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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Learning Perl, Third Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Phoenix
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Gets you up to speed FAST.

I had been stumbling around Perl for a while now, modifying downloaded scripts and writing a small CGI script or two but I never actually sat down to _learn_ the language. Picked up this book based on the excellent recommendations here and it's definitely paid off. Burned through it in a day and by the evening I was finishing off my first real Perl script (with the next one started the following morning). Don't know how useful it is for non-programmers but if you have a programming background, especially with scripting, you'll find this an excellent way to get up to speed. It doesn't cover everything but it's not supposed to. It quickly lets you hit the ground running, and that's a good thing.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: VBScript in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Paul Lomax, Ron Petrusha
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Good, but needs more examples

This book is with out a doubt the best reference book out there on the market today on VBScript. I am currently learning server-side programming in school and this is the book they are using to teach us ASP programming. That, in itself, says A LOT! Not only is it a great reference book but it is also being used as a teaching tool! I am also in the process of creating a website purely in ASP and between this book and the ASP in a Nutshell book I am well on my way to creating a great personal website! Definitely Worth a Buy!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Inside Com (Microsoft Programming Series)
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: Dale Rogerson
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A great book for COM

The book is definitely a starting point for the beginners. Covers the basic architecture to a good extent, explains registry details to a large extent for inproc as well as Local server. But, it should have covered more details of writing the idl file for the developers who prefers to write every component detail on their own.
On the whole, good book for beginners.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: MCSA/MCSE Windows XP Professional Study Guide, Second Edition (70-270)
Publisher: Sybex Inc
Authors: Lisa Donald, James Chellis
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Crap, but sadly the best available

In order to appreciate a review, I believe it's necessary to understand reviewer's perspective. In my case I am NOT someone who already passed the exam and therefore loves whatever book got me there. Nor am I someone who just failed the exam and needs to tear apart the piece of junk that lead me to failure. I'm like you- looking for the best book to study and learn from so that I may pass the exam with as little struggle as possible.
One final cautionary note: Some reviewers out there, especially a few famed Top Reviewers, seem to never have met a book they didn't like. Their reviews are filled will comments like, "oh this book is great to supplement the class I'm teaching..." or something similar. My advice is to take this information with a grain-of-salt. The fact that so-and-so thought a book was a great edition to their collection says nothing of its real value to someone in my or your position. On with the review!
Lisa Donald is another very knowledge techie who can't write to save her life. A lot of this book is a poor summation from Microsoft's own technical reference library. I know this to be true because I constantly referenced Microsoft's website to gain further clarification from the often obtusely explained material in this book.
Check out this sentence, chpt. 2, p. 47, in reference to the /checkupgradeonly switch used with the winnt32 command:
"Used to check the current operating system forupgrade compatibility with the hardware and softwarethat is currently installed and will be upgraded towindows XP professional."
Why not just say, "Checks currently installed OS, hardware and software for its ability to be upgraded to XP"
The book is filled with verbose statements like this. Fortunately in this case the sentence is still understandable. Unfortunately, most of the other poorly written pages are nearly indecipherable. I love this one from chpt. 5, page 178. Here Lisa is describing the two sets of files that are used with Windows XP Multilanguage Version:
"Language groups, which contain the fonts and files required to process and display specific languages.
Windows XP Professional Multilanguage Version files, which contain the language content required by the user interface...."
Seems simple enough on the surface, but try to explain to somebody how these two descriptions are really different. Such an attempt would require actually understanding the difference between these two sets of files: Language Groups and Win XP Pro Multilanguage Version files.
Lets look at Language Groups. Looks like Lisa is saying that Language groups contain fonts for different languages so they can be displayed. Ok, no problem- now lets look at what the other sets of files do: Contain language content (what's that if not fonts???) required by the User Interface (how is that different than displaying them???).
What's lacking here is an explanation. The author does not concern herself with ensuring that the information she is providing imparts understanding or learning. This pattern continues throughout the text- it is almost devoid of comparisons to real life or easy to understand examples that would help relate the material to the reader.
On the somewhat bright side, the book is well organized and seems very detailed (although it isn?t complete). The old adage of never rely on one book to prepare for a certification exam certainly applies here. I found several errors, mostly due to the mind-numbingly poor attempt to write clearly, instead of out right inaccuracies (although those exist as well.)
The other good news (at least for the author) is that to the best of my knowledge, there aren't any decent study guides out there for the 70-270 exam. Exam Cram 2 publishes their indispensable review of the exam, but this is not intended to be a one stop shopping book, only a review book.
That having been said, go ahead a buy Lisa Donald's "MSCA/MCSE Windows XP Pro Study Guide", just don't expect much. While you are at it, pick up "Exam Cram 2: MCSE 70-270 Windows XP Professional". The Exam Cram 2 book is really great- well written, easy to follow, clear explanation, better coverage than this Sybex book and directions on where to find more detailed information at the end of each chapter. Finally, check out the Transcender Practice Exams, they are the best in the business for practice exams but also the most expensive (along with Self-Test, who are both owned by Kaplan.)
I hope this helps and good luck with the exam!