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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Advanced Windows (Advanced Windows)
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: Jeffrey Richter
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
This is a GREAT book!

This book is the "Bible" of Windows programming. It is the most complete view of the Win32 API I have ever seen, and shows real world application of some sophisticated topics, yet it is written in such a way that it's easy for anyone with a little computer experience to understand.
Even when I have to use API functions in VB, I find myself reaching for this book to explain the API calls better than the Win32 help file that comes with VC++.
This book really is a must read for anyone serious about programming in Windows.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Core Servlets and JavaServer Pages, Vol. 1: Core Technologies, Second Edition
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
Authors: Marty Hall, Larry Brown
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5

Thanks a lot Marty!I just bought your book, and it really has been helpful to me.You wrote it very clearly, so I easily understood the concepts inside.Ok, the pdf is the last step, so I will wait the site publication.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Microsoft Access 2002 Bible BK+CD
Publisher: Wiley
Authors: Cary N. Prague, Michael R. Irwin
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5

The authors, editor(s) and publisher(s) should be ashamed of themselves.
They have managed to create a 1500 page book that is equally useless for beginners (including total newbies), intertmediate and advanced users.
Beginners: You'll pick up alot more just playing around with Access and reading the built-in or online help. (even if you have never used a database before).
Intermediate-Advanced users: You'll never find an answer to any of your questions.
I own over 30 computer books, both of a scientific and how-to nature. I have a degree in computer science. In other words, I am not new to computer books. This one though is simply horrible (I'd even say the worst I've ever read, and I've read "Computer Systems Design And Architecture" by Vincent Heuring)
The book is simply a BAD copy of the built-in help.It has no substance.It has no personality.It has no structure.It explains in too much detail the things that are obvious, and just mentions by name the things that are important.It's main focus is how to make your datatabes look pretty on the screen.
All the authors accomplish in the 1500+ pages that is book offers, is prove that they are [not] experts on the subject.
Don't buy it.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Practical Common Lisp
Publisher: Apress
Authors: Peter Seibel
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The *break-through* book

A review for newbies.

Coming to lisp is difficult. If you're reading this review, you already have some idea of why you'd want to lisp anyway. I'm not totally over the fence yet, but let me tell you, it's absolutely worth it.

History: It's hard to see how to apply lisp when you're so accustomed to other paradigms. I started with the PG:ANSI-CL book, but got totally spaced out a few chapters in where he started discussing trees and raytracers. I didn't see where all the memory for the tree nodes was coming from, and I'd just written a C++ raytracer which looked _nothing_ like the lisp one and so I lost the ability to follow along soon after.

PCL is a carefully written book that avoids such 'gotchas'. I found it's highly readable and very well explained (almost every question you have is explained by the next para, quite a feat). For a newbie, to never leave you with unanswered questions is a superb way of assuring you that you will get it. One of the reasons this book succeeds where others have failed is that the code is sufficiently novel. By solving novel problems the reader is barred from thinking 'the old way', ie mentally using previously developed code as a crutch.

If you aren't yet wholly convinced about the merits of lisp[1], you should read this book. Chapter 3, in which Seibel develops a simple database is a sort of watershed. He gets you 'thinking in lisp' in a very easy, informal way.

Not only does he explain the basic refinement method of programming in lisp, but we also get a glimpse of the amazing power of lisp. Seibel doesn't pull his punches either, unleashing the full power of lisp to do way-out cool stuff you simply could not do in any other language[2]. To do this successfully, in the third chapter, without puzzling the reader is really remarkable.

On the basis of reading PCL, I decided working in lisp was doable. PCL also helps one across several hurdles common to newbies, notably emacs and the debugger. I'd recommend reading the last chapter after Chapter 3. As a programmer, the disassemble form will blow your mind. I guarantee it.

The book is also available online. You can decide how well you jell with the style for yourself. I liked the easy conversational tone he uses as he refines the code, and it has great sequencing of chapters to boot [3]. This is mostly a book to read straight through, and completely eschews the boring 'car cdr cons' exposition style. It may help if you know concepts like map/filter, but only for the data structures chapter (yes, Lisp does have data structures!).

This was my break-through book. I can now read other people's lisp code and understand what it's doing. With lisp, you won't have to nitpick every detail; 200 line 'design patterns' in other languages become 3 line idioms in lisp. And with syntactic abstraction, even those get reduced to one-liners.

What made the book fun was that it kept popping off lightbulbs in my head throughout, as I saw better ways to do something. To quote Seibel from the first one: "That's either very cool or very scary depending on your point of view."

I had to pick just one thing I liked most about this book, it would be that Seibel explains the lisp solution to most of the irritants that have plagued my programming life for years. After seeing these solutions, you know that no matter how difficult the journey, you must make it. Hacking is, in some way, ultimately about truth. Seibel shows you that, and to turn away is to deny your hacker nature forever.


[1] If you think Basic is silly, and Lisp weird, you owe it to yourself to read Paul Graham's essay on Blub online. And see itconversations.com/shows/detail188.html first for the audio.
[2] That is a very strong statement, but true nonetheless.
[3] I'd suggest you print chapter 1 and 3 to start with. You're liable to just 'skim' them online otherwise, as I did.