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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: XSLT 2.0 Programmer's Reference (Programmer to Programmer)
Publisher: Wrox
Authors: Michael Kay
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Difficult reference to use

I have three main problems using this book for the last few weeks on my first serious attempt to use xslt on a non-trivial problem.

The first is the most minor and is that the graphics are really poor. This is true for almost every one in the document, but if you have a chance to look at the book, check out page 56 for example. They are not what I would consider production-quality graphics. The extreme amount of aliasing makes the small font used in these diagrams almost unreadable. I don't understand how this could have been judged acceptable by the publishers.

Second is that it is very hard to find things in this book. Chapter 5 is the alphabetical reference for the xslt elements. The header at the top of the page does not list the element that is being described on the page. Also the font and style for the element headings are no different for their subheadings. This means there is no easy way to navigate this 300+ page section by flipping through it to find what you need. Whenever you want to find something, you have to go to the index first...

which is the second problem with trying to find things. The index itself is poor. When I first got the book, I read it from cover to cover (except for chapters 5 and 7 which are alphabetical reference sections). As I have been trying to use this book as a reference, I remember paragraphs or tables that I want to look at again, but I can't find them from the index. For example, I knew there was a table somewhere that listed all the different axes and I wanted to find it to get the exact name of an axis I wanted to use. The word "axis" (or "axes") is not in the index at all.

I am using this book daily and am finding myself frustrated every day with similar problems trying to find something that I know is in the book, but can't get to directly from the index. More than once I have resorted to flipping page-by-page through the book to find what I am looking for. At nearly 900 pages, it gets old really fast.

My third problem with the book stems from his statement in the introduction that "Since XSLT 2.0 has such a strong dependence on XPath 2.0, you really need both books..." where he is referring to his XPath book. He is not joking when he says that. It doesn't say that explicitly on the cover or on the web page description. But you can't go far in the book without finding a statement that what you are looking for is explained in a chapter of his XPath book. Maybe that is more true for me, as a newcomer to both, but it is different from his previous edition and something you should be aware of.

On the positive side, the book is comprehensive (within the bounds of its purposeful exclusion of XPath). I do not recommend it as an introductory text. The introduction acknowledges it is not meant as a tutorial. From my experience, it is downright unfriendly to xslt newbies.

I was able to get "The XSL Companion" by Neil Bradley from my library and found it to explain things better. I have read good things about Jeni Tennison's books and am waiting to check out her upcoming "Beginning XSLT 2.0".

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: ASP.NET Unleashed, Second Edition
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Stephen Walther
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Will become the ASP.NET bestseller!

This is without doubt the best ASP.NET book I have read so far. One huge advantage of this book is that Stephen wrote it all - a lot of books have chapters written by different authors. This inevitably leads to each author re-iterating what earlier authors have already discussed.
Stephen's writing style is also very easy to read. You will be able to sit down and read this almost like a novel - quite unusual for a technical book. From a technical standpoint it is hard to fault this book. I learnt many new things even after reading other ASP.NET books - I suspect the other books discussed them, but somehow the information didn't sink in!
A CD would have been nice, but the samples were easily downloaded from SamsPublishing.com, installed and ran perfectly.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - 2nd Edition (MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
Publisher: The MIT Press
Authors: Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The book is WONDERFUL!

This is an excellent book for any CS person. If you have a CS major, you MUST read this book.
The text is extremely clear, chapters are well organized, examples are great, topics discussed are fascinating(e.g. constraint propagation, streams, etc.).
I must also mention that authors provided the text with excellent footnotes that give interesting information about this or that topic.
The book teaches PROGRAMMING for people who want to become PROGRAMMERS in a VERY interesting manner and using a VERY good tool.
Don't be misled by the fact that the book is based on Scheme programming language. Some of you might think that Scheme is purely academic stuff(a.k.a "not very practical"). That is not true.
Scheme is good for many reasons, but I would like to point out two of them that make it an excellent language to learn:
1) Once you practice in Scheme for a week, you will no longer need to bother about syntax. This allows you to concentrate on the problems you want to solve, rather than on the tool you want to use to solve the problems. (Analogy: Suppose you want to learn how to drive a car. "With Scheme" you just learn some basic stuff about the car and then improve your driving skills by actually driving the car. "With languages such as C, C++, Java, etc." you first spend a couple of years on learning how the engine of the car works, how to fix the wheels, replace this and that and then work on your driving skills.)
2) Besides the fact that Scheme is an interesting language by itself(Learning it will get you into some interesting computing topics such as tail recursion, list processing, OOP, OOD, the concept of a function being used as data), it can also be the first step towards learning Common Lisp.
Thank you.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: The Executive's Guide to Information Technology
Publisher: Wiley
Authors: Jon Piot, John Baschab
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Before you bring in Booz.Allen, read this book

This is an excellent book with regard to understanding and managing technology.
Each chapter is filled with so much information, it begs the reader to slow down and soak up the surprising and insightful statistics about IT.
What's so unique about John's book is that he's writing to thousand of IT professionals, and yet it feels as if he has spent time in your department interviewing your staff and clients personally. That's how poignant this book is.
John's ability to explain complex and dynamic problems in easy to understand language using anecdotes and allegories is uncanny. The book is founded on fundamental truths and principles that have been around for ages. It's John's ability to bring these principles to life by practically applying them to the circumstances we face very day. This makes the book both practical for the here-and-now as well as the IT professionals of tomorrow.
I have used many of the templates suggested in this book and find them easy to understand, quickly deployable, and readily accepted by team members and clients. It's surprising, but it is the simplicity behind the templates that makes them so usable and effective. As mentioned many times in the book, applying complex technological solutions to simple requests is a common problem within IT.
This book is like an IT bible. It's not something you read once and put on the shelf. It's something that should be referenced often. Whenever you feel you might want to consult with Booz.Allen or McKinsey... reach for this book first.