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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Andre Lamothe
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellent book.


Andre Lamothe is one of the best game programming writers in terms of explaining complex matters clearly. So, this book looked like the Holy Grail of modern game programming. Well, not quite...
1) Until you get into the text itself, you don't find out that this is only volume one of a two-volume set. It is not mentioned anywhere on the book's cover, nor in any of the promotional material. If you're most interested in the 3D part (and who wouldn't be, since non-3D games are a dying breed, and good books on Direct3D Immediate Mode are practically nonexistent?), you'll have to wait until Lamothe finishes volume two. Since THIS volume shipped quite late, God only knows when you'll see THAT one. (There are some tutorials on 3D on the CD-ROM, but they're not written by Lamothe, which means that they don't have his trademark knack for explaining difficult concepts.)
2) Volume 1 is actually an extended re-write of his earlier "Windows Game Programming for Dummies." If you've read that book, you'll find that the vast majority of the topics (and the order they are presented in, such as: first general Windows programming, then GDI, then a game console framework, then COM, and finally DirectX itself) and even the "engine" source code comes directly from the "...Dummies" volume. Granted, "Tricks..." does go into a lot more detail and covers some newer features of DirectX (force-feedback, DirectMusic) that the earlier book didn't touch. Also, if you have any professional aspirations, it's a lot less embarrassing to say you picked up a technique from a book titled "Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus" instead of "Windows Game Programming for Dummies!" However, those who bought the latter volume should be aware that they're going to see a LOT of material, verbatim, for the second time.
3) Finally, there are a number of typos in the text and bugs in the sample source code. As an example of the former, look at the rotation matrix at the bottom of page 455. Owing to a bad choice of font, it has two elements missing! In terms of code bugs, look at Demo7_13 or Demo7_14. In Scan_Image_Bitmap(), the dest_ptr is being incremented by ddsd.dwWidth, when it should be by ddsd.lPitch. The fact that Lamothe has cautioned the user against making this VERY SAME MISTAKE earlier in the book adds insult to injury. (This is not unusual, by the way. I've read several of Lamothe's books, and have always found bugs in the sample source, which can be especially maddening for the student who may only know that something isn't working right, but might have no clue on how to even begin to fix it. Worse, these bugs should have been immediately apparent when the program was run, which leads me to suspect that Lamothe considers himself such a "guru" that he writes his code blind and doesn't always bother testing it before sending it out to the publisher.)
So, there you have it. Despite its faults, this book is one of the most comprehensive texts on the current iteration of DirectX (minus Direct3D), and contains other valuable information about AI, advanced algorithms and data structures, multithreading, game physics, etc. It is probably a "must buy" for anyone serious about game programming. However, until Lamothe gets around to finishing volume two, this is really nothing more than a "work in progress." Even as such, the reader had better be prepared to do some serious debugging on his or her own.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint
Publisher: Graphics Pr
Authors: Edward R. Tufte
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Know Your Audience!


Tufte's latest text is a short pamphlet on the cognitive style of PowerPoint, that is, how a rigidly hierarchical, perhaps Stalinist, piece of software shapes the thoughts of both the presenter and his or her audience. The results are not pretty.
He presents his case using real and fictional examples. An reimagnition of the Gettysburg Address as a deck demonstrates how the lapidary oratory of Lincoln can be rendered a hopeless mess. The results are as amusing as they are convincing.
More important is the use of NASA presentations on the Columbia disaster. Tufte illustrates how NASA's engineers and its vendors can turn critical information into a incomprehensible data junkyard. The consequences in this case illustrate the far reaching impact of the tool and its potentially tragic consequences.
After reading this very persuasive piece, it's clear to me exactly how PowerPoint can be misused to deceive, confuse, and bore. The problem in almost every case is the tool itself. PowerPoint forces its totalitarian nature on the user demanding that one "shape the facts to fit the deck" by oversimplifying and thoughtless structuring.
Ultimately, Tufte accepts that fact that PowerPoint is pervasive. He concludes by offering suggestions as to how to make the best of a bad situation. The design points alone are worth the price of the pamphlet.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Programming Perl (3rd Edition)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, Jon Orwant
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Depends on your learning style, but overall a GREAT book!


I'm come from a heavy ASP background, and as I've started learning the Linux OS, Perl appeared as something good to learn. Hearing the "Camel" book was the best, I went and got it. My thoughts: Its a terriffic Perl scripting reference!!! BUT, for those of you who want to learn Perl for dynamic web page authoring, this may not be the book you want. It's written much more from a Unix admin standpoint, using Perl for automation, and report generation. It does little special to help you with common dynamic web page tasks. Eg. No section on connecting to ODBC data sources for database publication, etc...



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Adobe Illustrator 10 Classroom in a Book
Publisher: Adobe Press
Authors:
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Don't got no good english


This is an excellent book for learning how to use the powerful tools and features in Illustrator. However, don't expect to find any artistic theory or design tips in this book. This is strictly a point-A-to-point-B instructional book that presents (relatively) enjoyable exercises to learn your way around, and not an ounce more.
The author accomplishes the task of training you in the use of Illustrator. But just as a book on Microsoft Word will not make you a good writer, don't expect this book to make you a graphic design guru. :)