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Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Paul Graham
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Insightful Vision From Graham

I found the opening chapter to be exceptionally insightful. Graham discusses in detail the culture of being a teen, particularly a teen in a public school setting, and what sets nerds apart. His description of the sort of "Lord of the Flies" hierarchy that is created is dead on in my opinion.

He points out that prison wardens primary duties are to keep the prisoners in one place, feed them, and keep them from killing each other. The school principal's job in many cases is only a small step up from that because the job is to keep the kids in one place, feed them, and keep them from killing each other and to attempt to provide some level of education at the same time.

I found the second essay equally compelling. Graham talks at length about how the world sees computer programming as a "science" when it is in fact more of an art. They compare programmers to physicists and mathematicians while Graham claims they are better compared with painters and other artists.

Common "wisdom" on computer programming suggests that the program should be well thought out and planned before the first line of code is typed. Graham suggests that programming is more of a living creation that is sketched and then fleshed out over time and that it takes on new life as it evolves to the final product.

Tony Bradley is a consultant and writer with a focus on network security, antivirus and incident response. He is the About.com Guide for Internet / Network Security (http://netsecurity.about.com), providing a broad range of information security tips, advice, reviews and information. Tony also contributes frequently to other industry publications. For a complete list of his freelance contributions you can visit Essential Computer Security (http://www.tonybradley.com).

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Hitchhiker's Guide to SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Peter Blackburn, William R. Vaughn
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellent book

Being a beta tester for Reporting Services I had the chance to meet Peter Blackburn (the co-author of Hitchhiker's Guide to SQL Server 2000 Reporting). His name was the one to come up every time I was searching for help in any search engine or newsgroup about Reporting Services. He even was there, talking to me live on MSN Messenger, helping me to solve my most extreme problems or understand the various concepts about securing, authoring, deploying and managing RS.
I know that these guys spend a lot of time on researching, helping other people, giving Microsoft RS development team precious feedback. Their trails are all over the internet to prove it!
So, I was happy when Peter told me that he and Bill Vaughn were writing a book on the subject and I was really pleased to see that their book was such an excellent piece of work when I got it in my hands...
The book:
Written in a natural, easy to read language (I'm Greek and my English is not proficient) this book is a precious guide for the Report developer, the WEB developer, the Administrator and DBA, System Integrator and even the hardcore developer. This book explains in detail not only how but why. The two experienced authors suggest best practices and justify why. Another thing that I liked most in this book, is the Security point of view of everything. Peter will not let you setup an insecure RS without having nightmares and for all your life! He won't let you write a single query that leaves the infamous "Injection Code" backdoor open. Instead he'll give you an alternative and explain why it is better (see: "Procedure for passing parameters to Stored Procs").
The humour lying all over this book makes it really enjoyable - be prepare for some laughs too, Peter is quite a character.
But, this book is not only a very good guide. It is a source of valuable advices, tips, tricks, inside (MS) info but most of all it is an independent look on Reporting Services that goes farther than Microsoft itself!
I'll be more specific:
This book will show you how to achieve some things (that you'll desperately need when you become an expert) that MS simply does not support:
* Passing multivalue parameters - IN (p1, p2, p3)
* Creating and using your own parameter UI before report execution (my favourite)
* Expanding Reports with your templates and styles
* Customizing the Report Manager
Oh, I said: "show you"! I mean it. There is a DVD accompanying this book. This DVD is the most useful one I've ever used with a book. The "Hitchhiker's Guide Me" videos will show you step by step all the processes (you'll really appreciate the "Installing an SSL Security Certificate" guide).
My favourite parts:
* Installing and Configuring Reporting Services
* Report Security
* Extending Reports--Report Templates and Styles
* Customizing the Report Manager
* Managing Reports using SOAP
To conclude:
Excellent book, it worth the money. You'll read it once. If you are a developer it will be your best friend for ever!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Database Design for Mere Mortals: A Hands-On Guide to Relational Database Design, Second Edition
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Michael J. Hernandez
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
How to organize data in databases made simple!

Designing a simple database, especially one that does not need to store transaction-related data, is supposed to be a straightforward process. And this book affirms this fact. Starting from a real-world situation (though somewhat oversimplified), the author takes you through a series of clearly-defined and practical steps to finish with a robust and well-designed database: ready for setting up in anyone of the more popular DBMS programs. Well, almost... The author does not discuss or even mention other design parameters, such as access mechanisms and indexes, that should be set in order to tune the database for speed and efficiency. You'll need to consult a higher-level text such as 'Handbook of Relational Database Design' by Fleming et al for this and more in-depth stuff.
This book serves as a complete, stand-alone tutorial if all you want to do is set up a simple database, and where the emphasis is on how the data should be best organized to fulfill any request for information that is based on the data. Otherwise, it is a solid introductory text or even a refresher that should make you excited about databases and the irreplaceable role they play in a world where 'information the way you want it' is king!

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: MicroC OS II: The Real Time Kernel (With CD-ROM)
Publisher: CMP Books
Authors: Jean J. Labrosse
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Writing style is often confusing

Whether or not you end up using this RT Operating System - or another - or not be using an Operating System at all - this book gives you a very good illustration of all concurrency issues you should consider when desgining an embedded application.