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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes, Third Edition
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Ben Forta
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Unorganised, sparse, and erratic

This was laying around the office and I needed to pick up SQL so I gave it a whirl. [I would have never have choosen any programming book with the phrase 'in 10 Minutes' in the title! What a crock.]

I typically work in IDL and Perl and need to add a bit of mySQL.

To me reading this book is like trying to follow the path of a running squirrel. It's jumping all over the place. The thoughts are unclear and lack flow. It's supposed to be a primer but in the scatter shot approach it really makes a mess and winds up missing the connection between points.

I'm looking for something better, and it's certain to take longer than 10 minutes.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Professional JSP 2nd Edition
Publisher: Wrox Press
Authors: Simon Brown, Robert Burdick, Jayson Falkner, Ben Galbraith, Rod Johnson, Larry Kim, Casey Kochmer, Thor Kristmundsson, Sing Li
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Good but with some notable problems

Wrox Press continues their time-honored tradional of piling as many authors into one 1200 page volume that they can in the hopes that they will end up with a definitive treatment of the subject. The authors range from seasoned professionals with real-world experience to people with nothing but a year or two of college computer science courses behind them. I must confess that I am not sure what I was expecting in these chapters but since JSP Tag Libraries seemed to be one of the more challenging and interesting areas of JSPs I was hoping for some more meaningful, 'meaty' content.
The assembly of these 18 (yes, 18!) authors wind up generating a book that essentially could have been put together with more precision and continuity if it had 15 fewer authors. It very much comes off as a rushed effort, without any tightness whatsoever. The writing style of this second edition can only be described as amateurish. This, fortunately, can be a little easier to swallow if you accept the spirit of the book (in Wrox's words 'Programmer to Programmer'). Take the text as quickly put-together material from programmers that have been through it (even if it was brief or only in school) and you should be fine.
Many unnecessary forward references exist throughout the text and, because of the unusually large number of authors, there is a large amount of repetition in the body of most chapters. The book's page count could also have been greatly reduced had the authors not consistently given condensed introduction to material that ends up being the subject matter for entire chapters later in the book. For example, two early chapters describe the basics of Tag Libraries, only to have them surface as the primary topic of chapters 8 - 11.
The code included throughout the book is variable in quality, as you might expect. The book doesn't pretend to be an academic tome of best practices or a showcase for some top-flight, brilliant programming but you end up thinking that many of the examples could have been made much more effective with more thought put into them. As with many other programming books out there, this one is definitely not without its errors. You'd hope, however, that with the 21 technical reviewers and 3 editors that worked on this book that it would have fared better than most.
In summary, if you take the text for what it is and skip over the segments of fluff and numerous poor code examples I think that most professional programmers new to this technology will find enough material to make the hefty price tag almost worth it (especially if you share it with others on your team!).

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Cryptography Decrypted
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: H. X. Mel, Doris M. Baker, Steve Burnett
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Really good intro to cryptography

Technology is so full of acronyms and vernacular that many computer books have glossaries that are as thick as novellas. Fortunately, books such as Cryptography Decrypted: A Pictorial Introduction to Digital Security provide a good, largely jargon-free introduction to an often arcane subject.
Cryptography is one of the central components of information security. Without it, much that we take for granted, such as e-commerce and confidential e-mail, would be impossible. Cryptography has four main components: confidentiality (information can't be understood by anyone for whom it is not intended); integrity (information can't be altered in storage or transit without the alteration being detected); nonrepudiation (the sender can't later deny having created or sent a message); and authentication (the sender and receiver can confirm each other's identity and the origin and destination of the information). Each of these basics is discussed.
The meat of the book is divided into four parts: secret key cryptography, public key cryptography, key distribution, and real-world systems. Numerous illustrations clarify difficult concepts, such as hash functions.
This is one of the better introductions to contemporary cryptography, covering all the major topics in a user-friendly manner. While no mathematical background is required, readers will be surprised by how many mathematical concepts will become familiar by the end of the book.
While no novella, Cryptography Decrypted still captures the reader's attention. It is useful for any security professional needing to understand encryption, especially computer security specialists.
This review of mine originally appeared at...

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Teach Yourself HTML 4 in 24 Hours
Publisher: Sams.net
Authors: Dick Oliver, Molly Holzschlag
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellent HTML Book

If you are interested in Web Design and Development, HTML is your first stop. HTML is the key language around the world wide web and is needed to make your website work. HTML is a simple language to learn, and HTML 4 in 24 is one of the best books in helping you learn it the proper way. You will always have use for this book even after you've read it several times. Its an excellent reference guide even for us experts. A MUST HAVE BEGINNERS BOOK!