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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Joe Celko's SQL for Smarties: Advanced SQL Programming
Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann
Authors: Joe Celko
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
I'm a little underwhelmed...

Not so much unimpressed at Joe's knowledge, which is impressive indeed: the book reads a lot more like a teaching text than most technical books.
But there are things in here which may lead astray some who have already done things that Joe advises strongly against. I will concentrate on one example: In chapter 3 "Numeric Data in SQL", under the heading "Generator Functions" (e.g., IDENTITY, AUTO_INCREMENT) we get this doozy: "This is a horrible, nonstandard, nonrelational proprietary extension that should be avoided whenever possible". Just a statement, no reason whatsoever provided for it, because I guess he assumes we know some "math rule" or something behind why it is such a bad idea. Now, we must think for a minute why one uses such a data column. In my own case, I have a table called Parts that contains parts from several different companies. So, I guess Joe would have me make a composite primary key from PN and CompanyID. But, wait a minute, that complicates matters when I need to have a foreign key reference to the Parts table, and, oh by the way, just what is CompanyID anyway, maybe some other composite key, or some goofy "rule-based" (can you say TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE) thing? You can't seriously believe that "ALFKI" is a better key than,say, 33. What happens when I get a new customer named "Alfred Kiplinger", and have to change the "rule" that I came up with for defining the primary key? See the problem? You're not going to remember the ID anyway, because the rule will be broken at some point. I also happen to think that a part number (to give one example) should be changeable. So, I don't make PN the primary key (because you should NEVER change a PK), I simply have the database generate one for me. What am I missing here? It was not explained to me in this book, it was just a blanket statement of preference, put across like a hard and fast rule.
But then come the contradictions. In the very next chapter on temporal data types, we get a very long paragraph on "key generators" and how they need to be designed to eliminate or minimize identical keys (I kid ye not!). He talks about elaborate hashing algorithms, the server system clock, random number generators, and how pseudorandom numbers are not usually a problem since the cycle size can be "hundreds of thousands or even millions of numbers". Huh? Amazon has 50,000,000 customers! I'm sure they wouldn't be too happy if "only" every millionth one had the same id! No mention in this entire section on GUID or UNIQUEIDENTIFIER, which won't repeat forever in the known universe!
Then there is seeming randomness to the topics introduced. I think I work with a guy that's a lot like Joe, but man, can it be hard to follow the "why" of what he is talking about! I usually figure it out about two days later when I'm sitting at my desk working on something completely different. Here's one example: We go from an incredibly long section on Domain Key Normal Form, with all of its calculus functional dependency stuff ("A determines B, therefore if CA = B, &c, &c, &c....."), to a paragraph right after this about normalization, and how a Students table should not have "Student data and also bowling scores". But come on, that's DB101, not Math335!
Bottom Line: The reason I gave three stars to this book is that I think I misread its intention. I believed it to be a book for someone who knew SQL, and wanted to become more advanced in SQL. Now that I ponder the title, however, I believe that it means "OK, here's a book for you scientific math types out there who want to apply your math degree to learn SQL", i.e., SQL for smarties, not for non-degreed dummies like myself. That, to me, is exactly how the book is written, and it probably succeeds against that yardstick.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Jesse James Garrett
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Semi-distinct components of the user experience

Garrett is the originator of a new way to describe the elements of the user experience when interacting with web sites. He has split it into five components that are called planes. They are
* The surface plane - the series of web pages, made up of images and text.* The skeleton plane - the placement of the components of the pages: such as the buttons, textboxes and blocks of text.* The structure plane - a concrete expression of the abstract structure of the site. Concepts such as the placement of the interface elements as well as the definition as to how users get to the site.* The scope plane - the definition of how the components interact with each other.* The strategy plane - the description of the purpose of the site. What do the people running it want to get from it as well as what the users want to accomplish when they use it.
A color diagram of these levels can be found at http://www.jjg.net. This segmentation of the structure of a web site is a sound strategy for the development of quality, effective web sites. It is consistent with the proven methods of software development, where the project is split into generally distinct segments that are more manageable. Each of the levels is thoroughly explained as well as the circumstances where they overlap. I consider it an excellent description of the proper way to develop a site and recommend the book for all who have a site, are planning a new site or are in the process of reorganizing an existing one.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media
Authors: Michael Meyers, Scott Jernigan
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
THe Only Book You'll Need......maybe

I am a beginner tech trying to get my A+ certification and I just bought this book last weeek. Since I bought it I can hardly put it down and I haven't even begun to look at the great CD that comes with the book of practice tests. Only two things so far that I have noticed about the book; (1) the binary system is explained very well on how it works in the PC but the author doesn't go into any detail how you can work with the binary system, not that I have found as of yet anyways, and if you are a beginner tech like myself you could get very lost. I had to do searches on the web to find this info to give me explanations and teach me how to figure out binary numbers. (2) I have study the CPU Chapters and I did not find any information on the new Hyper-Threading technology that Intel has out now, I didn't find it in the index of the book or the glossary the CD includes. I would think that this is an important part since it is a newer technology, but not that new that the author couldn't include a section about it, and I would imagine that it may be on the Hareware exam. Besides those two things that I have found so far the book is really good. It includes a chapter reveiw test at the end of each chapter, gives you the history of each part of the PC, where it could go in the future, and even gives you tips of how you should use the book to past the test. I would recommend this book to anyone starting out or trying to bone-up as a tech.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Designing with Web Standards
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Jeffrey Zeldman
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Better Than a Candy Bar

Designing With Web Standards has a softy chewy inside and a hard crunchy outside, which I really like, the two things together, as opposed to just one or the other alone.
Wait, sorry, I'm thinking of a candy bar.
Seriously, this review is like the millionth one down, so why are you even reading it? Is it that you're looking for the truth? Okay, here's the truth, as I see it. The first hundred pages of this book will be no help to those already sold on the need for designing with web standards. In Zeldman's defense, though, there are at least hundred pages' worth of reasons for doing this, so if you're not hip to it yet, or are only partly hip, or are on-the-fence hip, these pages are for you.
The remaining three hundred pages are like the best candy bar in the world, assuming that what tastes good to you is making web sites that work for everyone: budget-conscious clients; the full range of users; and also for you you you, the sharp designer/developer aiming to deliver faster load times, greater accessibility, higher search engine placements, and full separation of presentation and structure, among other goodies.
Also, as you no doubt already know, Zeldman is, like, good at writing and stuff, so it all goes down with a certain dark chocolate smoothness.
And even better than an actual candy bar, which you eat once and is gone, Designing With Web Standards can be returned to again and again, whenever you want to remember the deal about doctypes or that Fahrner Image Replacement trick or just admire the genius of descendant selectors one more time before calling it a day.