Developer's Cookbook: Core Concepts and Essential Recipes for iOS Programmers (3rd Edition) (Developer's Library)
by Erica Sadun


Addison-Wesley Professional
third edition
January 2012
840 pages

Reviewed by Deepak Bala, February 2013
  (10 of 10)



iOS 5 Developer's Cookbook does a great job in covering all the fundamental and key concepts needed for anyone new to iOS development. It also gives you enough information to make good use the features of XCode for iOS 5 development. The "recipes" are very useful practical examples of little tasks one usually encounters in building out their apps. Good job on the basics of ARC, XCode and filled with great tips and tricks!

The recipes in the book also take a pragmatic approach. For example if you have problem A, the recipes / tasks even taken into account bugs on the platform framework and the solution works around the bugs. This can help save you precious time working around problems. Not to mention frustration.

For anyone starting out on iOS or looking for a book that covers advanced topics, this is it. It serves both worlds well. I would definitely recommend it.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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12 Essential Skills for Software Architects
by Dave Hendricksen


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
October 2011
288 pages

Reviewed by Vijitha Kumara, December 2011
  (9 of 10)



The book is about the non-technical skills required for the software architects in order to be successful in their role. Most of the content have been divided in to short paragraphs focussed on small sub topics which made the book an enjoyable read. And I liked the summary which briefs the content covered at the end of the each chapter with highlighted facts.

Author has done a really good job by introducing the nature of conflicts and possible results of those where architects may be exposed to when interacting with different levels/types of people (i.e.: Team members, Managers, Executives, Customers etc..) in the real world. It explains how to deal with those situations or how to avoid them in the first place if at all possible. And in some cases author's own experince in the topics explicitly stated as well.

The graphics/images/diagrams are used sparingly (i.e.: couple of them for each chapter) and wisely to give the big picture of each context. Nice to see the quotes from the industry leaders/innovators added to each chapter.

There were atleast couple of topics discussed which I personnaly dealt with in my short career so they were kind of playbacks for me while reading.
Also the topic about the "Passion" really impressed me as It really played a big part to my success so far in my career and I've had similar experience to what's explained in the book.

I beleive this is a must have book not just for software architects but anyone who is a high tech profile.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
October 2011
288 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, January 2012
  (10 of 10)



"12 Essential Skills for Software Architects" covers the soft skills technical people need to advance. Parts of it are slanted towards soft skills that are specific to tech leads/architects. Other parts would fit in any soft skills book but the title gets technical folks to read it. Even for these parts, it helps that they were written by an architect as the language/writing style is easy to relate to.

The audience is architects and technical leads who want to be architects. I think it applies to any senior member of the team though. Or even someone who wants to understand what it is like to be an architect.

I could really relate to the "stateless" points as context switching is so prevalent. He has a good philosophy that architects are not managers but are part of the management team. And he explains how politics works without making it all bad. The problem is certain practices of politics not the idea itself. In fact, he quotes a definition where politics is about making decisions with a group. Nothing inherently distasteful here!

I can tell this is a book I will refer to again and again.

ps - I also like that page three has a reference to FIRST robotics - with respect to gracious behavior. (gracious professionalism in the FIRST world.)

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, A (6th Edition)
by Mark G. Sobell


Prentice Hall
6 edition
August 2011
1224 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, September 2011
  (10 of 10)



"A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux" is a long and thorough book that manages to take you from beginner to advanced. It's both a great book to learn from and a great reference book - a rare combination.

For learning Linux, the book starts with basic commands and builds up to more complex utilities. There are hands on "jumpstarts" and tutorials so you can get started with advanced tools quickly. There are plenty of warnings and tips. And cross referencing - appreciated in a 1000+ page book.

For people who already know Linux, skimming/skipping the basic sections is fine. The book more than pays for itself with the advanced materials.

As a reference, there are multiple indices - file names, utility name, jumpstarts and the main index. Plus the glossary. Many chapters contain extensive tables. Also the left sidebar easily hones in on what you want to find.

I particular liked the use of both flowcharts, syntax guides and examples to teach concepts. Whether they were networking terms or how to write a script.

I think this book may replace my dog eared five year old UNIX one as the first book I grab when I want to look something up! My only caveat is that a third of the book is identical to Sobel's other title - A Practical Guide to Linux Commands...". But then you'd already have formed an opinion and not need this review.

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Location-Aware Applications
by Richard Ferraro, Murat Aktihanoglu


Manning Publications
pap/psc edition
July 2011
320 pages

Reviewed by Ulf Dittmer, January 2012
  (7 of 10)



The book aims to provide a survey of the landscape of mobile applications that deal with location data (GPS data chiefly), covering technical points (like positioning technologies, mapping options and mobile platforms) as well as business and pragmatic issues (like privacy, monetization and distributing mobile applications). Putting so many topics into a shortish book (less than 300 pages) means each subject gets only comparatively short shrift; don't expect to find all the information you might need on any given subject.

The prose is readily comprehensible, though, and where different technologies or options exist, the author points out their comparative strengths and weaknesses, so the reader can make an informed decision about what to research more. Lost of screenshots from existing apps illustrate the various points, and code examples are peppered throughout the book (although they are too short to serve as starting point for actual apps).

The book has only been published in July 2011, but already feels dated in some spots, so fast is the mobile phone scene changing, especially regarding the merits and positioning of the various mobile OSes. Still, the book provides a useful overview for anyone who's interested in what makes location-based mobile apps tick (HTML5's location features are not covered), and what the issues are one might have to think about before creating such apps.

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Arduino Robotics
by John-David Warren, Josh Adams, Harald Molle


Apress
1 edition
July 2011
628 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, December 2011
  (8 of 10)



"Arduino Robotics" is meant for an advanced audience. While the first three chapters do provided a review/intro to electronics, arduino and hardware, there is too much to absorb if you weren't at least familiar with it at one point.

For building advanced projects, it is very good. There are detailed instructions, a parts list, schematic and picture of the board. I like that there was an emphasis on safety. I also like how they explained in detail how to physically build things.

Normally, I criticize a book for having pages of code in a row. In this case, the code was commented so it wasn't bad. And in chapter 11, where the code was even more involved, the author did break it up with additional explanation.

This book was written by three authors and it is one of the books that you can tell was assembled that way. For example on page 28, I found the long comments hard to follow because they wrap lines while later in the book that problem goes away. Some code examples have a background to highlight being code and others do not. In one place there are 5 levels of if statements (presumably to avoid the && operator) and in others the code is written "normally." The authors do write in first person so "I" changes identify but makes it easier to connect with the project creator.

Overall, I was happy with the book. The written by committee wasn't too distracting. And the projects/review area great.

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The Python Standard Library by Example (Developer's Library)
by Doug Hellmann


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
June 2011
1344 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, July 2011
  (9 of 10)



"The Python Standard library by Example" weighs in at 1200 pages. It is an expanded version of Doug's blog so check if you like the style there (http://www.doughellmann.com/PyMOTW/contents.html).

The book assumes you already know Python and are comfortable reading it. Unsurprisingly, the book is code heavy. However, it is good code heavy. The examples are only as long as they need tob e to communicate a point rather than including redundant information. Output is included to clearly understand what is happening. Another advantage is you get to read a lot of Python seeing libraries used properly and common idioms.

My favorite things:
1) build up to a more complex example such as wih regular expressions.
2) clearly indicates what version of Python API introduced
3) defines terms without assuming much outside knowledge on domains like threading

Since the book was so thick, I read half of it and skimmed the rest. It is very easy to jump around and go back to the relevant parts when you need them.

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DTrace: Dynamic Tracing in Oracle Solaris, Mac OS X and FreeBSD (Oracle Solaris Series)
by Brendan Gregg, Jim Mauro


Prentice Hall
1st edition
April 2011
1152 pages

Reviewed by Michael Ernest, July 2011
  (8 of 10)



The last book I tried to use while at my computer was the O'Reilly behemoth Unix Power Tools, a small phone book in both page count and quality. Working through a large book that way might seem like a fool's errand, but it is a tirelessly cross-referenced work. I wasn't just impressed by the vigor and care the contributors had taken to relate so many points of information, I was struck by the implication that I could follow suit. It was a breath of encouragement I was grateful to receive and a gift I think about paying forward, in some way, every time I teach.
This book on DTrace is also quite thick, also filled with lots of hard-won information on examining many dark areas of code. It is, in some ways, a meandering journal, a breathless mash-up of contributions, a collection of clipped, man page-style explanations, and a dry series of code and output blocks the authors deem self-evident. It is also a formidable reference, quite possibly to every DTrace program of general consequence written in the last few years. And it is a tour de force of its lead author, despite some falsely-modest protests to the contrary.
But an 1100-page book needs another handle in addition to a good binding. Unix Power Tools did that with a cross-referencing effort we won't see again. For this book, the reader will have to supply it with passion or expertise. Both, with a continuous caffeine feed, would be better. After a while I downloaded the programs and started working through them. The book so far seems to be a coin-toss for satisfying explanations on what I can't test or divine myself.

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Eloquent Ruby (Addison-Wesley Professional Ruby Series)
by Russ Olsen


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
February 2011
448 pages

Reviewed by Katrina Owen, December 2011
  (9 of 10)



Eloquent Ruby is about readability. It is about shaping your code and expressing your intent. It is about expressing yourself fluently in ruby, not just using ruby syntax to force the computer to do your will. It is subtle, beautiful, and -yes- eloquent. The book is full of code examples that clearly illustrate the text. The chapters are short, crisp, and easy to digest. The tone is informal without falling into the trap of sounding like it's trying to be funny.

The book is deeply practical while still managing to be philosophical. It is neither a reference, nor a tutorial.

While I suspect that even experienced ruby programmers would take much pleasure in reading it, I think that those who can benefit the most from it are neither the beginners nor the experts, but rather those who can get stuff done competently in ruby, but might need a nudge or some inspiration to polish their skills and improve their eloquence. Eloquent Ruby would be particularly useful to folks new to the language but with a background in programming. If this is you, this book will help you get comfortable with the idioms of the language.

I recommend it heartily, and after reading it I went straight to Amazon and bought the author's other book, Design Patterns in Ruby.

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The Official Joomla! Book
by Elin Waring, Jennifer Marriott


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
December 2010
368 pages

Reviewed by Roel De Nijs, April 2011
  (8 of 10)


Despite having already some experience with creating dynamic web sites in PHP, I am a complete Joomla! novice. My next web site I create will be one with Joomla!, so the Official Joomla! Book should be a good starting point to gather the necessary information and experience to create a decent website.

The book is written in a crystal-clear style, which makes it easy to read (even for a non-native English speaker like me). It is also very wordy which can be a good thing (when you need a lot of detail, for example if you are a complete novice to the world wide web) or a bad thing (if you learn more visually).

The book is written from a user's perspective and provides a beginner with all of the information they need to get started creating (basic) Joomla! websites. In the first two chapters you get some background information about Joomla! itself (history, community,...) and about all things you should consider when building a website (purpose, logo, trademark, branding,...).

In the next chapters you get an extensive coverage of all things you need to know about Joomla! to create your web site, including installation and configuration, creating content, customizing templates and using extensions.

The following 3 chapters are the book's strongest points. These chapters deal with practical web sites which are specifically geared to Business, Organizations (groups, clubs,...) and Education. In each of these chapters a list of recommended extensions is discussed that could be useful for such type of website.

The last chapter is a collection of interviews with experts in the Joomlasphere about almost every topic discussed in the book. In my opinion this opinion had little added value to this great book.

The major part of the book is based on Joomla! 1.5, but will also be applicable to version 1.6 and later versions. The book also contains a seperate chapter to address the major changes made in Joomla! 1.6.

The only (little) thing I missed in the book was some instructions about how to upload your Joomla! website which you developed on your personal computer to your hosting provider.

Nonetheless if you want to develop web sites with Joomla!, this book is simply a must-buy and will definitely save you many hours.

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Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial: Learn Rails by Example (Addison-Wesley Professional Ruby Series)
by Michael Hartl


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
December 2010
576 pages

Reviewed by Greg Charles, March 2011
  (9 of 10)



"Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial" is an excellent introduction to creating web sites with the Ruby on Rails (RoR) framework. It targets developers new to Ruby and Rails and even those new to web development in general. The friendly, conversational tone invites the reader in while copious footnotes expand on basic concepts for people who just need to know every detail.

After a couple of chapters of setup, the book focuses on building a single application, with each chapter enhancing it with another feature. I've always been a fan of this style. It makes the examples seem much more "real world" and lets the patient reader, who really follows it through from start to finish, learn a lot more than just Rails.

The author is clearly an expert at the Ruby language and the Rails framework, but more than that, is a working software engineer who introduces best practices throughout the text. The daunting first chapter walks through setting up Ruby, Rails, and also the Sqlite database, Git (and GitHub) for source code control, and Heroku for live deployments of the Rails web apps. At the same time, it manages to cram in a quick introduction to concepts such as Gems and Gem Sets, the Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern, and Test Driven Development (TDD). Later chapters reinforce and build on the foundation laid by chapter one.

I can see some readers being put off by the amount of setup work it takes just to get started, but for me it was worth the effort. By being immersed in the whole RoR paradigm, from development to testing to deployment, I was able to really appreciate what it would take to run a real Rails project. I highly recommend this book.

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Ubuntu Unleashed 2011 Edition: Covering 10.10 and 11.04 (6th Edition)
by Matthew Helmke, Ryan Troy, Andrew Hudson, Paul Hudson


Sams
6 edition
December 2010
864 pages

Reviewed by Rob Spoor, March 2011
  (7 of 10)



According to the book, it presents "advanced coverage" of Ubuntu. After reading the book I have to disagree. It does handle a lot of topics (in no less than 36 chapters), but in just 681 pages; that's an average of 19 pages per chapter. The result of this is that the book is like a freight train at times - going through subjects in high speed without many details. Especially the two chapters on the command line suffer from this problem. The second one, "Command Line Masterclass", doesn't even mention using && and || or error stream redirecting. The book tries to tell it all, but because of this actually says little about a lot.

Another main problem is a poor editing job. There are still quite a bit of errors in the book, ranging from formatting errors to images being out of order to incorrect forward references to typos in commands. A few commands that I copied from the book don't even run on my Ubuntu 10.10 installation because of missing / incorrect parameters, and even a missing : in a PATH variable. The instructions also seem to be wrong at time; I could get neither SWAT nor PostgreSQL running properly using the instructions in the book.

And what's up with the promise of a "Free Upgrade to Ubuntu 11.04"? The DVD is only available to US and Canada residents, but of course you can also download it for free from the Ubuntu website.

In the end, I'm not saying it's a bad book; it did teach me a new trick or two. I just wouldn't recommend it.
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Rails 3 Way, The (2nd Edition) (Addison-Wesley Professional Ruby Series)
by Obie Fernandez


Addison-Wesley Professional
second edition
December 2010
768 pages

Reviewed by Katrina Owen, May 2011
  (8 of 10)




The Rails 3 Way is not quite a reference manual, nor is it a tutorial.

Before picking this up, you're probably going to want to have hit your head against something in the framework, or have tried to solve something that the framework doesn't necessarily lend itself well to, or just plain gotten stuck on something. In short, I think that you need a fair amount of context before this book is useful in any way. Not enough, and your eyes will glaze over, too much and it will seem to be restating the obvious without giving you any finer points to chew on.

This book's best audience is probably the intermediate Rails developer who has written some rails applications, has a basic understanding of the RoR framework, but still thinks that much of what happens is "magic".

If this is you, this book has much to offer. It covers all the major pieces of developing with Rails 3 from configuration to AREL to caching to writing your own plugins (and more).

For such a developer, The Rails 3 Way is likely to take you from being a haphazard poke-a-stick-at-it programmer to a deliberate, skillful, productive, and confident RoR developer.

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Rails AntiPatterns: Best Practice Ruby on Rails Refactoring (Addison-Wesley Professional Ruby Series)
by Chad Pytel, Tammer Saleh


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
November 2010
400 pages

Reviewed by Katrina Owen, December 2010
  (9 of 10)



I have a love affair with this book.

Every section of every chapter has given me practical refactoring advice, and for every section I find myself putting the book down in order to dig into my current project and apply what I'm learning about.

The book covers common errors seen in all aspects of a rails project: models, controllers, views, helpers, services, routes, authentication, using third party libraries, testing, performance, scaling, deploying, and exception handling.

This is not a book for learning how to write rails applications. In fact, I believe it is a book that would be best suited to someone who has actually done at least some rails programming already. It's very useful to have made the mistakes that are covered, to have had to fix bugs, maintain, and extend code that contains these code smells, to have made the choices that lead to the various antipatterns described. Without that pain, I don't think you'll get much in the way of epiphanies.

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The Android Developer's Cookbook: Building Applications with the Android SDK (Developer's Library)
by James Steele, Nelson To


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
October 2010
400 pages

Reviewed by Peter Johnson, November 2010
  (7 of 10)


This book provides a number of "recipes" that illustrate various concepts of the Android OS and its application framework. The book does not claim to be an introductory text, and while it does explain some concepts the explanation is usually very brief.

You can get the source code for the recipes in the book from the publisher's web site. You will need the source code.

I read the book from cover to cover trying out most of the recipes.

Positives:
* The book includes a large variety of recipes on a variety of topics.
* Each recipe stands on its own (there are a few recipes that identify changes to the prior recipe).

Negatives:
* Not all of the recipes are included in the source code.
* Many of the recipes are incomplete (usually failing to mention additional items to place in the manifest file).
* Some recipes contained only code changes to the prior recipe but not in context. Without the context it was difficult to tell where to place the new code. In many cases I could not get the app to run. And the source was not in the code examples.
* Too many of the recipes are simple "hello" style apps. As an example, the "fling" app merely displays a message indicating the fling direction. A better example would have been to actually scroll something (image, text, whatever) based on the fling. (On the other hand, the dual-touch example showed how to zoom an image in and out.)

Bottom line:
If you are looking for an additional Android book and this book covers concepts in which you are interested, it might be worthwhile. I did learn a few things and will refer to the book in the future.

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Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
October 2010
400 pages

Reviewed by Christophe Verre, January 2011
  (7 of 10)


The Android Developer's Cookbook is a recipe-styled book, where each recipe shows how to use a particular feature of the Android SDK. Each recipe is more or less independent of the others. It's not a classical beginners book, but I think it can still be used to start learning about Android development. It starts with an overview of the Android platform, then presents various recipes in a logical order. First, the most basic recipes : activities, intents, threads, services, alerts, widgets and other ui, events like key presses and Touch events. Then recipes explaining how to use specific functionalities : multimedia, hardware (sensors), networking, data storage, location services like Google Maps, and many more advances recipes. Finally, recipes on debugging.

The authors are using Eclipse and its Android plugin to create sample applications. The book is very easy to follow. There are a lot of code snippets, and some pictures to illustrate their execution. Anybody with some basic UI understanding (e.g. Swing experience) should easily read through the content. It's the kind of book you'd keep on your desk for further reference. It's not a complete reference book though. Explanations and samples are short, so you may still have to look for more detailed information in the online documentation. It's a nice cookbook. Not complete, but well worth reading.

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Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
October 2010
400 pages

Reviewed by Amit Ghorpade, February 2011
  (7 of 10)



The cookbook name suggests that this book is about cooking recipes for the Android platform. It does start from scratch assuming a novice reader. The approach followed is introducing a concept followed by a recipe on the same. Much like illustrations per concept introduced. Since its a handbook type of book, you won't get much of explanation per topic, you need to explore more on your own.
There is an advantage to Eclipse users that the code samples are explained using Eclipse.
I think the book essentially lacked two things, one no notes/hints like possible errors, recommended use of functions, what might go wrong, etc. Either you find it mixed somewhere in the recipe or you don't find it at all. The second thing is no "try your own" recipes/exercises for practice.
At some places you won't find the actual code but just the steps, although this helps in understanding the example but I feel that actual code gives a better understanding at times.
The book provides recipes for almost all Android features like bluetooth, location based services, network, security, etc. Put together it's a good book for quick reference and even for beginners.

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Domain-Specific Languages (Addison-Wesley Signature Series)
by Martin Fowler


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
October 2010
640 pages

Reviewed by Campbell Ritchie, November 2010
  (8 of 10)


Before reading this review, go to the "Amazon" link below, and use the "look inside" link to see nearly 40 pages.

By no means a "general" book; it deals with a very specialised field. It assumes experience, that the reader already knows what recursive descent parsing (page 245-254) is.
We start with a "narrative", describing the problem, and how Domain-Specific Languages (DSLs) can help, using a "secret passage" as an example. Then we read about 45 patterns, listed on the endpaper, (plus BNF); they range from Literal Extension (changing 2 oz to 2.oz, for example, with the only misprint I noticed: 0.567[kg], page 481) to Parser Generation. The patterns are illustrated with Java or C# code examples, and balanced by "how do I?" questions on the back endpaper.
This book is clearly written, and easy to read, but moves fast and is information-dense, so cannot be read too fast. Indeed Fowler doesn't intend the patterns to be read together, but dipped into for reference.
The patterns cover the whole gamut of language generation, and somebody who already knows about compilers would easily write a DSL with Fowler to hand.
Fowler provides a comprehensive index, but I would have preferred to see more of a bibiography, and also I couldn't find a description of the cover photo (probably Ironbridge).

I believe anybody in this specialised field would benefit from a copy of Fowler.

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Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
October 2010
640 pages

Reviewed by Deepak Bala, January 2011
  (8 of 10)



The sample chapter that details an introductory example into 'gothic security' should give a good idea about the contents of this book. Fowler first describes DSLs and how he distinguishes between them. This is followed by text that describes how to apply a technique / pattern to solve a recurring problem.

The layout of the patterns can be juxtaposed to the generic design patterns that are used to solve day-to-day problems in programming (think Iterator / Builder / AbstractFactory etc). As such the patterns are laid out in a similar fashion in this book. Each section about a pattern focuses on the 'why' / 'what' / 'when' and 'how'.

You can think of the book as being split into two parts. The first part describes how DSLs are defined and makes many references to techniques in part-2. The second part is divided into several sub sections that defines each technique and when to apply them.

When you are done with part-1, the book makes for a good reference that you can come back to. The only problem is that you can end up slowing down considerably while reading part-1 since there are references to the second part all the time. I found myself reading a section in part-2 and coming back to part-1 when it made sense. An example would the reference to 'ExpressionBuilders' when defining 'Functions'. You cannot understand the context of the text unless you refer 'ExpressionBuilders' in part-2.

Overall, this book makes for a great read and will help anyone that wants to define their own domain language.

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Essential GWT: Building for the Web with Google Web Toolkit 2 (Developer's Library)
by Federico Kereki


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
August 2010
352 pages

Reviewed by Jaikiran Pai, October 2010
  (6 of 10)


I picked to "Essential GWT" book as a beginner. The book does mention that it is meant for programmers who knows the basics of GWT. Even so, I expected to find some information of GWT components and more about programming GWT applications.

I found the book to consist too much code which was a bit hard to grasp - not because it was complicated but because there was little to no background on GWT aspects of the code. Reading the code didn't really give me a clear picture of where it would fit in a real application. For most part of it, the code looked more like tips/tricks that you usually find in blog posts, where you know the background about what the piece of code is trying to solve. Overall, I did not find any details of the GWT components in this book.

I also think the book could have been better organized. For example, the chapter 4 "Working with Browsers" discusses about browser specific details, which I believe is too early to talk about in the book.

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Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
August 2010
352 pages

Reviewed by Ankit Garg, October 2010
  (6 of 10)


The book is for intermediate to advanced developers of GWT but it still has a chapter of introduction to GWT which explains you the directory structure of a GWT application. That's about all of basics in the book. As a next step beginners can read Google's docs to learn GWT basics. I feel that the 4th chapter is placed completely wrong. I had to skip it and return to it after I read almost the whole book.

