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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: James Tisdall
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A friendly and excellent introduction to perl for biologists

The author presents Perl in a thorough, well organized fashion,always reinforcing the use of the basic tools ...scalars,arrays,hashes, regular expressions,loops and subroutines,parsing data banks,relational databases,perl modules,program design and so on.He presents clearly ,giving many examples of real life biological problems. It assumes little if any programming background, although a knowledge of C and Unix would be very helpful. This is definitely a must for anyone learning Perl for molecular biology. 5 stars ++

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Programming Perl (3rd Edition)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, Jon Orwant
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Why read anything else?

I bought this book to learn programming Perl as fast as possible. With my knowledge of other languages I could just read through the first three chapters and get started after that. The way the book is written, the funny comments about examples etc. make it a lot of fun to read!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Foundation PHP5 for Flash (Foundation)
Publisher: A-Press
Authors: David Powers
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Required reading.

The dot.com bubble is long gone from the general public's perception, but one thing is for certain - experienced Flash web designers are one of the most overworked set of people at the moment. Since the last two quarters of 2004, my Flash design consulting work has gone through the roof (and this all the more noticeable because 2003 was *very* quiet for Flash web design).
From talking to other web designers, it is apparent that their phones are also red hot at the moment (summer 2005).

There is a problem though. These new clients don't just want a clever user interface, or some multimedia content. They invariably want Flash to be the front end of a web application. In such projects, Flash is the cool and friendly front end of a server driven system rather than a standalone web interface

Theres a lot of demand out there for flash developers that know about XML, PHP and mySQL, because these are the three technologies most commonly used. Knowing these technologies *and* Flash is also a sure way to double your customer base (and usually also increase your hourly rate...).

The good news is that unlike all competing proprietary systems, XML, PHP and mySQL are all free. They are open source systems.
All you have to do is get them installed on your computer, set up a local and web host, and you have everything you need to start developing or learning.

Um... that's the first of three problems though...

PHP and mySQL are created for the open source community, and that means they don't come in a nice box with a hologram, read-me and an installer that only needs to know which directory you want to install to.

You also need something like Apache installed and running, and theres one or two other apps that make life easier (such as phpMyAdmin). Many designers have been put off by this... you need to install several pieces of software in exactly the right order, and all of them have to work *at the same time* for you to get anywhere.

The first problem solved by this book is that it assumes only knowledge of Flash and basic web design skills, so it leads you by the hand in getting a fully integrated dev system installed and running. I can't tell you how useful this is - open source software is free, but the downside is that it assumes that you know what you are doing!

The second problem is that there's just so much information to take in. Previously, I went out and got several books on PHP, SQL and Apache (plus a few other technologies that I later found were not even needed or were rarely used options), and just didn't know where to start on getting it all up and running with Flash. It took me a good few months to get anywhere. What was missing for me was a book that took Flash as the starting point rather than expect me to figure out where Flash fits in with all these confusing new technologies.

This book goes through the required technologies with a Flash-facing sensibility - `you know Flash already, so I'll start from there and introduce you slowly to the other stuff'. There's only one other book that tackles this route efficiently - and its (a) out of print and (b) sells for extortionate amounts in the second hand market - so foundation PHP5 for flash is currently your best bet in extending Flash skills to server applications.

Finally, there is the problem of knowing what the technology can and cannot do, and how it tends to be set up in practical terms. Even if you know about the link between Flash >> PHP >> back end database, its not clear how the common building blocks (communications, security, etc) are built.

What is really needed is a practical, example based set of tutorials that take you through common problems, rather than the exhaustive reference docs that open source tends to come with. If you look on the web today, theres lots of Flash tutorials on components and ActionScript, but nothing on the important subject of integrating Flash to back end technologies (or it there is, its pretty fragmented). This book is very long, and most of that length is taken up with examples, so it gives you just what you need - practical experience - and lots of it. Even better, the book also provides you with a common library of scripts that (amongst other things) iron out all the really big gotchas and version dependent problems, so you can just get on and design.

So, to conclude...

1. If you are a Flash designer, you need to know back end technologies because that is what the market is currently asking for. You need this book because its contents are fast becoming a necessary skill for the industry you are in.
2. Rather than a single technology, web applications rely on several technologies and applications. Simply getting a development system up and working before you can actually start learning is itself a daunting task. This book tells you exactly what you need and don't need. It is especially good because it concentrates only on the most commonly used (and therefore commercially important) technologies: Apache and PHP/SQL
3. For Flash developers wanting to get into web applications, there is the difficulty in finding *any* material that faces the issue from a Flash centric position that is suitable for designers as opposed to open source gurus. This book takes a Flash centric and totally practical route (as opposed to the more usual theory/reference route that many other books take - something that doesn't often work for designers).

Essential reading.

Disclaimer - I was reviewer on this book. However, it must be said that I *requested* to be reviewer on this book because I strongly believe that it is one of the most important new Flash books to come out in a long time.

Sham Bhangal

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Designer's Guide to VHDL
Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann
Authors: Peter J. Ashenden
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The only VHDL book you need.

Before Ashenden there was Douglas Perry. Perry's book on VHDL (Second Edition) was pretty well written and handled HDL for synthesis quite well. After Perry, I was introduced to Ashenden's "The Designer's Guide to VHDL". This is by far the must have VHDL reference manual. Ask yourself, what is important in a good reference manual...the answer is well organized concepts, good examples and a thorough index! This book has it all. I have other VHDL books that just get dusty on my shelf, not this one! If I'm not using it, someone else usually wants to borrow it. If your looking for a great VHDL book...pick this one up or borrow it.