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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Absolute Beginner's Guide to C (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Greg Perry
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Buy this book if you don't know where to start


Just wanted to add my name to the list of highly satisfied purchasers of this book. This is an excellent programming book for beginners, even if you have never programmed before. I originally started out with K&R C, but it was just too dry. Perry's book gives you the basics and the confidence to move on to more advanced books (like K&R C, Pointer on C, etc).
The only downside to the book is that there are no "problems" to work out. (Sure you can put his code in and watch it run--but where is the problem-solving in that?) However, there are numerous Computer Science Departments out there that do post their course work problems on the Net which can be easily downloaded and printed. Although, few also post the answers, so...good luck :)
Watch out for the chapters on getchar() and getch(). getch() only gets a page or two of explanation and leaves a hapless beginner to founder. K&R C did help here at this point, takes some hacking away at it, but it comes eventually. (Or maybe it will come really quickly and you'll think, that tripped him up? What a geek!)
Lastly, don't waste your hard-earned cash on a fancy-smancy C compiler. There are lots of good (and free) C compilers out there (GNU's gcc, borland DOS-based from www.borland.com, etc). Pick one, spend some time learning the switches and optimizations on it and then get to coding.
From there on out it is just code, code and code. And then debug...and debug...and debug...cry...and debug...
After this book I recommend cutting your teeth on K&R C (there's a reason they call it the C Bible). You can easily see the basics you picked up with Perry in K&R. It was a big help for me when I could see something familiar in the concepts and was able trudge on through.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Configuring NetScreen Firewalls
Publisher: Syngress
Authors: Rob Cameron, CJ Cui, Thomas Byrne, Dave Killion, Kevin Russell, Chris Cantrell
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Content is OK, but this book was rushed to the printer


OK, so I'm sitting here, reading about setting up my route preferences (I'm on page 289), and the sentence trails off into nowhere--literally, not figuratively. It simply . . . disappears. This book is rife with incomplete sentences (and therefore, thoughts and instructions are left incomplete), misuse of language (affect vs. effect), misspellings, etc. Why is this important? In a technical manual, details matter. So, when I'm reading a technical manual, and it's clear that the author and editors have not paid close attention to detail, the rest of the instructions are suspect.

Here is another example. There is an entire section on Policy-Based VPN Configuration, which is fantastic; however, Juniper has basically stated and written in the solution brief "How Different VPN Approaches Affect Site-to-Site Scalability and Connectivity" that Policy-Based VPN's are the least preferred method of defining a VPN, because of connectivity and reliability issues. This is important because this book does not describe the process for configuring the alternative types of VPN's--route-based or dynamic route-based--but merely lends a paragraph to the former and a sentence fragment to the latter. This is a huge oversight by the authors, and leaves the reader fingering through other manuals to properly configure the device.

A few positive notes, the chapter on the Netscreen product line was helpful and informative, the screen shots helped walk me through several rudimentary procedures, and I found it to be a pretty good review for dusting off my old NCIA certification.

Craig Lockhart, JNCIA-FW, CCSE



Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Mastering Windows Server 2003
Publisher: Sybex Inc
Authors: Christa Anderson, Michele Beveridge, C. A. Callahan, Lisa Justice
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A Truly Excellent Guide.


If you're in IT, you've shelled out more than a few dollars on manuals... and know that many aren't worth the investment. I researched the Windows 2003 documentation issue carefully before getting this manual, and it is by far the most comprehensive guide on the subject I've seen to date.
Contrary to the opinions of the handful of distractors posting here, this book is concise, and the sections CAN EASILY be used on a stand alone basis. To wit, I first opened the book to the topics I was interested in, had my web sites up in 5 minutes (and picked up some VERY useful info about the limitations of Host Headers), and remote desktop administration configured and up in under 1 minute... and now I've decided to go back and read the introduction, lol. I am unaware of any other manual on the subject that makes things so simple, or covers in detail so many features of the software.
This book is worth every penny. Thanks Mark!



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: ColdFusion MX Web Application Construction Kit, Fifth Edition
Publisher: Macromedia Press
Authors: Ben Forta, Nate Weiss, Leon Chalnick, Angela C. Buraglia
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Disappointing- do not buy unless you're brand new to CF


I had high hopes for this book, and it has let me down. This book is absolutely huge (~1500 pages), and it does not contain the level of detail that I was expecting.
Here's an example: I wanted to know what the valid returntypes of CFFUNCTION tags are (returntype is an attribute of the tag). Pretty reasonable, no? There is a chapter specifically designated to user-defined functions (i.e. the cffunction tag). That chapter tells me to refer to the appendix for information on the cffunction tag attributes. So, I look in the appendix, and the description of the RETURNTYPE attribute is: "Optional; name of data type that will be returned."
Well, DUH! I wanted to know what the valid return types are (e.g. integer, boolean, string, etc.), not the definition of what a return type is! This is the kind of basic information that I would expect to find in this book, as it is essential to programming in CF MX. However, it was astoundingly omitted, leaving me to scour the Internet for the information that I thought I had purchased with this book.
This is just one example, but it's a common theme throughout the book (CFLOGIN is another area where not nearly enough detail was presented, even though it's brand new in CF MX). The IsUserInRole function is a perfect example. What is this new concept of a "role"? How are roles set, so CF can know if a user is in a role that I'm checking against? I wanted some basic explanations of the intricacies of how this all works. However, none of this is covered, and I had to figure it out myself. They just give a simple definition and a vanilla example, and I have to figure out how the function works through my own trial-and-error, defeating the whole purpose of the book. The vast majority of topics that I tried to lookup in this book ended up with the same general outcome as I describe above.
I think that a big part of the problem is that this book has numerous authors, and it does not appear that they collaborated nearly enough. There is a great deal of redundant information, and the index is absolutely horrible. I would recommend to anyone who already knows the basics of web programming to instead use the documentation provided by Macromedia (developing apps in CF MX and CFML Language Reference). I've found those books to be many times more helpful than the Forta books.
Also disappointing is the Advanced book does not elaborate any further on these issues- it just covers different material which it deems to be "advanced".
Overall, I'm very disappointed with this book, but I'm not sure there is anything better (yet). Hopefully the book from O'Reilly will be better- I will certainly be checking it out. It's just not available yet as of the time I'm writing this review.