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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Introducing Microsoft .Net, Third Edition
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: David S. Platt
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
for the 'bigger' picture

I hate reading 'dry' books, and I can assure you, this book is not at all a dry one. It gives you the bigger picture of .NET, and the philosophy and concepts behind it. It will not give you details about how to implement something, for that you will need to refer to Programming .NET components, which I have also strongly recommended.Mr. Platt is humourous, keeping you stuck to the book. I respect his ability to abstract out the concepts from intricacies.
Again, a very good read, for the bigger picture

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Non-Designer's Design Book, Second Edition
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: Robin Williams
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Love this lady's style.

Being a web designer and not having any formal training as a graphic designer, I was looking for a quick guide on the basic "rules" of design and layout. This book fit the bill nicely.
Definitely a quick read, it covers the foundations of good layout and typography. Each "rule" gets its own chapter, with plenty of examples. It would have been nice, however, if the chapter on "Color" had actually used color images! The entire book is in black & white, so this was a bit of a drawback. Not a fatal flaw, but rather a conscious effort to save printing costs that wound up detracting from one of the chapters.
What I did learn were some obvious techniques and concepts that I needed to understand. The book helps you "notice" good design, and better yet, understand WHY it's good design. You'll also become more conscious of your designs, how to create them, and how to fix them when they're wrong, rather than just playing around with it until it "looks right".
If you're new to designing - no matter what the medium - you'll be well-served by this book. For the price, it's certainly tough to beat.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Martin Fowler, Kent Beck, John Brant, William Opdyke, Don Roberts
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Incremental changes can and do make a difference

The majority of books describing the development process deal with the design phase. Clearly, this is important, but the latest information is that eighty percent of development time is now spent in the area known as software maintenance. Information concerning how to perform this vital function correctly has been conspicuously deficient. After the publication of this book, that oversight is substantially corrected. Refactoring is defined as the modification of pre-existing code to improve the performance, and does not directly involve the modification of code to add additional functionality. That aside, improving the efficiency of the code is a valuable goal that is now more attainable. Given a system that does work, making changes to improve performance is often not a high priority. In the high speed world of software development, making a change that adds only percentage points of improvement in one area does not raise eyebrows, it tends to create frowns. However, like so many other things, this is a very short-sighted view. In my mind, the most significant lesson of the Y2K event is that code tends to live a long time, despite dramatic changes in the hardware. Those simple changes that we do now may not save much time per execution, but iterate that over decades and the return on investment is quite high. The most significant advantage of the improvements described in this book is that almost all of them can be implemented fairly quickly and can be verified locally, without global recompiles and exhaustive retesting. Therefore, the management decisions that need to be made to carry them out entail much less risk. It is also much easier to allocate resources if it is known with a high degree of certainty that the modification will be completed in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. This is also consistent with the body of evidence that is overwhelming in favor of a software development cycle with small iterations that can be quickly completed. No one single refactoring operation listed here will change your application from a tortoise to a hare. However, each one will add a bit more bounce to her step, and if you perform enough of them, you will have either a very fast tortoise or a slow hare. This is a book that should be required reading in all sections that perform software maintenance. If I were in a position of maintaining software, I would create a checklist of refactorings and simply step through that list looking for places to make the changes. There is no doubt that this is one of the best books of the year.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum : Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Alan Cooper
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A Design Methodology That Everyone Benefits From

Alan Cooper has come up with a design methodology for software-based products that all can benefit from.
Cooper's "Goal-Directed Interaction Design" would reduce the friction that programmers have with their constituents as well as benefit the users with easy to use software that does what they want it to do.
It occurs to me that everyone stands to gain from this methodology, the users, the designers, and the programmers and one those three groups benefit the company as a whole will benefit.
I'd urge anyone involved in software development to READ THIS BOOK, UNDERSTAND THIS BOOK, AND DO WHAT THIS BOOK SAYS.
And, for what it's worth, I am a Software Engineer.