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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: UNIX for Dummies
Publisher: For Dummies
Authors: John R. Levine, Margaret Levine Young
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
Too cute and too vapid

I was completely lost and had never used UNIX in my entire life. This book gave me a very helpful sampling of the most useful commands and excellent syntax examples so that I could start trying them immediately. It has a very gentle approach and thus is perfect for a "Dummy."I highly recommend it to the beginner with no experience in UNIX. The book works well enough that you've outgrown it in a week and know enough to look for a more advanced book. That says a lot.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Java 2: The Complete Reference, Fifth Edition
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media
Authors: Herbert Schildt
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Both a learning aid and a reference book

I have always enjoyed Osborne's "Complete Reference" series, and this book is no exception. Designed as both a learning aid and a reference book, I found that material was both easy to lookup and the text was engaging enough to read through.
The book starts out with an overview of Java, including a discussion of OOP. If you're an experienced OO Programmer, you'll probably be a bit bored. Really the first 6 chapters cover all the basics of creating a Java program (including data types, operators, classes, and control statements). After this initial discussion, the book gets a bit more complicated by diving into inheritance, threads, and I/O.
What I really enjoyed about this book is the rest of it: after this discussion on Java language principles, the rest of the book is a how-to on the various Java libraries. For example, in the chapter on the java.util library, there is a section on the HashSet class. There is a description of the class (including various overloaded constructors) and a good example of how to use it. Think O'Reilly's Java In A Nutshell but with a lot more instruction and examples.
Another thing I really enjoyed about the reference section of this book, is that "gotchas" are clearly outlined. Where there are tricky little things you wouldn't think about, or differences in how Java behaves depending on what your might expect, this book explains these issues. In any case, the reference section covers the java.lang, java.util, java.io libraries in addition to providing detailed discussion of using networking and AWT libraries.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: A Programmer's Guide to Java (tm) Certification
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Khalid A. Mughal, Rolf W. Rasmussen
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
A Programmer's Guide to Java Certification.

The book is very good, but I was unable to get the mock engine as promised. I registered the book and sent numorous complaints to the publishers. The publishers don't seem to care. I am stuck with this book.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Design Patterns
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John Vlissides
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The original and definitive work on OO design patterns

Design Patterns, referred to warmly as the "Gang of Four" book by it's fans, is the book that introduced me to the world of design patterns. After reading this book, you'll immediately see patterns from it everywhere - many classes you use every day will suddenly all fit together in a pattern.
Besides being a tool for writing good maintainable code, patterns are a crucial tool for communication among developers. Knowing even a half-dozen of the basic patterns will facilitate communication among team members immensely. For instance, you may be having a whiteboard design session with another developer or two, explaining some particular design you have in your head. Instead of having to detail 3 or 4 or more classes and how they would interact, you could simply say that you are thinking of using the Factory pattern here, and the Decorator pattern over there, and the others will know exactly what you are thinking.
The patterns are grouped into three groups: Creational, Structual, and Behavioral patterns. Each pattern is considered in turn, each having sections detailing the intent of the pattern, the motivation for using it, the consequences (both good and bad) of its application, collaboration among the objects involved, and examples.
The examples are mostly in C++ with a small dose of Smalltalk, but the patterns are equally applicable to any object-oriented language, Java in particular. Some of the patterns can be implemented even more simply and cleanly in Java, as a result of language features such as dynamic class loading, among others.
This book is well-written, and it's a quality book well worth owning. It even has two nice ribbon bookmarks attached to the binding which makes to book even more practical as well as handsome.