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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Steve Krug
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
How to Save Yourself MILLIONS In Web Con$ulting Dollars.

I have found my new favorite book. After plowing through a few thousand pages of web design, information architecture and usability texts, I have landed on one that I think flattens them all. DO NOT pass GO, DO NOT collect $200, run (don't walk) to Amazon.com and buy this book.
This book handles some of the more whip-weary horse corpses of usability and web design with a fresh, nearly irreverent tone. It's actually interesting to read for anyone concerned with what makes good sites into GREAT ones.
A short read at just over 150 pages, the author claims it was designed to be read 'on a long flight.' As his wife so clearly says in the introduction, "when something's hard to use - I just don't use it as much." The book goes on to show you exactly how to make your site easy to use so people will use it. This is starting to sound like a plug, so I'll stop right here. I mean it though, get this book. Now. Are you still here? Go buy it now!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Extreme Programming Installed
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Ron Jeffries, Ann Anderson, Chet Hendrickson, Ronald E. Jeffries
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Definitely a must-have

This is the second(or was it the third?) book in the XP series. If you are a manager, try to decide whether to use XP, try the "XP Explained" book instead. This book is for people who buy the concept of XP, and wants to know how to implement it in their workplace. But this book is definitely beneficial to anyone, as they are applicable everyday, even if you are not practising XP.
While books like "The Unified Software Development Process" left me in a complete daze, XP Installed leads me step by step on how to go about doing XP. An good example would be getting "User Stories"(comparable to Use Case), XP Installed teaches you what a "User Story" is, and how to go about writing one.
This book is again, of the correct size, easy for carrying around. The authors wrote the book in a concise, no-nonsense matter. There's never a case of you seeing merry-go-rounds :) Unlike other books, this book was previously released to the XP community for reading, feedback and suggestions. The result of it, is a better XP book minus all the flaws which could have been left undetected.
This book is a must-have for your bookshelf.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Better, Faster, Lighter Java
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Bruce A. Tate, Justin Gehtland
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Very candid

Well, here is something different. This book talks frankly and it explicitly contradicts scads of other books on Java. The authors' basic message is that Java and other constructs and standards like XML, J2EE, EJB and Web Services, have grown too bulky. That often, these, or affiliated design patterns, can lead you into a cul-de-sac of complicated and slow code.
I don't agree with everything they said, but much of their book may touch a chord in you. Most of their ire is devoted to EJB; especially entity beans, which they consider totally useless. For MDB and stateless session beans, they suggest these are best used when you typically have transactions across a distribute database. In general, the EJB code is too verbose. Conceptual clutter. And to avoid this, you may end up dependent on a developer framework that autogenerates some source code. Plus, most executables using EJBs end up being too slow. This complaint echoes what many others have noted for years.
On a related theme, the authors suggest Web Services are too heavy. Designed by committee and very complex. Before anyone has had extensive experience with a successful version. Not unlike how EJB and CORBA came about.
In general, they recommend that you choose the simplest tools and frameworks you can find. Stay with these as long as you can. And take with caution the siren songs of vendors claiming better tools.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Designer's Guide to VHDL
Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann
Authors: Peter J. Ashenden
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
The best VHDL reference to date

Until Peter's next book comes out of course! I would give it 5 stars if I was just learning the VHDL language, but I'm actually trying to use VHDL for FPGA design and this book falls short in that regard.
This book is really good at explaining the 'mechanics' of VHDL programming. It is an out growth of Peter's "Intro to VHDL" paper that was published on the web and it sort of shows. I really like the depth that it goes into, I wish it had the standard libraries in the appendix. (it doesn't) However, until getting Ashendon's book, all other VHDL texts were pretty opaque.
The only thing this book does not have is a treatment of logic 'inference.' Since all VHDL compilers today "infer" (a fancy way of saying "guess") what logic would be able to implement a behavior, not understanding how those compilers guess makes it possible to write syntactically clean VHDL that doesn't synthesize any logic. To get a better handle on inference I'd recommend "HDL Chip Design" by Smith.