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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Learning XML, Second Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Erik T. Ray
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5

I bought this book based on uniformly good experience with the publisher, but I will have to revise my standards in the future. I still find it hard to believe that O'Reilly would put out such a half-baked book.
The book has three major problems, not all the author's fault.
First, it attempts to cover a large number of topics at an overview level. Unfortunately, it doesn't give quite enough information about anything to be usable without extra information. It is difficult to imagine doing anything in XML based on the material in this book. For example, it devotes quite a few pages to XPath, but it doesn't describe a usable subset of XPath in a complete enough manner to start using XPath in your own documents.
Second, it is missing essential current topics. This is not the author's fault as XML is rapidly evolving, but it is difficult to recommend an introduction to XML that virtually ignores schemas while spending a tremendous number of pages on DTDs.
Finally, and most importantly, the book is badly written. Terms are used before they are defined. Some XML-specific technical terms are used without being defined at all. This is particularly bad in the discussion of XPath, where quite a bit of XPath terminology is used as if the reader knew what it meant without ever being defined. Ditto with XSLT. I have rarely seen a less useful set of examples. The examples consist mainly of repetitive XML files taken from the net with little annotation. Although the examples are long, they typically repeat similar code again and again without illustrating many new ideas.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Object Oriented Perl
Publisher: Manning Publications
Authors: Damian Conway
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Makes perl more tolerable

Preface: I'm a detail person, the top level view is what I ignore to get to the facts. I am entirely turned off by the normal practice of writing up one or two example apps, and then ignoring giving the full details on commands, such as what all the options are, or what the syntax to uuse is. If your app is different than the example, you're pretty much out of luck. That's the situation that other books I'd bought had placed me, while I was trying to learn Perl for a non-trivial app I needed to deliver. I was so frustrated I was nearly in tears.
I don't recall what caused me to buy this book; perhaps it was the only Perl OO book. I am so glad I did, because the amount of info that the author has put into this book is amazing. Not just that, it's the *choices* he made, of what to explain. He's picked all the pieces that the other books glossed over, and examined the missing pieces, so that I now understand the"why" behind many oddities, and I now can push myself much farther forward.
Sort of like, the other books pose the questions, this book answers them.
If you only buy 2 Perl books, make this one of them. Ignore the fact that the title says OO. Yes, it does a great job of explaining how the OO features mechanically work, but the reason to buy this book is all the extra backgrounder info that's in this, it's worth twice what they're asking for. The data often has nothing to do with the OO features, he's probably remembering all the details that HE had to go run down, and he's giving us all these data pearls (pun intended) for free, along with the payment for the OO data.
Don't buy this book to learn object-oriented programming, but if you want to learn how Perl manages to add OO features, and accidentally learn how Perl adds in a great many other features, then you're in the right place.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Securing Windows Server 2003
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Mike Danseglio
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A Great Security Reference Manual

In "Securing Windows Server 2003" the author does a superb job of providing a blueprint on how to secure a Windows 2003 system that is accessible by the world. Similar to a checklist, you will find yourself going through this book using it as a guideline as you rollout your Server 2003 installations and double-checking existing ones already live.

The author does a great job of focusing on the task at hand, security, and does not try to do what so many others have -- make this an entire book about implementing 2003. By keeping to the point, the book itself becomes a desk reference instead of another bookshelf weight. Many of the tasks focused on in the book can be bookmarked and refered to for case scenarios during any 2003 implementation.

From understanding the basic security of a Server 2003 system, implementing Group Policy Objects, all the way up to understanding Kerbos and PKI cryptography, this book covers each topic in enough detail to give the reader a firm ground on which to check and implement procedures.

One of the strong features of the book is the author actually walks you through many of the steps you need to take -- with screenshots where appropriate. He does not leave you stranded in the middle of a procedure with only a vague mention of what task to perform next. Experienced administrators will appreciate the fact that he goes into detail to cover all the bases while newer administrators will appreciate the hands-on approach and step-by-step instructions.

Overall, a great security book that should become a standard on any System Administrators bookshelf. Server 2003 has introduced a new era into the Microsoft Server family, one which not all the old tricks and practices of Windows 2000 apply -- this book will help you learn the new ropes and get up to speed quickly.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: An Embedded Software Primer
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: David E. Simon
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A necessary book for entry level engineers with C skills

The book provides very useful information for anyone that wishes to learn embedded software from the ground up. Great for entry level engineers, or professionals wishing to make a lateral move into embedded systems. The book has two clearly written chapters dedicated to hardware fundamentals; describing I/O .vs. memory mapping, how interrupts function, memory types including PROM's, and microprocessor basics. A chapter is dedicated to one of the single most inportant issues in embedded systems SHARED DATA and how to prevent corrupting it. Chapter 5 discusses four basic software methods to servicing interrupts. Chapters 6,7, and 8 clearly introduce the concept of an RTOS (Real Time Operating System). Chapter 9 is a must read for those new to embedded systems. It discusses development tools and the steps required to get your final code onto the target system. It explains what a cross-compiler is and why they are used in embedded systems. This is a very good book for engineers with C skills!