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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Hacking: The Art of Exploitation
Publisher: No Starch Press
Authors: Jon Erickson
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Best exploit book on the market


Best example of a book on exploitation on the market. Take this excerpt: "They're coming at you all fists and elbows. You're screaming, 'No, no, no!' but all they hear is, 'Who wants cake?' And they all do, Francis. They all want cake." Brilliant.
A must have.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Java(tm)2: A Beginner's Guide
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media
Authors: Herbert Schildt, Herbert Schildt
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Fantastic, logical intro to the language


This book is an excellent "first book" to get for learning Java. The author does a fine job of logically progressing through topics. The author seems to magically know your next question and answer it in the next section.
I picked this up and also Ivor Horton's Java 2: A Beginner's Guide. Horton, besides being extremely verbose, jumps around a lot. I often found myself asking "Why is he bringing that up now?" when reading that book.
This book also has a nice balance of code and explanation. A good deal of code and clear explanation of it. It's not dumbed down and it's not over the top.
Highly recommended.
(Also highly recommand the Java Cookbook from Darwin/O'Reilly).



Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Publisher: Graphics Press
Authors: Edward R. Tufte
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellence in graphical work


If you buy just one of Edward Tufte's three wonderful books on good graphical practice (soon to be four, incidentally: watch out for Beautiful Evidence, expected later this year), then it has to be this one, because it is here that he sets out the principles that underlie all of his later work. It is a book that everyone who uses graphs for displaying information needs to read and read again. Every page contains something of interest and importance, and sometimes something entertaining as well.

So, what are these principles that define a good graphic? First of all, the presentation must be honest. So far as deliberate dishonesty is concerned this is obvious, but often graphical dishonesty results from incompetence rather than bad intentions. A frequent error of this kind is to vary the linear dimensions of little drawings intended to represent the relative magnitudes of different things. It is common, for example, when one quantity has double the magnitude of another to represent this with a drawing that not only has double the length but also double the width of the other, forgetting that this means that it has four times the area. In more elaborate illustrations where the drawings imply three dimensions, i.e. depth as well as length and width, doubling the linear size implies multiplying the volume by eight.

To this point Tufte's arguments are surely uncontroversial, but he goes on to discuss other principles that excellent graphics display and bad ones do not, and here he may part company with some of his readers. He dislikes meaningless decoration -- flourishes intended to make "dry statistics" more interesting. However, as he rightly says, if the statistics are not interesting in the first place one should not be presenting them, and if they are interesting they don't need decoration to make them more so. Another point -- related to this one, but more extended -- is that good graphics maximize what he calls data ink: as far as possible all of the ink used in printing the graphic should be conveying information about the data. Grids, scale measures, frames and so on should be kept to a minimum and should never be allowed to overwhelm the data they are supporting. A good graphic should be clear, but at the same time contain many details that constantly call the attention back.

The book is fairly repetitive, as certain examples recur during the course of reading it. However, this is deliberate, and probably essential. When we see a truly excellent graphic for the first time, such as the summary of New York City's weather in 1980, which appears in Chapter 1, we can see immediately that it is excellent, but it is less evident what makes it excellent. To understand this we need to have the various features explained and contrasted with some of the truly horrible examples that Tufte also provides: the very large quantity of real information contained in a small space, the simultaneous comparison of numerous different variables, the intelligent (and not garish) use of shading, the explanatory labels within the graphic, and so on. Convincing the reader that all this is desirable, and that gratuitous shading, meaningless bright colours, and so on, are not, requires a leisurely pace and some repetition. Many readers simply don't get it even after it has been explained, and the continued frequency of really bad graphics underlines the necessity of Tufte's books.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: HTML for the World Wide Web with XHTML and CSS: Visual QuickStart Guide, Fifth Edition
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: Elizabeth Castro
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
a slight correction --newer version is not that bad


I made a fairly lengthly comment about Castro's HTML book a few days ago. I didn't realize that the version I had was not in fact the latest version of her book. (And I looked at this latest version at the bookstore just yesterday). She seems to have corrected a lot of her examples, and she has obliquely addressed the coming of XML to the web in the latest edition. But there are still many places where the examples have tags without their end tags and Ms. Castro doesn't mention XHTML anywhere, so my original comments still apply. This book is one of the most helpful books available on HTML, and this latest edition is much better than previous editions. As long as you remember that the examples still need end tags, this book will still be a worthwhile buy.