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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Network+ Exam Cram 2 (Exam Cram N10-002)
Publisher: Que
Authors: Mike Harwood, Ed Tittel
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Exam Cram 2 is the easiest way!

I purchased and read this book from cover to cover in less than 3 weeks. I thought the information was very detailed and over prepared me for the exam. After taking the network+ exam, I now know this book is more than sufficient for passing the exam. I scored a 873 out of 900 possible and have no REAL experience in the networking field. If you want a bullet proof combination, I used Exam Cram 2 along with the Mike Meyers second edition all in one book. I am stressing the fact that all you need is either book. Exam Cram 2 is concise and packed with information. The sample preplogic test that comes with the cd is extremely difficult relative to the actual network+ exam. Don't lose your confidence if you score a 70% on the preplogic practice exam! I scored a 72% and panicked, but obviously it was a good enough score. The actual test is not difficult, contrary to some newsgroup posts. Good luck!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: High Performance Linux Clusters with OSCAR, Rocks, OpenMosix, and MPI (Nutshell Handbooks)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Joseph D. Sloan
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Cheap open source

The free open source nature of Linux has driven its growth in general purpose client and server side usages. Here, Sloan takes linux into the rarefied context of high performance computing. Atop linux, he explains the merits of open source packages like Oscar and Rocks, to run your cluster. The basic motivation for him describing all this is the relatively low cost of using the machines. This can be a significant issue if your budget is limited or if you plan to have many machines in the cluster.

The book is primarily about software. Though he also gives a chapter discussing mundane but important decisions regarding hardware. The software that is explained is mostly Oscar and Rocks, as explained above, and how these are to be run. Be aware that relatively little of the book is about linux, per se. Which is as it should be. The crucial starting assumption is that you are or will be using linux. But, roughly, linux on these machines is more or less the same as linux on a generic computer. The distinguishing feature is the next layer of software.

On the programming side, Sloan points out that C and Fortran dominate, with C++ usage rising. There is no significant effort in Java, because of its performance penalty. Maybe on the cluster's lead computer that interfaces with the rest of the world, you can have a nice Java GUI program that controls the cluster. But the heavy lifting is done in the other languages.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Windows Graphics Programming: Win32 GDI and DirectDraw (With CD-ROM)
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
Authors: Feng Yuan
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Superbly rich and rewarding

This book, the most detailed on GDI written in the last few years, is a phenomenal repository of low-level detail regarding the GDI subsystem. It also has excellent chapters on many aspects of GDI, complementing the official documentation. However, it is poorly edited, with awkward syntax, wrong English usage, and often-confusing organization of material. It is also not clear what is gained by discussing GDI and DirectX together, when they seem to be distinct in APIs, Windows dlls, and conceptual underpinnings.
The first half of the book attempts to look 'under the hood'. Here is presented a curious and confusing mixture of GDI details, advanced spying tools and techniques, and accounts of spelunking experiences. None of this seems ordered in a logical manner - Pietrek, for example, saves the spelunking experiences to a chapter of its own, at the end of his book. Chapters have easy-to-follow analysis on the documented user-mode level, freely interspersed with unfamiliar and difficult discussions of the mostly undocumented Kernel-mode level. With no clear separation between the elementary and advanced material, it swings sharply from the pedantically clear, to the obscure unexplained. For example, after the excellent details of how to locate the GDI handle table, it merely tells you what the DC structure is, without telling you how it was deciphered. While we are given full details of API tracing in the conventional manner (a la Richter), with source code, we are only given the briefest abstract discussion of a new, unconventional API spying. In the latter case, there is a cursory mention that it is explored in unidentified 'quite a few magazine articles'.
All of this is further obfuscated with presentations of C++ wrapper classes, when what is really required is a clear discussion of the relevant WinAPI functions.
There is also quite a bit of repetition of material in different chapters (such as the structure of the GDI handle table), and some material is in strange places (such as the tool for tracking all GDI handles in the system, grouped by handle type, which appears in the chapter "Pixels").
The second half of the book leaves the undocumented and low-level stuff, to discuss vanilla GDI programming. The information here is well presented, well organized, and clear. It covers drawing pixels, lines, bitmaps, image processing, palettes, fonts, raster operations, printing, and finally DirectDraw. Almost no use whatsoever is made of the extensive 'under the hood' information painstakingly gathered in the first half. What is missing in the reams of C++ classes presented here are some classes to process the standard image formats other than bitmaps i.e. JPEGs, GIFs and PNGs. For JPEGs particularly, a good C++ class is sorely missing for all of us who have tried to read the cross-platform, cross-compiler, cross-eyed code distributed by the Independent JPEG Group.
The final chapter on DirectDraw is a great disappointment. DirectDraw is simply too large a subject for a single chapter, and such a chapter would only serve some purpose if it could impart an intuitive understanding of DirectDraw concepts, such as what a 'surface' is, and how it compares to a GDI device context. Instead we are treated once again to a series of C++ wrapper classes, the sort of stuff that more properly belongs on Yuan's Web site, than in this already-overweight book.
Regarding the tools on the CD - I could not start some of them from the Start menu. They (surprisingly) have an inconsistent GUI, and source code does not appear overly well commented. Even worse, the code makes extensive use of templates which obfuscate rather than illuminate the sample programs. Although 'proper' programmers are meant to be familiar with templates, many are not, and they have no place in a book that ostensibly is about GDI, rather than good programming practice. However, some of the tools are extremely useful and worth adding to your arsenal.
Although billed as covering Win9x as well as WinNT, there seems to be little more than a cursory mention of the 9x family. This is a shame, as although developers may justifiably detest the Win9x family, it accounts for the overwhelming majority of home computers, and a good GDI book should cover it in depth. In particular, I was looking for 'under the hood' information on Win9x, both the 32-bit GDI32.dll, and the 16-bit GDI.EXE, down to which most GDI calls thunk. Unless I was sleeping, I saw none of this in Yuan's book, and have to revert back to Pietrek's Secrets for this kind of information.
In summary, I think this is a superb book for detailed 'above the hood' GDI work. For those interested in GDI 'under the hood', there is excellent material, as well as good spelunking tools. However, I must say that I was quite disappointed with this book as a result of expectations raised too high by its claims, which end up obscuring the many good aspects of the book. It would gain from a rewrite, cutting out the chapter on DirectDraw, and correcting the worst of the faults that have crept in as a result of poor organization and editing.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Managerial Accounting: Creating Value in a Dynamic Business Environment w/Student Success CD-ROM, Net Tutor & Powerweb package
Publisher: McGraw-Hill/Irwin
Authors: Ronald W Hilton
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellent text

The book was brand new and shipped within five days.