The book is like a cookbook with recipes for doing different things in GWT. The writing style of the book isn't very good. The book is filled with source code which is not organized very well. The sequence in which the code is introduced makes it hard to follow. The source code download for the book is disappointing. Instead of having separate source for each of the chapter in the book, there are only two GWT projects which use codes from different chapters making it almost useless till you've read the whole book. If the author had given less code in the book with more explanation of the code and provided separate source code for each chapter, this would have been a good book to study GWT from.

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Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
August 2010
352 pages

Reviewed by Rob Prime, November 2010
  (6 of 10)


I got this book to get to learn GWT. It took me less than a minute to find out I wasn't a member of the target audience - it's target at programmers with "a basis of GWT programming". Because of this I won't go into technical details too much.

The style of the author is definitely not my cup of tea. He uses many footnotes and side notes. This makes it a bit hard to read the book, with all the jumping around. It took me several weeks to finish it, simply because the book had no attraction to keep on going.

The code is very odd at times as well. A few examples:
- using ClassName.this.method() inside the constructor, where this.method() or method() would have sufficed. Perhaps this is because of how GWT works, but it is nowhere explained.
- first using "new" to instantiate a (JDBC Driver) class, then using reflection the very next line to again instantiate the very same class.
- implementing a method by making it final and calling another abstract method with the same arguments; all that was achieved this way was add a method with a different name for the same purpose.
- disabling error handling by implementing the matching method with an empty-body final method. The reason: "Should never be used...".

All I can say is, if you're looking for a book to learn GWT, skip this one. I wish I had.

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Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
August 2010
352 pages

Reviewed by Christophe Verre, November 2010
  (6 of 10)


Essential GWT is a misleading title. You could suppose, as I did, that it contains at least GWT basics. It doesn't. There is an overview of GWT, but nothing which will get you started if you're a beginner. So if you're expecting a tutorial about GWT development, widgets, etc..., pass your way. You should read another book or the online tutorial first. This book should have been named something like "Practical GWT Cookbook", as it contains some recipes about common web development topics like file uploading, security and much more.

I felt that the first half of the book was not very well structured. For example, I didn't understand why there is a paragraph on Code Generation in Chapter 4, Working with Browsers. Explanations are illustrated with code samples, but there are either too few, or too much. Too much, like the methods of the JDBC examples. Only one would have been enough. Too few, like the EJB example. Someone who knows EJB will know how to call a bean. Someone who doesn't will need much more information.

There are some annoying errors, especially in the MVP explanation. The same class gets three or four different names, making it very difficult to follow. MVP is an "essential" topic in this book, so it should have been carefully polished.

Nevertheless, the book still contains some interesting tips and techniques. I particularly enjoyed the speed measurement and the testing chapter. But overall I think it is falling short at explaining the essential.

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Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
August 2010
352 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, December 2010
  (9 of 10)


"Essential GWT" covers the intermediate to advanced level features of Google's GWT2. While a little time is spent getting the reader set up, it is certainly not aimed at beginners and rapidly dives into the topics that receive inadequate coverage in starter books. There appears to be plenty of confusion about this book, but in my opinion this is caused by assuming that the basic topics will be covered.

I liked it a lot. The prose is easy to read and often amusing and the author is experienced and well aware of the realities and limitations of GWT and doesn't try to over sell the product. Even excluding the value of the technical content this alone makes it easy to consume.

Between the covers lies a wealth of information to help design your next application or improve an existing one. While each chapter covers an important subject, the code samples and best practices are of equal value in boosting the strength of any GWT app. The range of topics covered in the chapters will help elevate your applications to enterprise level stable and mature applications and allow you to apply full testing rigor.

So while I understand the negative comments regarding this book, in my opinion it is an excellent GWT resource provided it is not your first GWT resource.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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CUDA by Example: An Introduction to General-Purpose GPU Programming
by Jason Sanders, Edward Kandrot


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
July 2010
312 pages

Reviewed by Jesper Young, November 2010
  (9 of 10)


This book is about GPGPU programming - how to write parallel programs for your video card using NVIDIA's CUDA toolkit. Prerequisites for working with this book are an NVIDIA graphics card, a computer running Windows or Linux (you can also use Mac OS X but the book warns that this is not officially supported) and knowledge of C++ (note, although the book talks about C, the code is really C++).

The book has a good structure - it starts with two short introductory chapters and then starts with easy and simple examples, introducing more and more advanced topics in the later chapters. Some of the examples are not that interesting, but are good for explaining the basics (summing arrays of numbers, for example), but the book also contains a number of more interesting and impressive examples, such as generating Julia fractals and a very basic ray tracer.

I found the book clear and easy to read, and a good introduction to GPGPU programming with CUDA. Although the book does not go into the details of more advanced topics, it contains more than enough material to keep you busy learning and playing with CUDA for some time. For the more advanced topics, such as debugging and profiling CUDA programs and several toolkits and libraries that use CUDA, the book contains an overview and pointers to where you can find more information.

A good book with a clear structure, and a good progression from easy to more advanced topics - recommended if you want to know more about programming your NVIDIA card.

---
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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30 Arduino Projects for the Evil Genius
by Simon Monk


McGraw-Hill/TAB Electronics
1 edition
July 2010
208 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, October 2011
  (10 of 10)



"30 Arduino Projects for the Evil Genius" balances theory and practice very well. It starts off assuming you don't know much about programming or hardware, but doesn't bore you if you already do. Chapter 1 starts out with a simple exercise that you can just follow the steps for. Chapter 2 circles back and gives a 10 page tour of Arduino and covers some theory. Don't worry - it is interesting theory.

The rest of the book uses projects to teach more hardware/wiring/program concepts. Each project has a schematic and circuit diagram so you can see what the breadboard looks like They even cover using a third party library.

The Appendix includes the part numbers at Farnell and Radio Shack so you can easily order what you need for each specific project.

I did notice one formatting problem: minus minus shows up as one long dash in the code. But if this is the worst problem, the book is in good shape.

---
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
by Paul Graham


O'Reilly Media
1 edition
May 2010
272 pages

Reviewed by Deepak Bala, February 2013
  (7 of 10)



I have mixed feelings about this book. For one it gets many points right.

* Enabling entrepreneurs to get rich will harbor innovation. The Indian government for example could tax businesses at 98% of income earned back in the 70s. No entrepreneur would stand that.
* Nerds are unpopular :D
* Customer experiences with technology will change with time (Installation / Upgrades / Touch screen / etc)
* Programming languages have varying power.

On the other hand I found myself disagreeing with other points.

* There is no unlimited financial pie from which anyone can stake a claim. Capitalism ensures that. A worker's spending power is capped by his salary. The financial pie is capped by how much a worker can pay for a product. However the author is right about people mistaking unequal wealth distribution to rich people taking a large stake of the pie.
* I have no clue what an essay about programming language and spam detection is doing in this book. Web programming is belabored in one chapter assuming that the reader does not know the difference between client-server and web architectures (which he/she may not) and in another chapter we are skimming over Bayes theorem like it is common knowledge.
* Some details in the book and your perspective on them are influenced by cultural / regional backgrounds.
** In my regional tech community for example - the work 'hacker' was never popular.
* Some nerds have a tough time even after they become adults, owing to their introverted nature. Intelligence still does not trump popular behavior in most workplaces. Unless of course the workplace is full of nerds.

I'd still recommend the book. It will give you a different perspective on a matter of things and help you question others (like fads and fashion. Jeans with stitched underwear anyone ? :) ).

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The Quick Python Book, Second Edition
by Vern Ceder


Manning Publications
second edition
January 2010
400 pages

Reviewed by Deepak Bala, July 2012
  (9 of 10)



"The Quick Python Book" is true to its name. Someone with previous experience in programming should be able to breeze through it. The examples are short and to the point and the author avoids visiting topics like XML parsing to keep the book light.

The good:

1. You can skim through the book really fast if you already have knowledge of topics like exceptions / OO programming etc.
2. Introduces you to python 3 and explains why learning it is worth your while.
3. Although this is not a recipe book, I was still able to visit chapters out of order without much discomfort. I was not interested in GUI programming for example and skipped the entire chapter.

The bad:

I didnt find anything to critize. If you follow your own path (you could say use pyCharm instead of IDLE) while learning python from this book, you should do great. I would have loved to read a page or two in the book, about python implementations and how they came about. But this information is available on a wiki [1] anyway.

Have fun learning python. This is a great book for experienced programmers and beginners alike.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Python_implementations

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Pro Git
by Scott Chacon


Apress
1 edition
August 2009
288 pages

Reviewed by Christophe Verre, January 2011
  (10 of 10)


I've been using both CVS and SVN at work, and never had the chance to try Git. I decided to learn about Git, so I looked for a book. I found Pro Git's homepage, with the book fully readable online, in several languages. We don't often have the chance to read free quality books online, but this one is 100% free. After spending some time on the train enjoying the first three chapters of the book, I decided to buy it. It's well worth it. The author did a great job presenting Git's functionalities, and the major differences with other version control systems.

The main chapters on Git basics and branching are very easy to follow. The author explains all the major commands, showing the command line and the execution result. You can read the book without even trying anything (although I would recommend to download Git and try as much as possible). The chapter on distributed workflows is particularly interesting. It shows you how Git is used in a project, depending on the size (and other factors) of the project. Finally, the author presents the major Git tools, explains how to customize Git, how to use it with Subversion (would you do that?), and how Git works internally, which is very instructive.

The book is thin, and easy to read, so anybody can finish it in a short time. If you want to get started with Git, you can pick up this book without hesitation.

I have one minor complaint : the book size is a bit different from other Apress books I have (may depend on the print ?). It breaks the balance of my beloved book shelf :)

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Official Ubuntu Book, The (4th Edition)
by Benjamin Mako Hill, Matthew Helmke, Corey Burger


Prentice Hall PTR
fourth edition
July 2009
512 pages

Reviewed by Campbell Ritchie, August 2009
  (7 of 10)


Always read the contents before buying a book: try here for this book. This is a quick introduction to Ubuntu, complete with DVD, now in its 4th edition.

The book is written is a crystal-clear style, very fast and easy to read. It is a robust paperback, with clear type, good page layout and has a large index. I greatly enjoyed reading it, and learned a lot. Some of the screenshots, though well-printed, have small print on. I think I found two significant misprints in appendix A, and a 3rd insignificant typo elsewhere.

It starts with the history of Linux and the Ubuntu project, and much of its latter part is about the Ubuntu community. It tells readers how to join, both by using the forums, and by contributing to Ubuntu. We also read about different but related operating systems, e.g. Kubuntu. The central part is about how to run and install Ubuntu, reaching into server use and some problems.

I felt the book would have benefited from more detail in the how-to pages. Maybe this is impracticable; there are lots of links to websites likely to be helpful. Or maybe this book would appeal more to beginners with more hand-holding and detail in the early stages. And maybe the experienced user would like more details too.

But for a wide-ranging introduction to Ubuntu, where you to Google when the information appears scanty, go for it!

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Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional, Second Edition (Beginning from Novice to Professional)
by Akkana Peck


Apress
second edition
January 2009
584 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, February 2009
  (8 of 10)


As a programmer that needed to improve their general 'image' skills, but will never be required to work as a graphic designer, I found this book spot-on. I can't comment on it's abilities to turn you into an professional, but as a certified novice this book definitely fulfilled my requirements.

The information is provided in a well explained and easy to follow manner, and examples are useful without being too complex. The author also manages to inject a bit of personality into the text which was pleasant and was never distracting from the matter at hand.

One feature that impressed me particularly was the ability to manage differences between GIMP versions in a concise manner. Each time the text had to diverge to discussion version differences it was easy to tell which settings or behavior applied to me and which to ignore.

The unfortunately named "Beginning GIMP" was a much more enjoyable read than I ever would have imagined and I look forward to keep it at hand for the next time I panic at an image manipulation problem.

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Beginning OpenOffice 3: from novice to professional
by Andy Chanelle


Apress
1 edition
2009
xxii + 466 pages

Reviewed by Campbell Ritchie, January 2009
  (8 of 10)


I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and how much I learned: all the things I never realised OpenOffice could do for me.

How to write a newsletter, write a web page, embed spreadsheets in a presentation. It's all in there, and much more. I now need an opportunity to use these new-found skills.

OpenOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing module, and database which are all covered in this book, starting with and giving most attention to the word processor. There is also a mathematical formula editor, which Chanelle doesn't describe.

Chanelle assumes OpenOffice is already installed, also that the reader can do a few basic things with an office suite. Then he takes us on a journey through its capabilities. Some features have to be described very briefly because of space limitations, others get a deeper discussion. His style is easy to read, chatty and humorous, and mixes British and American grammar and spellings. Although the book is easy to follow, it doesn't "talk down", but assumes the reader is awake and alert.

I only noticed two mistakes: ctrl-P for paste, and brackets = (), which is normal British usage. There are other errors (e.g. about Christmas on page 24) which I suspect are intentional!

The book is a paperback, with lots of clear illustrations, even though some contain small print.

Anybody interested in using open-source for their letters or budgets or presentations will find this book a great asset.

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Pragmatic Version Control Using Git
by Travis Swicegood


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
December 2008
190 pages

Reviewed by Lasse Koskela, March 2009
  (9 of 10)


I've read several books from the Pragmatic Bookshelf and I've always liked their approach of sticking to the relevant bits while being easy to read, and, in general, offering more than the official product manual. This apple didn't fall far from the tree.

"Pragmatic Version Control Using Git" is a compact tutorial into the world of distributed version control systems and, of course, Git in particular. The book starts with a gentle introduction to concepts that might not be familiar to a reader coming from the world of centralized version control systems such as CVS and Subversion.

After familiarizing the reader with commits, branches, tags, Git's index, the difference between local and remote repositories, and so forth, the author walks us through day-to-day kind of operations. The walkthrough explains the before-mentioned concepts quite well and I had no trouble following the command listings and the narrative, although I would've liked to see illustrations of the local repository's contents along the way - similar to what the author employed when introducing the concepts.

All in all, this book is a very good introduction to the world of distributed version control using Git - it packs pretty much everything that's necessary for a new Git user. Where I feel it's slightly lacking is in administration, i.e. how to set up a Git server for your team or company. The author does walk you through installing a Gitosis server but I'm still left feeling like there's more I should know.

Again, a very good introduction and warmly recommended to anyone looking to move to Git and into the world of distributed version control.

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Beginning Portable Shell Scripting: From Novice to Professional (Expert's Voice in Open Source)
by Peter Seebach


Apress
1 edition
November 2008
376 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, December 2008
  (6 of 10)


"Beginning Portable Shell Scripting" has a very clear mission - teach the reader how to write shell scripts that will work in all Bourne family shells. The book assumes you know UNIX already. While you don't need to know shell scripting already, it is helpful. The book is very intense if you are using it learn the scripting basics at the same time.

I like how the author starts by showing the interactive command type in by the user vs what is evaluated/run vs what is output. This was a good way to teach shell scripting quoting. I also like the emphasis on what happens in edge cases.

I think that non-portable code could be better flagged. It's easy to gloss over embedded in the text. Or find again. Two chapters really went into detail on portability. I guess I expected it to be flagged throughout.

Chapter two says you can skip it if you already know regexps. A word of advice: don't. I recommend skimming it anyway the chapter contains valuable distinctions on globbing/shell expansion. I also liked chapter three's multiple attempts at a script showing the errors in each until getting to the desired behavior.

As an aside, there's about 80 pages of appendices and the about the technical reviewer page was both entertaining and written completely in UNIX shell script.

The book mainly loses points for not being aimed at beginners with a title containing the word "beginning."

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Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware (Pragmatic Programmers)
by Andy Hunt


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
November 2008
288 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, April 2011
  (8 of 10)



I borrowed a copy of "Pragmatic Thinking & Learning" by Andy Hunt and enjoyed the read. In addition to referencing ideas from Bert Bates and Linda Rising, there was a good mix of concepts and concrete techniques.

Favorite three concepts:
1) Dreyfus model - novice vs advanced beginner vs etc. And why it matters to us
2) Extended analogy between human brain and computer
3) Why certain models of learning work better than others

Favorite three suggested things to try:
1) Block out time to learn and fight for it
2) Make learning new facts a game
3) Write 3 pages every morning before breakfast to see what right brain thinks before fully awake

I also liked that Andy noted writing on paper is different than typing on a computer. I think this applies to paper vs e-books as well. Different strengths.

Overall, the book was surprisingly interactive and each chapter has actions to try or take away. Really emphasized to the point of "stop and do this now."

While I have to give the book back to it's rightful owner, I have a whole page of things to try/follow up on which is exciting.

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Ubuntu Kung Fu: Tips, Tricks, Hints, and Hacks
by Keir Thomas


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
September 2008
400 pages

Reviewed by Andrew Monkhouse, October 2008
  (7 of 10)


Ubuntu Kung Fu is a book about Tips, Tricks and Hacks for someone who is new to Linux-based environment. It is a good reference to know how to get some things done faster than usual. The author provides a very good step by step approach to do the tricks.

The second chapter overviews the basics of the Ubuntu desktop, GUI, command line, installations etc. The third chapter directly gets started with the tips, tricks and hacks without spending much time in anything else. One can browse through the tips in the index page and move directly to that topic without reading the earlier parts and would do just fine. This is something I appreciate about the authors writing style and explanations. But someone already familiar with a Linux environment might not enjoy because most of it is very basic.

Assuming that most of the users of Linux are usually programmers it doesn't really cover a lot of tips or tricks for one who would use it in software developmental area. It covers almost 40% of tips in entertainment areas like web cam, digital cameras and the likes which I doubt if developers will ever use Ubuntu for. Except that, I think this is a good read and reference to know some fun tricks in Ubuntu.

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Kicking Butt with MIDP and MSA: Creating Great Mobile Applications (Java Series)
by Jonathan Knudsen


Prentice Hall PTR
1 edition
January 2008
432 pages

Reviewed by Mark Spritzler, December 2008
  (9 of 10)


When it comes to MIDP and J2ME books, there is no better author than Jonathan Knudsen. It was about 4-5 years ago that he published his first J2ME book, and it was that book that I learned J2ME very quickly.

Jonathan is one of those writers that can break down a technology to its simplest parts and then explain it to us so that we get it quickly.

In "Kicking Butt" Jonathan does it again. Keeping us up to date with the latest developments of J2ME. It is great to see him back with this new book to teach the next generation of J2ME developers.

The only thing I wish I saw was the part about device manufacturers not implementing specs 100% and making some parts of J2ME (Bluetooth comes to mind) a heck to work with and figure out what is wrong, when it comes down to a company not implementing the Spec completely, but claiming it does.

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Regular Expression Pocket Reference
by Tony Stubblebine


O'Reilly
second edition
July 2007
126 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, August 2007
  (7 of 10)


"Regular Expression -- Pocket Reference" is just as high in quality as it's big brother ("Mastering Regular Expressions.")

The book begins with a very brief review of regular expression concepts and patterns. For each language/tool, the book includes tables to reference the metacharacters, a reference for the API/syntax/library and four examples. A few of the languages have additional examples tailored specifically to that language.

The languages/tools included are: Perl, Java, .NET, PHP, Python, Ruby, JavaScript, PCRE, Apache Web Server, vi and awk/sed/egrep. If you use a number of these, the book is a concise reference. If you only use one, you would be better served by printing out the relevant reference charts from the website of your language of choice.

If you are learning about regular expressions or only going to buy one regular expressions book, I recommend the "Mastering Regular Expressions.?" If you are knowledgeable about regular expressions and just need a review or reference, this book does the job nicely.

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GWT in Action
by Robert Hanson, Adam Tacy


Manning Publications
1 edition
June 2007
600 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, July 2007
  (6 of 10)


Usually, I really like the "in action" series, but "GWT in Action" disappointed me. The book focus on examples "in action" almost to the exclusion of having the reader understand the concepts. It wasn't until the end of the book that I really understood what was going on.

I did like the step by step instructions on how to get started. The examples were good if you needed to do what the example did. It was tough to extrapolate to other scenarios though. Some of the code examples were rather long and involved. The end of the book was also good. It went into detail on HTML form controls, JSON, testing, deployment and most importantly -- how GWT works. These would have been nice earlier in the book. Especially the HTML form section. The majority of AJAX at this time is related to forms. Since the cover says "easy AJAX with GWT", I expected more on form based AJAX examples.

I felt that the book was trying to reach too broad an audience. For beginners without an understanding of JavaScript/HTML/DOM, I think it is overwhelming. The book provides "what's new in GWT 1.4", but the book is overkill for someone already using GWT. Most of the time the book treats what happens under the hood of GWT as magic and other times it becomes important. This switching of focus is a bit confusing.

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Rails for Java Developers
by Stuart Halloway, Justin Gehtland


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
February 2007
304 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, May 2007
  (8 of 10)


In "Rails for Java Developers", Stuart Halloway and Justin Gehtland provide an introduction to Ruby and the Rails web application framework aimed at the Java developer more familiar with frameworks such as Struts and Hibernate. There's a lot of buzz in the Java community surrounding Ruby and Ruby on Rails so this title is quite timely.

Halloway and Gehtland provide a tutorial to learning Ruby and Rails by examining similarities with Java. The tutorial progresses by providing examples in both Ruby and Java using popular Java frameworks. The introduction of Ruby and Rails concepts by juxtaposing them with similar concepts implemented in Java is comforting for the developer who may feel a little intimidated by the differences between the languages. Working through the book, the Java developer will learn the basics about creating and deploying Ruby on Rails applications, picking up an exciting new language along the way.

The first three chapters introduce the Ruby programming language. This is the best Java-centric Ruby introduction that I've seen and it's something I wish I had available to me when I was first learning the language. The rest of the material covers the basics of Rails applications as well as web services and security issues. I found the chapters on testing and automating the development process to be particularly good.

The approach this book takes may not be suitable for everyone. After a certain point, I found that the constant juxtaposition of the Java way of accomplishing a task with the Ruby on Rails way of accomplishing a task wore a bit thin. I found myself just trying to skip past the Java bits to get on with the Ruby. Still, I found the book to be quite good overall. If you are an experienced Java developer seeking a gentle introduction to Ruby on Rails, you can't do better than "Rails for Java Developers".

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Everyday Scripting with Ruby for Teams, Testers, and You
by Brian Marick


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
January 2007
310 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, April 2007
  (9 of 10)


When I first heard that the Pragmatic Programmers were putting out a book on Ruby oriented towards testers, I thought to myself that I knew a few testers who might be able to benefit. I was a bit surprised when I received the book and the focus changed from that of testing to something a bit more generic. And after flipping through it I was afraid this would be just yet another book teaching Ruby.

Despite my initial misgivings, as I read through the book its value became apparent. This is not a book aimed at teaching people who are interested in developing complex systems in Ruby; this title is aimed squarely at using Ruby for scripting. "Everyday Scripting with Ruby" is a task-oriented tutorial that will help the reader quickly become productive writing useful scripts. The examples throughout the book are truly indicative of the types of problems that scripts are written to solve, and the book doesn't waste much time on fluff or things that are otherwise not likely to be of interest to the scripter.

While "Everyday Scripting with Ruby" isn't much of a reference manual, it does work pretty well as a tutorial. Readers will typically get the most value from the book by reading it cover-to-cover and following along by getting the examples working on their own computers. Many of the chapters finish with problems for the reader to try out on their own, with the solutions to the problems being detailed in the back of the book. Through reading the text, trying the examples, and further exploration of the material through tackling the end-of-chapter problems, the reader will come away confidant that they can use Ruby to successfully write scripts to solve their problems. You can't ask for much more than that.

