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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Configuration Management Principles and Practice
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Anne Mette Jonassen Hass
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Agile comes of age with good CM advice

Someone finally wrote a CM book that addresses agile development!
While the author gives a complete picture of configuration management for all environments, her chapter on CM for agile development is the missing piece of the agile approach. Some parts of this chapter are easy to implement and others not so easy. This is due to the lack of discipline in many agile groups more than unrealistic advice from the author.
Easy and necessary: supporting the agile principle of welcoming changing requirements, CM gives the team the ability to control configuration using tools and processes in the book. Delivering *working* software frequently requires a robust CM program so the right components are in the build. This also supports the agile principle that working software is the primary measure of progress. There is too many opportunities for error and rework when CM is not used.
Necessary, but not necessarily easy: build projects around motivated people is an agile principle. The problem is too many developers who have embraced agile development think it means getting rid of process. Agile is a process itself, and if you are to deliver working software frequently you need discipline where discipline is needed. CM is one critical area where this holds true. Motivating developers who are sloppy and convincing them that certain processes like CM are essential is the most difficult task to be faced.
I've worked in CMM level 3 shops, and am now managing an Agile team, so I've seen this from both ends. In both shops the key to success was CM. Until this book there was next to nothing written about it, and now that this book is available the agile developer and manager have something to guide them. This book will explain how to implement the process, which is something the CVS book does not do well because it is more about using a tool.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Official Final Fantasy VII Strategy Guide
Publisher: Bradygames
Authors: David Cassady
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The book is the best straitgy guide ever!

the game is the best I have ever played but with this book it a hell of a lot better.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Mastering Engineer's Handbook (Mix Pro Audio Series)
Publisher: Artistpro
Authors: Bobby Owsinski, Sally Englefried
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Very good, but not great

This is the companion volume to "The Mixing Engineer's Handbook" by the same author. The format is the same, solid help for common problems and tasks, with interviews of many of mastering's top guns. However, compared to the mixing book, the advice here is a little less specific, a little more vague. It's helpful, to be sure, but there's more philosophy and less applied science.
Also, I was disappointed that a significant amount of material in this book was literally cut and pasted from the mixing book. I felt like I had bought only half a book, or that I had bought some of the same book twice, or something.
Despite these minor flaws, this IS a good book, and I'm not disappointed at all. And the interviews are wonderful.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: On Intelligence
Publisher: Times Books
Authors: Jeff Hawkins, Sandra Blakeslee
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
It got me thinking...

This book is thought provoking. First, let me qualify myself, that I am not a neuroscientist but an engineer and an experienced programmer. Like Jeff Hawkins, I share in his belief that intelligent machines can be built. However, this is only a cursory interest of mine.

As a non-medical person, I learned a lot about the neocortex from this book. As a programmer, I found great insights about the importance of stories in our thinking, as opposed to traditional computer operations. One of the main goals of his efforts is to find a "neocortical algorithm". The book is purported to set a scientific framework to find this algorithm.

I am not convinced of the wisdom of this effort, except that it may allow us to understand human behavior better. There are definitely ethical questions raised if we create such machines: Will people become dumber as they rely on smart machines? Will mankind invent an evolutionary successor who may become our master? Will people be placed out of work? Movies like "The Time Machine", "A.I." and "I Robot" come to my mind. Science fiction writers will find a wealth of juicy information they can use.

Apart from those fears, the intellectual challenges are exciting. Many of us are consumed by a desire to understand how the human mind works, in clear logical terms. Mr. Hawkins contributes unique insights based on his experience as a computer designer. I found many of his viewpoints be somewhat like reading about electrical circuits - which is not to say that this is bad thing. He brings an engineering approach to the understanding of this problem which I can appreciate.

Personally, I believe a more realistic approach would be to create "conscious machines" rather that merely "intelligent machines". This may sound more difficult, but I think you can't separate the two experiences. One can even argue that "intelligence" is merely a subjective attribute of consciousness. A "conscious machine" would have senses and observe it's own behavior - internally saying, "I am doing this now" (writing its stories), categorizing it's stories, and making analogies between stories (predicting). There is a time element involved in the "experience of experience", that I think the book seems to overlook.

The challenge to create a machine like this is a race, akin to the race to invent the first flying machines. In the race to build flying machines, some inventors built contraptions that looked like birds and bats. Studying neurons may shed light on the logic of conscious systems, but building "neuron machines" may not be the way to go. My own bet is on taking a new approach to AI, integrating video game programming methods.

Overall, there are many interesting ideas in this book.