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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Steve Krug
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Common sense may mean "what you already know."

I found this book way too basic, and I'm not a web designer by any stretch of the imagination. I think most of the principles found within can be understood simply through the process of using the web over a few years. For example, here's some breaking news from Krug's book: "_tabs_ are a good idea!" Gee, could that possibly be why every other major site uses them? Guess what else? _Amazon.com_ has a successful user interface!
Don't buy this book. There is very little groundbreaking information here. Useit.com and the Yale web design guide, along with the O'Reilly book on information architecture, are far more useful for ideas on usability. I think this book stands as an interesting relic of the years 1998-2000, during which there were simply far too many people designing e-commerce sites, and so inevitably creating too many bad sites.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: MCSD Self-Paced Training Kit: Analyzing Requirements and Defining Microsoft .NET Solution Architectures, Exam 70-300
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft Corporation
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
vague and verbose introduction to a bloated "framework"

Having recently taken this test, I will confirm two two things stated by other reviewers without hesitation. First, the Exam Cram book is much more pertinent to the actual exam. Secondly, this book gives you no guidance with regard to the format of the exam. The sample test bears no similarity whatsoever to the case-study structure of the test while the book barely mentions case studies and offers no suggestions as to how to deal with them.
It's fairly pathetic that a third-party publisher, with evidently no inside information re the content and development of the test, can create a better study guide than Microsoft itself. It really makes me wonder about the whole certification game. Does Microsoft really want to develop a pool of informed IT professionals who can more effectively deploy their technologies within client enterpriese? Or do they just want to nickle-and-dime people on books, exam fees, and course tuitions?
A huge portion of the book is dedicated to the "Microsoft Solutions Framework" (not to be confused with the .NET Framework). Personally, I felt the MSF seemed like a reasonable project management methodology, if only because it seems quite flexible. But the exam had abosolutely no questions regarding the details of project phases, roles, milestones, etc. that constitutes the bulk of the book's content.
I'm really glad that I did not devote very much time to various exercises in the book that deal with creating UML diagrams and other project artifacts. Not only was it just too tedious and boring, but there was nothing on the exam that all that excruciating detail would have helped me with.
There were no questions on UML (despite the fact that the book recommends you read two other books on UML). There was one question on ORM.
This book is also full of chapter introductions, summaries, and other useless filler that servers no purpose other than an excuse for making the book look bigger.
If you need to prepare for this exam, don't waste your time and money on this toilet paper. Get the Exam Cram book (also, I looked over an Osborne book that seemed reasonably good) and study MSDM articles on MSF (to a reasonable extent) and things like Security and Authentication, Globalization/Localization, BizTalk, SQL Server, Host Integration Server, layering, etc. Also, be ready to think through case-study problems that are too lacking in specifics to answer without guesswork, and keep your fingers crossed.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Core J2EE Patterns: Best Practices and Design Strategies
Publisher: Pearson Education
Authors: Deepak Alur, John Crupi, Dan Malks
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Acceptable, but could have been much better

I've been programming in Java for a number of years, including J2EE development, and saw this book as a great opportunity for me to learn more about design patterns in J2EE. The great reviews about this book pretty much sold me on it. After reading the book, I have mixed feelings and would probably only recommend parts of it.
THE GOOD: The authors emumerate many design patterns and describe how they are related. In particular, there is one great picture that shows how all of the patterns can work together. Just knowing what the patterns are, capsule summaries of each, and how they interrelate is pretty worthwhile. On rare occasion, an example is useful because the applicability of the pattern is clear enough - even without an example.
THE BAD: The examples need a lot of work. A couple of other reviewers has also spotted this and I join them in this critique. The authors would do much better if they started the book with a one or two larger, more complete examples (say, a banking application or a bookstore application) and then relate the patterns to the implementations of those applications. Without good examples, the patterns lose credibility.
Another general point: because the content is light, much of what I gleaned from the book was "decouple as much as possible, up to a reasonable granularity". This came accross most prominently in the refactoring parts of the book. This is not new information and I would suggest that for the next edition, the authors just come out and say this and then start showing examples of where decoupling and replication of components makes the most sense.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Programming ASP.NET, 2nd Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Jesse Liberty, Dan Hurwitz
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
go read "4guysfromrolla.com" and msdn instead

This book covers ASP.NET basics for people familiar with C# or VB.net, and the web in general. However there are a few bad things about it:
* Most examples are included in both C# and VB.net. The examples first appear as complete listings, then again as fragments, interleaved with explanations of what the various pieces do. This means that there is so much redundant information that it becomes tireing after a while. The fact that the author sometimes refines the examples over several iterations, reproducing the entire source again, makes the book even more bloated.
* It's all hobby code. Database connections are not closed after use, and this is such a trivial mistake that one wonders: "being an asp.net novice, how many other things will this book teach me to do wrong". SQL Injection is another thing. I thought one always should use parameters for commands, not construct them using a string builder.
The book has no value as a reference, but that would be needless anyway since msdn and the .net framework sdk documentation does a great job at that.
All in all there are some good things in this book, but it seems to be a "first generation" asp.net book, based on an experienced programmer tinkerting with new technology; not the sum of experiences of someone that has in-depth knowledge of asp.net. And I suspect this is a widespread flaw of asp.net books on the market.