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Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
January 2007
310 pages

Reviewed by Marc Peabody, April 2007
  (9 of 10)


I can't say it any better than this: You really need to learn Ruby if you haven't already. I also can't say it any better than this: If you're new to Ruby, Everyday Scripting with Ruby is the best bang for your Ruby buck.

I highly recommended this to our beginners at the Columbus Ruby Brigade and I highly recommend it now for Ruby beginners everywhere. Mr. Marick makes the journey into Ruby indisputably pragmatic. I was pleasantly surprised how much I learned from so few pages (a little under 300 in all). Other books and tutorials made me familiar with Ruby; this gem made me comfortable with it.

The book was originally intended for non-programmers, but my honest opinion is that at least some previous exposure to programming might be necessary to completely understand what's going on. So don't run out and buy a copy as a Mother's Day present unless your mother happens to do a lot of tedious, repetitive tasks on the computer and is looking for a way to automate everything (hey, it could happen). But let's face it: it's likely that your mom will prefer flowers and you'll prefer a copy of Everyday Scripting with Ruby.

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Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Implementation
by Munwar Shariff


Packt Publishing
1 edition
December 2006
356 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, March 2007
  (2 of 10)


Reading "Alfresco Enterprise Content Management Implementation" was a strange and not very enjoyable experience. My feel is that it fell into the common "Open Source Project manual" problem of selling and demonstrating the product without providing too much that can be used. In the end it felt like an extended executive overview.

My initial concerns were raised when 'gotchas' were mentioned in passing rather than highlighted to the user. It felt like a sales trick rather than a manual. I was also confused with some of the descriptions of the application until I spent some time the web site and realised it was referring to both the community (free) and enterprise (not free) editions but wasn't always clear on which one was the current focus.

The book does highlight the main sections of Alfresco and provide walk throughs of the functionality, but it more of a glossy leaflet than a user guide. The large headings and poor quality images made the sections difficult to follow and the occasional inclusion of multiple images or several pages of XML configuration felt like padding. I'm not use what to say about the brief index, but apparently seven letters including 'T' didn't make the cut.

It all sounds a bit harsh, and maybe it's driven by my disappointment because I was really looking for something and will probably favour the web site if I need help. This books feels like it was written by someone who loves the product and wants to share this love with others, but it wasn't what I was looking for.

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Beginning Ruby on Rails E-Commerce: From Novice to Professional
by Christian Hellsten, Jarkko Laine


Apress
1 edition
November 2006
448 pages

Reviewed by Johannes de Jong, December 2006
  (10 of 10)


Once in a while a book gets written that makes your life as a programmer easier; this book is one of them.

Why you might ask? To start off with, I can use +/- 60% of their demo application, emporium, as a basis for a application I've started writing; and my application has absolutely nothing to do with a book store. Their application addresses common tasks i.e. standard CRUD, security, multiple language support etc. things you will encounter in any web-based application.

I've never fully understood the fuzz about the Test Driven Design and I thought that writing test code before writing the actual code meant you were bananas. I know better know. If you follow their advice and example, boy do they write a lot of test code in their application, releasing your code to production won't be the dreaded "gone is my weekend" event it used to be. Thank you for showing the way guys.

I also like their writing style, it is as if you are part of the discussions with the user, George, as the application evolves from an idea till a pretty sophisticated amazon type clone. Everything is done using extensive user stories and you fully understand their reasons for their solution to the problems.

This book has everything you need to take your level of understanding / knowledge of Rails to higher level and as a bonus it will also make you a better programmer general; I highly recommend this book.

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In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters
by Merrill Chapman, Merrill Chapman


Apress
second edition
September 2006
408 pages

Reviewed by Ulf Dittmer, December 2006
  (9 of 10)


This highly readable book provides an overview of major blunders hardware and software companies have made since the evolution of small computers in the mid 70s. Not all examples are marketing failures - management, development and sales also often contributed. The book provides examples of various kinds of business mistakes, be it product positioning, burning one's own brand, mistreating the customer base, being caught in a bubble, underestimating the competition and others. Amongst the companies studied are IBM, Digital Research, Apple, Microsoft, MicroPro, Ashton-Tate, Siebel, Borland, Intel, Motorola, Google, Novell and Netscape. Taken together, the case studies also provide a kind of abridged history of microcomputing. Two concluding chapters try to distill the essence of the mistakes made, and how they may have been avoided. Even though hindsight is 20/20, there are a number of valuable lessons, not always new ones, sometimes just forgotten ones.

At 350 pages the book is nicely shorter than the usual crop of high-tech books, but it still contains a lot of material that is covered in-depth. The authors manages not to get lost in technical arcana, and makes his points clearly, and in a light style that is accessible even to those without a programming background.

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Apress
1 edition
July 2003
256 pages

Reviewed by Valentin Crettaz, October 2004
  (9 of 10)


I would qualify this book as a great marketing antipattern repository. All the true stories reported by Rick Chapman illustrate the worst practices in high-tech marketing he experienced over the past twenty years. With an entertaining narrative style, he immerses you in the corporate life of the big companies he worked at and delivers a fair dose of crispy details about some scary war stories that you wouldn't believe they actually happened. You would think that companies like IBM, Microsoft, Novell and Borland to cite a few, have never made stupid mistakes. Well, you're wrong! As the saying goes, ?nobody?s perfect?. This statement gets all its sense when applied to people working for big corporations that have the money and the brain cells, but despite this, still manage to shoot themselves in the feet. Money doesn?t buy you anything, but it is isually a good magnet for stupid managers, so watch out!

To understand the content of this book, there is no need to be a marketing guru whose resume reaches the moon. In fact, this book is suitable to pretty much anyone, whether you want to discover which practices to avoid at all costs, or whether you want to laugh out loud and despise those wannabe "deus ex machina" working for big corporations. Grab your copy, sit down comfortably and start turning the pages. You won't regret it, unless of course you were actively involved in one of those shameful and pathetic undertakings :)

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Apress
1 edition
July 2003
256 pages

Reviewed by Michael Ernest, August 2003
  (9 of 10)


It's hard to build a company that is both big and smart; most large companies survive by minimizing their mistakes, or making fewer costly mistakes than the competition, or at least by knowing how to recover from their own. In making light of the 80's blockbuster In Search of Excellence -- which the author admitted 20 years later was written on bogus data -- In Search of Stupidity examines several companies that did nothing to prevent or recover from its mistakes, and willfully so. Each story exemplifies pride in wrongheadedness, a triumph of personality over common sense, or best of all, a belief that markets can be told what they want and who to get it from.

It's great reading. Chapman is merciless, entertaining and yeah, really merciless. Aside from kicking several high-tech losers after the fact, which is fun, he shows how high-tech's own foibles create (when it could prevent) its own sufferings.

For programmers, developers, and other technical types, this book is an eye-opener to the differences between how software gets built and how it gets sold. In particular, Chapman's analysis of Microsoft's market dominance today (and why), along with his excerpted interview with Joel Spolsky are invaluable reading.

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Apress
1 edition
July 2003
256 pages

Reviewed by Thomas Paul, September 2003
  (9 of 10)


Why is Microsoft such a huge company today? It isn't because their products were better or because they cheated other companies out of their rightful place in the market. It's because they weren't as stupid as their competition. Merrill Chapman takes us through the comedy of errors that companies like Digital Research, WordStar, Lotus, and AshtonTate went through as they tossed their market leads aside in fits of stupidity. You can't help but laugh (or cry) at the mistakes these companies made. Example: WordStar was once one of the finest word processing programs in the world. But through stupidity the company ended up owning two competing mediocre products.

You won't find very much analysis of why a particular company made such obviously fatal errors. Why did Borland pay an outrageous sum to buy AshtonTate at a time when it had virtually nothing that Borland needed? You won't find the answer here. What you will find is an amusing, well-written examination of the collapse of good companies under the weight of their serious errors of judgment.

There is a moral to be learned from this book. It isn't necessary to be excellent. In fact, excellence can be expensive and drive up your costs so much that they make your products uncompetitive. The secret is not to be excellent, in fact you don't even have to be very smart. All you need to be is less stupid that your competitors. Just ask Microsoft.

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Rails up and Running
by Bruce A.Tate, Curt Hibbs


O'Reilly
1 edition
August 2006
182 pages

Reviewed by Marc Peabody, September 2006
  (6 of 10)


Up and Running starts out as a decent overview of Ruby on Rails, but more and more the book turns into a shallow repetition of: "Add this huge block of code... Doesn't that look better?" At that point, you'll still occasionally trip across random information, but I can only describe most of those tidbits as orphans of when this tiny manual aspired to be something bigger and more comprehensive.

There are too many labs to learn much without your computer and there's too much non-interUp and Running starts out as a decent overview of Ruby on Rails, but more and more the book turns into a shallow repetition of: "Add this huge block of code... Doesn't that look better?" At that point, you'll still occasionally trip across random information, but I can only describe most of those tidbits as orphans of when this tiny manual aspired to be something bigger and more comprehensive.active material to enjoy the book as a pure lab. The non-lab material isn't cleanly separated from the labs, so you can't give your brain much preparation for when to focus on your computer and when to focus on the book.

A little more organization would have made Up and Running a great book.

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O'Reilly
1 edition
August 2006
182 pages

Reviewed by Michael Ernest, September 2006
  (7 of 10)


This is indeed a fast-paced book designed for experienced developers. Using it, I was able to build the Photo Share project it covers rather quickly. I got a good overview of how Rails works, too.

But while I appreciate the end result, I wasn't always so sure what I did or why I did it. The introduction of concepts is *so* fast and terse that I found it hard to connect concepts to practice. The section on Rails Strengths, on pp. 2-3, could certainly have been stronger on this point. Still, the points the authors wanted to make about the power of the Rails environment was unmistakable.

I disagree with the premise of the book about its intended audience. Web-oriented programmers are certainly ideal for this book; other programmers are going to struggle. A great deal of conceptual background is taken for granted. Because Rails make so many understood connections between components, it's worth a few more pictures and diagrams to illustrate those relationships. The many diagrams on data table structure were not as helpful to me.

There are errata that can be quite annoying if you are following along carefully. Mis-stated filenames crop up now and then. In a few cases I followed the book exactly and lost a bit of functionality. The book does not advise on error paths or what to do when something goes wrong, so if you're not making file backups or otherwise tracking your changes, you'll go down a rat-hole or two.

On the whole, the book has a feel of being a bit rushed and breathless, rather than merely short in form. This means going over the material several times. Often I found a key piece of information buried in a paragraph when a bullet point would have made it easier to spot. I know people are bullet-shy these days, but when you're writing real information as opposed to concepts, listing it out is helpful.

My review copy came free, so I can't complain about price. That said, I wouldn't buy this book at the price it wants.

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O'Reilly
1 edition
August 2006
182 pages

Reviewed by Johannes de Jong, September 2006
  (7 of 10)


I'm in two minds about this book, but one thing I know for sure; I wish that this book was around when I started off on my Rails journey, minus the mistakes and the bad representation though!

Bruce and Curt take you from a very fast paced intro to a fairly complete and professional photo sharing application. Personally I will go back to this application when I want to experiment with Rails/Ruby.

They describe the Active record, the corner stone of Rails, adequately and after working through chapters 2 and 3 you should have a fair grasp of the how rails implements the active record pattern. I especially liked their use of the ruby console to show the reader how certain things work. I personally feel that too few Rails programmers use the power of the console to experiment with Ruby, remember you learn by experimentation.

They then go ahead and show how you can build a quick and dirty interface with the "controversial" scaffolding around the database you created in chapters 2 and 3. This where Rails shines for me; as scaffolding allows you to get something up and running fast. Their coverage of this subject is more than adequate.

In chapter 5 Bruce and Curt take the rough-and-dirty generated Rails application and turn into a pretty professional looking application using style sheets. Nothing new here but it shows you where and how you do it under/in Rails.

Chapter 6 uses the power of Ajax to add the icing on the cake for the photo application. A great intro as to how Ajax is implemented/used under Rails.

Chapter 7 describes the automated testing functionality in Rails and this for me was the chapter I benefited the most from. I'm a mainframe programmer that has taken up Rails, and Ruby with it, as a hobby and this automated testing is foreign to me. So this book has shown me how to test the right way in/under Rails.

The book ends with a summary and pointers to where more information can be found. Basically the appendix is one large cheat sheet of Rails that can come in handy as your Rails knowledge grows.

Personally I think that the books formatting SHOULD be improved, for instance it should be made much clearer to the reader when he has to do something and boy the reviewers, editor(s), whoever deserves the blame, must be shot for allowing so many typos to slip through.

In the beginning I said I was in two minds about this book, basically this is because I'm not sure if I should recommend this book.

On the one side I feel this book is worth purchasing. I really do feel, even with the typos and faults, that with hard work and care you will learn what Rails is all about and that this book will give you a solid foundation to get you started on your Rails, and Ruby, journey.

On the other side I feel that as a paying customer you deserve better, there is nothing more frustrating than learning something new and the tutorial you use to learn it is full of mistakes.

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Mastering Regular Expressions
by Jeffrey E. F. Friedl, Jeffrey E. F. Friedl


O'Reilly
third edition
August 2006
542 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, September 2006
  (10 of 10)


"Mastering Regular Expressions" takes a great book and modernizes it to include the latest programming languages. The book starts out with assuming you know anything about Regular Expressions -- aside from the concept to be interested in picking up the book.

The author introduces regular expressions through examples and quickly introduces the constructs. The second third of the book goes into the details of how regular expressions are processed. This includes correctness and efficiency issues. The final third on the book goes over the syntax in Java, .NET, Perl and PHP. Tools like grep and awk are described in the text as well.

An alternate title for this book would have been "Thinking in Regular Expressions." Even if you think you know regular expressions, this book teaches you how much more there is to learn. It also teaches you some of the finer points of regular expressions in your favorite programming language along with cross references to the earlier part of the book.

The author uses good analogies to make the text understandable. After awhile, the concepts get so complicated that you have to read it many times to understand. A typically O'Reilly book. I've only had this book two weeks and I've already used it to make me a more effective developer!

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O'Reilly
second edition
July 2002
496 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, March 2003
  (10 of 10)


Regular Expressions ("regexes" for short), have been officially integrated into Java with the release of J2SE 1.4. While many Java developers are just discovering them, they have been a fixture in other languages and tools for quite some time. Regular expressions are powerful tools for performing all kinds of text processing, but they require no small amount of knowledge to use effectively and efficiently. This is where "Mastering Regular Expressions" comes to the rescue.

The books nine chapters are categorized into three sections. The book first teaches the basics of regular expressions, crafting simple regexes, and the different features and flavors available in various regex packages. Next, the reader is given invaluable information about how the different types of regular expression engines work, as well as techniques for crafting practical and efficient expressions. The final section covers language specific issues in Perl, Java, and .NET.

The author does an outstanding job leading the reader from regex novice to master. The book is extremely easy to read and chock full of useful and relevant examples. The author offers up questions along the way designed to engage the reader to apply what he has learned. In-line references to other parts of the book containing information pertinent the particular topic being discussed are also very helpful.

Regular expressions are valuable tools that every developer should have in their toolbox. "Mastering Regular Expressions" is the definitive guide to the subject, and an outstanding resource that belongs on every programmer's bookshelf.

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From Java to Ruby
by Bruce Tate


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
June 2006
160 pages

Reviewed by Marc Peabody, August 2006
  (10 of 10)


I've been skeptical yet curious about Ruby. There are so many darn Java frameworks out there and I needed some justification to learn Ruby instead of yet another Java framework. Hey, I kinda have a life and I value my time.

This book doesn't teach Ruby programming but it might convince you to learn it. The cover reads, "Things Every Manager Should Know" yet you don't have to be a manager to appreciate Bruce's insights. Expect no syntax - this is a higher level blueprint for the revolution.

Bruce Tate reviews, without quibble, the dark sides of Java and what can cause the language itself to be the bottleneck of your team's velocity. You then discover what types of projects and work environments best cater to a Ruby pilot project. Bruce fairly weighs the risks and benefits for a variety of scenarios and even delves into how to put together an awesome Ruby team.

From Java to Ruby was so enjoyable a read, I finished it in two days. Pick up a copy but be warned: expect your colleagues to ask, "Hey, can I read that when you're done?"

And no, I won't let you borrow mine.

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Object-Oriented PHP
by Peter Lavin


No Starch Press
1 edition
June 2006
216 pages

Reviewed by Michael Ernest, September 2006
  (7 of 10)


Object-Oriented PHP is a technical brief that falls short of its own ambitions. It covers PHP 5, most notably the radical switch to a full OOP model. Lavin summarizes the reasons for the change and reviews basic OOP concepts. He then develops some classes for an application to draws images from a database and display them as thumbnails. Some PHP 4 equivalent code is provided too.

It is a terse and sometimes bumpy ride. The book's conversational tone, while appropriate for fellow geeks, is more distracting than reassuring. There are some summary apologies, for example, that make the chapters seem like chewed far less than they bit off.

The book is short, so the author glosses concepts, and refers to web sites for details and tutorials often. Once or twice he refers to a well-known author (e.g., Bruce Eckel) to support a point. This is also appropriate for a peer audience, but it unnecessarily puts the book out of reach for some readers.

The book apparently once had a too-ambitious outline. The back cover states you'll learn to "Incorporate AJAX into your OO PHP code." This coverage is trivial: one paragraph that names a website to retrieve some code, and some code to show where the AJAX reference goes.

This book is appropriate to the author's PHP peers, but should understand OOP already. A demanding reader will not like this book. Beginners will get lost.

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Ubuntu Hacks
by Jonathan Oxer, Kyle Rankin, Bill Childers


O'Reilly
1 edition
June 2006
447 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, July 2006
  (8 of 10)


Not surprisingly, this is another lovely addition to the successful 'Hacks' series.

Like the others, 'Ubuntu Hacks' consists of a series of pointers on how to perform useful and usually non-trivial tasks ranging from beginner level through to expert. As you would expect novice users can get more from the book than experienced users, but there is still likely to be plenty to interest people of any skill level.

This book does not suffer from too broad a topic range, as several from the series do. Since it limits coverage to using the Ubuntu Linux distribution, it reduces the number of topics that are not relevant. It is also a very good source for finding out what else is available, so you gain from not only what is presented directly but will be able to use these to accelerate your own knowledge.

This book highlights one of the problems with the 'Hacks' series. 'Ubuntu Hacks' is noticeably larger than other books I have seen from the series, and while the volume is necessary to cover some of the advanced topics I felt that limiting the book to one hundred hacks made some entries very long indeed.

Overall it is a great book, particularly for those of beginner to intermediate level. You can learn Ubuntu by accident, or you can get a real head start using this book.

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Ruby for Rails
by David A. Black


Manning Publications
1 edition
May 2006
532 pages

Reviewed by Ernest Friedman-Hill, June 2006
  (9 of 10)


Ruby is a dynamic programming language with a growing following. Rails is a Web application framework for Ruby. This book starts from the premise that many smart developers are adopting Rails with minimal prior knowledge of Ruby, and that those developers need to learn Ruby, fast!

It turns out that this is a great premise for a book. In 17 focused chapters, the reader learns everything she'll need to know to get the most out of Rails. Topics that won't be used (for example, GUI toolkits) aren't covered here. Instead the author concentrates on Ruby language features, programming idioms, and libraries that are common to all Rails applications.

The first chapter is a gem. It explains in detail where to get Ruby, how to install it, run it, debug it, and extend it, how to maintain an installation, how it's documented, and introduces the language syntax, all in two dozen pages. Much of this is treated as advanced material by other Ruby books, but every Ruby developer worth their salt needs to know it all.

Chapter 2 does something similar for Rails, helping you to understand how the pieces fit together. Later chapters concentrate on the Ruby language, and then on Rails again, always with an eye for optimal ways to use these technologies together.

Whether you're new to Ruby and Rails or just need to learn how to get the most out of this powerful combination, this book is a winner.

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Enterprise Integration With Ruby
by Maik Schmidt


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
April 2006
330 pages

Reviewed by Andrew Monkhouse, July 2006
  (9 of 10)


I think this is a great book for someone who already knows a little bit about Ruby to learn how to use it within their heterogeneous environment.

Like most books that develop a continually growing sample application, this book is best read end-to-end. However each section can be read on it's own, allowing the reader to skip to the section most relevant at a given time. Each section has a very clearly defined purpose, and where possible Maik describes multiple ways of achieving a given goal, plus he explains potential pitfalls (all with a gentle humor and easy going style that makes this book a pleasure to read).

This is not a beginner's book -- as identified on the back cover, and in the introductory text -- you are expected to know some Ruby before attempting this book. However writing for a more skilled audience may be the reason for my only complaint: the assumption that the reader will be familiar with how to set up the environment(s) necessary to work through the examples. For example, there is no explanation of how to set up the Oracle tables or data -- even a single sentence stating that SQL scripts could be found on the website would have made this a little more helpful. This is a very minor issue though, and unlikely to cause major problems for most readers.

This is a very good book, and one that I am likely to continually refer to for considerable time.

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Best of Ruby Quiz
by James Gray II


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
March 2006
312 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, May 2006
  (9 of 10)


Picking up the basics of a new programming language such as Ruby can be enjoyable, but if you can't apply what you've learned quickly that knowledge may be fleeting. "The Best of Ruby Quiz" can help out. "The Best of Ruby Quiz" contains twenty-five fun programming challenges ("quizzes") that are excellent for exercising your new Ruby chops. The quizzes vary in difficulty and each includes in-depth discussions covering multiple solutions. More importantly, the quizzes really are fun!

The quizzes in "The Best of Ruby Quiz" are excerpted from the author's web site "Ruby Quiz" so while you could certainly save yourself a few bucks and just visit the site, the book is a much more polished product. Also, I believe that the immediacy of the book with its superior layout really enhances the learning experience when compared to the web site.

This book makes a great companion to the Pickaxe and the two books form an effective one-two punch for learning Ruby. So go ahead and sit down with a copy of this book, fire up the code editor of your choice, pick a quiz and start coding. Not only will you learn a thing or two about Ruby, you'll have a good time doing it.

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AJAX and PHP: Building Responsive Web Applications
by Cristian Darie, Bogdan Brinzarea, Filip Chereches Tosa, Mihai Bucica


Packt Publishing
1 edition
March 2006
284 pages

Reviewed by Gregg Bolinger, August 2006
  (9 of 10)


I'm a big fan of PHP (though a Java developer by trade) and although I don't buy into all the hype surrounding AJAX I do appreciate what it can do for a web application when used appropriately. So I was really excited to review "AJAX and PHP: Building Responsive Web Applications".

What I liked most about this book was that there was no fluff. AJAX is what it is and I felt the authors realize this and wasted no time getting right into it. There is the typical regurgitated information that all tech books can't seem to ignore in chapter one but luckily not much. In fact, chapter one has you writing your very first AJAX enabled app.

The remaining chapters handle one application after another showing you several different ways you can utilize AJAX in your PHP web applications. Chapter seven, which shows how to implement a real time charting application using SVG, is debatably the most useless chapter in my opinion; however, it is something different that you don't see similar books covering. And it's a decent way to avoid using something like an Applet or Flash for similar functionality.

Probably my biggest complaint about the book in general is the authors' use of XSL for a couple of the examples. This is easily excusable given the rest of the book though. The book does assume a basic understanding of PHP and Javascript but that shouldn't scare off any newcomers to any of these technologies since you can simply copy and paste and run the code to see the outcome. The appendix has all the instructions for setting up the various technologies used in this book to get the reader going.

