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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: C++ for Dummies (4th Edition, Completely Revised)
Publisher: For Dummies
Authors: Stephen Randy Davis
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
proofreading shocker

Stephen R. Davis, C++ for Dummies (IDG, 1994)

One of the main problems (from my perspective) with the vast majority of C++ books on the market is that they're written for C programmers who want to migrate. What's a person to do who knows very little about C and wants to learn C++? The obvious answer is that he gets on an insanely steep learning curve, unless he wants to go back and learn C before tackling the plethora of C++ how-to books on the market.

Davis' book is no exception, despite being from the much-vaunted (by everyone except the programming community) for Dummies line of books. To be fair, the cover does say that the book's perfect for C programmers who want to learn C++. And it would be hard to fault a 1994 book for not taking Windows programming into account, another common failing of C++ manuals (if you want Windows programming, you either get a platform- specific book [and most commercial C++ programming platforms hide the Windows programming internals] or you're stuck with the unintelligible reference books from Microsoft itself). So my two main complaints with the book are really not complaints I can complain about in great detail.

That doesn't make the book perfect. One of the common complaints about the for Dummies books relating to C++ is that the authors of those books tend to ignore the ANSI standard for C++ (Michael Hyman actually touches on some of the more egregious discrepancies in Visual C++2 for Dummies and gives the justification the authors used, but that doesn't make it any less annoying for those who like to see good code), leading to legions of coders who believe that `void main()' is a perfectlyacceptable statement. At the very least, if you're going to use the for Dummies books on C++, find a resource that lists out the discrepancies (or that's closer to the standard, e.g. the comp.lang.c++ FAQ or Bruce Eckel's Thinking in C++ books) and make the changes in your copy of the book when you find them. Your co-workers will thank you.

All that said, C++ for Dummies was my first major C++ reference after one comp sci course that touched on C back in my college days, and despite that learning curve, it did give me enough of a basis in C++ that after two or three re-reads I'd pretty much figured out most of what Davis was on about. Eight years on, it's hard to separate what he should have taken more time to cover with what wasn't standardized yet, but I think I'm pretty safe in faulting him for not taking a lot more time covering templates, and I know that I've read a number of descriptions of pointers that make a whole lot more sense. As any C++ programmer will tell you, the proficiency of his colleagues lives and dies with an understanding of pointers. This particular book took a lot more re-reads and a lot of outside references before I figured out pointers, and I'm still not completely comfortable with them.

I should point out a few of the good things about the book, if only to justify the rating I'm giving it, shouldn't I? Despite the whole ANSI standard controversy mentioned earlier, Davis does give us some excellent rudimentary tools many programmers would be wise to adopt (most notably the signature fields he introduces towards the end of the book, which are wonderful tools for figuring out pointer errors). The concept has been built upon and done better since, but for its time it was an excellent concept, and it's much easier for the beginner to handle than some of the more complex run-time error-checking routines that have appeared since. Signature fields alone may be worth the price of admission for the beginning user.

In short, there's definitely a decent skeleton here, but it could use (and may have gotten after eight years) a lot of work. **

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Digital Photography: Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Authors: Gregory Georges
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Good Tips

This is a wonderful book. I recommend it for beginners, and for mid-level digital photography enthusiasts that are having a hard time absorbing all of the technical jargon. I have my mind so full of computer jargon that it seemed there was no place left to "file" the lingo for my somewhat serious photography hobby. Each page has equal amounts of text AND example photos with explanation, and all IN COLOR. I'm not sure how others feel, but I can't read a book on photography that doesn't have pictures, or where the photographs are in black and white. (unless black & white photography is the subject of course) This gave me a new way to look at things, corrected some very big misunderstandings, and definitely made a BIG difference in the quality of my photographs. I use a professional digital SLR, and the hints and tips in this book have been keeping me interested and busy for more than two weeks now. You won't be disappointed!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Mastering Windows 2000 Professional
Publisher: Sybex Inc
Authors: Mark Minasi
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Not as good as expected

It's a great book for beginners to intermediate Windows 2000 Administrators.If you are at a senior Level, this book is not for you. How to setup network printers, understanding network cabling and setting up a modem, its far from Mastering Windows 2000.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Eric A. Meyer
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Eric: Bravo once again!

Eric Meyer has shown once again that he can provide exactly what the industry needs at the time that it is needed. Now that CSS is working similarly for the most part in the top 3 browsers, this book comes with perfect timing.
Meyer's previous books, such as "Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide", were great. I still have several photocopied pages of that book taped up around my monitor (like the complete box model from chapter 8). I raved about "CSS 2.0 Programmer's Reference" when it came out; it was exactly what was needed for a DHTML programmer.
This new book, however, truly brings CSS to the masses. I really like the slick, color pages used by the publisher, New Riders. I think this is finally the book that will make CSS so accessible that it will become what it was intended to be: the norm.
"Eric Meyer on CSS" does an excellent job of drawing parallels between CSS syntax and HTML. The book presents realistic situations in a project-oriented approach. The code is broken down into step-by-step bites that really remind me of the Sams "Teach Yourself in 24 Hours" books. But make no mistake: this book is useful for advanced users, too. One can never have access to too many tips & tricks!
My first experience with Cascading Style Sheets came as a challenge from a 17 year old who in 1997 said "get on the bandwagon, gramps" and start writing CSS. So I opened up Notepad and started writing CSS, afterwards looking at it in Internet Explorer 3.0. That was the summer of 1997, and I was 29 years-old. My previous experience writing RTF-based Help told me this was exactly what HTML needed. But extensive use of CSS seemed slow to catch fire.
In 1997-1999 I was using CSS in an ideal setting: on a company intranet where all users were using at least IE 4.01. But as I moved on to other web sites during the "dot-com" craze, I found that my use of CSS would be limited due to varied browser usage throughout the World Wide Web.
We're now at a point with IE6/NN6 (and Opera, too) where widespread use of CSS--and advanced CSS at that--is possible. "Eric Meyer on CSS" is going to be an important tool in making that happen. Do yourself a favor and learn all of the CSS syntax you can from this book instead of relying only on a point-and-click GUI. There are excellent tools available, such as TopStyle, but these tools are no replacement for "mastering the language of web design", as noted on this book's cover.