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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: A+ Certification for Dummies
Publisher: For Dummies
Authors: Ron Gilster
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Very good coverage, use his Instant Answers!

I recommend this book as your first read but make sure you research some other sources to suppliment this one. I did great on the core exam but just scraped by on the Dos/Windows portion. I would suggest taking a class like I did and taking some practice exams online in addtion to reading this book.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Martin Fowler
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The right path to creating enterprise applications.

Fowler avoids giving a precise definition of an enterprise application, preferring to list a set of characteristics that most share. In general, they are very large systems, with many user interface screens used to concurrently access and update an enormous amount of data. In nearly all cases, the data must be persistent, in fact it most often is very persistent, meaning that it has to live through iterations of the software, alterations of the operating system, changes in the hardware, and staff and programmer turnover. Furthermore, enterprise applications usually must communicate with other applications, which are often just as large and complex. Examples include payroll and patient records, credit card processing, insurance claim processing, banking, and foreign exchange trading. In short, most of the programs that run the modern global economy, which are many of the most complex software projects currently in use. Finally, the programs must be constructed so that they can be "easily and quickly" changed by people who did not create them to adapt to conditions that can change very quickly and often without any input from the programmer. With so much at stake, there must be a set of best practices, which is what is captured in this book. The patterns of software construction explained by Fowler are generally in the small, in the sense that they describe specific operations rather than demonstrate a large architectural form. Each of the specific patterns is presented by first listing a one-sentence description of the purpose of the pattern and a UML diagram illustrating the structure. This is followed by sections describing how the pattern works, when to use it and one or more examples demonstrating specific implementations of the pattern using source code skeletons. Both C# and Java are used in the demonstrations, which does not create an understandability problem. The languages and contexts are so similar that anyone who can understand either one will have no problem reading and understanding the code. Some examples of the fifty one patterns listed on the inside front cover are:
Lazy load - where an object will load only the data currently needed, but does maintain links to all other data that may be needed.
Front controller - a single handler object that consolidates all requests made for a web site. It can then send requests to the specific objects for services such as security, internationalization issues and specific displays targeted for particular users and locations.
Optimistic offline lock - used to prevent conflicts when concurrent business transactions are executing. The solution is to roll back the transaction when a conflict is detected.
Server session state - keeps the data for the session stored on a server in a serialized form.
While the examples are often of necessity extremely simple, they do illustrate some of the most effective and tested solutions to common software development problems. Therefore, this is a book that no builder of software that can be considered an enterprise application should be without. It is hard to believe that there is an enterprise application being constructed anywhere that does not involve the solving of many of the problems listed in this book. My only complaint is the occasional bad English that appears. For example, on page 100 there is the phrase, "The only reason I've concentrating on Java . . . " and on page 119 the phrase "One factor that comes into this is comfortable used the development team is . . . " appears. While no book is error free, this type of error is frequent enough to make one wonder about the quality of the final editing. There is nothing harder than making effective and efficient software that will run the IT equivalent of forever. That is what enterprise applications are supposed to do and if you are one of the minions tasked with doing your part to build one, then put yourself on the right path and read this book. You and everyone else who interacts with the software will be rewarded with a better experience.
Published in the online "Journal of Object Technology", reprinted with permission.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: JavaScript for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide (4th Edition)
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: Tom Negrino, Dori Smith
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
excellent, useful, best value

In spite of the assurance in the book's introduction "We don't assume that you know anything about programming or scripting" you need to have a programming background to get value out of this book. I know HTML and a little JavaScript, and I was lost by chapter 2. Chapter 2 has a ridiculously steep learning curve, along with important points left unexplained (for example brackets are used in one script, with no explanation for the significance of brackets, when they should be used, etc.)
I've always been a big fan of Peachpit Press's books - this is the first time I was severely disappointed by one. I felt like a complete moron by the time I got to the end of chapter 2. In spite of years of teaching college courses in business and graphics applications, I was beginning to think - "am I just too stupid to learn programming?"
And I agree with another reviewer here about the irritating style. It adds insult to injury.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Introduction to Algorithms, Second Edition
Publisher: The MIT Press
Authors: Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, Clifford Stein
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A Well Rounded Text

In addition to the typical collection of algorithms for sorting and graph manipulation the book contains algorithms for parallel computing.
Time complexity and NP completeness are also well illustrated. Time complexity is explained with worked out examples as well as easy to understand theoretical descriptions.
In sum, this book should be a standard for every programmer's reference shelf.