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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Thinking in Java (3rd Edition)
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
Authors: Bruce Eckel
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
Not for me...

I started out with a printed version of Bruce Eckel's Thinking in Java 3. After some two hundred pages I decided to put the book down. Why?
The biggest problem was the examples. They simple grew longer and longer and contained lots of code that had absolutely nothing to do with what Mr. Eckel attempted to explain. For instance, most examples were provided with code whose only job it was to prove that the program really produced the intended result ("see I was right?"). Not very interesting from an educational point of view.
Another problem: Mr. Eckel is afraid of graphics. His book is full of text, but he hardly uses graphics to visualise a topic, thus making the information harder to memorise.
The title of the book is somewhat misleading. Mr. Eckel is not thinking in Java at all. Mr. Eckel is thinking in C++ and projects his knowledge on Java. The continuous references to C++ are very annoying for anyone not familiar with that language, such as me.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Extreme Programming Installed
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Ron Jeffries, Ann Anderson, Chet Hendrickson, Ronald E. Jeffries
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Best of the XP series, but still wordy

XP is a nice fresh way of looking at the software development process and this book explains XP concisely and clearly. You may or may not agree to -all- of the principles they advocate, but if you have any interest in your work at all, you will find parts of this gripping. Especially the emphasis on unit tests and the test-first programming idea. And so useful in practice too! Anyone involved with making software, or indeed anyone else who is interested in increasing the quality of what you're working on whatever it is, should read this! So better borrow it from your neighbour (reading once is sufficient, no need to own this book).

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: eBay Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips and Tools
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: David A. Karp
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Why this book is good

Tired of facile books on eBay? (You know, something like 'Moron's Guide to eBay'.) Are you wavering on going to buy or sell on it, never having done so? Or you are already on eBay. But you are wondering if there are ways to get better prices, where 'better' of course depends on whether you are buying or selling. Well, here is an excellent how-to manual that still keeps some objective distance from its subject. That separation lets the author offer some disinterested advice. You can best see this when Karp evaluates the various listing options available to a seller. His suggestions, especially on one option, which he considers a total waste of money, are excellent.
There are some omissions that would have made this a stronger book. He offers 100 tips. But...
He discusses Phishing. Which has been used against eBay and Paypal users. But, as far as I can tell, he never uses this term. He REALLY should. We can imagine new users hearing about it, wanting to know more and not finding it in this book's index and hence passing on the book. And phishing is actually more dangerous than just one bad auction.
Also, he omits three important tips. Firstly, once you have sold to a satisfied buyer, you should add that buyer to an email list. Next time you offer a similar item, very politely email her about it. (Of course, drop her if she opts out.) You can also add unsuccessful bidders in your auctions to this list, though you may have to go thru eBay's mailer to contact them. He mentions keeping a spreadsheet of your auctions, including the email addresses of your buyers. But he doesn't take the next simple step.
Secondly, consider first offering future items directly to previous buyers, instead of listing on eBay. If no takers, then put on eBay. This does NOT violate any eBay rules because the buyer and seller now know each other and can talk about nonlisted items. There have been reports in the media about businesses selling on eBay partly to get just such a list of customers. Of course, there is now no eBay protection for buyer or seller. But if you are a business with a website and a good eBay rating, this reassures buyers. And you, as a seller, have a defacto credit check on buyers, by looking at their ratings.
Thirdly, what would have been good is a tip on when it is NOT economic to list an item on eBay. Note that I did not say 'sell'. Amongst some power sellers, there has been increasing dissatisfaction. Prices are falling, eBay raises its fees and more auctions end without any bids. If you have an item for which there is little demand, then what is the chance that within 7 or 10 days of an auction, potential buyers will go to eBay and look for it? Remember, eBay always charges a listing fee. Of course, you can lower your price, to spur demand. But that costs you. At some point, things become uneconomic. In fact, if you have specialised books with a limited audience, Amazon is a viable alternative as it levies no listing fee, albeit with a higher commission if the book actually sells.
Karp is a very experienced eBay user and a good programmer. But I really do not think the greatest readership for this book is people who want to or are able to program, and they will not be enamoured by the code examples. I suspect he could have expanded greatly on the points I raised, to the benefit of that readership.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Unix: Visual QuickStart Guide (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: Deborah S. Ray, Eric J. Ray
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Good introduction to using unix-based systems.

This is a good book to help you start with unix-based systems, especially if you do not have any knowledge about how they work. In this book, concepts of file and user management are explained. Not much detail is provided as to not confuse the reader who has had no previous experience with unix. Step-by-step instructions let the reader become more familiar and comfortable with the system. The bottom line is that this book says what it does - it is a starting guide - if you need any in-depth information about unix, you must seek elsewhere.
The book has some mistakes, but if you have at least half a brain, you will be able to figure out what is wrong. In addition, you are constantly reassured that if you are using a system with good administrators, there's little to none damage that you could possibly do. Some parts try to be humorous in its own cute and dorky manner, but the humor is not obnoxious nor imposing. Overall, the book is a gentle introduction; it teaches unix without making the reader feel dumb.