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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Publisher: Basic Books
Authors: Douglas R. Hofstadter
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Godel Eternally Bandied Eventually Gets Boring


If you're new to computer science, then this book introduces you to some interesting topics in decideability and recursion. These ideas have implications for people who contemplate the possibility of intelligent computers or the design of intelligent systems.
Since most of the computer science theory is over 50 years old, none of it is new to anyone who is familiar with the subject. That said, the presentation is a rather weak play on Lewis Carroll combined with the cloying childishness of A. A. Milne.
Most readers claim to find the book fascinating. They're either genuinely fascinated by the AI topics, which are great - just not the author's own ideas. Or they're faking it because you're supposed to say you like stuff that sounds clever. Or they're faking it.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: HTML for the World Wide Web with XHTML and CSS: Visual QuickStart Guide, Fifth Edition
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: Elizabeth Castro
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Clear, entertaining, well organized


This book doesn't need another good review - but I'm posting one anyway.
It's amazing how much HTML is in this small book. The explanations are clear and unambiguous, and the models in the figures are creative and well integrated with the text.
A lot of thought obviously went into organizing the material into coherent sections. The red coloring is used wisely and effectively and helped me follow the models. I haven't found myself driven to the companion Web site for help yet, but it's good to know it's there.
If I have a minor constructive criticism, it is that the figures and captions are packed with useful models, but rather small for my eyes. Perhaps that's the price for so much cool stuff in a small book, or a limitation built into the VQS format. The section on CGI scripts might be overreaching the scope of the book a bit - but maybe I'll get more from it on a 2nd reading.
The color chart at the end of the version of the book I purchased is a very valuable bonus.
Whichever publisher wins the bidding war to sign Elizabeth Castro to a six (seven?) figure advance for her next book is a lucky publisher indeed!



Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Advanced Programming in the UNIX(R) Environment
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: W. Richard Stevens
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
An essential reference for any unix programmer


All the other praise is well deserved. This book sets an incredibly high precedent as to the quality of technical literature. GET THIS BOOK. The UNIX API has never been presented better.
My only single complaint is that the text is written as a programmer would have written it: that is, much passive voice. Just make sure you have some coffee and a lot of time. It took me a little time to get through it (a 3 day cruise in the bahamas, actually), but I am to this day thankful that I did.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Murach's OS/390 and z/OS JCL
Publisher: Mike Murach & Associates
Authors: Raul Menendez, Doug Lowe
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
More than JCL -- a handy reference book, too


I was delighted to find a replacement for the dog-eared JCL manual on my bookshelf - and this one is much better than my old copy.
I started off looking up some random JCL parameters to see how easy it was to find things quickly (the most important thing in a reference book) and ended up reading the whole book from beginning to end when I realized just how many useful little things I had missed learning since I first started using JCL fifteen years ago.
According to the authors, "OS/390 and z/OS JCL" is intended for both mainframe trainees and experienced programmers. That must be why everything is clearly explained, rather than just giving the syntax and leaving it at that. In addition to the chapters on JCL, there are sections on ISPF, SMS, VSAM, IDCAMS, IBM utilities (IEBCOPY etc.), SORT, REXX and UNIX system services.
In other words, this is a very handy general purpose mainframe reference book, that will earn its place on my bookshelf.