All in all I think this is a great introduction to AJAX and since AJAX is server agnostic all the techniques in the book can be applied to the server technology of choice whether its PHP, Java, or even .NET.

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The Definitive Guide to Apache mod_rewrite
by Rich Bowen


Apress
1 edition
February 2006
160 pages

Reviewed by Ulf Dittmer, July 2006
  (9 of 10)


"mod_rewrite, frequently called the "Swiss Army Knife" of URL manipulation, is one of the most popular -- and least understood -- modules in the Apache Web Server's bag of tricks." This opening sentence of the book makes it clear why there is a need for it: the module can be used for so many purposes, that it's very easy to misuse it.

The book starts by explaining how to install and configure mod_rewrite, and then gives a brief introduction into regular expressions, which are crucial to its functionality. The main part of the book is taken up by explaining the directives and options which mod_rewrite offers, and plenty of examples showing how common tasks faced by web administrators and application developers can be accomplished.

The author -- a member of the Apache Software Foundation -- is very knowledgeable, and writes in a very light prose that's readily accessible even to readers not up to speed on web arcana. A huge plus is the fact that at every turn he shows how the same or a similar effect can be achieved without mod_rewrite, and weighs the benefits and drawbacks; often he recommends using a different tool when using mod_rewrite would not be the best choice. Thus the reader learns a good deal about the Apache Web Server and several other modules along the way. At the end, this reviewer had a very good idea of what the module can do, and how it should be used.

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Learn to Program
by Chris Pine


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
January 2006
176 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, February 2006
  (7 of 10)


As a newcomer to Ruby, one of the first things that struck me was the overall simplicity and clarity of the language. I couldn't help thinking that Ruby could serve as an excellent language to teach programming fundamentals. Chris Pine's "Learning to Program" tackles that very task. The latest title in the Pragmatic Programmers Facets of Ruby series, "Learn to Program" arms the reader with the basic skills and concepts required to write their own computer programs using the Ruby language.

"Learn to Program" is written for those who have little to no experience programming. It is a fine introduction for the person who has never written a single line of code. It's no Dummies book though, and a degree of familiarity with computers is a prerequisite for getting the most out of the book. Pine never tells us exactly who his audience is, but it would certainly be suitable for the college student, technically minded adult or gifted high school student.

While an argument could be made as to whether or not every vital Ruby feature was covered. I would conclude that every feature required to get the beginner writing code was presented. It's important when evaluating this book to keep in mind that its purpose is to teach programming and not to teach the reader how to become a master with the Ruby language. "Learn to Program" is a fine introduction to programming and demonstrates that Ruby is well suited for this task.

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Designing Interfaces
by Jenifer Tidwell


O'Reilly
1 edition
November 2005
352 pages

Reviewed by John Wetherbie, February 2006
  (8 of 10)


Designing Interfaces is not like most books about interface design. It presents "patterns" that the author has seen in Interaction Design and developing user interfaces. The ninety-four patterns are divided into categories with each category/chapter having a brief introduction and overview.

The patterns are somewhat akin to those found in the Gang of Four's Design Patterns book. The first twelve are brief descriptions of how people interact with various aspects of interfaces. The remaining patterns have what, use when, why, how, and examples sections. The how section presents a scenario or design choices for how the pattern can be used. There are multiple figures illustrating the pattern and references to related patterns.

The book's good points are the brief but good content of the chapter overviews, the how sections of each pattern, and the illustrations.

My complaints about the book are minor. When one pattern referenced another I would have liked the page number of the referenced pattern to be listed instead of just the name. I found the gray color of the text a bit tough on the eyes and the font size for the figure descriptions a bit small.

One of the major benefits of the Design Patterns book was that it provided a common vocabulary with which to discuss and communicate software designs. It will be interesting to see if this book has the same effect on interaction and interface design.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review.

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O'Reilly
1 edition
November 2005
352 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, January 2006
  (10 of 10)


"Designing Interfaces" does for UIs what the Gang of Four did for code. Each chapter starts with a detailed overview of a UI topic with examples of good and bad design. The bulk of the chapter goes into many idioms/patterns that apply to that part of UI design. For example, form design, data presentation and editors are covered in chapter form. There is even a chapter on the emotional effect of pages. The emphasis on user interaction and not just design, distinguishes this book from others.

While there are many books on website design, this one also covers desktop and mobile interfaces. Many principles are the same and differences are highlighted. The author culls some ideas from the website design and usability classics; always making a reference. Other ideas are standards and yet more are original.

The main point of the book is to create a catalog and common language for discussing interface design. At this, the author succeeds fabulously. Each idiom or pattern is given a distinctive name, described with the what/when/why/how and provides examples. Just like Gang of Four, the patterns are appropriately cross referenced. This book is both a great read and a great reference. If you design or make GUI recommendations, you should buy it today!

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O'Reilly
1 edition
November 2005
352 pages

Reviewed by Marc Peabody, January 2006
  (9 of 10)


Your employers may spend millions on the applications and websites you design and they can't afford you screwing up. Ever.

In Designing Interfaces, Jenifer Tidwell presents nearly a hundred "design patterns" to make your interfaces more user friendly without sacrificing creativity. You will immediately recognize many of these patterns, as the author illustrated them with color screenshots from countless popular websites and software applications such as Google, iTunes, and Excel.

The categories of patterns range from human behavior to aesthetics, addressing your needs to make interfaces both familiar and beautiful. Jenifer Tidwell's insight and consideration for user cognition will make this book a shining gem in your personal library.

The author deserves ten horseshoes but the book only received nine because the interior layout designers simply didn't read the book. Its sans serif typeface and dispassionate layout make it difficult to read more than a few pages in a single sitting. The layout of a design book should amplify the author's words, not dismiss them.

Conclusion: Even if you are ugly and difficult to work with, your interfaces don't have to be. Grab a copy of Designing Interfaces and brace yourself for the praise you'll receive from your users.

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C++ Cookbook
by D. Ryan Stephens, Christopher Diggins, Jonathan Turkanis, Jeff Cogswell


O'Reilly
1 edition
November 2005
592 pages

Reviewed by Lasse Koskela, January 2006
  (8 of 10)


I haven't done much professional work with C++ and I've stayed away from doing anything really difficult with it outside work as well. To my delight, I found "C++ Cookbook" to be rather easily approachable even with a weaker command of the intricacies of the language. I wouldn't say that knowledge just absorbed from the pages to my head but the authors also didn't make it any harder than necessary.

The book starts with a quite thorough coverage of a topic I was surprised to see in a book with this title--building C++ applications. The authors spend some 90 pages for showing how to build libraries and applications from the command line (with seven different compiler toolsets!), and using both Boost.Build as well as GNU make build tools. Those 90 pages effectively make up chapter 1.

In part due to the authors covering so many compilers and platforms, the beginning of the book gives me a bit "shattered" perception. Even though I did get the first compilation examples working (with GCC on Linux), my patience simply stopped with Boost.Build which seems quite interesting on the surface but was pure hell to get working purely based on the examples in the book. Even though the discussion following each recipe does contain a lot of useful information, really explaining some things rather well, I'd perhaps still suggest learning this kind of basics from a dedicated textbook rather than from a "cookbook" like this one.

The rest of the book's 15 chapters take on a bit more specific topics and show how to tackle certain common problems or tasks--the usual Cookbook style stuff. What's perhaps more interesting about these chapters is how well the problems the authors have captured match the problems the reader is facing. From my perspective, they've done a pretty good job. Instead of showing off how to parse custom syntax into an abstract syntax tree, the authors have picked real world topics such as how to randomly shuffle data.

Even as an inexperienced C++ programmer, I could tell that there would've been a lot more ground to cover about organizing your code, for example, as well as about algorithms, internationalization, and XML. Having said that, the bits that the authors have chosen to deal with within the constraints of the page count seem quite appropriate from my perspective. Furthermore, as a reader I wouldn't expect a general cookbook to cover everything under the Sun but to focus on the most common problems. All in all, quite a good reference for a beginning C++ programmer.

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Beginning Perl Web Development
by Steve Suehring


Apress
1 edition
November 2005
376 pages

Reviewed by Madhav Lakkapragada, February 2006
  (9 of 10)


I do love this book. The narration is excellent -- simple, precise explanation for the beginner yet if you are an experienced Perl developer and just don't remember the syntax its explained so precisely.

Its been a long time that I read a book that is so simple yet so much on the mark. The author takes great care in explaining the Perl and the CGI modules and then introduces powerful concepts like Database connectivity (try reading a JDBC book and comparing the concepts) and then into SOAP/XML. The book also explains various web modules (request, response, cookies etc etc), on which I did not spend a lot of time.

Other topics (again I did not spend a lot of time in these topics either) covered in this book relate to Email, TCP/DNS modules, the Apache mod_perl tools and dynamic web page creation using the Mason module and use of Templates.

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Hello World(s)
by Sun Microsystems


Prentice Hall PTR
1 edition
October 2005
96 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, December 2005
  (8 of 10)


"Hello Worlds" celebrates Java turning 10. With special paper and pictures galore, the book walks through the history of Java.

This is not a technical book and reads like the story it is. Cute anecdotes are included from the programming language's conception to launch to present day. There's even a post-it note with how the name Java was picked. And of course, Duke -- the Java mascot -- is in there.

The book takes less than an hour to read, but makes a nice commemorative item. It also makes a great holiday stocking stuffer in the $20 range. I know I enjoyed reading about the origins of Java.

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Blackberry Hacks
by Dave Mabe


O'Reilly
1 edition
October 2005
328 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, January 2006
  (9 of 10)


I've read a few books from the "Hacks" series and I'm a big fan. This addition is no different, it's a lot of fun.

As usual it has a collection of well covered items aimed at the beginner, moderate and expert users, but regardless of your experience level there is enough information available to give any of the tips a try. Expert users may even find some gems in the beginners entries!

I was particularly impressed that the book didn't limit itself to just operation on the Blackberry hand-held devices, it also gives tips on integrating it with you desktop and other ways to extend the functionality and get full use out of the device. Possibly of less use is the section covering development for the Blackberry and some of the specifics about the BES and MDS servers, but some of the tips mentioned are of great use to developers and I would recommend the book to them too. Other readers may also appreciate this look under the covers.

"Blackberry Hacks" doesn't stray from the standard "Hacks" formula, so it can be skimmed easily in an afternoon or so, but the projects will keep you busy for a long while, and you'll also have problems holding onto this book due to the people who will be trying to borrow it. This one is a great resource for jump starting your Blackberry usage and getting all you can from the gadget.

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TCP/IP Guide: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Internet Protocols Reference
by Charles M. Kozierok


No Starch Press
1 edition
October 2005
1616 pages

Reviewed by Michael Ernest, January 2006
  (9 of 10)


This guide is a mind-boggling contribution to understanding and applying TCP/IP protocols to network administration. I can only imagine an author going on writing binges for weeks at a time, writing down key points and insights.

This is truly impressive work. It is comprehensive and readable. I taught a network administration course two weeks ago for the first time in a while, and found this book and excellent review for topics I don't routinely cover. Several of the explanations were so useful I simply incorporated them into my teaching plan.

There's enough tabling and reference diagrams to keep the text from getting gray and dull, but still a seemingly tireless amount of factual, well-annotated information.

It's also a massive book, so no, I did not read it front to back. I did however pick on spot topics where many guides are often weak. In this case, I looked very closely at the sections on the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), Troubleshooting (the key tool on both Windows and Unix is addressed!), and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). In all three cases I found my time well-spent.

It's also a mother of a doorstop, at 1500+ pages. You won't be moving it around much. But you might find yourself happy to go to wherever you keep this book.

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Beginning Python: From Novice to Professional
by Magnus Lie Hetland


Apress
1 edition
September 2005
640 pages

Reviewed by Ernest Friedman-Hill, March 2006
  (8 of 10)


The Python language is named after the famed "Monty Python" comedy troupe. This book takes these origins to heart, using Monty Python quotes as a framework on which to build a quirky, fun Python language tutorial.

Apart from the idiosyncratic humor, the structure of the book is fairly conventional, with a quick start followed by some language chapters, a few chapters on objects, a chapter on exceptions, a chapter on testing, and one on GUIs. The second half of the book is a series of tutorial projects. As with many books of this type, the neat division into chapters leaves the language presentation a little fragmented at times.

I liked the format of the project chapters. There are clearly marked sections containing motivation and prerequisites, so that the reader understands the intent of each project before reading further. Many of the projects are developed iteratively, and the distinct iterations are again marked with large headings, making it easy to follow the progress of the project.

If you're interested in learning the Python language and appreciate Monty Python's brand of humor, you'll enjoy this book.

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Apress
1 edition
September 2005
640 pages

Reviewed by Gregg Bolinger, January 2006
  (10 of 10)


I could write about how Apress has a knack for publishing great books by great authors. I could write about how "Beginning Python" is one of my favorite books so far, and not just on Python. I could write about how Magnus Lie Hetland does a wonderful job of introducing the reader to the Python language. I could write about how "Beginning Python" is one of the few books that actually delves into as many possible uses for the Python language from simple lists and string manipulation to GUI's to web development. Believe it or not, with all the great content in this book, the best is yet to come.

Starting with Chapter 20 "Beginning Python" takes the reader through ten (10) complete projects start to finish including two versions of a file sharing application (version two adds a GUI) and a small game. The best way to showcase the power of a language is to show it in action. Magnus does just that with these project chapters. And it makes the book fun. It makes Python fun. It makes learning fun.

For anyone wanting to learn Python or for a Python developer that wants to expand their knowledge and increase their productivity and find new uses for a great language, "Beginning Python" is a must have. It's definitely one of my top five (5) favorite programming books.

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Ambient Findability
by Peter Morville


O'Reilly
1 edition
September 2005
204 pages

Reviewed by John Wetherbie, January 2006
  (3 of 10)


The back cover description of Ambient Findability begins with the following paragraph:

How do people find their way through an age of information overload? How can people combine streams of complex information to filter out only the parts they want? Why does it matter how information is structured when Google seems to magically bring up the right answer to people's questions?

If you expect these questions to be answered or even addressed at a reasonable level of detail then you will be disappointed. Ambient Findability is more like a collection of essays related to findability than a book about how to improve the design and implementation of products, information, web sites, etc., to make them easier to find.

The book does have a great number of references to interesting research and trends in the areas of information architecture, cognitive science, usability, and related areas. In fact, the number of references is the book's main strength.

O'Reilly categorized Ambient Findability as a Marketing/Technology & Society book. The Technology & Society part strikes me as correct but I am not so sure about Marketing. If you are looking for markers or pointers to how information may be used in the future then this is an interesting book to read. If you are looking for concrete suggestions or discussions of how to improve findability in the here and now then this book is lacking.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review.

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PHP 5 Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach
by Babin Good, Kromann Stephens


Apress
1 edition
September 2005
672 pages

Reviewed by Michael Ernest, January 2006
  (8 of 10)


Man do I like the 'problem-solution' approach. When I can go directly to a question I have and find some sample code, I'm a pretty happy reader. The only way a book fails for me is when it doesn't cover my question. And when a book doesn't, typically it's because my questions are beginner or general types.

So I went at this book with a load of questions I dreamt up first that were all basic or standard to me: dealing with dates, strings, file uploading, regular expressions, and -- much as I hate to admit it -- XML crap. In each case I found a useful something in this book, simply presented and simply explained.

Maybe because I recently reviewed a TCP/IP reference and a comprehensive guide on lightweight J2EE persistence, I'm all happy for something easy to read and apply. I used some of these scripts and saw the results on my own web server immediately. That was fun.

A serious web developer will possibly find this guide trivial. Don't come to it with stuff no one else seems to have figured out. If you want some quick and not-so-dirty PHP sutff, though, this book is perfect.

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Nokia Smartphone Hacks
by Michael Junato Yuan


O'Reilly
1 edition
July 2005
406 pages

Reviewed by Mark Spritzler, August 2005
  (10 of 10)


First let me say that it is difficult to stay objective when reviewing a friend's book. But luckily for me this book deserves 10 horseshoes objectively and 20 horseshoes subjectively.

Nokia Smartphone Hacks by Michael Yuan is the user's manual that should have been given out with each Nokia Series 40 and Series 60 cell phone. How many books are like this out in the market? None. You can go out and spend hundreds of dollars on that cool new cell phone with the great camera and all these bells and whistles, but most of use just use a small percentage of those features. And for those features that aren't even advertised, forget about it. But with this book you will become the power user of all power users. I even went around my office asking who owned Nokia phones and showed off the book to them, and they were jealous.

You will learn how to protect your phone from viruses, unlock your phone, create your own mobile portal for an actual enjoyable web experience on a cell phone, control your Powerpoint slide presentation on your laptop, play DVDs on your phone, create your own themes, rss feeds, reading blogs, posting to your blog. And that isn't even scratching the surface. Do you know how many Google searches you would have to do just to get half of this information?

If you own a Nokia Series 40 or Series 60 phone, just buy this book.

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Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed
by John Ray, William C. Ray


Sams
fourth edition
July 2005
1560 pages

Reviewed by Lasse Koskela, August 2005
  (9 of 10)


An "ultimate reference" type of bible for an operating system must be one of the most difficult books to get "right" simply because the volume of potential topics and details to cover is enormous and yet the skill level and knowledge of the reader varies significantly. From the perspective of a long time Windows and Linux user who's about to make the switch for personal (geek) use, I was delighted to realize that the Ray brothers have done a pretty good job at hitting my sweet spot.

This 1400-page tome is split to seven parts and nearly 30 chapters. The first chapters introduce the desktop and some of the basic applications and utilities like the Safari web browser, Mail, iChat, the Spotlight search utility, and so forth. Very basic stuff, explained quite nicely with a couple of screenshots here and there. For me, these introductory chapters had a pretty good match for my preferred verbosity level, although I did tend to start skipping pages with a superficial glance on parts I would probably not be using all that much. The first part ends with a chapter dedicated to the new Automator utility for scripting OS X applications with the AppleScript language. I did feel like I would need some kind of a command reference in addition to the chapter, but it does a good job in getting past the steepest part of the learning curve.

The second part talks about hardware. Starting from how to calibrate your display, the authors describe how to configure your accessories like keyboards, mice, Bluetooth devices, digital cameras, and such--as well as some less ubiquitous devices such as redundant disk arrays. It's mostly screenshots after screenshots and very understandable. I'm tempted to believe my mother could manage with these instructions. The chapter on printer setup is a lot less graphical (which isn't a surprise, really) as it talks about the various print settings and the CUPS printing system in detail, using the web interface for configuring printers. Networking, a topic near and dear to any geek, is also covered in the second part. Again, the authors have provided plenty of screenshots as everything is configured through wizards. I would've preferred more focus on networking, such as on the low-level tools available for determining what's wrong when "the Internet is broken", as well as a bit more instructions on how to configure the built-in firewall. The part finishes with a brief chapter on user management and basic security features like the FileVault.
Speaking of low-level tools, part IV is completely dedicated to all the UNIX (BSD) stuff. File permissions, moving in the file system, inspecting running processes, and so forth. These chapters are written for someone not familiar with the UNIX shell and file system but there are some utilities that I at least wasn't aware of, such as the pushd and popd commands, for example. For a UNIX-newbie, these chapters are probably an excellent introduction. An especially useful piece is the introduction to text editors vi, emacs, and nano--I could imagine a reader unfamiliar with UNIX being a bit lost trying to figure out how to edit a file from the terminal. This part also talks about dealing with printers using command-line tools such as lpr and lpadmin. All in all, the whole of part IV is excellent material if you're new to the UNIX command-line or feel like getting some brushup before getting down to business. One specific aspect that surprised me (positively) was that the authors included material on installing software from the command-line all the way from downloading packages with lynx to building from source using configure and make, not to mention installing and using fink--an apt-get/yum/up2date look-a-like package manager for OS X. I also feel I should mention that the authors have really provided more help than just "first type ./configure, then make, and then make install"--they actually tackle common issues like installation locations. Having said that, I did find it odd that the authors would describe the use of GDB (debugger) in this context...

Part 5 continues the UNIX theme by diving deeper into shell scripting, starting and stopping services manually and upon startup, locating configuration files, and so on. This is all good stuff and well explained (although I'm sure my mother wouldn't quite grok xinetd services without some more help). To finish part V, the X Window System (including the use of remote X11 sessions) is mentioned in passing as well as the Perl and Python scripting languages. A bit odd choices, perhaps. I would've probably left these out in favor of less weight.

Part 6, taking up a hefty 350 pages, is dedicated to configuring a MySQL database server, an Apache web server, an FTP server, a mail server, setting up remote access, and interoperating with Windows file shares using Samba as well as mounting and sharing NFS shares on Tiger itself. The remote access part shows not only how to use familiar tools like ssh, scp, and telnet, but also how to manage public and private keys for certificate based authentication. These topics are covered very nicely as basic tutorials with everything included that's necessary to get started although a lot of space is used for superficially mentioning, for example, how to compile some exotic Apache module. Again, something I would've personally preferred left out completely--just like the whole chapter on programming web applications with Perl and PHP. On the positive side, the chapter showing how to set up the open source Darwin Streaming Server is definitely of assistance when you're in need of streaming QuickTime movies from your OS X powered web server. Similarly, I was delighted to see instructions for configuring SpamAssassin along with the mail server.

The final part starts off by introducing a couple of essential networking diagnostics tools such as traceroute, ping, and lookup. From there, the discussion moves to network security, firewalls, intrusion detection, and some routines with which to avoid the worst case scenario of someone taking over your machine. One essential routine is, of course, regular backups and the authors show a couple of different ways of taking backups of your data.

I haven't yet mentioned one of the most important things SAMS has done right with this book--the binding. You can actually lay the book down next to your keyboard without losing the page every 15 seconds (with the rather obvious exception of the 25 or so first and last openings of the book). Well done indeed. I am definitely happy with this book as my guide to the world of OS X. There's the necessary visual quickstart stuff for getting going with the OS X user interface, and there's the nitty gritty low-level stuff for the inner geek. The only reason why I'm not giving it a full rating is because I felt there was too much "extra" that doesn't really belong into a book about an operating system.

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Spring into PHP 5
by Steven Holzner


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
April 2005
360 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, August 2005
  (9 of 10)


"Spring into PHP 5" is a good book for those new to programming. Readers need a very basic knowledge of HTML. Anything intermediate, like forms, is explained. Programmers (especially those who know Perl) can still learn PHP from this book since each section is clearly marked. They should just be prepared to skim a lot.

Books in this series consist of one to two page "chunks" grouped into chapters. Each chunk builds on previous ones, which provides for a nice flow. The chunks make it easy to understand what readers should get out of each section. Each chunk contains examples to apply these concepts. Many chunks also include screenshots of the input/output.

I found the book to be very clear. The appendices provide an excellent language reference. My only real complaint is that the book could use some best practices. Especially on when not to use a language features. All in all, the book is WYSIWYG. It lets you "spring into PHP" and get started very quickly.

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Data Crunching: Solving Everyday Problems Using Java, Python, and More
by Greg Wilson


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition
April 2005
176 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, July 2005
  (9 of 10)


There exists a set of tasks common to every software developer independent of the type of application developed and the language used. Concisely presenting these tasks to the new developer has always been a problem without burying the hapless soul under a pile of thick texts. The Pragmatic Bookshelf attempts to remedy this situation by giving the developer the knowledge they need to get the job done in a concise and, well, pragmatic format. One of the latest offerings in this outstanding series is "Data Crunching: Solving Everyday Problems Using Java, Python, and More" by Greg Wilson.

