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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Java Threads, 3rd Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Scott Oaks, Henry Wong
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
insubstantial and wrong

This isn't the best O'Reilly book in the Java series, but it will provide a reasonably good overview of the subject. I wouldn't recommend this book to beginning programmers, because the topic of threading is overly complex for beginners. Look for a general Java book that gives you some simple templates for using threads, if you need them for something. I also wouldn't recommend this for advanced programmers who have special needs in the area of threading. A more advanced book would survey how real JVMs actually perform thread scheduling, comparing them and provide tips for programmers who ned really precise timing or scheduling optimization. Likewise, if you know most of the ins and outs of preventing deadlocks off the top of your head, this book isn't going to teach you very much.
Who this book is good for is experienced programmers who need to understand the ins and outs of making their applications threadsafe. If you don't have much (or any) background in threading or you've forgotten some things, this book will cover the topic thoroughly, and demonstrate common pitfalls. It's ideal for people who need to code up things like database connection pools, complex synchronized-access data structures, and statically-accessed resources. As others have mentioned, some of the examples are kind of synthetic and fake, but the book is still extremely usable, and it's an easy read.
This book is also effective at covering timed and recurring tasks in Java 1.1 and 1.2, though Java 1.3 now has new helper classes (Timer and TimedTask) that this book doesn't cover. Then again, if you understand how to do it in 1.1 and 1.2 (and really, even if you don't), understanding the new 1.3 classes is dead easy.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Publisher: Basic Books
Authors: Douglas R. Hofstadter
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Eternal Golden Braid - Finally, Truth in Advertising!

Science and art have never been less accessible. They have become obscure private languages, requiring rites of initiation and proficiency in coding and decoding. But while art has largely remained the preserve of an elite - science has been popularized by both its practitioners and a host of talented observers and reporters. The reason is that science is all-pervasive while art is still a museum thing. In the genre of popular science there is nothing that comes close to this book. It combines music and literature with formal logic and computer science. It is poetic while being rigorous, breathless without deteriorating to pseudo-science. In short: a masterpiece. The book strives - and succeeds - to demonstrate that ostensibly disparate phenomena like ant colonies, Bach's music, the structure and functioning of the brain, and programming languages - have more in common than we imagine. Uncovering these strains of similarity and strands of common order is done in a systematic but highly entertaining manner. The book is as taut as a thriller and as fun as "Alice in Wonderland" that it so often quotes. A treat untouched by the almost three decades that elapsed since it was first published. Sam Vaknin, author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited".

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: JavaScript for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide (4th Edition)
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: Tom Negrino, Dori Smith
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5

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 - Paperback
Title: Programming Role Playing Games with DirectX, Second Edition (Game Development Series)
Publisher: Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade
Authors: Jim Adams
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
Not worth it unless you're an absolute beginner...

Rarely do I order a book, receive it, read around 2/3 of it, and decide before going to bed that night that I want to return it for a refund.

Quite harsh, I know, but I have to be honest here.

The one quirk that I kept finding more and more (especially in the first 1/2) of the book is the repeated use of "I could cover this in greater detail, but there wouldn't be enough room here", or "to see how this works, look at the sample code". I know the book is rated from beginner to intermediate, but I'd have to place it much more towards the beginner side of things.

The DirectX-specific portions are completely glossed over, and although you are given the basics (how to set up an application, load meshes, render, etc.), there is no in depth discussion of how to make things better. Even as a beginner, I would gladly accept this approach of jumping in "feet first", but at the same time, I would like to learn how to advance beyond the basics. There's barely any discussion of optimization strategies and not even an introduction to anything relatively complex.

- on the role-playing side of things -

Although it gives the reader a high-level overview of various parts of a role-playing game (character attributes, spells, etc.), it's all at an extremely basic level as it only discusses using meshes as levels (i.e. no discussion of terrain algorithms, barely anything on BSP/Portals/Dynamic Loading/etc.), basic character interaction (>very< simplistic NPC's - no AI - not even in the simplest sense), basic inventory, basic spells, basic scripting.

For an absolute beginner, I would think it might be a worthwhile read, but for the motivated beginner, who actually wants to >learn< and not just follow instructions, I'd definately look elsewhere.