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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Essential Guide to Telecommunications (3rd Edition)
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
Authors: Annabel Z. Dodd
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
My first book on this subject: Very good

I bought this book with a little bit of apprehension. As I don't know much about telecommunications I thought it was going to be too hard a reading. It came out pretty good. I can say that after reading it I got a good broad picture of most of the subjects treated.Maybe the only inconvenience is that on its own it isn't enough to give a full understanding of the whole thing. I am already thinking of buying another book to further my knowledge. It also starts stright ahead with terms and names that will be clarified only later on in the book. Still I think it is a wonderfull book for the first step.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Hacking Windows XP (ExtremeTech)
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Authors: Steve Sinchak
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Customise the UI

Is there a competitive push between publishers concerning books with hacks? O'Reilly has put out a series of these, each detailing 100 hacks. Now from Wiley, Sinchak talks about Microsoft Windows XP and provides us with over 200 hacks.

A lot of hacks centre around customising various aspects of the UI. Not surprising. Appeals to those who like to fully explore what XP can do for you, going beyond the standard setup seen by the masses. Of necessity, Microsoft has to make the default setup somewhat of a least common denominator. That is the default UI was probably chosen after a lot of usability studies of what the typical user demands might be.

But maybe you have special needs?

Other parts of the book let you soup up system performance and beef up its security. (For the latter, especially defending against viruses and spyware.) I don't gainsay this utility. But a nagging feeling says that most of you will end up concentrating on tweaking the UI. Hours of fun.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Official Final Fantasy VII Strategy Guide
Publisher: Bradygames
Authors: David Cassady
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
it's the best out there.

This is a decent guide to Final Fantasy 7, but it misses quite a lot. In a game as big as FF7, there is a lot to potentially miss. This book also spoils a lot of the game with the pictures. If you want a book that doesn't spoil the game, and picks up a lot of what this one missed, hunt down the guide from Versus Books. That guide has things like the enemy skills, which are barely mentioned in the 'official' book.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Speech and Language Processing: An Introduction to Natural Language Processing, Computational Linguistics and Speech Recognition
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Authors: Daniel Jurafsky, James H. Martin
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
The a good introduction to NLP, but could be improved

This book helped me accomplish what I set out to do; namely to obtain an overview of the field of natural language processing, with an emphasis on language understanding (as opposed to recognition). And I can recommend it on that level. The weakness of the book however is that it left me asking, "OK, now what?". The book started off strong with a number of dynamic-programming algorithms, finite automaton models, and N-grams that one could sink his/her teeth into from an algorithmic point-of-view. But when it came to actual techniques for natural-language understanding (chapters 14-17) the goods were not delivered. The algorithms disappeared, and the best I could find was in Chapter 15 an incomplete, and unconvincing treatment of Hiyan Alshawi's semantic parsing techniques which fueled the Core Language Engine last decade. Chapter 16 dealt with lexical semantics and was almost entirely devoid of algorithms.
My gut feeling after reading this text is that parsing techniques will likely give way to statistical and probabilistic learning methods that will in some sense bypass the need to correctly or accurately parse language. I cannot fault the authors for not exploring this in more depth,as this represents the cutting edge for both NLP and artificial intelligence. In any case, I'm off to read Schutze and Manning's book which will hopefully provide a bit more focus on that perspective. What intrigues me is that most people can understand some language, but very few people understand the grammar of their own language, especially if they have been deprived of a formal education. So why should computers need to know all about grammar rules and parsing? Could they instead be trained by simply being exposed to enough interactions between language and objects? I teach in a department dominated by both foreign and immigrant students. I understand them most of the time, but I would estimate that half the time their sentences or utterances would not fail to be parsed correctly.