The core of programming comes down to data manipulation. This may be parsing XML, reformatting text data, searching a database, or any other number of a host of tasks. Typically, figuring out how to do each of these would require digesting several books in order to just get to the nuts and bolts of simple operations. "Data Crunching" fills this hole by concisely presenting the minimum amount of information required to get the job done. Just the information you need to know to get rolling, without all the fluff.

There are chapters on manipulating text files, XML documents, binary data, and relational databases. Included is a nice chapter on regular expressions, as well as a chapter on various "glue" topics relevant to solving data manipulation problems. Each chapter examines the tools and methods used to successfully manipulate the format of data being discussed. The examples used, and the book is chock full of them, are practical and relevant to the problems most often faced by developers. The examples are clearly illustrated and easy to follow.

Wilson does a fine job of presenting things in the "pragmatic" style that readers familiar with other books in the series have come to know. Each chapter stands well on its own, so the book may be used as a reference, although it's concise and a pleasant enough read that it's also worth reading through once. Great for the new developer who hasn't yet gotten his feet wet with data manipulation, yet also a nice reference for those who have been around the block a bit more, "Data Crunching" makes a fine addition to the Pragmatic series and is definitely worth having on the bookshelf.

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RFID Field Guide : Deploying Radio Frequency Identification Systems
by Manish Bhuptani, Shahram Moradpour


Prentice Hall PTR
1 edition
February 2005
288 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, April 2005
  (9 of 10)


"RFID Field Guide" is an excellent book for an organization thinking about or starting a Radio Frequency Identification initiative. Unlike most books aimed at both business and technical readers, this one really is good for both. The authors don't assume a background of either, yet don't bore you with basics. The book provides a common language for business analysts and techies on a RFID project.

The authors clearly explain the components and relevant history of RFID. Real life examples and lessons learned are highlighted throughout. The Wal-Mart and DoD mandates are frequently referred to for suppliers. Diverse examples and case studies are also included. Security, privacy and trends are discussed. The book does not attempt to evaluate the constantly changing vendors and instead stores a omprehensive and up to date version online.

The only purely technical part of the book is an appendix, which describes the EPCglobal standard. Sun endorsed the book so it shoes the ties to XML and Java. Cattle tagging is one of the examples, appropriate to JavaRanch. I highly recommend this book to get business users an IT on the same page at the beginning of an RFID project.

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Hardening Linux
by James Turnbull


Apress
1 edition
February 2005
584 pages

Reviewed by Lasse Koskela, June 2005
  (10 of 10)


I haven't run a Linux box since 2002. Some time ago, realizing that I'd soon have a chance to migrate to using Linux for everyday work, I decided I should start refreshing my *NIX commands and shell scripting. Then, I saw "Hardening Linux". Rather spontaneously, I decided to start with this security-focused title instead of the perhaps more intuitive path of installing the latest distro, setting up a bunch of daemons, installing databases, etc. That proved to be an excellent decision. "Hardening Linux" is not a small book. Yet, I read the 500 pages more or less cover to cover. Even though we're talking about a book of which purpose is to help you to secure your Linux server, I felt like I learned more about Linux reading this book than I've learned during the last year at work.

Turnbull kick starts the book by explaining user and group management, basics of the Linux file system security, how to verify downloaded packages, which tools and packages you probably should remove from a production server. By page 50, he had also shown how to compile your kernel with security flags and the Openwall project.

After the rather intense first chapter, the rest of the book's chapters each focus on a certain aspect of a system or a specific product, showing how to secure your system from that particular perspective. Most of these chapters are really top-notch compared to most of the online material I've resorted to in the past. For example, Turnbull presents the most intuitive tutorial on configuring the iptables firewall I've seen so far.

Another excellent description is the chapter on file system security. In my experience, the majority of developers dealing with Linux -- myself included -- don't really know much about Linux file system security beyond the basic file permission attributes. Thanks to chapter 4, I know twice as much about what's possible and what to look out for with regards to file permissions and ownership, and all those mysterious "special" characters that don't have to do with the basic read-write-execute stuff.

The author also covers the topics of syslog (and syslog-ng), secure remote connections (including SSL/TLS and SSH among other things), and gives a broad overview of common security analysis tools such as NMAP, Nessus, Ethereal, and tcpdump. Beyond those I already mentioned, Turnbull has written excellent chapters explaining how to secure your email servers (both sendmail and postfix), putting your FTP server into a chroot jail, and how to set up your DNS server and protect yourself from common attacks such as cache poisoning.

All in all, an excellent book on not just Linux security but also on Linux fundamentals. Highly recommended reading if you're running a Linux box you wouldn't want getting "0wn3d."

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PHP 5 Objects, Patterns, and Practice
by Matt Zandstra


Apress
1 edition
December 2004
438 pages

Reviewed by Lasse Koskela, March 2005
  (8 of 10)


I haven't read a book on PHP in ages. In fact, I haven't programmed in PHP since 2001. With this in mind, I can say that Matt Zandstra's "PHP 5 Objects, Patterns, and Practice" was a very approachable introduction to what the latest version of the PHP platform has to offer to an OO developer from the Java scene.

The book is split to three main sections: objects, patterns, practice. The first section runs through the new object-oriented features of PHP 5, the second sections introduces design patterns and includes a catalog of some of the more common patterns from the original Gang of Four patterns as well as from "Core J2EE Patterns". The third section is a set of tutorials on tools and assets that a modern day PHP developer really should know about and make use of: the PEAR installation tool, PhpDocumentor, and the Phing build tool. The author also squeezed in a bit about the PHPUnit2 library for unit testing PHP code which I especially appreciated.

The design patterns catalog is far from comprehensive, covering only a small subset of published design patterns in the Java/.NET camps, but serves its purpose alright. Every included pattern is illustrated with an example that the author has crafted for the PHP context - in other words, these are not just direct ports from their Java equivalents, for example.

While being an easy read, Zandstra's introduction to the object-oriented features is, I believe, perfectly adequate to get started with object-oriented PHP programming. Combined with the discussion about design patterns, the book feels like a valuable asset for getting up to speed after a break. A more up-to-date PHP developer might find the information a bit lacking but for someone new to PHP 5's object-oriented features, this is a good package to get started with.

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SSL VPN - Understanding, evaluating and planning secure, web-based remote access
by J. Steinberg, T. Speed


Packt Publishing
1 edition
December 2004
212 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, August 2005
  (9 of 10)


"SSL VPN - Understanding, evaluating and planning secure, web-based remote access" - the only thing wordy about this book is its title. The rest of the book delivers information clearly and concisely through text, diagrams and examples. "Hacker Bob" animates key passages to keep things from getting dry.

As expected, the audience for this book is techies. Basic network concepts are explained, so anyone with a technical background will understand. Any network fundamentals quickly lead to SSL VPN applications.

The authors are good about explaining "why" and providing the pros/cons of a decision. Key criteria are also provided for both technical and business decisions. I found one of the most valuable parts to be about bad architectures. The authors illustrate several common architectures and point out weaknesses. The focus on diagrams and flow was quite useful.

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From Bash to Z Shell: Conquering the Command Line
by Oliver Kiddle, Jerry Peek, Peter Stephenson


Apress
1 edition
November 2004
472 pages

Reviewed by Ernest Friedman-Hill, November 2004
  (9 of 10)


The command line was introduced with the first interactive computers, Whereas GUIs are pretty and convenient for many tasks, power users know that only a command line lets you tell a computer exactly what to do. "From Bash to Z Shell" wants to let everybody in on this secret, and it meets its goal admirably.

"From Bash to Z Shell" assumes little about the reader's experience with computers. The first chapters introduce the concept of a command shell and the UNIX philosophy. Don't worry, though, because examples throughout the book show bash and zsh running on Windows. These first few chapters look at the C shell as well as the eponymous shells.

The middle chapters each explore a single important concept like command editing, completion, pattern matching, redirection, and process management. Special features of bash and zsh are introduced in context. I can't stress enough how useful these chapters are: the manual pages for these shells are large but still terse and cryptic. This book manages to provide a conceptual framework into which all of its useful tidbits can be organized and absorbed.

The last few chapters look at scripting: both full blown programs and smaller chunks of shell-customization code. Again, the material here is invaluable: you're not going to get it from the manual pages!

If you work on UNIX systems, or if you'd like to make your Windows environment vastly more powerful, you need this book. I strongly recommend it.

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Knoppix Hacks
by Kyle Rankin


O'Reilly
unknown edition
October 2004
336 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, May 2005
  (8 of 10)


This book is partly Knoppix specific hacks, partly more generic Linux tips, however the real value are the tips showing how Knoppix can be used as a tool.

The Knoppix-specific hacks are useful but only valuable if you use Knoppix all the time, which is not as crazy an idea as it sounds if you look at some of the hacks listed. Don't discount these tips though, many of them are necessary for the later ones. Similarly the Linux tips are helpful but are quite easy to find with an internet search.

The first time I used Knoppix was to recover data from a failed harddrive, another tip in the book, and I've been a fan since. I've also tried couple of other recovery tips with moderate success - when I mess up a filesystem, I do it properly! The other tips of this nature, such as using Knoppix as a tool for action in emergencies or when the system is in danger, are the real cream in the book. In situations it is possible to use other tools to perform some of the tasks, but Knoppix is a one stop shop.

You may not get value from every tip in the book, but there is enough help and variety that you will still find a list of uses, and you may find enough value to make it worth keeping a Knoppix book disk - and a copy of this book - on hand at all times.

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PC Hacks
by Jim Aspinwall


O'Reilly
1 edition
October 2004
304 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, May 2005
  (10 of 10)


What a beautiful little book! It will only take you a day or two to read, and more importantly, give you a dozen projects you'll be dying to try out. Personally I found about ten I intend to use, twenty I'd like to try, and ten more I wish I'd known about years ago.

The tips include hacks for the BIOS, hardware and the operating system. Some of the tips relate to very old hardware or operating systems, but this is fine since there aren't that many of these tips. The OS tips tend to relate mostly to flavours of windows, but there are enough Linux tips to still make it a worth while read.

Each tip is written in a concise format which provides plenty of information without being long winded, making the book easy to browse and use.

If the last chapter, covering configuring a new computer (anti-virus, malware and firewalls) was first, I'd recommend this book to be distributed with any new computer. Regardless, this is a great book that anyone will get value from.

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Programming Ruby
by Dave Thomas, Chad Fowler, Andy Hunt


Pragmatic Bookshelf
second edition
October 2004
829 pages

Reviewed by Lasse Koskela, November 2004
  (9 of 10)


This was another book that I picked up with the expectation that it would introduce me to a whole new programming language. It did. And it did it well. The overall quality of the writing is top notch and the pragmatic approach simply works. Not too much memorizing the language syntax, not too much talk about the history of computers. Instead, the book jumps to the Ruby world head on.

So I just said "not too much memorizing the language syntax". What does that mean? Well, the first part of the book does indeed teach the reader to write syntactically correct Ruby code. However, the way it accomplishes this is not by focusing on the syntax but on the function behind the syntax. Also, the authors have paced the chapters so that you won't be spending too long a time reading about some single specific thing. For me, this approach fits like an old glove. I usually read books in short sprints, be it in a bathtub, a bus, or in bed. Having said that, I do believe that you can get the most out of this book by alternating with reading the book and the interactive Ruby interpreter. There is a downside to the fast pace, though. At times, a specific chapter doesn't quite give you the kind of sense of belonging as the others around it do.

Looking at the wide range of topics listed in the table of contents, the book definitely looks like it covers everything under the Sun. Some of the topics got me panting, almost. Developing web applications with Ruby (one of my motivations behind deciding to read the book in the first place) and unit testing Ruby classes, for example, were topics that I was a bit disappointed about not getting more focus.

Another thing I didn't like too much is the size. At 800+ pages, you're not likely to carry this book around with you. I would've personally preferred putting the 300-page the language/API reference online and left it out from the hardcopy. With the size thing out of my way, I have to admit that the reference certainly looks great compared to what I've seen in most Java books, for example.

All in all, I'm confident that this is one of the best Ruby books out there if not the best, even. Regardless of the few gripes I listed above, there's more than enough absolute gems hidden within these covers. I am certain you won't have second thoughts picking this one to get started on your Ruby way.

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Beginning Perl
by James Lee


Apress
second edition
August 2004
464 pages

Reviewed by Mark Spritzler, November 2004
  (8 of 10)


Let me start off by saying that I came to this book with no experience with Perl.

In James Lee's book, he covers all the basics, from setting up Perl, Data Types, Control Flow, Arrays, Regular Expressions, and CGI to name a few.

The book covers all the topics thoroughly. You will be able to code Perl when you complete this book. The toughest part about the book is that it is a slow read. The best part about this book, is that there are great examples, and projects assigned after each chapter to help you really understand and remember how to code in Perl. It presents the topics in a comprehensible language, that beginners can actually learn Perl without being overwhelmed.

If you haven't looked into Perl, or just would like to learn it, this is a very good book to get. If you are patient and get over the slow read, you will come out of this with great knowledge of Perl. I recommend it.

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The Definitive Guide to Linux Network Programming
by Keir Davis, John W. Turner, Nathan Yocom


Apress
1 edition
August 2004
400 pages

Reviewed by Derek Anderson, September 2004
  (8 of 10)


To provide a context, I intended to review this book for my own personal enjoyment and for consideration as a supplemental text for an undergraduate college course, production languages, which I teach in C and C++. I was happy overall with this book, so I will start with the pros. This book is great for beginners and I believe that I will recommend it for those that are still developing a programming foundation. I feel that the book reads well, provides nice definitions, has good organization, and is nicely complemented through ok examples and implementation.

On the other not so positive side, I failed to see the 'definitive' word that the title included. The authors make reference to how this book is a blend of theory and implementation, which turns out to be no real theory but rather just domain and background information mixed in with syntax, libraries, and code examples. I saw little 'code tips', but never felt that I directly learned from these 'experts'. This is not a bad thing, but 'experts' and 'moderately experienced' network programmers will more then likely pick nothing up from this book. I feel that the majority of this book is just a summarization of information I have found on the WWW, but put together in one nice and convenient package that I will keep on the shelf as a reference manual.

In summary, this book will bring any beginner up to speed and it will be worth the price they are asking.

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Seeing Data: Designing User Interfaces for Database Systems Using .NET
by Rebecca M. Riordan


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
July 2004
544 pages

Reviewed by Eric Pascarello, October 2004
  (9 of 10)


Seeing Data: Designing User Interfaces for Database Systems Using .NET is a must-have if you are having trouble implementing a User Interface (UI) for your application. Riordan explains in great detail all of the major aspects of UI programming, from the basics of what fonts and colors to use, to handling data.

Riordan discusses Windows forms development in her examples. I personally do not use Windows forms, but after reading Riordan's book, I found the concepts to be extremely useful. I plan on applying the core principles that this book expresses to increase the usability of my applications.

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Dive Into Python
by Mark Pilgrim


Apress
1 edition
July 2004
413 pages

Reviewed by Lasse Koskela, September 2004
  (9 of 10)


This was my first foray into Python. That is, beyond what I had picked up from random articles on the Web over the years. As a complete newbie to the language, I most certainly valued the approach employed and I constantly had those little thoughts like "this is the way a programming language should be taught".

Now what is this approach I'm praising here? In short, it's the good ol' get-your-hands-dirty-quick method of diving head first into actual, meaningful code to figure out what it does, why it works, and thereby figuring out new language features a couple at a time. For example, on page 11 you don't get a list of reserved words in Python or a brief history of how one programming language lead to another, but instead you get a code listing for a little program that takes a dictionary and constructs an ODBC connection string out of it. Simple? Yes, but much more interesting than seeing the syntax for a for-loop. Throughout the book, Pilgrim shows you how to use Python in parsing strings, processing XML, evaluating regular expressions, calling web services, and what not.

"Dive Into Python" is not a reference you can turn to with any Python question imaginable. Instead, it's a very effective tutorial and overview of what (and how) you can do with Python.

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InstallAnywhere Tutorial and Reference
by Zero G Team


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
July 2004
304 pages

Reviewed by Thomas Paul, October 2004
  (8 of 10)


This book is an excellent guide to using InstallAnywhere no matter which platform you are running or how much experience you have with the product. This is the kind of documentation that you wish that the company would provide especially when you consider the price of the software. According to the introduction, the book was produced from the handouts that Zero G had produced for their three day InstallAnywhere course.

The book starts with a quick introduction and some screen shots showing what running an installer would look like from a customer's point of view. The authors next show a simple example of building an installer. Unfortunately, and this remains true for the rest of the book, no screen shots are included. This means that you must be running the software to take full advantage of the book. No reading this book in the bathtub. The book works well as both a tutorial and reference guide. The authors take you step by step through an exercise explaining each of the options even if they aren't used in this exercise. The instructions for each exercise are very clear. The use of the product is clearly explained while you are using it, which makes the learning "stick".

The book covers everything from the most basic installer all the way up to writing your own custom plug-ins. If you are interested in taking full advantage of the InstallAnywhere software and don't want to spend the money for three days of training, then this book is for you.

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Beginning PHP 5 and MySQL From Novice to Professional
by W. Jason Gilmore


Apress
1 edition
June 2004
800 pages

Reviewed by Gregg Bolinger, September 2004
  (10 of 10)


I can summarize this review in nine words. If you want to learn PHP, buy this book. But that wouldn't be much of a review now would it. Jason Gilmore starts this book the way most beginner's books start; with some history. But hold on tight because it doesn't take long before your hands start getting dirty.

After the brief history the book jumps right into installing and configuration then blasts right into PHP basic; syntax, tags, data types. Then it's not long before you are writing functions, using arrays, and then one of the most updated features of PHP 5, OOP. The book keeps moving right along into advanced features like error handling, regular expressions, and networking. And just when you think you have learned it all and you couldn't possibly think of anything else you could do with PHP, the book throws MySQL into the mix. By the end of this book you should have no problems writing PHP and MySQL enabled web pages and applications.

This book is a perfect mix of what someone new to PHP needs to know as well as providing advanced material and a reference once you have a grasp of the basics. So to summarize, if you want to learn PHP, buy this book.

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Seeing What's Next
by Clayton M. Christensen, et al


Harvard Business School Press
1 edition
May 2004
312 pages

Reviewed by Valentin Crettaz, June 2005
  (9 of 10)


Having innovative ideas is one thing. Developing, positioning and selling those innovations are completely different matters, which necessitate a sound and well-researched knowledge of the market. How many times have you told yourself "Wow, this is a great thing, I'm pretty sure people need that"? How many times have you realized that the idea you had was not the next big thing anymore because the market changed in unexpected ways and you were incapable of correctly interpreting those stimuli and adapting yourself?

In "Seeing what's next", the authors adopt a highly pragmatic approach and teach you how to use the theories of innovation for listening to the market and its actors in order to correctly interpret and capitalize on the signals it is sending. Using real-world case studies from five large industrial sectors, such as telecommunications and health care, they show you how to decorticate macro and micro facts that happened in the past in order to help you predict how your industry is expected to change in the future, how to come up with highly inventive business models and how you can make your pioneering company become tomorrow's market leader.

Small print for mystic readers: This book is based on sound scientific theories. It is not a crystal ball and it does not provide any stock buy/sell recommendations. This book will help you tune all your senses to the correct frequency for listening to market signals in a productive and static-less way.

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Linux Programming by Example
by Arnold Robbins


Prentice Hall PTR
1 edition
April 2004
720 pages

Reviewed by Ernest Friedman-Hill, July 2004
  (10 of 10)


I loved this book. It's earned an honored place on my bookshelf, and I'm going to recommend it to people who need information about Linux and UNIX development.

Many computer books are practically obsolete before they ship: within a few months, "Learn Foomatic 4.3 in 21 Days" is in the bargain bin at the Dollar Tree. Some books have longer lives, and a few can remain useful for years. "Linux Programming by Example" (LPE) is in this last category; this book can stand alongside Steven's "Advanced UNIX Programming" as an essential tutorial and reference.

LPE covers everything you'd expect (working with files, processes, signals, users) and some things you might not (internationalization). But it's this book's voice and unique perspective that make it truly a gem. LPE is written in a clear, friendly, authoritative style. As I read, I often felt that I had gained a new understanding of things I've known for years.

The long and twisted history of UNIX has given rise to multiple competing APIs. Perhaps the greatest thing about this book is the way that Robbins cuts through these thickets, explaining your choices, pointing out the best alternatives, and explaining why they're the best. LPE's modern vantage point means it can cover V7, BSD, POSIX, and GNU APIs. The chapter on signals alone is worth the purchase price of the book for the way in which it clearly compares and contrasts the various signal APIs.

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Explorer's Guide to the Semantic Web
by Thomas B. Passin


Manning Publications
1 edition
March 2004
300 pages

Reviewed by Thomas Paul, December 2004
  (7 of 10)


The semantic web is a web that can be intelligently used by computers. There are two things you need to know about the semantic web. First, it doesn't exist. Second, it may never exist. If this isn't enough information for you, and you want to look at what the future may hold for an intelligent web, then I can't think of a better way to get an introduction to the technologies that may be part of the semantic web than by reading this book.

The author examines each layer of the semantic web as proposed by the W3C. RDF is the potential meta-data language of the semantic web and the author makes it clear and understandable. The next chapter delves into ontology which is less clearly defined. The chapter on web services seems a bit unnecessary except as how they fit into the semantic web. A chapter on how intelligent agents may work is included. The last section deals with how information may be verified for truthfulness and authenticity.

If you are interested in RDF then you may want this book just for that section. If you are interested in what the semantic web might look like then this book may be of interest. This is an explorer's guide for those wishing to tread into unknown waters. This part of the web is uncharted but this book will help you learn what technologies may be used to fill in the missing pieces of the map.

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Manning Publications
1 edition
March 2004
300 pages

Reviewed by Valentin Crettaz, August 2004
  (9 of 10)


Human beings have been working with the current incarnation of the world wide web for over twenty years now. Over time, the web has evolved from a network of strongly static pages into some highly dynamic and distributed information system. However, most of the information available on the web is targeted exclusively at humans. Computers still have a hard time "understanding" the meaning of information without proper human intervention. This is the gap the Semantic Web initiative is trying to bridge under the leadership of the W3C.

This book provides an excellent exploratory and speculative essay on what the Semantic Web could/will be given the current state of the different technologies that together will help build tomorrow's web. It also features brief, yet attractive and very well written, primers on RDF and topic maps as well as some advanced explorations on web page annotations, ontologies, logic, web services, distributed trusting and software agents.

It is worth noting that this book does not contain any single line of code, merely some RDF excerpts. It is thus specifically targeted at people willing to share the author's futuristic visions on the Semantic Web than hardcore programmers in bad need of a code indigestion. For the latter, the author provides some helpful piece of advice on how to contribute to the Semantic Web movement as well as an extensive list of references to follow if they want to drill down some topics in more depths. Definitely a great reading!!

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Manning Publications
1 edition
March 2004
300 pages

Reviewed by Dirk Schreckmann, August 2004
  (9 of 10)


Curious about the future of the web? Interested for ideas on what the web will be able to do and how it will be doing it? Curious about the technologies being used to develop the semantic web? Looking for ideas from future technologies that you can apply and use today in your applications? Want to know just what the heck the Semantic Web is all about? In easy-to-read, clear, not-over-your-head technical descriptions, Thomas B. Passin's "Explorer's Guide to the Semantic Web" answers those questions, and more.

If the Semantic Web is mostly a new topic for you, as it was for me before reading this book, Passin's book provides a strong base of knowledge and understanding of the emerging Semantic Web concepts and technologies, including describing data with RDF, navigating information with topic maps, annotation, searching, ontology, semantic web services and intelligent agents.

