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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Mary Poppendieck, Tom Poppendieck
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellent book that teaches how to think agilely


Books written during the first phase of agile software development have been about very specific practices we should employ. There are some excellent books on the Extreme Programming, Feature-Driven Development and Scrum agile processes. These books teach us "do a, b, and c if you want to do Extreme Programming" or "do x, y and z if you want to do Scrum."
In the last year we've seen books by Highsmith (Agile Software Development Ecosystems) and Cockburn (Agile Software Development) that represent the second wave of agile software development-that of learning to think agilely rather than following a prescribed set of agile rules. Mary and Tom Poppendieck's book is the latest and best book for teaching how to think agilely.
The book contains 22 "thinking tools." The thinking tools are drawn from the world of lean manufacturing where they have helped improve product delivery speed, quality and cost. Each tool is presented as a guideline. Each thinking tool is described with enough detail that you can put it into practice; but, more importantly, the reasons supporting each are made explicit. So, instead of simply reading that it is good to "deliver as fast as possible" we learn how rapid delivery is supported by pull systems (where work is pulled into the current step from the prior step), how queuing theory helps us identify bottlenecks, and how to calculate the cost of delay (to see which bottlenecks are worth removing).
This book is the perfect blend of highly actionable instructions and descriptions of why those actions work. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to improve his or her software development process. The authors' ideas are applicable both to projects using agile approaches today and to more traditional, plan-driven projects.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Windows NT Shell Scripting
Publisher: Pearson Education
Authors: Timothy Hill
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
It doesn't get better than this. Now we need a 2nd edition.


If you have a bit of programming experience, this book together with access to the NT Resource Kit tools will provide you with the foundation for doing almost anything you could imagine within Windows NT Shell Scripting.
The book can be used both as a tutorial and a reference for Windows NT scripting and gives good examples of the commands, tools and concepts covered. For Windows NT, this book does the job as your Shell Scripting Bible in less than 400 pages.
Since Windows NT 4.0, a lot has happened in the Windows scripting field though. With the release of Windows 2000 and the subsequent Windows XP and .NET Server, shell scripting has become much more powerful. A second edition of this book covering the new commands and tools would be most welcome. Until one exists, you might also want to look at newer books covering shell scripting for operating systems based on the Windows NT kernel.
You might also want to look at other, often more powerful ways to script your Windows NT-based environment. For that matter I recommend looking at other books covering WSH (Windows Script Host), ADSI and WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation).



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Excel 2002 Power Programming with VBA
Publisher: Wiley
Authors: John Walkenbach
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Many hype, tons of useless elements, total lack of structure


For sure, this book has a really really exciting title, with words like power, vba and programming.
After reading the book, the reader can answer the question the author has: "why I wrote this book?". To glorify him obviously, since they're virtually everywhere I-do-this, I-do-that, I-show-you-this-and-that. The reader knows perferctly that this book has been written by the author (like any book!), so there's no need for this perpetual I-do-this things. Besides, the only element that matters is not the author bur the book itself. If you can stand this self-promotion, then the worst is yet to come.
This book has no real structure, making its use and finding information a true headache. The summary is a clear proof: part 1) some essential background, 2)excel application development, 3) VBA, 4) userforms, 5) advanced techniques, 6) developing applications, 7) others. Since part 2 is devoted to devlopping, why this subject should again comes in part 6? Besides, isn't the whole book dedicated to developing? Finding what you want, even in the detailed contents, is harsh and shows that there's no plan, but rather disseaminated pieces of information, just like the VBA help.
Instead of clearly dividing by general topic (variables, objects, methods...), the author has a special order where everything seems mixed and spread in the book. Here something about methods, then some chapters later, another thing about methods etc.
And the author, instead of devolping and insiting on crucial themes, like accessing and working with external data (e.g. Access), contents itself with a short paragraph saying: please refer to other books! However, this book devotes around 100 pages to worthless history (starting with VisiCalc in 1978!!!) and the like. Incredible! That some historical material exist, why not. But that this comes while the essential is not here, that's inadmissible. That's why what this product is supposed to give begins only at page 120.
Besides, the layout (font, colors...) makes this book very unpleasant to read, so you want to close it ASAP, which is not exactly a good point.
The 3-star ranking reflects the amount of data provided, and some good points.
If you want a true and efficient book on Excel VBA, go for Definitve guide to Excel VBA which is really worthwhile.



Product: Book - CD-ROM
Title: Cisco CCNA Network Simulator: CCNA Self-Study, Router Simulation Software for Hands-On CCNA 640-801 Skills Enhancement
Publisher: Cisco Press
Authors: Boson Software Inc.
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
CISCO CCNA Network Simulator: GREAT HANDS-ON!


Reviewer Certification: MCSE NT 4.0, CCNA

ISBN: 1-58720-131-3

Through my recent CCNA certification process I found that the most difficult part of getting certified is acquiring hands-on experience. Inexperienced Network Administrators are rarely given significant access to production routing and switching equipment. (Gaining experience for OS certifications does not run the same level of risk of negatively impacting an entire enterprise). Couple this with the expense of buying actual "practice" equipment and one can see the value in a good, cost-effective simulator program.

The Cisco CCNA Network Simulator by Boson Software Inc. (Published by Cisco Press) appreciably meets one's need for hands-on experience. There are six lab modules to choose from: Stand Alone Labs, Sequential Labs, Scenario Labs, CCNA INTRO Labs (640-821), CCNA ICND (640-811) Labs, and Your Labs. Companion materials are a click away to help instruct and clarify. (Be aware that the lab numbers and chapter numbers don't necessarily match. For example, Stand Alone Lab 1's support material is Chapter 7 of Cisco CCNA Certification Library.) Students can check their progress with the Lab Grader feature.

Before the student can reap the full benefits of the product, he/she should be prepared to invest time - and perhaps some frustration -- in getting to know how this product works. Though not overly complex, there is a definite learning curve. The process starts with printing the User Guide (which does have some typos). It would have been nice to have this provided with the simulator media. (It would also be nice to have the option of printing all chapters, but Cisco CCNA Certification Library is available via other means in its entirety.) The labs can be printed out individually or in batches.

With the various lab categories and types, students can develop a strategy for where they're at in the education and training process. Beginners will probably want to start with the Sequential Labs. (Read the caution on page 50 of the User Guide as care must be taken to "save" after each lab or face the necessity of repeating "quite a few steps depending on what area you are working on.") The other labs are much more flexible and allow the student to focus on areas of weakness.

As a bonus, the Simulator has uses beyond test preparation. Intermediate administrators and instructors will find the "Network Designer" ("NetMap") module to be a useful tool. The Network Designer, which can accommodate up to 200 devices per simulated network, can be used to test IP changes prior to implementing them in production. Those that have devices above the 4500 Router and 2900 Switches will have to be a little creative with the simulator in the quest of paralleling the production environment -- but this is doable.

Students can go to Help and Check for Updates. The Readme contains errata that can be invaluable in clarifying issues and correcting mistakes that could wreak havoc on certification test scores. Above all, Cisco CCNA Network Simulator will definitely give the student the hands-on experience that is difficult to find but is essential to success in obtaining certification.