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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Unix: Visual QuickStart Guide (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: Deborah S. Ray, Eric J. Ray
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Very practical, reference-like

The book is easy to use and understand, good choice for beginners, but might be a bit wordy for advanced users.

Its structure is very similar to a reference book, runs along the UNIX commands in 17 chapters, and provides enough information and examples to their usage. It contains three appendices summarizing the UNIX files and directories, the UNIX commands and their flags. It contains no theoretic essays at all, so if you are interested in the inner working or philosophy of UNIX, this book is not for you.

I liked that it uses a color (red) to distinguish the commands and flags from the output. I was glad to find links to the related topics inside the book, but missed a bibliography. And I missed one or more full chapters paying attention to the most popular implementations such as Solaris, AIX.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: World of Warcraft(R) Official Strategy Guide (Official Strategy Guides (Bradygames))
Publisher: Brady Games
Authors: Michael Lummis, Danielle Vanderlip
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Got It, Read It... It's Great!

Buy this guide!

Preface: Not one to read the directions when doing ANY project, I'd rather open up a package, pull out all the parts and pretend that I can turn it into something recognizable on my own. And having been savagely disappointed with previous gaming guides (of the online variety - UO or DAoC...), I figured this purchase was up in the air to unlikely. The philosophical posts on praise/objection for these guide books points out these issues.

"Will I really need to know the armor class of level 2 cloth gloves?"

"Just how many times do I need to see the same artwork that came in the game's press release packet, inserted between size 40 text?"

"Will I purchase the guide now, only to use online websites for the information I need later?"

"A 'veteran' online gamer of some years, will I bypass the first 50 pages just to get to a few weapon/spell damage tables in the middle somewhere?"

Were just a few of the questions I asked myself when considering the WoW guide. At the glowing recommendations of my friends, I unconvincedly picked up the only copy from a Sam Goody on my lunch break. My discovery...? WOW!

The Bradygames WoW Guide is unquestionably the best online game book buy ever. And in answering my previous questions:

I may not need level 2 cloth gloves for very long, but I am sure when it comes time to find level 52 gauntlets, or craft them myself, I won't have to bug the "general" chatters asking about them for an hour.

The guide is a feast for the eyes! Full color pages, well-organized (color) charts, detailed (color) maps, original artwork, amusing comic strips illustrating the chapter topics, and in-game screenshots sprinkled throughout the book make it a pleasure to look at. Plus, and unlike other guides I've read, the font size is relatively small because there's so much quality information to present (not trying to cram size-28 useless information between large pictures, headings and tables). The language is both helpful and interesting, with plenty of annecdotal referencing.

While I was too impatient to wait, there is a binder version of the guide that you register online with access to updates that you can print out and replace old materials with. Not sure how that will work out, it's nice to think that they have the future in mind. And I doubt that the maps, and majority of the information will change much over time. Most likely, more content will simply be added later. Regardless, having seen what's in the book now, it's worth getting as it stands.

Again, having played nearly all the big online games already (in release or beta form) the terminology and concepts usually provided for newbies are pretty much "old hat". And in other guides, it was annoying to find half the book devoted to "strategies" like "click on monsters to fight them" and other fluff. This World of Warcraft Guide, is totally different. Even introductory chapter is interesting. And in full color, with lots of amusing images, and explanations, the first 5 pages are worth the first 50+ pages of other guides.

And those are just a few of the perks...

Basically, I have to thank Bradygames for putting together such a quality product. It's glaringly obvious that a lot of time and resources went into the making of the book.

And for anyone buying the retail version of the game, you know you'll be spending hours on end exploring the game, hunting monsters, crafting equipment, and having fun. If you think about how much time you'll spend playing the game, the time you'll save and more knowledge you'll have of the world will make the $25 for the Bradygames guide absolutely worth it!

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: PSP(sm) : A Self-Improvement Process for Software Engineers (Sei Series in Software Engineering)
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Watts S. Humphrey
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
review before compiling?!

The intent is to reduce the defect rate in software. With an emphasis on doing this when we have several million lines of source code. All the more so if the application might involve safety issues or be critical to its company's bottom line.

Humphrey points out that the writing of such large code might typically follow practices used for code bodies orders of magnitude smaller. But that this leads to far too many defects. He explains that PSP offers a discipline for the individual programmer to follow. And how this can be scaled to a team of programmers.

PSP stresses investing in design time and review time, relative to the actual coding time. It's big on writing down the times spent on these stages, so that you have actual quantities to see and from which to get metrics. You cannot improve what you cannot measure. The review time is considered a good investment, for finding bugs here is inherently more productive than relying on a downstream testing stage or user feedback.

Perhaps the most contentious aspect is whether to do a review of your code before compiling it?! Many will not. After all, the compiler can swiftly find the syntax errors. Why waste time looking for these beforehand? Isn't this a retrograde step? The book's rejoinder is that syntax errors might be considered to be distributed like more serious logic errors. Hence, if you review before compiling, and find 80% of the syntax errors that the compiler finds, then perhaps you only also found 80% of the logic errors. Opps?

A simple and ingenious self diagnostic tool. But despite the logic of this, water will flow uphill before any significant portion of programmers adopts this method. Pressing 'make' or its equivalent to do a compilation is simply too easy. The book is on far more plausible ground describing the other aspects of PSP.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity
Publisher: Apress
Authors: Joel Spolsky
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5

This book is a fun ride. Although I think there are hidden messages throughout for managers, developers and other will have a good time reading it as well. (ok, not so hidden.)

Although my favorite chapters were things like The Joel Test, guerrilla interviewing, getting things done when you're a grunt, etc., some of the more technical rants are fun too. The chapters on business stuff: Ben and Jerry's, Microsoft loosing this war or that one, I tended to skim rather than read.

Overall, I'd say buy this book used. It doesn't have much of a reference life, and isn't something I feel compelled to read again in a few years. But I would reccommend buying it.