If you're already quite familiar with the Semantic Web and the technologies behind it, while this book might help you to develop a more complete picture of how the technologies and ideas work into the bigger picture, you may prefer a more technical book with larger, more detailed descriptions and examples.

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Data Structures Demystified
by Jim Keogh, Ken Davidson


McGraw-Hill
1 edition
February 2004
300 pages

Reviewed by Matthew Phillips, April 2004
  (4 of 10)


I can't recommend that anyone buy this book. The good aspects of the book are far outweighed by the bad. First the good. Each chapter starts with a plain nglish description of the data structure covered. For the most part, these descriptions are really good. The exception is when both a stack and a queue are described as "first in, first out" data structures. I also like the fact that the code sections of each chapter have a Java version and a C++ version.

Now for the bad. It appears that one author created the diagrams and the other wrote the descriptive text because they often did not match up. It caused a great deal of confusion for me because they were close enough to not disregard all together. Because of this problem the first two chapters were almost unreadable.

If there is a particular data structure that you are confused by, go to your local library or book store and read the first couple of paragraphs of the chapter on that data structure. That may make it easier to understand what you read in your primary text. If you don't know data structures, then you probably won't know them after reading this book either.

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Exploiting Software: How to Break Code
by Greg Hoglund and Gary McGraw


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
February 2004
512 pages

Reviewed by Ernest Friedman-Hill, April 2004
  (6 of 10)


"Exploiting Software" purports to be a book aimed at helping software professionals understand the security risks they face; it uses the pedagogical device of teaching how software can be attacked to achieve the goal of explaining how secure software should be built. Unfortunately, I think it fails both as a guide to building secure software and as a guide to being a black hat hacker.

Most of "Exploiting Software" reads more like a book proposal than a completed work: too detailed in places (do we really need a dozen pages on writing plugins for the IDA Pro Disassembler?), not detailed enough in others, and generally not well organized. Far too often, the reader is simply told that an exploit exists, and is then directed to the original source for details. Worse, the original sources are often white papers, personal web sites, and conference proceedings -- things that are either hard to obtain, unlikely to be available for long, or both. As a result, the reader learns nothing.

The preface to "Exploiting Software" explains that this is a companion volume to "Building Secure Software," written by the same Gary McGraw with another co-author, and this helps to explain the main failings of this book. While the last two chapters, "Buffer overflow" and "Rootkits", are better than the rest -- they provide plenty of concrete details -- two chapters aren't enough to vindicate this fairly shallow work. For $49.99, I expect a book that can stand on its own.

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Professional Portal Development with Open Source Tools
by W. Clay Richardson, Donald Avondolio, Joe Vitale, Peter Len, Kevin T. Smith


Wrox
1 edition
February 2004
456 pages

Reviewed by Thomas Paul, June 2004
  (5 of 10)


There seems to be a new breed of technical cookbook book that involves throwing a lot of different technologies into a stew and hoping that what comes out is flavorful. Unfortunately, the result is more often than not, a less than tasty meal. This book is a prime example. Although it claims to be a guide to portal development using Java, it is mainly a bare bones discussion of lots of open source technologies without tying them together.

The book starts with an introduction to the Java Portlet API. This should be the heart of the book but in 35 pages we get a glance at some aspects of portals and some tables that give us a little on what but virtually nothing on how or why. Thinking that this was simply a quick introduction I wasn't too let down but then the book moves on to short chapters on Lucene, Apache James, Apache OJB, and Jakarta Slide. The book talks about security, planning, JavaScript, deployment, web services, etc. The one thing that is lacking is a feel for how this should all fit together within the Portlet API.

Taking each chapter by itself, some of them are good while others cover little more than the surface of each topic. Overall, the book fails to be a guide to developing a portal using Java. It should be considered as a series of articles dealing with different aspects of portal development but without any real connection.

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Designing Highly Useable Software
by Jeff Cogswell


Sybex
1 edition
February 2004
448 pages

Reviewed by Ernest Friedman-Hill, April 2004
  (5 of 10)


If you've read Alan Cooper's excellent "The Inmates are Running the Asylum", you're familiar with the format of "Designing Highly Useable Software": the main text talks about broad useability issues, while entertaining (or frightening) sidebars pillory the flaws in the design of everyday things. But whereas I sympathized with Cooper, I had trouble identifying with Jeff Cogswell. The sidebars, meant to be amusing, are mostly distracting: they are rarely relevant to the main topic being discussed on the same page. Worse, Cogswell goes much too far in complaining about the difficulty of living in the world around him; the reasonable reader won't recognize himself in these vignettes. Worse still, whenever this book steps away from abstract useability discussions and into coding specifics, technical errors appear that shake the reader's confidence.

I had high hopes for this book. Perversely, I expect slimmer books to be better than fatter ones. At a relatively slim 300+ pages, I looked forward to a good read packed with useful advice. Instead, the book dragged on. The last five or six chapters (on such topics as dynamic libraries, OOP, management, and training -- all with a heavy emphasis on an outdated, waterfall-like development methodology) feel precisely like padding. The first half-dozen alone, with more specific useability advice and fewer suggested implementation details, might have formed the basis of a far better book. But as it stands, I can't recommend this book.

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Ivor Horton's Beginning ANSI C++ The Complete Language
by Ivor Horton


Apress
third edition
January 2004
1120 pages

Reviewed by Gregg Bolinger, March 2004
  (10 of 10)


Three editions and still going strong! Beginning ANSI C++ is a must have for anyone wanting to learn C++ in it's trust form, ANSI style.

This book covers every aspect of ANSI C++ and covers the Standard Template Library. Not only can someone with little to no C++ knowledge learn the language with this book alone, but they can reference this book anytime something seems unclear. Even the seasoned C++ programmer can use this book as a reference.

There are 2 things I liked best about this book.

1. ANSI - The most generic multiplatform compliant C++ possible. Any C++ compiler should be able to compile every example in this book. And that leads me to my next point.

2. Example after example. This book is filled with examples for everything that is explained. So not only do you learn how and why, but then you can see it in action.

I highly recommend this book if you have any desire to learn C++.

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10 Technologies Every Executive Needs to Know
by Dermot McCormack, Fergal O'Byrne


Aspatore Books
1 edition
January 2004
pages

Reviewed by Valentin Crettaz, July 2005
  (8 of 10)


Nowadays, almost all businesses heavily depend on technology for carrying out their everyday chores. According to the pace at which new technologies emerge and current ones become obsolete, it is safe to say that most modern executives have a hard time figuring out which technologies are good for their business and which are not. In order to remedy to this, Dermot McCormack and Fergal O'Byrne have put together a nice and concise summary of the top ten technologies every self-conscious executive should be aware of.

In this book, the authors make an excellent job at giving sense to some obscure buzzwords and at demystifying cutting-edge technologies, such as, web services, nanotechnology, security, grid computing, Linux, RFID, WiFi, XML, CRM, J2EE and .NET. For each topic, the authors provide a detailed summary, a couple of facts to watch out for the future, a top ten cheat sheet for immediate use, a timeline providing an estimation of when the technology will be mature, frequently asked questions as well as a host of useful pieces of information you might need.

If you are an executive without a sound IT background and you find yourself repeatedly yawning in those technical meetings, you should definitely get a copy of this book. Be aware, though, that this book does not go into the gory details of the introduced technologies as its goal is only to give you enough information for assessing whether a given technology may benefit to your business or not.

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The Product Marketing Handbook for Software
by Merrill R. Chapman


Aegis Resources, Inc.
1 edition
2004
645 pages

Reviewed by Valentin Crettaz, September 2004
  (9 of 10)


There is a tremendous amount of books that aim at teaching us how to write good software. However, very few books deal with how to effectively turn a bunch of raw bytes into a full-blown marketable product. Given the nature of software, it is sometimes legitimate to think that software can be easily distributed to a potentially large customer base. In light of this, one might often be tempted to imply that it is easier to sell software than other more conventional products.

Well, don't you believe it!! Software sure is as hard to sell as any other product. But don't worry! Rick Chapman's latest masterpiece will help you figure out the optimal way through the maze of software marketing. This fourth edition of the Handbook has been fully updated with the latest marketing trends. It will show you how to efficiently bring your software to the market while devising the smartest techniques to help you magnetize your customers. This book will provide your marketing staff with the best foundations available by delving into subjects, such as positioning, naming and pricing; sales strategies and promotions; collaterals; advertising; direct and Internet marketing; etc. Aside from the truly exciting case studies, each chapter ends with a comprehensive check list enumerating the main goals of the chapter. Finally, the accompanying CD-ROM contains a complete marketing costs matrix, a sample marketing budget and much more. This marketing bible is a must read if you are in the software business.

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Maintaining and Repairing Laptops
by Scott Mueller


Que
unknown edition
December 2003
912 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, May 2005
  (7 of 10)


This is one of the most misnamed books I've ever read, although "Upgrading and Repairing Laptops" is probably a better title than "Just About Everything Relating To Computer Hardware, Up To And Sometimes Including The Operating System, Focusing On But Not Limited To Laptops". There really is that much information contained in this book.

Unfortunately it is not possible to recommend the book based on the title or the information on the back cover as the 'upgrading' and 'repairing' and to a lesser extent 'laptop' keywords are misleading. It does contain an astounding amount of information of the inner workings of computers, but there is simply too much additional information to say that it is about the topics mentioned. They are more a side note than the main focus. The information constantly refers back to laptops, but again is too far ranging to say that laptops are the primary topic.

That said, the information is broad, concise, structured and obtainable. If you're interested in the deep mysteries of computer hardware this is a great resource including in-depth discussions on processors, motherboards (and chip sets), memory, storage (including CD and DVD media formats) and just about everything else. Just be aware of what the book covers before purchasing it.

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XDoclet in Action
by Craig Walls, Norman Richards


Manning Publications
1 edition
December 2003
600 pages

Reviewed by Ajith Kallambella, December 2003
  (9 of 10)


An invaluable book about an indispensable framework!

Remember your first J2EE Hello World app? Just to make that client work, you had to write the remote and home interfaces, and a deployment descriptor. If you wrote the Web version, add web.xml to your list. Let's not forget those configuration files for your app/web servers. Now, think of a framework that fabricate all the nuts and bolts for you -- generating deployment descriptors, EJB homes, remotes, app server files, struts-config.xml and more. No, you are not day dreaming, XDoclet can do all and more!

Quoting several opportunities that exist for automated code generation, authors introduce XDoclet framework as an indispensable tool that actually works! Focusing on every day J2EE development, chapters in "Enterprise Java" section talk about the application of XDoclet in EJB layer and Web application layer. Following are chapters in the "Other XDoclet applications" category that introduce advance applications such as code generation for persistence frameworks, JMX, SOAP/WebServices and mock objects. The concluding section on "Extending XDoclet" deals with custom code generation and XDoclet patterns.

Abundant practical help and many working examples are offered throughout the book including the process of tool adoption for J2EE efforts that are already underway. The working J2EE application that is included in the book can be used as a reference implementation.

In essence, this book does more than just teaching -- it helps you realize the benefits of XDoclet in days and start saving valuable time and money.

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The Art of UNIX Programming
by Eric S. Raymond


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
October 2003
560 pages

Reviewed by Mark Spritzler, December 2003
  (6 of 10)


This book has the makings of being a classic. However, after the 1st chapter, I found it to be a very difficult read. I have only been able to reach page 192 of 478 pages in almost 4 weeks.

The point of the book is to demonstrate the art of programming through examples in the UNIX world. The zen of programming, if you will. The general idea of teaching important aesthetic and logical principles of programming is a great one. These principles are extremely important and should be a requirement for every computer science major and programmer in the world.

The case studies presented go a long way in demonstrating each principle. However, unless you have an extensive UNIX background, many of them will pass you by. Or, like me, you just might pass by them to get to the next section because you are frustrated by how slow of a read it is.

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eBay Hacks
by David A Karp


O'Reilly
1 edition
August 2003
331 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, November 2003
  (9 of 10)


O'Reilly's "hacks" series continues to impress. I've been buying and selling on eBay for nearly two years now, and have already learned a lot. In the few days it took me to read this book I learned as much again and more. Although split into 100 separate "hacks", this book is surprisingly enjoyable to read from cover to cover, and gives a real sense that the author knows what he is writing about.

The book is 1/3 buying advice and 2/3 selling advice. It's way more than just a user manual. As well as eBay itself, it covers a selection of third party tools and web sites which can help you get the best from your eBay transactions. Learning from the sections on "dealing with disappointment" and "keeping out deadbeats", could mean you can avoid those problems yourself. The tips on how and when to use the eBay "feedback" system are golden. There's even some detailed advice (with perl code) about how to use the "eBay API" from your own software.

If you buy or sell more than one or two things on things on eBay in the next year you really should get this book. It will easily pay for itself in saved time, shipping costs, and stress; it will help you win the items you really want, and it can probably get you better prices too. Go buy it.

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Windows XP Hacks
by Preston Galla


O'Reilly
1 edition
August 2003
412 pages

Reviewed by Dharmendra Sant, October 2003
  (9 of 10)


The book is intended for those of us that prefer to tamper with or 'improve' the basic Windows XP package. I would say that target audience should range from those who are more knowledgeable than just opening Windows Explorer and surfing around to those who are hardcore 'tweak geeks' like myself who just have to find a way to make everything run faster, smoother and with minimal work.

Windows XP Hacks is very well thought out from beginning to end: it takes you from tweaking the start up and boot up screen, to making file surfing easier, to internet usage and finally exploring registry hacking.

The language used in the book never comes across as dry or 'techy', I never felt as though I was being schooled, rather I was being talked with about hacking XP, which promotes user friendliness and immediately puts the novice reader at ease and in a frame of mind to continue reading. The information provided on tweaking XP will initiate someone from entry level to a full fledged tweaker. Hardcore 'geeks' will find some new tidbits of information in the book, but it will benefit the entry level and mid level computer enthusiast the most. The tips are very well explained and some are further enhanced with illustrations which always make things even easier.

All in all, this is a great read and a definite tool for those willing to get down and dirty with Windows XP.

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Tivo Hacks
by Raffi Krikorian


O'Reilly
1 edition
August 2003
278 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, January 2004
  (7 of 10)


Tivo is a software service, coupled with a digital video recorder, which changes the way one watches TV. O'Reilly's "Tivo Hacks", part of their outstanding "Hacks" series, explores how to tinker with these magical little boxes. "Tivo Hacks" follows the same format as the other titles in the "Hacks" series. Each chapter is an enumerated series of tips and tricks that will have your Tivo doing summersaults by the time you're finished going through all of them.

The first two chapters describe hacks which will be of interest to the majority of Tivo owners, with the first chapter explaining a dazzling array of tricks that can be performed using only the remote control, and the second chapter carefully detailing the steps necessary to add more hours to your Tivo. Tivo is essentially a Linux box, and the remaining chapters offer hacks which exploit this fact. The later hacks are definitely for the more technically minded. The author does a fine job throughout in making each hack clear and understandable. If you fancy yourself a bit of a hacker, then after reading this book you should feel comfortable undertaking any of these hacks.

Is this book for you? If you have a Series 2 Tivo, really only the first two chapters are of much interest. The Series 1 boxes are much more "hackable" than the newer Series 2 boxes, and as a result the majority of the rest of the hacks will not work on the Series 2. This book, certainly beyond the first chapter at least, requires a certain level of technical ability, and as such is not for your average Tivo owner. In other words, I probably wouldn't purchase a copy as a gift for Uncle Irwin and Aunt Martha to go along with their shiny new Tivo. On the other hand, if you fit the target audience and want to get the most out of your Tivo, particularly if you want to expand the number of hours in your Tivo, this book will certainly come in handy. While you can certainly find most of the information in this book on the Internet, there is definitely something to be said for having it all in one place so that you may easily flip through it and reference it.

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Amazon Hacks
by Paul Bausch


O'Reilly
1 edition
August 2003
302 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, September 2003
  (9 of 10)


While we all know that Amazon.com is a massive online retailer, it is capable of much more than just helping a customer load up on new DVDs. In fact, learning to effectively use Amazon allows the user to harness an incredible array of information concerning an enormous variety of consumer products. While more intrepid adventurers may be content to machete their way through a jungle of online help documentation, searching for that ever-elusive nugget of information to aid them in their quest, those of us not a part of the "bullwhip and fedora" crowd would prefer to have Amazon's secrets laid bare for us without all the hassle. If you are such a person, then "Amazon Hacks" is the treasure you've been searching for.

"Amazon Hacks" gives the reader the tools to make Amazon work to their advantage. Even if all you ever want to do is make purchases or find product information, there is something in this book for you. The more-than-casual Amazon user will want to make use of Amazon's community features, and once again this book shows how to get the most out of these. If you wish to sell something on Amazon, or if you are an Amazon associate, then the information in this book is a goldmine. For web application developers, Amazon Hacks discusses Amazon's Web Services API, allowing them to leverage Amazon's database for their own applications.

I would have liked to see more information about how Amazon's recommender systems work, and I would have liked to see some acknowledgement of Java in the numerous code examples, but these are minor quibbles. If you are seeking to bend Amazon.com to your will and force it to do your bidding, there really is no better place to start than "Amazon Hacks".

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Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture - From Geek to Chic
by Brad King, John Borland


McGraw-Hill
1 edition
August 2003
273 pages

Reviewed by Nathan Pruett, October 2003
  (6 of 10)


Dungeons and Dreamers takes us on a nostalgic ride through the evolution of computer games and computer gaming. The foundations of early computer games lie in the world of table-top role-playing games, and early computer games were an attempt by the developers to bring their experiences in those games into the digital realm. From the early text-based Adventure to the 3D First-Person shooters of today - the aim has been to share a sense of adventure with the players; and increasingly for players to experience this sense of adventure together. However, the focus here is not on the games themselves, but on the people that have produced the culture that computer gaming is today. The authors present this culture through biographical sketches and interesting anecdotes from the lives of developers, players and others that have been influential on it.

Unfortunately, this history of computer gaming doesn't go as in depth as I would like. The majority of the first half of this book focuses heavily on Richard "Lord British" Garriott and the "Ultima" series. The second half is more balanced; focusing initially on John Carmack and John Romero, then moving into coverage of more player-centered activities - LAN Parties, deathmatches, clans, conventions and MMORPGs. Overall, the "behind the scenes" stories of computer games and the culture that surrounds them are interesting and readable; I just wish the authors would have covered a wider range of the full computer gaming culture than they did.

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Code Generation in Action
by Jack Herrington


Manning Publications
1 edition
July 2003
368 pages

Reviewed by Matthew Phillips, August 2003
  (7 of 10)


This book is packed full of information on code generators. This is both its positive and negative point.

It gives you a lot of information about when code generators are useful and when they are not. It also has sample code generators for just about any coding need you could imagine. The chapter on writing database access generators is almost worth the price of the book in its own right.

My biggest complaint about the book is that it is listed for software engineers or architects of any level of experience. This book is definitely not for beginners. It is a book that I will probably need to read several chapters again before I write my first code generator and keep it close by while I'm doing it. In some ways it seems to complicate some of the issues instead of simplifying them. Overall though it's a pretty good read although it could have been better.

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Secure Coding
by Mark G. Graff, Kenneth R. van Wyk


O'Reilly
1 edition
July 2003
200 pages

Reviewed by Junilu Lacar, July 2003
  (9 of 10)


This book goes beyond the technical aspects of security into things like psychology, economics, politics, and even history. "Why do good people write bad code?...To find security holes, think like an alien... How do economic and other social factor work against security quality?" These are just some of the things the authors touch on in presenting a holistic view of the security issues that must be dealt with when developing an application.

This is not a "cookbook" so don't expect to find many code examples; the few that you will find are in C. What you will find are a number of thought-provoking discussions and valuable insights into the root causes of security vulnerabilities. The authors share useful techniques, guidelines and checklists that they have used to create applications that are "just secure enough." They highlight both good and bad practices and present a number of case studies to help bring home important points. Managers, architects, designers, developers and even users will find something useful in this book.

This book will help you realize, if you haven't already, that security is neither trivial nor something that you can add on later: it needs to be designed into your application from the very start and continuously evaluated throughout the development process. And if you already knew that, you just might realize just how much more there really is to consider besides what you already do now to secure your applications.

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Hacking the XBox. An Introduction to Reverse Engineering
by Andrew "bunnie" Huang


No Starch Press
1 edition
July 2003
288 pages

Reviewed by Mark Spritzler, August 2003
  (9 of 10)


Here, on the ranch, we have lots of different animals. Chickens, Cows, Roosters, Cats, Dogs, Pigs, Squirrels, and Rabbits can be seen everywhere. But, I have never seen any one of them reverse engineer anything. But there is one "bunnie" out there in the world that loves to reverse engineer anything he can get his paws, er hands on. Especially on an XBox.

If you have ever opened up a computer, appliance, or other electronic goodie to see how it works, then "Hacking the XBox" is for you. Actually even if you are curious and interested just from the cover of this book, then you should get it.

This book is about reverse engineering. It uses Microsoft's XBox as a means to show you techniques, strategies, ethics, and legality of reverse engineering. He covers topics like soldering techniques, security and encryption, and eavesdropping on a high speed bus (just don't let that bus go under 55 MPH or Kabloom!).

Now, I must admit, I am a chicken. I won't open up my XBox, but I still had lots of fun reading "Hacking the XBox", even when the discussion was too technical for my experience.

If you could have only one reverse engineering book, "Hacking the XBox" is it.

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Google Pocket Guide
by Tara Calishain, Rael Dornfest, D. J. Adams


O'Reilly
1 edition
June 2003
140 pages

Reviewed by John Wetherbie, July 2003
  (8 of 10)


The Google Pocket Guide contains a lot of good information in a small package. Beyond presenting the various Google services and the syntax for using them the authors share tips and suggestions for getting the most out of this really cool set of tools.

The book goes over searching the web including the advanced search page and the advanced search operators (or special syntax) that Google provides. How operators can be combined to improve your search and what combinations to avoid is discussed. The ten-word limit on search terms and how to get around it is also presented. How to interpret the results you get, how to tweak the URLs you receive back to improve results, and when and why you should (or shouldn't) pay attention to Google's spelling suggestions make up the third section.

Part IV presents the other services and tools that Google provides beyond web searching, suggestions on how to use these tools effectively, and the advanced operators available. The last section of the book provides a quick syntax summary and an overview of Julian dates.

Overall I found this book an informative and easy read. My only concern is how current the information will remain since, as the authors point out, Google has been adding capabilities slowly over time. However, this concern is greatly outweighed by having the information available. This book is a good, quick reference to Google. Add it to your utility belt!

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Text Processing in Python
by David Mertz


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
June 2003
544 pages

Reviewed by Margarita Isayeva, October 2003
  (8 of 10)


This book provides a thorough overview of techniques, standard and non-standard modules to perform various tasks that fall under "text processing" umbrella. An ideal reader should be already familiar with Python or experienced in other languages. For the latter category there is an Appendix with a short introduction into Python basics.

The text is evenly divided into five chapters, 70-100 pages each.

Chapter 1 starts with a discussion of functional programming and higher-order functions, followed by an overview of Python's features and data types important for text processing. Relevant (if even remotely) modules in the Standard library are listed, most important of them are illustrated with examples. Chapter 2 shows how standard Python functions, including the most important string module, can be used to solve problems (example: counting number of words in a given text). Chapter 3 offers a short introduction into Regular Expressions followed by several examples of Python programs, usually about a page long (one of the problems to solve: detecting duplicate words). Chapter 4 starts with a light introduction into parsing, grammars and state machines. The author advises on when to use them and when not, then proceeds to an overview of the standard library. Non-standard mx.TextTools, SimpleParse and PLY libraries are compared and their functionality described in more details. Chapter 5 is devoted to assorted tasks, from working with E-mail to parsing HTML and XML, and consists mostly of standard and third-party libraries overviews.

