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Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Paul Graham
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Read a few of his online essays first

In our celebrity worshipping culture, it seems that getting the limelight or making a large amount of money by themselves confer great wisdom. Paul Graham is undoubtedly a very intelligent man and a talented software developer who was able to make a lot of money back in the bubble days. As you read his essays, though, you will be disappointed to find that he is no wiser nor more capable of "Big Ideas" than you or I.

His essays are expressions of personal opinion and taste. He seems to believe in absolute truths, but disguises his beliefs as philosophical analysis. His views on wealth creation are those of a <em>nouveau riche</em> techie, unable to see the miserable lifestyles billions of others call life. If we are not wealthy it is because we simply don't have what it takes, period.

You won't find much substance behind his arguments, just vague analogies, anecdotes, and cherished beliefs. Frankly, his point of view verges on the magical-religious, rather than the scientific. Musings on art and aesthetics make it quite clear that he prefers representational art over abstract. I can only wonder if that terrible phrase "But is it really Art?" has ever touched his lips.

He hints that he is a Libertarian, and his essays bear this out. Not a very convincing one, but the more common sort that is unable to see that other people's lives do not resemble his own. It is baffling that Libertarians of this stripe are unable to see that laws exist because many people break them. For him, those without wealth are simply not motivated enough to take the bull by the horns and be successful. Most people are not wealthy not necessarily out of laziness, but but due to a gamut of other causes as well. Some of these causes can be resolved and the person freed to a Libertarian dream life, but some cannot. It is the latter that Paul and others of his ilk simply cannot understand. This shallowness pervades his two essays on wealth. It seems he believes the problem to be that people are upset that some people are wealthy. Wrong, Paul. The greatest problem facing humanity today, bar none, is that so many billions of people are trapped in grinding poverty. Little talks on start-ups and IPOs are essentially irrelevant. He is convinced that most wealthy people alive today are wealthy due to their pluck, focus, and high-achiever drive. In his view of history, it was during the Industrial Revolution that "wealth creation definitively replaced corruption as the best way to get rich." No mention is made of whether slavery or exploitation are an acceptable component of "wealth creation." In his own words, "it seems [odd] to say that it's <em>unjust</em> that certain kinds of work are underpaid," emphasis his.

He has a Programming Language essay where he derides "inexperienced programmers' judgements about the relative merits of programming languages," and goes on to make disparaging winks and nods in the direction of Java. He makes it quite clear throughout the book that Lisp is the language of choice. I assume we can look forward to his Lisp implementations of OpenGL and ecommerce web sites. Absurd? Of course!

An essay about what programming languages will look like a hundred years from now is trapped in the present. His worries are of compiler optimizations and concise syntax, concerns that may have been central over the past 50 years, but will have faded into the background a century from now. Even though he estimates that computers will be at least a million times more powerful then than now, he expects programs written for them in these futuristic languages would "run acceptably well on our hardware." The only interesting remark in the chapter is that such languages might "make a great pseudocode."

I have many more gripes, but I do not pretend to be especially wise myself. I am a developer of average skill and intelligence, but if even I can see so many glaring errors and simplistic opinions, how can this book have gotten past the O'Reilly editors so easily? Nevertheless, I recommend this book. It will stimulate your thinking regardless of where you stand on the issues he discusses.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: CSS Pocket Reference, 2nd Edition (Pocket Reference (O'Reilly))
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Eric Meyer
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Handy reference, but not for everyone

This is a good book, but certain types of user may find it a little frustrating.

Regular or advanced users of CSS will find it very convenient. It contains a lot of useful information and, when you need to check the syntax of a particular property, the information is easy to find, clearly written and very comprehensive.

The problem arises when you don't remember all the basics. The index structure contains references to property names, but not applications. For example, suppose you want to put some text in italics and justify the paragraph, there is no entry in the index that says "italic" or "justify". You need to know which properties to use, or scan the index until you see properties that might be relevant (in this case, the properties you need are 'font-style' for italics and 'text-align' for justify).

So, it is a good book, but I would like to echo the message of Joshua Cogliati's review: it would be a much better reference with the addition of some basic information in the index.

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
Elegantly explains WHY and HOW lean works in software

If you already understand or use agile software development approaches such as XP or Scrum then this book will teach you WHY they work. It's beautifully written too.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Peopleware : Productive Projects and Teams, 2nd Ed.
Publisher: Dorset House Publishing Company, Incorporated
Authors: Tom Demarco, Timothy Lister
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Book is fantastic; a must read for those who want change

This book is very good. This book points out the obvious pitfalls that are in place in many of the workplace environments today. I highly recommend the book for those who have a sincere interest in seeking to change the normal corporate mentality that permeates most workplaces today. This book is very practical but yet sound in it's foundation and findings. This should be required reading for all of those involved in facilities planning and related decisions. A must read book for all who are involved in the workplace and especially those starting a new business!