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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Thinking in Java (3rd Edition)
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
Authors: Bruce Eckel
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Doesn't Live Up to "Thinking"


I've been coding Java for over a year, and have coded various other languages (never much C++, though). I find this book thorough, but I don't think it lives up to the word "Thinking". Also, I find the examples lack "obviousness".
I expected more from a book with "Thinking" as the operative word in the title. I expected something that approached the language from a big-picture perspective. This may have been somewhat true in the earlier chapters, but is certainly not the case in chapters 8 (interfaces & inner classes) and 9 (holding your objects). Maybe it gets better after those chapters, but I couldn't read any more without writing this review.
So how does the book undershoot the word "Thinking"? If one examined a map of a lake with a complicated shoreline (bays, inlets, coves, etc), a "Thinking" book on the topic would cover all of the "channels" (for land lovers, those are boat pathways), and why one channel would be better than the other during various conditions (wind from the east, use the channel close to the west shore). I found this book tedious in it's exploration of every foot of jagged lakeshore. I'm not asking for a smaller book, just one that moves some of the lesser important features into an appendix or something.
The examples exercise the language very well. They show many, many features of the language. They are not very self explanatory. A huge flaw in the examples is the dependence on the author's utility classes. If the reader is trying to understand Java's hundreds of classes, there is no need to introduce more classes, even if it shrinks the code a bit. It might make the examples a bit more tidy, but it comes at a big price. Every line the reader encounters must be run through the 'can I use it' filter. After digesting hundreds of lines of examples, keeping this filter 'on' is tedious. Many of the utility classes can be avoided, for example, what's wrong with just filling an array manually? It's not as cool, but it's instantly obvious what's going on! Why use an example with 10 items when it would be more clear with 3? Why have System.out.println(a), when you could have System.out.println("after doing x, a=" + a);? And how about including output in the book? Yes, we have the code on the CD, and I could run the example, but when I'm reading, I'd rather have the output right there in print.
If you think popping open a few classes in the Java standard library, and figuring out how they work is fun, you'll probably like to read this book. Personally, I have never found the need to examine the workings of the standard library. I am "the client programmer", so I use what they've done. In my real world, the best code is not the shortest. The best code is written to be understood as quickly as possible. I think a book that intends to teach Java strive for "obviousness". The examples in this book, though, do not excel in that area. The examples can be understood, and they show a lot of features, but the same concepts could be demonstrated with more clarity. As I said, getting rid of the author's utility classes (yes, they are really cool, yes they would be great improvements to the language, yadda, yadda), would be a great first step. I have re-written a few examples without the utility class, and find it much easier to see what's going on. Some might say I made examples "for dummies", but if there is nothing sacrificed in the way of concept, then why not?
I'm going to finish this book (if it kills me), and I'll likely be a better programmer for it, but I just don't think it's the shortest path to Java nirvana.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Linux for Non-Geeks
Publisher: No Starch Press
Authors: Rickford Grant
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Cool Fedora


A very up to date book for 2004/5. Grant deals with what would have been Red Hat Linux 10. There is officially no such thing, because in 2003, Red Hat announced that it was concentrating on its corporate products, where it would actually make some money. In retrospect, all us users who had downloaded the earlier free versions of Red Hat had been lucky for years. So independently of Red Hat, volunteers made what is now called the Fedora Core. (Fedora as in 'hat'.) This book comes with 2 CDs for it.
Having used Red Hat Linux 9 and now the Fedora Core, I have to agree with Grant. There are many changes, but clearly evolutionary. Anyone who has used KDE will be comfortable here. The UI has gotten smoother. Even easier to use. And the functionality has increased; evermore RPM packages.
Grant pitches this book towards nontechnical users; he assumes no prior acquaintance with linux. But you know what? Even current linux users may want to check out his writings, looking for new material in Fedora. Certainly, some of you will refrain on principle. You'd rather learn it from the UI. Which is fine for power users. But others may be more pragmatic and consult this book.
One slight caveat is that perhaps in a future edition, he could also discuss running linux on the AMD 64 bit Opteron. There is already a version of Fedora for this. And the chip is far cheaper than Intel's 64 bit offering.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: sed & awk (2nd Edition)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Dale Dougherty, Arnold Robbins
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
sed, awk ... useful tools


sed and awk typically get a bum rap from perl users. "why learn sed or awk when perl can do both?" yes, it can. and so much more.
but what if you just need to print, say, the first field of a file? or just replace a few characters in a stream? what about the situations when you dont have perl handy (ie a freshly installed IRIX box)?
the sed & awk book is *the* standard. it's not written by anyone famous or whatnot, but it does a fantastic job of covering the basics, the meat, and advanced uses of sed and awk (and variants).
if you spend time on the command line and need to know a few quick tips, this is the book to have for sed and awk. you'll learn regexp material, how to use sed and awk and a bunch of useful routines.
highly reccomended for UNIX shell geeks.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: After Effects in Production: A Companion for Creating Motion Graphics
Publisher: CMP Books
Authors: Trish Meyer, Chris Meyer
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Great book!!


This book covers lots of tricks on AE. It has tutorials and "hands on" action. It lets you build some graphics and animations guiding you through including all the steps and it also explains why would you move, what to where and how. It comes with a CD with tutorials and about 5 free plug-ins. It also includes a try out version of AE for Mac and PC. It also tells you tricks to use on AE production bundle like "the wiggler" and the "vector paint" plug-in wich is more like a program than a plug-in in AE-PB (after efffects production bundle)