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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
Wow! What can I say but READ THIS BOOK!


That is, if you have an interest in any aspect of software development, project management, or just plain management.
Although the book is getting a little long in the tooth, the advice and observations, based on the authors' decades of experience consulting to the software industry is spot-on and insightful.
The price put me off buying it for several months, but I was very glad that I finally invested. The book is full of common sense that somehow isn't so common, and the authors point out many of the more common mis-assumptions that cause projects (and teams) to fail.
The central thesis is that most projects fail because of mishandling of the people aspects of the project team, rather than problems with the technology. Project managers who take the advice provided to heart will stand a much better chance of achieving the successful results they need.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Illustrator CS Killer Tips (Killer Tips)
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Dave Cross
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Lots of Tips and Tricks in Illustrator


This book is not as big and beefy as some of the 800+ page books I have been reviewing, and I consider that a good thing! This book is nothing but tips, so you don't have to wade through long tutorials or read about the theory of vectors to get what you want.

Since it is only tips, you need to know at least the basics of using Illustrator to put the information to work.

These are great tips. Some, I never expected, such as how to grab the "Twist" tool from your copy of Illustrator 10 and import it into Illustrator CS. It seems that in their infinite wisdom, Adobe developers decided to remove it from the Tool Palette in CS and make it a pull down menu where you have to enter a numerical value. Many of us prefer to chose the tool from the palette and apply the twist or twirl visually, rather than have to guess what numerical value will give the results we want.

There are wonderful tips on editing PDF files, how to make a fraction, put type on a circle, rotate individual characters, create evenly spaced tabs, create colored text and text boxes, switch between Type and Selection Tools quickly, reveal hidden objects in your drawing, and more.

I particularly liked the tip on how to smooth lines you are drawing by holding down the Option key as you draw. And, as someone who prefers keyboard commands, I appreciated the section at the front that tells you how to customize your own, as well as the hidden keyboard commands discussed at the end of the book. And, the section on making customized Arrowheads comes in handy.

Until I read this, I had no idea there was a Symbolism chooser. (Hold Command + Option as you click and hold on any Symbolism tool and a Chooser pops up with all the choices.)

And who knew you could get Illustrator to calculate complex transformations for you? Say you want to create a box that is exactly 3 inches square and apply a 12 point stroke. Illustrator applies the stroke to the center of the line, giving you 6 points outside the line on each side. In the Transform palette, you can tell it to make the box 3 inches minus 12 points, so your box will end up exactly 3 inches square, including the stroke. There are two tips on page 74 that explain it well.

If you already know how to do basic Illustrator tasks, or even if you are an advanced user, this book holds lots of little gems for you.



Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Speech and Language Processing: An Introduction to Natural Language Processing, Computational Linguistics and Speech Recognition
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Authors: Daniel Jurafsky, James H. Martin
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Good, but many errors


I recently had reason to return to Jurafsky and Martin's* "Speech and Language Processing" to do a little brush-up on pronunciation models. Of course, I got diverted; this time by an insightful review of the "internal structure" of words. I came away reminded of why this is perhaps the single best textbook I've ever read. "Speech and Language Processing" is always the first source I check, and it is quite often the last.
First of all, Jurafsky and Martin cover absolutely everything you need to know in order to understand the state of the art systems and to read primary sources such as journals or conference proceedings. You could teach an advanced undergraduate or graduate course by simply tackling it a chapter at a time and discussing everyone's solutions to the exercises. The book is organized by interleaving theoretical topics, such as regular expressions and automata, with practical applications, such as pronunciation modeling or pattern matching. This allows for a fast start on interesting and realistic applications while providing a solid foundation for understanding the field.
Second, the book is not only readable, it's enjoyable. The examples are clever, not cute or forced. The topics flow from one to the next in an almost seamless narrative.
Third, the book is scholarly to the point of lacing pages with references to original sources. Somehow, Jurafsky and Martin have managed to track down fascinating threads such as the development of the currently accepted statistical models for speech recognition.
Fourth, and most amazingly, Jurafsky and Martin manage all of this while maintaining a rigorous standard of definition and example that should be a model to the rest of the field. Terms are defined when they're used or cross-referenced. Algorithms are given in well defined and carefully crafted pseudo-code (using pseudocode neatly leapfrogged two decades of computational linguistics books tied to obscure programming languages). For instance, their definition of CYK parsing is a minimal, elegant nesting of for-loops from which the complexity of the algorithm is self-evident. Speaking of rigor, the book is very well copy edited, typeset, and indexed.
This book isn't the last book you'll need; it's the first. Jurafsky and Martin open the door to the cognitive sciences, including linguistics, psychology and philosophy, and the computer sciences including logic, automata, formal languages, algorithms, and statistical estimation. Not to mention artificial intelligence; all the good problems are AI-complete**, after all, and Jurafsky and Martin don't let you forget it.
--------------------* There were actually several other chapter authors, including Keith Vander Linden on Natural Language Generation, Nigel Ward on Machine Translation, and Andy Kehler on Discourse; it's a tribute to all of them that the book hangs together so well. ** "AI-complete", a term derived from "NP-complete" and "Turing-complete", applies to a problem that is so hard that if you solved it, you could solve any other interesting artificial intelligence problem in terms of the solution to your problem.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Guru's Guide to Transact-SQL
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Ken Henderson
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Joe Celko is right. This is the best T-SQL book bar none.


I've been working with SS for about five years and have been looking for a consumate guide to the language for some time. I wanted something that went beyond the books online and that covered the current release of the product. Henderson's book was just what I wanted. It's a godsend. Just by reading it, I've seen my T-SQL skills improve dramatically. I feel like I'm getting near being an expert. I had no idea you could do so many things with standard T-SQL. I guess it's just a matter of knowing what you're doing, and this book helps you get there faster than any other.