The overall approach is a bit conceptually-oriented, there are questions and problems to solve at the end of the chapters, as one segment of the book's target audience are students. Practitioners will appreciate this book as a solid reference on available Python text-processing tools.

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Embedded Ethernet and Internet Complete
by Jan Axelson


Lakeview Research
1 edition
June 2003
482 pages

Reviewed by Ernest Friedman-Hill, October 2003
  (9 of 10)


Recently, I took my daughter to a play about a giant. At turns, the giant was played by an actor and a 30-foot effigy. The other characters were each played both by a person and a 12-inch marionette. It was technically well done: the scale shifted up and down effortlessly.

This book does the same thing, swooping from a description of the bitfields in an Ethernet frame, to the nuances of multithreaded network programming, to details of HTTP, SMTP, POP, and FTP; from making network patch cables (really!) to choosing network-ready embedded processor boards, to architecting whole networks. Somehow, the reader doesn't notice the transitions; this vast range of information is all integrated flawlessly.

The intended audience is embedded systems programmers who want to learn about networking. Someone wanting to build a hardware IP router would find most of what they'd need here, at least regarding the theory and the software. More basic setup information for the specific hardware (including the Java-programmable TINI board) that are used in the excellent examples would have been welcome; some details on assembling a test rig would have let a hardware novice dabble more confidently.

The focus of most of the book is excellent, but the momentum does start to dissipate in the last few chapters; the very last chapter on network security in particular feels tacked on.

I'd recommend this for anyone who wants to learn about Ethernet or IP networking, on embedded systems or not.

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Linux in a Nutshell
by Ellen Siever, Stephen Figgins, Aaron Weber


O'Reilly
fourth edition
June 2003
944 pages

Reviewed by Ilja Preuss, August 2003
  (7 of 10)


"A Desktop Quick Reference" is the subtitle of this book, and this describes exactly what it is.

The first 500 pages are an alphabetical list of the common linux commands, each accompanied by a short description and a terse mention of the available options.

The other half is subdivided into 17 chapters, each covering such diverse topics as boot methods, shell programming, editors and version management. Though concentrating on the command line level, the last four chapters cover graphical desktops.

Though giving some hints to beginners, the vast amount of information in the book is targeted at experienced linux users who want to get a quick overview, or search for that specific command they already have in mind.

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Steal This Computer Book 3
by Wallace Wang


No Starch Press
third edition
May 2003
384 pages

Reviewed by Salman Halim, May 2003
  (8 of 10)


This is the third edition of a book that tells the reader about the innercity part of the Internet -- things the casual surfer doesn't know about.

The book is fun. However, the first thing I noticed was the sans serif font: SO much harder to read! After I got over that, I started to enjoy the book. Many topics are covered in this book and resources provided for each topic, which brings me to some issues I had with the information provided:

The book describes how Internet filters used by certain countries (or employers) can be circumvented. However, there is no warning against potential consequences if one is caught: these nations typically aren't the sort to merely slap your wrist, after all! A bit more responsibility, please; someone who gets fired for bypassing their employer's filter might sue the author for not warning them this could happen.

Furthermore, it's one thing to tell people that the Internet can be used to download pirated software and songs; it's QUITE another to teach them HOW! People shouldn't be taught how to do things that are illegal.

It should be noted that the breadth of information in this book sacrifices some depth -- people who have been geeks for a while may find a lot of the information to be simply commonsense and a number of resources to be things they already knew. However, there was something in almost every chapter that was new to me and was informative.

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Building Embedded Linux Systems
by Karim Yaghmour


O'Reilly
1 edition
April 2003
416 pages

Reviewed by Gregg Bolinger, July 2003
  (7 of 10)


I was pretty excited about getting this book to review. I am by no means a Linux expert or an Embedded Systems expert. So to say this book was a tad over my head...well, it was. Plain and simple. This book is not, I repeat not, for the weekend warrior. You really should know you stuff about Linux and Embedded Systems before breaking into this book. This is not a beginners guide. This book is for people familiar with the Linux Kernel and Embedded Systems that wants to know the best ways to create Embedded Systems with the Linux Kernel.

This book does a really good job of discussing tools of the trade to get started but lacks a little bit on explanations. What I didn't like about this book was the lack of solid concrete examples. I am a big fan of books that provide a complete walk thru which this book fails to do so.

Overall, very technical, very to the point. But not very explanatory with it's concepts.

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The Complete C++ Training Course
by Harvey M. Deitel, Paul J. Deitel


Prentice Hall PTR
fourth edition
April 2003
1400 pages

Reviewed by Randall Twede, May 2003
  (9 of 10)


The book that comes with this training course is the same book used in the C++ course I am taking in college right now. As well as being a comprehensive introduction to the C++ programming language, it also includes an introduction to OOD and the UML by way of an "optional" case study at the end of each chapter. I found this to be a very valuable addition to the book since I knew nothing about the UML before now. The accompanying CD's have audio explanations of all the code samples. This may prove invaluable to people who learn best by hearing things explained, but if you are already an experienced programmer, you might prefer to just get the book. The CD's also include an electronic version of the book, and can possibly be purchased separately.

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Content Syndication with RSS
by Ben Hammersley


O'Reilly
1 edition
April 2003
256 pages

Reviewed by Michael Morris, April 2003
  (7 of 10)


Content Syndication with RSS traces the evolution of RSS from its RDF roots to its present somewhat schizophrenic form. The author goes in depth into the specifications from the two groups which have released vastly different versions of RSS. All of the currently used specs: 0.91, 0.92, 1.0 and 2.0 are thoroughly covered. Since the 1.0 spec uses RDF and XML namespaces, those subjects are also covered. The RSS 1.0 common modules are explained in great detail as well. Finally the author describes directories and aggregators, how to create and pull RSS feeds, and using the RSS Publish/Subscribe mechanism using either XML-RPC or SOAP.

Like most O'Reilly books, the chapters are concise, which makes an arcane subject like RSS a little easier to endure. I did note several XML syntax errors in the examples, but anyone familiar with XML should have no problem getting past them. The author used PERL examples exclusively for parsing and creating feeds and seemed oblivious to any server side technology other than CGI or SSI. JSP and Servlets would be much better suited than either of those.

Unless you are trying to increase web site traffic or are a blogger, this is probably not a book you would want to read. All in all though it covers the subject well.

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O'Reilly
1 edition
April 2003
256 pages

Reviewed by Tim Holloway, May 2003
  (6 of 10)


If you're looking for Java+RSS, this isn't the place. Even XSLT is hardly touched upon. However if you're confused about RSS and the standard that looks different for every source, this is a good book to have. If you're into Perl, though, there are some very useful examples.

Although the title carries the letter "RSS" in 144-point letters, the "Content Syndication" aspect is just as important. The book looks at RSS from the point of view of content originators, aggregators (with some very useful stuff on O'Reilly's own Meerkat) and consumers.

One problem: there's a reference to the Dublin Core being covered in detail in Chapter 5. If so, I missed it. Nor was there anything in the index to tell me where I might look instead. This is unfortunate, since The Dublin Core /is/ covered in moderate depth in Chapter 7, and, I quite agree with the author that it's a very useful thing.

Although it's unfortunate that there's nothing about Java and RSS, a far greater problem for me was the practically non-existent coverage of how to use XSLT to normalize content feeds and to create displayable output, such as the HTML conversion I used on a recent portal project. XSLT can be frustrating sometimes, but RSS routinely mixes default and non-default namespaces, and that's even more frustrating. Fortunately a trip to the JavaRanch's XML/XSL forum got me a quick answer.

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Mac OS X for Java Geeks
by Will Iverson


O'Reilly
1 edition
April 2003
304 pages

Reviewed by Simon Brown, August 2003
  (9 of 10)


I've had a PowerBook for about three months now and I thought that I had Java on Mac OS X figured out. How wrong could I be! First of all, it's worth pointing out that Mac OS X for Java Geeks by Will Iverson is not your normal Java book. It doesn't teach you how to use Java, and it doesn't teach you how to use Mac OS X either. Instead, it takes you on a tour of what's available for us Java developers on the Mac OS X platform, looking at topics that pull together to make Java development an easier and richer experience.

First up is a look at Apple's implementation of J2SE and how configuration of the Java environment differs slightly from other platforms. This is certainly something that does confuse most Java on Mac newbies (myself included) and it's great to see an explanation of how this all works. Next is a discussion of a selection of tools that are useful to Java developers, including all the usual text editors, IDEs, open source projects and even some tools that are bundled with OSX that you might not have found. Again, all very useful stuff, particularly with Mac OS X specific tips thrown in here and there.

Now we get to the interesting stuff by stepping up a gear and looking at the development of desktop applications for Mac. Apple's JVM includes an implementation of the native Aqua look and feel for Swing, meaning that you can write applications in Java that look native. Here, we re treated to a fascinating discussion on some of the usability issues and gotchas associated with cross-platform GUI development. With this in mind, the book then goes on to look at some of the Apple specific features and extensions that we can take advantage of in our applications, along with some strategies to help ensure that our Java applications are still cross-platform compatible. This includes integration with things like the Finder and Dock, and we also find out that it is possible to package up Java applications in the same way as native applications, rather than delivering an executable JAR file. After all, one of the key mantras behind Mac OS X is the richness of the user experience!

Moving on, and if that's not enough, the book delves into some of the Java APIs that Apple provides if you are targeting Mac as your deployment platform, including a look at the Speech, Spelling and QuickTime APIs. The functionality provided by these APIs is amazing, although the actual APIs themselves are incredibly simple. The coverage of the APIs is well balanced. There's just enough to whet your appetite while still providing a good overview of how to use them.

Finally, the book moves on to look at how to use some of the more mainstream development tools such as MySQL, Tomcat, JBoss and web services. Again, there's a lot of useful information in here although it's not as Mac OS X focused as the rest of the book, instead providing a simple instructional approach to getting something simple coded and running. Sure, there are some Mac specific hints in here, but these sections seem to be aimed at developers who are new to these technologies.

Overall this is a great book, and the use of a simple yet very complete example throughout the book makes it very easy to read and follow exactly what's going on. My only real criticisms would be that the last few chapters are focused more on using the technologies (e.g. building your first JSP-based web application) and it might have been good to see a section that talked about J2ME development on OSX, just for completeness. In summary, if you're an existing Java developer and have recently moved over to the Mac, I strongly recommend this book. I only wish I had found it sooner!

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Google Hacks
by Tara Calishain, Rael Dornfest


O'Reilly
1 edition
February 2003
325 pages

Reviewed by Margarita Isayeva, May 2003
  (8 of 10)


"Hacks" is O'Reilly's new book series, and I was probably misled by the name. "Google hacks" -- perhaps I expected to learn how to set up world's most powerful search engine to hack into KGB archives in Moscow's basements, no less, and since I still do not know how to do it, I am somewhat disappointed.

Ok, speaking realistically, I did learnt about some Google's functionality I did not know before, I got a good mental map of what people do with its API, I know how its pageRank algorithm works, and TouchGraph Google Browser is cool.

The book should be particularly good for beginner programmers. Most of hacks are written in Perl, and to play with them can be fun.

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A Practical Guide to Red Hat Linux 8
by Mark G. Sobell


Addison-Wesley Professional
unknown edition
December 2002
1616 pages

Reviewed by Matthew Phillips, March 2003
  (9 of 10)


I don't know if I would call a book that is over 1500 pages and weighs about 5 pounds practical, but this is a very good book. Whether you are new to Red Hat Linux or an expert looking for a good reference, you should check out this book. The book is easy to read and covers just about anything you need to know to become functional with Linux.

Part 1 of this book covered all the basics. By then end of the first section, I felt completely comfortable working from the Linux command line. Part 2 delved deeper into Linux and covered everything from writing shell scripts to basic system administration. Part 3 is a detailed command reference. It is probably the section I will refer to most as I continue to learn Linux.

Each chapter has exercises at the end, making this useful as a text book. The organization also leaned a little more to a text book style. Installation was covered lightly and pretty late in the book. As a self-studier, that annoyed me a little. But just when I reached a point where I felt that they really left something out early I generally found page reference for just what I thought was left out. Overall, it was a real pleasure learning Linux from this book.

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The Art of Interactive Design
by Chris Crawford


No Starch Press
1 edition
December 2002
408 pages

Reviewed by Margarita Isayeva, July 2003
  (7 of 10)


Interactive design is a new approach to software building that embraces both "thinking content of software" and user interface. The book is a collection of author's thoughts on this theme, observations and anecdotes from practice. It is a mixture of common sense, examples of good and bad design (games, clocks, interactive story-telling), a few light excursions into "big culture" (J. Huizinga's "Homo Ludens" book, C.P.Snow' article on "two cultures") and theoretical musings over subjects like "abstraction", "metaphor" and "linguistics".

I was first put off by a very conversational, even chatty style ("This is stupid design", "This is idiocy!"), but then adjusted my vocabulary expectations accordingly. Another stylistic moment: the narrative was apparently transferred on the paper preserving its natural flow, without any substantial editing, whether you will consider it as a virtue or a drawback.

The book is oriented toward a non-programmer audience, young and enthusiastic, and for them it can serve as an easy-to-read introduction into a subject. Author's personality plays so prominent role, though, that I am not sure what the text introduces more into: an interactivity design, or author's ideas about interactivity design. Overall, I do not regret that I read it, but I am looking for a more systematic (and perhaps more objective) treatise now -- to balance my reading diet.

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Crackproof Your Software
by Pavol Cerven


No Starch Press
1 edition
October 2002
272 pages

Reviewed by Salman Halim, May 2003
  (9 of 10)


This book fills a void: crackers have many resources teaching them about cracking software but the software authors have very few (large corporations excepted).

The book is very informative -- the author imparts much knowledge. Indeed, this book CAN be used by a software author to protect their code against piracy. However, as the author himself points out, nothing is ever completely crackproof.

The only critique is that the vast majority of examples are in PC Assembler (though the code example for code that can't be easily disassembled is COOL!). Of course, most software piracy occurs on this platform, so the choice is understandable (and explained in the book). Also, if the language used by the reader for their software doesn't allow for easy insertion of machine code (such as Java, unless native calls are used), the more hands-on examples in this book won't go much beyond theory. There is some C, but that is also Windows-centric.

The good (and bad) news is that most of them probably won't learn anything from this book. This is partially because the book doesn't inadvertently teach the reader how to CRACK software; it is partially because crackers are AWFULLY good at their "job".

Gets a 9 because there aren't many other books that perform this service -- unfortunately, not everything in here is applicable unless one is on a DOS/Windows PC, using a language that compiles to native code AND knows at least some machine language.

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Blogging - Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content
by Biz Stone


New Riders
1 edition
September 2002
336 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, July 2003
  (7 of 10)


This book tries to cover all aspects of blogging, from a bit of history, through creating and managing a small personal journal, to using blog technology as a corporate marketing tool. Along the way it covers an interesting variety of hints, tips and suggestions on how to make a blog look stylish, how to draw more visitors, and so on. It even covers an overview of using and writing blog-related applications and some thoughts about what might come next.

This book does well at communicating the excitement of blogging. If you are not raring to have a go by the end of the book, you're probably not cut out for life on the web. But beware, The world of blogging is astonishingly fast moving and fashion-conscious, so a book such as this can very quickly loose its cutting edge.

The main limitation of this book is the way it concentrates so much on one blogging system (Blogger), and assumes a particular way of working. On the up-side, the system it describes is probably the most popular, but that can so easily change.

If you would like to run a blog using the Blogger software or the Blog*Spot hosting service, and want to really get the most out of it, this is a great book. If you might be interested in other software and approaches, it's less vital, but still contains a lot of useful and interesting material.

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PHP Bible
by Tim Converse, Joyce Park


Wiley
second edition
September 2002
1012 pages

Reviewed by Paul Stevens, March 2004
  (8 of 10)


This is a comprehensive book on PHP. The authors include many tips and warnings in the use of PHP. This book can be used as a reference on the many topics covered. All of the examples are available to download. The authors go into just the right amount of detail in explaining not only what to do but why.

I started this book with no PHP knowledge at all and was impressed with how well the topics where covered. It is a large book 39 chapters and nearly 1000 pages. The layout is great. The highlighting of the code, tip and note sections really make for easier reading as well as the font size.

There is an issue I have with the book. In trying to sell PHP the authors use a faulty cost comparison chart. The chart tries to show that there is no cost for PHP for server or DB while JSP either has a large cost or a cost range. The comparison is JSP using Oracle and PHP using MySQL. This is misleading at best and detracted from my overall impression of the book. I would have rated the book higher without this.

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The Weblog Handbook
by Rebecca Blood


Basic Books
1 edition
July 2002
144 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, September 2003
  (8 of 10)


This book is a worthy attempt at a weblog book for adults. It's not in-your-face evangelism about how weblogs are going to change the world. It's not a hands-on guide to installing and using weblog publishing software. It doesn't have a lot to say about how weblog technology works behind the scenes.

What this book does cover (in a measured, thoughtful way), are the personal and social aspects of weblogging. How to think through whether weblogging is for you. The unexpected but practical benefits of running a weblog, like increased self-confidence and improving your writing skills. How to fit researching and maintaining a weblog into your life, and what to do when it turns from a pleasant hobby into a chore. How to deal with both too many and to few readers. How to avoid revealing too much personal information, and how to retain the respect of your readers in the face of wildly differing opinions. Also covered is the author's personal view of the history and development of weblogging, and an attempt to classify weblogs into different types. These aspects, though are secondary to the main focus of the book.

The book handles more like a paperback novel than a typical computer book. It's small, relatively thin, and has no illustrations. The author has a comfortable, easy-reading style, but is occasionally repetitive. I guess that's the fallout from years of condensed and pithy weblog posts.

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Unix Administration
by Bozidar Levi


CRC
1 edition
May 2002
768 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, March 2003
  (7 of 10)


This book tries to cover a huge subject range. The back cover claims that it "is a one-stop handbook for the administration and maintenance of UNIX systems and networks". In a longer than usual review period I have tried to actually use this book to check these claims.

I use a wide range of different UNIX systems on a daily basis, and although it is a well-constructed, detailed book, I was ultimately left unsatisfied. Despite its bold claims, this book does not really work as a handbook or reference. As a book for someone actually running a range of systems, it just can't seem to fit in enough detail. During the time I had it on my desk I attempted to look up at least a dozen answers to non-obvious problems. In each case either the topic was missing from the index entirely, the treatment was too shallow, or it didn't cover the particular system I was actually interested in.

There are a lot of very poor UNIX books out there which either stop short at simple user operations, or assume a very specific combination of hardware and software. This book falls into neither of those traps. Levi neatly combines general overviews and specific examples, and this would make an excellent university course book. It's a great way to learn about running a UNIX system, but you'll need more detail if it's how you plan to earn your living.

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Jython Essentials
by Samuele Pedroni, Noel Rappin


O'Reilly
1 edition
March 2002
304 pages

Reviewed by Margarita Isayeva, May 2002
  (8 of 10)


You know what to expect from O'Reilly books and this one will not be too big a surprise. A well-written description of Jython language - a hybrid of Python and Java. A slim book densly packed with information.

It is written by Jython developers, and this unique point of view is always interesting. The book is oriented for reader's with Java rather than Python background, and for those Python innocent readers there are chapters about it. Python is often described in comparison to Java, and such a comparison is by itself interesting. More practically oriented reader isn't forgotten: the authors use their intimate knowledge of the language, to warn about potential problems and suggest workarounds.

I would say that the book style is a little above the average computer books and the reading requires some intellectual efforts. Good knowledge of Java is also recommended.

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Core LEGO MINDSTORMS Programming
by Brian Bagnall


Prentice Hall PTR
1 edition
March 2002
560 pages

Reviewed by David O'Meara, March 2003
  (8 of 10)


This book is much more than I expected. I thought it was going to be a chapter on Lego Mindstorms, a chapter on Java, then a chapter on Java and Lego together followed by a bunch of projects giving a step-by-step trail to lead you from the Java world into the Mindstorms-with-Java world. You get this in the book, but in addition you also get a description of each piece including the item I thought was a pedal, several useful small constructions including gear trains, an introduction to robotics and behavior control, and electronics projects for anyone who isn't afraid of burning their fingers. All this before we get into the chapter on advanced topics! My favorite part was definitely the electronics projects. It gives numbskull instructions on how to assemble the electronic, Lego and Java components as well as excellent instructions on solving any problems you are likely to run into. If all you want is to get leJOS (the JVM for Lego Mindstorms) onto your RCX block and get it running, the first 4 chapters will be useful but the rest will be wasted. Maybe just check the resources on the net. If, on the other hand, you want your little yellow brick to be all that it can be and you aren't afraid of petty injuries or mangling a few Lego blocks, this book will serve you well. There are even instructions to control your robot via a web page!

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Jython for Java Programmers
by Robert W. Bill


Sams
1 edition
December 2001
496 pages

Reviewed by Carl Trusiak, May 2002
  (8 of 10)


Jython is definately the scripting language of choice for Java Programers. This book does an excellent job giving you the fundamentals to perform most tasks with it. It covers database access, servlet programming, embedding Jython in Java Applications etc. If you need to add scripting for any reason, Jython should be your choice and to learn it, this is your book.

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Content Management Bible
by Bob Boiko


Wiley
1 edition
December 2001
816 pages

Reviewed by Ersin Eser, August 2002
  (8 of 10)


This is a patiently written book about Content Management for managerial staff and developers, alike. The reader can easily find excellent checklists, task lists, and tips in this book, which is very practical. One may benefit greatly from the chapter relating to selecting the hardware and software when she/he is involved in meetings with CMS providers. The roadmap that one can prepare after reading this book might be extremely useful, and a lifesaver. You should own this book if you are involved in Content Management projects.

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More Secrets of Consulting
by Gerald M. Weinberg


Dorset House Publishing Company, Incorporated
1 edition
December 2001
216 pages

Reviewed by Valentin Crettaz, May 2005
  (9 of 10)


Gerald M. Weinberg, aka the consultant's consultant, is back with another groundbreaking survival guide for consultants. As "Secrets of Consulting"'s twin brother, "More Secrets of Consulting" contributes another load of tips, scenarios, tricks, stories, theorems and axioms to your consultant's toolkit. You will precisely discover how to cope with situations in which you have to deal with burnout situations, negotiation issues, curiosity matters and many more.

The proposed toolkit contains valuable instruments named after descriptive metaphors, such as "the law of the strawberry jam", the "yes/no medallion", the "wishing wand", the "fish-eye lens" and the "oxygen mask" to cite a few. You will figure out how your "wisdom box" can help you decide what's right and wrong for you. You will be able to open interesting and unexplored areas using your "golden key". Your "courage stick" will help you decide whether you should take risks or not in given situations. Make sure you always have your "hourglass" handy or you might run the risk of wasting your precious time on uninteresting matters. You have a hard time managing your inner feelings in a balanced manner? Remember you have a "gyroscope" in your backpack.

If you swallowed "Secrets of Consulting" in no time, you can safely grab a copy of this book because you will certainly love it even more. This is one of those rare books where you can actually feel the experience of the author transpire from a simple trail of ink.

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Content Critical
by Gerry McGovern, Rob Norton


FT Press
1 edition
December 2001
256 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, September 2003
  (7 of 10)


This book is primarily about web site design, although that may not be very obvious from the title.

The overall premise is that the job of producing and running a web site has a lot in common with traditional paper publishing. Central to this idea, and the inspiration for the title, is that whatever the site, people actually visit it to read words. Not to look at pictures. Not to admire layout or coo at dynamic navigation menus. To find and read content. Everything else is at best irrelevant, at worst a distracting nuisance or even a reason to leave the site completely.

