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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Professional JSP 2nd Edition
Publisher: Wrox Press
Authors: Simon Brown, Robert Burdick, Jayson Falkner, Ben Galbraith, Rod Johnson, Larry Kim, Casey Kochmer, Thor Kristmundsson, Sing Li
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
An excellent book

Wrox Press continues their time-honored tradional of piling as many authors into one 1200 page volume that they can in the hopes that they will end up with a definitive treatment of the subject. The authors range from seasoned professionals with real-world experience to people with nothing but a year or two of college computer science courses behind them. I must confess that I am not sure what I was expecting in these chapters but since JSP Tag Libraries seemed to be one of the more challenging and interesting areas of JSPs I was hoping for some more meaningful, 'meaty' content.
The assembly of these 18 (yes, 18!) authors wind up generating a book that essentially could have been put together with more precision and continuity if it had 15 fewer authors. It very much comes off as a rushed effort, without any tightness whatsoever. The writing style of this second edition can only be described as amateurish. This, fortunately, can be a little easier to swallow if you accept the spirit of the book (in Wrox's words 'Programmer to Programmer'). Take the text as quickly put-together material from programmers that have been through it (even if it was brief or only in school) and you should be fine.
Many unnecessary forward references exist throughout the text and, because of the unusually large number of authors, there is a large amount of repetition in the body of most chapters. The book's page count could also have been greatly reduced had the authors not consistently given condensed introduction to material that ends up being the subject matter for entire chapters later in the book. For example, two early chapters describe the basics of Tag Libraries, only to have them surface as the primary topic of chapters 8 - 11.
The code included throughout the book is variable in quality, as you might expect. The book doesn't pretend to be an academic tome of best practices or a showcase for some top-flight, brilliant programming but you end up thinking that many of the examples could have been made much more effective with more thought put into them. As with many other programming books out there, this one is definitely not without its errors. You'd hope, however, that with the 21 technical reviewers and 3 editors that worked on this book that it would have fared better than most.
In summary, if you take the text for what it is and skip over the segments of fluff and numerous poor code examples I think that most professional programmers new to this technology will find enough material to make the hefty price tag almost worth it (especially if you share it with others on your team!).

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Computer Organization and Design Second Edition : The Hardware/Software Interface
Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann
Authors: David A. Patterson, John L. Hennessy
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Great book; probably best as a textbook.

This book kicks butt. It's got everything most programmers could possibly want to know about how the machine underneath works, and more.
It covers circuit logic, hardware arithmetic, how a processor works . . . It answered all of my "I wonder how that happens in the machine" questions.
However, I doubt you'd really want to read it unless you're in a computer architecture class. I don't even mind the ridiculous price; it's one of the few textbooks I feel is worth it.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Official Blender 2.3 Guide: Free 3D Creation Suite for Modeling, Animation, and Rendering
Publisher: No Starch Press
Authors: Ton Roosendaal, Stefano Selleri
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Great guide for grasping powerful but unintuitive software

Blender is the most powerful 3D modeling and design program I've had the fortune of using. NOt being able to afford to spend thousands, the price is fantastic. But it's really hard to get rolling on it without good documentation, since the interface is far from intuitive or easy to grasp--it's unlike anything you've ever seen. A manual is really a basic.

Fortunately, the 2.3 guide provides everything you need to not only get started, but learn how to understand the software and figure out how to do more advanced things on your own. Most astounding about this is that the book was written along the same lines as the software--through an open source, community effort.

Just about every instruction is illustrated and walks you through the maze of control panels, menus and tabs. Instructions are explicit and specific (for the most part), and explain just enough to let you know what you're doing (for the most part) without burying you in details. Yes, it has some weird grammar at points, weird typos in various places, and sentences that seem like they came out of babelfish in a few more. Yes, the tone shifts from basic "make a box. click on the little handle dohickey and drag (click and pull the mouse)" in some chapters to three pages of derivatives and formulas for calculating and understanding light falloff ratios that assume advanced expertise in understanding computer graphics programming. Overall, however, it's a very good read, a very good how-to guide.

Before I had it, it took me three weeks to model a stage and a set I've been designing. After reading it, i started from scratch and built the same scene in 1 hour, fixed all my lighting problems in just a few minutes, and got into applying textures and rendering in just an hour more. Great timesaver--now I don't feel like I should really be looking at Maya.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: The Protocols (TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1)
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: W. Richard Stevens
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5

The only bad thing I can say about this book is it is a bit outdated. I however would not recommend ANY book over this one. It's THE book for learning the tcp/ip protocol suite. I think I've read this book at least 3 times and I'm probably due in for a 4th time. I rank this as my favorite computer book. So really I give it 10 stars out of 5 ;)