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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker, Second Edition
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: William R. Cheswick, Steven M. Bellovin, Aviel D. Rubin
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
No longer the only, but still the best, book on the topic.

This book is not just about firewalls, although that is itsprimary focus. Nor does it try to cover the entire field ofInternet security, although it does provide a fairly good surveyof that field along the way. A fair description would be that itis about building a security strategy around a firewall, which isthe practical outcome with which most potential readers should beconcerned.
The first edition of this book was, for nearly a decade, prettymuch the only work on building firewalls. This edition is anearly complete rewrite, not so much because of the newfunctionality needed of firewalls, but because systemadministrators no longer write their own firewall software. Insome ways, this has given more attention to the services beingprotected, reducing the emphasis on firewalls per se.
Some readers will undoubtedly consider parts of this book toengage in Microsoft-bashing. I don't see it that way, forreasons that the authors sum up in the introduction, in one oftheir "security truisms": "Security is a tradeoff withconvenience." They do consider Windows hosts on their networksto be insecure (and possibly unsecurable), but that has as muchto do with letting users install software on their own machinesas it does with the OS itself. Not only do the authors fullyintend the implication that there will be different tradeoffs tobe made for different situations, but they illustrate this in anumber of situations, where they describe implications oftradeoffs that are driven by different end-user needs.
The book is quite complete, although the technology changesquickly enough that this will be quite a bit less true by thetime a third edition might be written. The only issue that Ithink deserved more attention was that of multi-homing.Protecting a multihomed network is particularly difficult becauseextra configuration is needed to identify packet spoofing, andany filtering done by the upstream providers will make life evenmore difficult. This problem deserves at least more recognition,if not a full treatment of its own.
This book is not the ultimate reference on the topic that thefirst edition was in its time. But it is not possible for anyone book to fill that role any more, and if it's no longer theonly book, it's still the most important. If you are after that"ultimate reference," your best bet is probably the combinationof this book and Zwicky (et. al.), "Building Internet Firewalls".

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow that Works
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Kelly Goto, Emily Cotler
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Web ReDesign is not Web ReHash

Wow! This book is better than I had hoped and I had high expectations. Not only is it beautifully laid out and a joy to flip through, the information is comprehensive, straightforward, and written in a style and tone that is actually a pleasure to read (a refreshing change- so many industry books bore or frustrate me to the brink of madness). I am relatively new to web design and with this book in hand, I am so much better prepared to work on projects. I see this book as a guide that will grow with me as I gain experience. Thanks!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Excel 2003 Personal Trainer (Personal Trainer (O'Reilly))
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: CustomGuide Inc
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
This should bring me up to speed with Excel...

Along with the PowerPoint 2003 Personal Trainer book, I received a review copy of Excel 2003 Personal Trainer (O'Reilly) the other day. This is one I won't show my wife, as I think I'll keep this one for myself.

Chapter List: The Fundamentals; Editing a Worksheet; Formatting a Worksheet; Creating and Working with Charts; Managing Your Workbooks; More Functions and Formulas; Working with Lists; Automating Tasks with Macros; Working with Other Programs; Using Excel with the Internet; Data Analysis and PivotTables; What-If Analysis; Advanced Topics; Index

As a long-time techie, people expect me to be an expert in any software they happen to be running. One of the more common questions I get is "how do I do <insert their problem here> in Excel?". To which I answer... "Beats me!" I've just never taken the time to learn how to work the software. In fact, my wife (who is a relative newbie when it comes to software) knows more about Excel than I do. So, looking at this book, I think it's about time to improve on those skills.

The Personal Trainer series uses a lightly-themed muscle/superhero motif that isn't overly cute or annoying. Each chapter has objectives, a central task, and prerequisites to working the following lessons. After anywhere from five to twenty lessons for a given chapter, there's a summary of the material, a quiz, and "homework" that you can do to explore a little further on your own. On top of all that, the CD in the back has an Excel simulator you can use to practice your skills without necessarily having to have the software loaded on a given computer. Since I have Excel loaded, I won't need that, nor will I have to go through each of the lessons that assume little to no background in Excel or even how Window applications work. But I should be able to grasp all the Excel fundamentals I sorely lack right now in a relatively short period of time. And then I might be able to answer some of my wife's pleas for application support.

Good material, covers all the basics and quite a few of the bells and whistles, and it all reads well. Now if I can only hide it from my wife...

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Effective C++: 50 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Design (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Scott Meyers
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
The book should be called "Defective C++"

Basically this book documents all the ways that Bjarne Stroustrup invented to hang yourself using C++ in a succinct 250 pages - an amazing accomplishment.
While Stroustrup also documents his pitfalls/pratfalls in his own book, this book is more concise. It's a must-read.