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Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Programming Windows, Fifth Edition
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: Charles Petzold
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5

This book will be outdated soon, wait for the 6th edition. There are also much more concise books on the market that teach windows programming.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Data Mining: Concepts and Techniques
Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann
Authors: Jiawei Han, Micheline Kamber
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
Litttle relevance to the real world

There are a number of books on data mining. The vast majority of them are non-technical in the sense that they talk a great deal about how data mining is a glorious area, without ever getting into the nitty gritty of how data mining algorithms actually work. There are also a couple of technical textbooks on data mining that are nothing more than mistitled books on machine learning (yes, I know, the ML arena does contribute a lot towards data mining). This is the first true textbook on data mining algorithms and techniques. It covers a vast array of topics and does ample justice to the vast majority of them. In fact, it even covers semi-automated (OLAP) technologies for data mining. The book consistently uses data from a single (fictitious) organization to illustrate most concepts. This gives a strong sense of cohesion to can actually be very different techniques. One key aspect of the book is its question-and-answer format. The main arguments in favor of such a format are (1) it is a clean way introduce a new topic or concept (2) students love it when things are laid out for them. On the other hand, such an approach seems inappropriate for a graduate level text. This book is certain to become "the standard" data mining textbook.

Update (Dec 25, 2004): My opinion about this book has changed over time. I've left the 5-start rating in place, although my current rating for the book is 4 (or even 3.5) stars. The main reason is that I had to supplement most of the chapters in the book with the original research papers to give my students a more complete picture of data mining (in other words, the material can be a bit shallow).

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Beginning ASP Databases
Publisher: Wrox Press
Authors: John Kauffman, Kevin Spencer, Thearon Willis, John Kauffman
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Excellent book if you can get through database configuration

Prior to my reading this book, I had pretty much no knowledge of web scripting or ASP. After I read the book and had a chance to practice the techniques using real-world problems, I was able to code database-driven websites very effectively.

I originally had difficulty getting past chapter 2 in the book that deals with setting up the database and web server. I had some misunderstandings and also some installation errors. I'll explain. But first, I think you should have some prerequisites before you buy this book. In my opinion, you should know HTML, FTP, Windows 9x, and the theory behind webmastering. After all, you will be serving dynamic web pages... Also, a knowledge of the BASIC syntax is good, since your ASP code is written in VBScript.

Next, you need to have a preliminary plan. Do you have a web host that supports MS Access Databases or do you plan on practicing ASP/ADO on your own computer? If you want to use your own computer you'll need to install and configure a web server.

PWS however can be installed in Windows 9x by going to Start -> Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs -> Windows Setup -> Internet and then clicking on PWS. I had trouble installing Microsoft Personal Web Server (PWS) because I kept getting installation errors. If you can get through that and are able to get everything set up as per the instructions in the book, you'll be set to practice what you'll find in the book.

Once you have your plan and access to a webserver, you need to create a database. Just create one with one record. You can use any software you want to create the database, but this whole process works best using software designed to integrate together.

I recommend installing PWS and Microsoft Access, create an Access database, and then follow the book instructions on pages 65-66. If you want to access a different, non-MS Access style database, follow the book directions on pages 67-72. I was originally confused about this until I realized that the book documents 2 methods of creating a Data Source Name (DSN) - one method for MS Access databases and one method for any other non-Microsoft database.

If you can get access to a webserver supporting ASP and Access, and can figure out how to create a DSN, you're all set. The book does a great job helping you learn ASP/ADO. Aside from how it is written, some book errors, and little or no support at the website, you can start serving dynamic data in a few hours or so.

This book was good enough that it sits on my shelf today, even though it is not a reference book. This book basically took me from only knowing how to create regular, static HTML pages to full-blown interactive data-driven web sites. One of my projects included making over 800 database records available through an interactive search engine that breaks down information over multiple pages, links to record detail pages, and allows sorting of results.

Additionally, I have used the techniques I learned in this book to connect not only to MS Access databases, but also to Microsoft SQL Server. This is one of the most useful books I have ever read.

The downside of the book is that ASP.NET has changed everything!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Sams Teach Yourself ASP.NET in 21 Days (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Chris Payne
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Perfect book for ASP developers

I read this book from cover to cover, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who already has a background in ASP. I found a few mistakes in the code samples, but what book is without them? I consider debugging them a useful exercise. The chapters are very well laid out and follow succinctly, exactly what I expect from a single authored SAMS book.
If you are an experience ASP programmer who wants to develop a good grounding in ASP.NET, this is the book for you.