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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Secrets and Lies : Digital Security in a Networked World
Publisher: Wiley
Authors: Bruce Schneier
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
This book should be required reading...


I imagine Bruce will be getting this quite a bit, but I just wanted to pass on my compliments for Secrets & Lies. I got about 40 pages into it over dinner and decided it was ready for the mandatory reading list here. If only it was required reading for everyone who does business online...



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Publisher: Basic Books
Authors: Douglas R. Hofstadter
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Can we build intelligent devices?


How do we put the thinking power of the human brain into a man-made device? Godel, Escher, Bach is a jolly tour of this great intellectual challenge.
The title of this book is a metaphor for the concept of metaphor. If Hofstadter had called the book "Metaphor, Isomorphism, Mapping" or "Self-reference, Tangled-hierarchies and Strange-loops" it might have sold a few thousand copies. But many millions of people are familiar with Escher or Bach, so the book leaps off of book shelves into people's minds and they can get hooked on the exploration of strange-loops before they realize what they have gotten themselves into.
The mathematics of Godel, the art work of Escher, and the music of Bach are related by the fact that they all included examples of what Hofstadter calls a strange-loop. Hofstadter explores these three specific examples of strange-loopiness and then goes on to explain his belief that it is our struggle to understand and codify strange-loopiness that lies at the heart of Artificial Intelligence research.
The most concise example of a strange-loop is, "This sentence is false." As a self-referential sentence, it gets itself into trouble and defies our desire that all propositions be either true or false. What is the origin of our desire that human reasoning and human language fit nicely into the binary logic of 0 and 1, false and true? Hofstadter reviews some of the history of this idea and explains how Godel was able to shatter its Platonic purity just at the time when digital electronic computers were being invented.
Godel showed that any formal system complex enough to capture the intricacies of number theory must contain propositions that cannot be proven either true or false. Godel accomplished this by showing that such formal systems are inherently self-referential, like the sentence "This sentence is false." Formal systems are capable of not only making statements IN number theory but they can also make self-referential statements ABOUT themselves.
What does this mathematical strange-loopiness have to do with computers, artificial intelligence, and human minds? About the same time that Godel was showing that formal systems are irreversibly tainted with strange-loopiness, people like Alan Turing were discovering how to embed formal systems in electronic computers. So the challenge became how to produce creativity and mindfulness out of formal computing systems, systems which seem the ultimate design for only mindless yes-or-no behavior.
But, as Hofstadter points out, these seemingly mindless computing devices inherently contain the Godelian power of self-reference and strange-loopiness. So wouldn't it be cool if it is strange-loopiness that turns out to be the basis for human intelligence? If so, then we must be able to exploit the strange-loopiness of computers so as to make true artificial intelligences that are just as intelligent as people.
Hofstadter provides a tour of the human brain in an attempt to reveal the sorts of strange-loopiness that make human intelligence. Hofstadter's goal is to find the essential features of biological strange-loopiness so that we can then return to our digital electronic computers and embed that necessary strange-loopiness in them.
One of the main reasons why Hofstadter's book "Godel, Escher, Bach" remains my favorite book is because it chisels out Hofstadter's position so clearly that the shape of the negative space outside of Hofstadter's position is also distinctly defined. His book paradoxically manages to show the importance of just those things he did not want to be important for artificial intelligence research. It is as if he started with a block of marble and chipped off pieces, each of which he describes. What is left standing, the statue, he did not explicitly describe but it is left standing there before our eyes, cleared of all the surrounding waste material. For example, the word "learning" is not even listed in the index yet the book can be taken as a demonstration of the importance of learning for intelligent behavior.
Hofstadter does not want to confront the details of brain hardware, in fact, one of HIS major objectives is to convince himself that it is safe to ignore those details. His research program is to "skim off" the essential "high level" symbols (in modern, post-Dawkin's jargon we'd say "memes" where he says "symbols") from the brain, but he does explain that there have to be "low level" hardware features of the brain that make possible the symbols. Hofstadter's goal is for the "symbols" to be put into a computer where they will have a different "low level" foundation (electronic circuits rather than neurons).
Hofstadter's research program abandons the brain's "low level" unconscious features because they are an untouchable (mentally) common foundation at the base of every human mind. Most human learning takes place in what George Lakoff calls the "cognitive unconscious". We are unconscious of the means by which humans learn the "semantic content" of symbols. This fact deflects Hofstadter (and most AI researchers) away from trying to make robots that would learn about the world in the way human children learn. If you make this move the only games left to play are: 1) program all the needed semantic content by hand, or 2) implement inefficient trial-and-error learning algorithms. These are the methods that most AI researchers use, but decade after decade they fail to give us man-made devices with human-like intelligence.
The alternative, which Hoftadter discusses and then abandons, is to first study the human brain and come to understand how human children learn from their interactions with the world. Once we know that, we will be able to apply that understanding to the task of making robotic devices that can learn the way children learn. This book is a gem in how it draws attention to this road not taken. But it is never too late to take it.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Scott Kelby
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Perfect Gift


I received this book for my birthday this last October and its been a god send. It has all kinds of tips that one wouldn't think of using.
The main thing I like about this book is that it shows you ways to fix those photos that didn't turn out so good. For instance it shows you how to remove a shadow from someone's face that you've snapped. Someone has acne problems? That's simple.
Although it seems really simple now the best thing I learned was how to get quality prints from the digital photos I took (basically change the DPI!).
Learning these techniques are very easy as each one is done in a step by step fashion. Scott even gives some advanced tips that beginners can do as well (IMHO)
I'd recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in digital photography and wants to make their photos look as good as possible.



Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: SAP(R) R/3(R) Plant Maintenance: Making It Work for Your Business
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Britta Stengl, Reinhard Ematinger
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Good Book


This is a very useful book on SAP PM.This covers recent Version of of SAP PM ie 4.6x.Flow is smooth.Transaction codes are also available for quick navigation.