I wholeheartedly agree with this, and generally follow with the recommendations that the author makes about how to encourage and profit from this understanding: keep things simple, short, and fresh; understand your readers; make it easy to find stuff; treat editing and publishing as key business functions and so on.

What I find slightly disappointing is that the book itself doesn't entirely embody these values. The style is repetitive and often long-winded. As a well-edited web site or a conference presentation this would pack a much more powerful punch. I finished reading it mostly out of duty.

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PHP by Example
by Toby Butzon


Que
1 edition
November 2001
432 pages

Reviewed by Carl Trusiak, January 2002
  (6 of 10)


The book targets people with just HTML experience and claims to be able to have them developing dynamic web pages rapidly. I don't feel that it meets that. Topics quickly become advanced without a full explanation. I think that will leave a novice dazed. As with any book that teaches by example, it runs the risk of either the examples being so boring that you quickly quit following them or so complicated the reader can't follow the lesson. This book has examples on both ends with almost none falling at the appropriate level.

Now, if you are a fairly competent programmer in some other language and know HTML, this book will work for you. The basic examples cover basic programming topics. These a competent programmer can ignore. The complicated ones will not be outside of their ability to grasp.

If you are a programmer and would like to add PHP to your tools, then get this book. If you are new to programming I'd have to tell you to start with something else.

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Patterns for Time-Triggered Embedded Systems
by Michael J. Pont


Addison-Wesley Professional
1 edition
July 2001
1024 pages

Reviewed by John Volkar, December 2001
  (10 of 10)


Not your typically software patterns book. Real engineering, hardware and software making stuff happen! Yeah!
Probably the best example that I've ever seen of how patterns should be described and discussed, clear, concise, and with sufficient background to make each pattern feel meaningful and complete.
While this book deals specifically with the 8051 family of microcontrollers, almost all of the patterns given are generally applicable to any microcontroller family.
Even if you're just a software engineer, and even if you don't do embedded work, at least half of this book contains information that will pique your interest, and cause you to rethink some of your assumptions.
Pretend that you have to write an embedded program that responds in real time and has a bounded response window. Now you have the choice of a preemptive or cooperative scheduler. (For all you nonhardware folks: A scheduler is a microoperating system that you either buy of build yourself for your microcontroller.) I'd say most folks would choose the preemptive scheduler. Needless to say, the patterns in this book give clear guidelines as to which to choose and when. Furthermore, they illustrate that for the most reliable (most predicable) operation, a cooperative scheduler is probably a better choice. Now think about some business systems architectures, response times, latency, liveness, robustness, the discussions on embedded schedulers have relevancy!
The world needs more books of this caliber and utility. If you're even remotely interested in embedded systems, GET THIS BOOK!

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Automated Web Testing Toolkit: Expert Methods for Testing and Managing Web Applications
by Diane Stottlemyer


Wiley
unknown edition
July 2001
304 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, December 2001
  (2 of 10)


I tried real hard to find something to like about this book. I was disappointed. Testing of web sites and web applications is an area which desperately needs some good books, but this is not one of them.

The author seems to have cobbled this book together from some old course notes, inserted the word "web" here and there and put some obviously obsolete material in the past tense. It baldly assumes a heavyweight and ill-considered development process, and makes unsubstantiated statements about an unrepresentative selection of software packages. Automated testing is mentioned only in passing, between superficial descriptions of project- and risk- management. Virtually no mention is made of the things which make web applications hard to test - browser differences, massive concurrency, stateless protocols, network issues ...

It lacks the depth for a developer or tester, but I can't even recommend this book as a management overview - so much of the content is either dangerously misleading, obsolete, or just plain wrong.

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Hack Proofing your Web Applications
by Jeff Forristal, Julie Traxler


Syngress
1 edition
June 2001
608 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, October 2002
  (8 of 10)


This book aims to be a "one stop shop" covering all aspects of web application security, however your app is written: Java. CGI, Perl, PHP, Active X. To a large extent it succeeds, and in a surprisingly readable way. Each chapter covers on aspect of hacking or security, and ends with a summary, a "fast track" checklist, and a FAQ for the topics covered. The book is sold like software - you can register for a "1-year upgrade", to keep the content fresh.
Important topics include both detailed and general hints on how to read and spot security holes in code in different languages; and how to "think like a hacker", and use hacker tools to test your own security. Above all, the book emphasizes the need for creative thinking and to avoid producing code carelessly.
I know from experience that security is often ignored if it's seen as too hard to understand, plan or test. Don't be a victim of your own ignorance, read this book.

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StarOffice 5.2 Companion
by Floyd Jones, Solveig Haugland


Pearson Education
1 edition
November 2000
1152 pages

Reviewed by Angela Poynton, January 2001
  (9 of 10)


This book will be invaluable to anyone trying to get to grips with Star Office. After reading just a few chapters you'll find yourself doing things that you never even know you could do with Star Office. In my opinion StarOffice is the best Office Productivity Suite I've ever come across and the best thing is that it's free. It can be a bit scary at first because if it's Windows desktop-emulator interface but once you get past that you realise just how much this application can do.
StarOffice 5.2 companion is a fantasic book to have on hand when you ask yourself something like "So just how do I save this presentation so my less-enlightened customer can view it in PowerPoint?". The book is extremely well written with lots of screenshots and clear step-by-step guides to how do just about anything you would want to do with Star Office and tonnes more. It also has one of the most comprehensive indexes I have ever seen in a book making it perfect as a speedy look-up book.

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Don't make me think!
by Steve Krug, Roger Black


New Riders
1 edition
October 2000
208 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, June 2001
  (8 of 10)


At last, an author who follows his own advice! This book is short and easy to read (at 200 pages, I read it in a day), but sometimes surprisingly deep. The book is peppered with colour screen shots, black and white cartoons and pithy quotes and headings. A pleasure, not a chore, to read. The basic premise is simple; people don't like hard choices or stopping to think, they just want to get something done. The more self-evident a web site is, the easier it is to use. Implementing it, and being sure you've got it right, is tricky, though. Krug covers site and page layout, navigation design, usability testing on a shoestring as well as a broad and engaging model of how people really use the web. It doesn't deal with internationalization at all, seems to assume a mostly static site, and offers no real help in getting your idea to the web in the first place, but will help you make good choices along the way. Well worth a read, and probably worth a refresher each time you start a new project to keep you on track.

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Programming with Visibroker
by V. Natarajan, S. Reich, B. Vasudevan


Wiley
unknown edition
October 2000
576 pages

Reviewed by Peter Tran, April 2001
  (5 of 10)


If CORBA is the Swiss Army knife of middleware, then Visibroker by Borland is one version of the Swiss Army knife. Like any typical Swiss Army knife, Visibroker contains more tools than you need to get started using CORBA to do object-oriented distributed application development. A word of warning: as the authors state, "This book provides an in-depth look at one specific incarnation of CORBA and Java - namely, Visibroker for JAVA..." This book would have been handy if it was printed about 1 1/2 years ago when I first started working with Visibroker 4.0. Currently, Borland has already released a major enhancement to Visibroker 4.5, you can download a trial version at their website, www.borland.com. The book is still a useful reference and provides good coverage of CORBA and JAVA. The book is broken into three parts. Part I provides an introduction to CORBA and distributed systems. Part II covers the basic Visibroker tools. Part III covers the more advanced Visbroker topics. For anyone starting out with Visibroker using this book, I would recommend reading the first two chapters and skipping to chapter 7, which walks you through an example application using all the required Visibroker tools. Once you get the sample application up and running, the remaining chapters describing the CORBA specification and other Visibroker tools will be more meaningful.

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Beginning PHP4
by Chris Lea, Wankyu Choi, Allan Kent, Ganesh Prasad, Chris Ullman


Peer Information
1 edition
October 2000
800 pages

Reviewed by Randall Twede, August 2002
  (9 of 10)


After eagerly awaiting the arrival of this book, when the big day came I was not disappointed. Although the first 200 pages of this 600+ page text covers basic programming concepts like variables, conditional statements and loops, it eventually gets into more complex material. After all the title is Begining PHP4. The book covers a great deal more than just PHP. It explains how to install PHP as well as how to install and configure a web server on both windows and unix platforms. It also covers HTML forms, MySQL server/client and SQL expressions, XML and ODBC. The example programs were well explained with one concept building on another and were actually useful in the real world. In adition to it's tutorial value, the appendixes make the book a good reference also. Although well written, the book suffers from, in my opinion, too much errata. Not only code errors but simple gramatical errors that any editor worth his salt could easily find. Therefore I feel it rates a 9 at best.

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GUI Bloopers
by Jeff Johnson


Morgan Kaufmann
1 edition
March 2000
584 pages

Reviewed by Salman Halim, August 2003
  (8 of 10)


This book discusses some of the more common problems with modern user interfaces. It takes the approach that the user interface is arguably the most important aspect of an application (or Web site) and shouldn't take a back seat to the business logic therein.

The book begins with a treatise on what a GUI should be like and serves as a good set of things to keep in mind when designing an application's front-end. The bloopers themselves are arranged by category, one category to each chapter. There are 82 bloopers in all, so the book contains quite a decent amount of information.

The individual bloopers themselves are laid out quite well: there is a description of the blooper and the common variations thereof (usually with a picture from a real or sample application demonstrating the problem); this is followed by guidelines on how to avoid the particular blooper (often with a fixed version of the original pictures).

There weren't any real problems with the book; the only thing that irked me was the author's habit of pointing out something that was a problem and following it up with, "Bzzzt. Blooper!" It was cute the first time but quickly became something that grated on me.

Recommendation: for someone who knows how a GUI component works, but doesn't know how to make it look professional, this is a great book. Everybody who does GUI work could learn something here, though.

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Mastering Data Mining
by Michael J. A. Berry, Gordon S. Linoff


Wiley
1 edition
December 1999
512 pages

Reviewed by Margarita Isayeva, May 2003
  (9 of 10)


I was looking for an introductive overview on "what is data mining", and I am more than satisfied.

This book is about data mining in practice rather than in theory. It describes the whole process, from deciding which data columns aren't very useful, to testing and tuning the model -- the very details they forgot to tell us in my statistics class. There are rules of thumb ("set a minimum node size for a decision tree around 50 or 100"), and estimations ("in general, you need at least several thousand records in the model set", "the ratio of the rarer outcome should comprise 15-30%"). Three main techniques: cluster-detection, decision trees, and neural networks are described, and the principles of their working explained in plain language. Details are provided concerning when to use each technique (neural networks cannot explain result while decision trees can), and what types of data each technique works best with (decision trees works with categorical variables (e.g. list of states), neural networks require numerical input and cannot deal with missing values).

Almost half of the book is devoted to case studies. It can be boring reading, unless you are a data obsessed person, and if you are not, you probably shouldn't go into data mining. I was surprised myself that I did not skip this part, instead reading it with increasing interest.

My only complaint about the content: there is no chapter about what software is available to perform data mining.

Almost no formulas are presented, except for a few simple diversity metrics given in a couple of sidebars. There are however plenty of graphics, diagrams, and screen-shots. The text is very dense, so I was a little overwhelmed after my first reading. A second pass was needed to improve my understanding.

The book is so practically oriented, that it's almost "learning by example". To get the most of it, read it after you read a more traditional, systematic tutorial -- it will be an indispensable supplement.

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Linux Network Toolkit
by Paul G. Sery


Hungry Minds
1 edition
1998
596 pages

Reviewed by Paul Wheaton, January 2000
  (7 of 10)


I tattered this book pretty good when I was setting up my network at home. It even had info on bugs in Win95 in the windows CIFS/SMB stuff - complete with fixes! If you have Linux and a network, you need this book!

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Objects On The Web
by Ron Ben Naton


Computing Mcgraw-Hill
unknown edition
March 1997
488 pages

Reviewed by Frank Carver, December 2000
  (4 of 10)


Subtitled "Designing, Building and Deploying Object-Oriented Applications for the Web"

For me, this book was just not deep enough in any of the areas it tried to cover. It dips into CORBA, Java, Active X, HTTP, HTTPS and a whole bundle of proprietary technologies, but always stops short of giving you enough information to actually use any of them. Suitable only for giving to a manager who's scared of technical detail.

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Internet Protocols
by Dave Roberts


Coriolis Group Books
unknown edition
August 1996
480 pages

Reviewed by Paul Wheaton, January 2000
  (5 of 10)


I like this book, but I guess it's out of print. It has a good rundown on nearly every internet protocol and how to make the protocol dance for you.

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UNIX in a Nutshell
by Daniel Gilly


O'Reilly
second edition
1995
444 pages

Reviewed by Paul Wheaton, January 2000
  (7 of 10)


I know enough about UNIX to just get around. This book is the crutch that I use to make it seem like I know UNIX. My experience is that this book is far more often right than man pages. I see this book on about every other bookshelf at any UNIX shop I work in.

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TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1
by W. Richard Stevens


Addison-Wesley Professional
unknown edition
January 1994
600 pages

Reviewed by Paul Wheaton, January 2000
  (8 of 10)


"The Stevens Book" is THE book on TCP/IP. It covers packets, routing, protocols and loads of other stuff. All in excellent, yet concise detail. Easy to read and understand.

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ANSI C - A Lexical Guide
by by


Prentice Hall
1 edition
July 1988
250 pages

Reviewed by Paul Wheaton, January 2000
  (9 of 10)


I still have to do some C programming once in a while, and this book has been my favorite reference for many years. It is so beat up that some of the pages are starting to come out. Since I prefer using ANSI C functions in my C++ programming, I use this book for that too. Unfortunately, it is out of print.

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The C Programming Language
by Mark Williams Company


Prentice Hall PTR
second edition
April 1988
274 pages

Reviewed by Paul Wheaton, January 2000
  (10 of 10)


I think every professional C programmer will agree that this is the book to read before you write your first line of code. Not only are these guys the creators of the language, but they are damn good writers as well. In fact, I will say that this may very well be the best written computer book ever. It is short and to the point. You can sit and read it all in a few hours without dozing off. When the few hours are over, you have a clear understanding of the trickiest thing in C: pointers. You can program circles around programmers who have five years of C experience but have not read this book. The book is just that good. The last one third of the book is some lame reference stuff, you can skip that. This book is tiny and expensive, so you get a terrible price per pound and may be tempted to get some huge book on sale for ten bucks - fight that temptation now and thank me later.

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Secrets of Consulting
by Gerald M. Weinberg


Dorset House Publishing Company, Incorporated
1 edition
January 1986
228 pages

Reviewed by Valentin Crettaz, May 2005
  (9 of 10)


The job of consulting companies or individuals is not something that can be taught easily or that one can assimilate in a couple of weeks by reading books or articles. Excelling at it is even harder as consulting missions often require a broad expertise, a rigorous discipline and a great deal of various personal qualities, such as honesty and flexibility. However, finding inspirations by reading the passionate narrations of a very knowledgeable person having a wide-ranging experience of over half a century in the consulting business can help you position yourself and find your way through that somewhat singular environment.

Even though Gerald M. Weinberg wrote this masterpiece twenty years ago, you will be amazed to discover how accurate and up-to-date the content is according to today's agreed upon practices. This book is organized around a long list of easy to grasp rules, laws, theorems and sayings that have been devised by the author himself while on mission over the last fifty years. It is also worth noting that the author harmonizes his wisdom with crispy war stories coming right from the trenches and introducing the how's and why's of a given rule or saying.

If you are just starting in the consulting business or in need of a second or third breath, or if you simply would like to find out whether there is a logic behind the way those alien consultants think and act, you have found yourself a perfect companion.

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Google Web Toolkit: Taking the pain out of Ajax
by Ed Burnette



1 edition

pages

Reviewed by John Wetherbie, September 2006
  (7 of 10)


So you want to learn about the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) but don't have the time? What if there was a book that would have you building, running and understanding GWT projects in an afternoon? If that sounds like a good deal then Google Web Toolkit: Taking the pain out of Ajax by author Ed Burnette is the book for you.

The book starts with a quick discussion of the motivation behind the GWT and goes right into installation of the toolkit and building an example project with the projectCreator and applicationCreator tools. The third chapter introduces you to the Hosted mode that is used during development and deploying your application to a web server (Web mode). There are some nice flow diagrams to explain what is going on under the covers in these two modes.

The subsequent chapters walk you through the components and widgets that make up a GWT interface, what is involved with using GWT's remote procedure call (RPC) protocol, handling history and bookmarks, the JavaScript Native Interface (JSNI) for calling native JavaScript code in your GWT Java code, and the subset of the Java language that GWT translates to JavaScript for execution in the browser.

The chapters on RPC, history, and JSNI all have code examples that may also be downloaded directly from the PDF document. The writing style is very readable with nice, light touches of humor. I like that fact that the book is 68 pages including front and back matter and is meant to be read in a short time. This book will help you to follow the Pragmatic Programmer's tip to "Learn Continuously".

I'd actually like to see the book be a little longer. The installation and setup instructions for eclipse are cursory and if you are unfamiliar with eclipse they could be considered incomplete. The code examples were nice but I would prefer to see all the code in the book and not have to follow the download links to see it all. I hope to see an update or a follow-on book that goes beyond static pages and deals with server side interaction.

Overall this is a good, quick introduction to the Google Web Toolkit. The book is available as a PDF download from the Pragmatic Programmer web site. If you are interested in learning about the GWT I recommend you head there a get a copy for yourself.

Full disclosure: I received a free download of the book for review purposes.

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Google Web Toolkit Solutions: Cool & Useful Stuff
by David Geary



1 edition

pages

Reviewed by Balaji Loganathan, February 2007
  (4 of 10)


I got a chance to review this new eBook Google Web toolkit solutions by David Grey.

Off the topic: You would need either the free Adobe Reader or Digital Editions to read this eBook.

While personally I like the Author's previous book on JSF, this eBook is not very much interesting to read. This eBook neither serves the purpose of the programmers notebook nor as a reference material.

It simply goes through the code of the building Yahoo! trip application and Address book with GWT, something that you see in the last chapters of the Wrox published books - the sample application.

Out of 122 pages, most of the pages were taken over by re-printing the complete Java code. (Example Section 3: Drag and Drop).

Articles that covers integrating GWT with Spring/Hibernate/Maven is already available for free in Internet, so this eBook should have taken some other advanced topics.

Apart from the above comments, this eBook gives a good overview on using GWT with RPC, Java script tools, Hibernate and so on.

I particularly liked the Section 1 of this book that describes about GWT RPC.

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Hello Android
by Ed Burnette


Pragmatic Bookshelf
1 edition

218 pages

Reviewed by Maneesh Godbole, March 2009
  (8 of 10)


If you want to get your feet wet with Android, this book is the way to go.

Ed leads you on with simple steps, starting with the basic and keeps on building on it. The book is arranged logically, building on previous material. The "Fast Forward" sections help you jump around for interesting material, if you wish to do so. Ed has managed to sprinkle the book with numerous tips and tricks, which are arranged so as to practically read your mind and provide you helpful hints right there itself.

Looking forward to more such gems from Ed.

More info at Amazon.com




Secrets & Lies - Digital Security in a Networked World
by Bruce Schneier


John Wiley & Sons
1 edition

pages

Reviewed by Ulf Dittmer, February 2010
  (8 of 10)


Although several years old by now, this book about computer and network security is still as relevant today as it was when it was first published. Bruce Schneier is one of the best-known computer security experts, and he imparts his expertise in a very readable and highly informative way.

The core message is that "security is a process, not a product or technology", and it must be designed into any system from the start, instead of trying to bolt it on as an afterthought. The other important point is that defense against an attack should consist of prevention, detection and response; neither of these is likely to work perfectly, so only a combination can make a system secure. And lastly, security is in interactive process between attacker and defender - advances on one side will lead to advances one the other, thus creating an eternal cat and mouse game.

After surveying in depth the various technologies available to secure systems, and analyzing their respective strengths and weaknesses, as well as how they might be circumvented by a different attack, Schneier presents strategies for dealing with them. This involves threat modeling (determining ALL the ways in which a system might be attacked), defining a security policy that defends against those threats, and putting in place the prevention/detection/response mechanisms that implement that policy. This approach can be used for every system (and for non-computer systems as well).

Throughout the book, many examples are used to illustrate the points which help the reader think about security (not just of the computer kind) in a wholly new way. It thus holds applicable lessons that go way beyond the immediate audience of the book.

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iPhone for Programmers - An App-Driven Approach
by Paul Deitel, Harvey Deitel, Abbey Deitel, Eric Kern, Michael Morgano


Prentice Hall
1 edition

456 pages

Reviewed by Ankit Garg, March 2010
  (7 of 10)


This book teaches you iPhone development by creating 14 real life applications ranging from simple GUI applications to complex applications including games. Each chapter progressively creates a more complex application and adds new features to the applications. This way new concepts are introduced in each chapter. There is a short description at the beginning of each chapter about what new concepts are introduced in the chapter. The new concepts introduced are highlighted in the code, but still at some points it becomes hard to grab hold of the new concept because of the long logic of the application. In such chapters you only learn a few key concepts and the rest of the code is repetitive from the previous chapters.

The book clearly states that its not an ObjectiveC tutorial. Still most of the times it gives some information about the language syntax in the code walkthroughs. But learning iPhone development and ObjectiveC at the same time is not that easy so its better if you get some idea about ObjectiveC before you read the book.

This book is useful for beginners and also for people who know the basics of iPhone development but want to learn how to write professional iPhone applications. The book's applications are designed keeping in mind the Apple's human interface guidelines. Throughout the book there are tips about how to design your application so that it doesn't get rejected by Apple. So overall the book is a good resource to learn iPhone development and start writing professional iPhone applications.

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LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0: The King's Treasure
by James Kelly


Apress
edition

pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, November 2011
  (9 of 10)



"Lego Mindstorms NXT 23.0 The King's Treasure" is great for getting started with NXT. It provides 5 projects that you can build. Each comes with design considerations, limitations and sketches. Most importantly there are extremely detailed instructions (with pictures) to build and program the robot. The book also includes templates for you to design your own robots.

The projects are tied together with a cute adventure story. It's a short read which makes the book approachable by both children/parents and "standalone" adults looking to play with NXT.

Whether you are working with FLL (First Lego League) or not, these are great projects to get started or encourage creative ideas.

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Development with the Force.com Platform : building business applications in the cloud
by Jason Ouellette


Addison-Wesley
second edition

494 pages

Reviewed by Amit Ghorpade, February 2012
  (9 of 10)



Development with the Force.com Platform is a good start point for developers looking at Force.com as a PaaS option. The chapter layout is the first striking feature. Its arranged in the same way as you think when developing an application. Starting at the backend followed by business logic and proceeding to UI and integration. This layout itself helps a lot in understanding the PaaS architecture at Force.com. As the book covers almost everything about Force.com PaaS, it is not in depth explanation of most of the things.

It is a beginner to intermediate book and introduces/ explains things to get you started, not to make you a pro on Force.com. As most of the concepts are either self-explanatory or do-it-yourself, they are discussed only on the superficial level. Similarly you will need to look for other resources to get more info on SOQL (Salesforce Object Query Language), SOSL(Salesforce Object Search Language) and Apex. Intermediate to advanced users will find the chapters Advanced Integration and Advanced Platform Features quite interesting. Personally I liked the reports and dashboards feature overview, reports are really a pain all the time.
Putting it together I it is a really good book to start with Force.com with almost everything covered. However additional reading will be needed to get in-depth knowledge of actual programming, like Apex.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

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Google Maps API: Adding Where to Your Applications
by Scott Davis
 
The Bunkhouse administrator is Ankit Garg.