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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Designing Embedded Hardware
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: John Catsoulis
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Way above average


Some of the O'Reily books really shine and this is one of them. I'm an experienced hardware engineer, but I still got some good tidbits out of this book which is all the more impressive when you consider it's written for a relative beginner. The author does a nice job with both the content and writing style.
It covers many topics which are relatively common knowledge among experienced hardware designers but you rarely find in one book. Some of those topics I've never seen in ANY book. There's some good stuff here. That said, it's probably not the ideal book for someone who's already tackled a few successful embedded hardware designs.



Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Designing the User Interface : Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (4th Edition)
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Authors: Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Foundation book for HCI


I'm using this book in one of my college courses in a computer science master's program. This is my third master's degree, so I've been through a lot of books.
This book ranks among the worst books I've ever come across for any purpose.
While the book itself is a beautiful production, no doubt the publisher/editor put significant work into preparing the book, the main purpose, transmitting information on designing user interfaces to the reader, falls flat. It gets two stars for the work the publisher put into it.
The author apparently didn't pick up that a book is a user interface too.
Is it a reference book? Well, when I try to use it this way, I must search for up to 15 or twenty minutes, either to find many references to the topic, or in order to realize the topic isn't covered. So I grade it poor for reference. Also, most topics are so scattered, you would have to read the book through several times to gain the information required, but the book is so unreadable, that you'll never get to this point.
Is it a literature review? One could easily confuse the book for this as there are hundreds of references to various papers and publications all through the book. Several chapters are written in such a style that it goes from a paragraph from one paper, into a paragraph from another and so on (check out p. 128 for example, or p. 389, or randomly open to nearly any page). By reading any chapter completely you are left with a melange of disparate and unconnected thoughts about many different aspects of user interfaces, most that have nothing much to do with design or with one another. Here the author must be trying to soothe his own insecurity that he has enough knowledge to write a book about UI. Unfortunately, while I believe the author has ample knowledge, he lacks ability in conveying information to a reader.
Is it a text book? Only if the goal is to steer the reader away with the belief that designing user interfaces is too difficult for anyone except the author, who you should hire for consulting, or for others who have read through hundreds of papers. It's not even good to go to sleep by, because you just get upset reading it due to the poor and illogical layout.
Is it a book to introduce you to design tools? No! There is a chapter titled, "Software Tools" but it tries to cover everything briefly, but ends up covering nothing in enough detail to allow you to make a decision on which tool would fill your needs.
The book just disgusts me. It is hard to read even two or three pages in a row because the author's writing style is so cryptic. Yet in other places it just plain wastes your time, for instance in describing what a menu is for ... from p. 237, "The primary goal for menu, form-fillin, and dialog-box designers is to create sensible, comprehensible, memorable, and convenient organization relevant to the user's tasks." WELL DUH!
That bit of the text is indicative of the whole book, only it's probably a little easier to read than most sentences. Here is another snippet from p. 389, Ch. 11 Presentation Styles: "In a study of 12 telephone operators, Springer (1987) found that supressing the presentation of redundant family names in a directory-assistance listing reduced target-location time by 0.8 seconds."
Hey, I'd like to believe the author isn't stupid, but the whole chapter is filled with jibberish like that, and it doesn't have much to do with presenation style. The whole book is just like that. It's worthless.
I realize every time I pick up this book, I'm about to waste my time, but I hope I haven't wasted your time with this review.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: PMP Exam Prep (4th Edition)
Publisher: Rmc Pubns Inc
Authors: Rita Mulcahy
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Not as good as others


This book complements the PMBOK and is good reference for passing the PMP Exam. The practice questions at the end of each topic definitely reinforce the understanding.
This book can certainly do with some improvements. I am not too thrilled with the way the material has been laid out on this book. A thorough proof reading will definitely make it better. I do not know how the 4th edition has shaped up.
Overall, this book is good and it helped me clear the exam with a high percentage.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Jakob Nielsen, Marie Tahir
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
If you have too much money, get rid of some by buying this.


I'm stunned that any reader would give this book 5 stars.It is filled with obvious and uninsightful nitpicks of popular entry pages (not websites, which is where actual usability comes into play).His capricious evaluation tactics include measuring the percentage of pixels allocated to things like "white space", "self promotional" and "filler" (he does not inform the reader his distinction between such categories. Nor does he indicate what magical percentage he finds appropriate).
Anyone looking for usability insight from Nielsen need only look at his mundane website (useit.com) to see the lackluster consequences of following Nielsen's advice (it's also worth a look since much of the 'information' in this book can be had there for free).