Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Fundamentals of Database Systems, Fourth Edition
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Authors: Ramez Elmasri, Shamkant B. Navathe
There is no such thing as "purely practical" in IT. This book lays foundations, in the good academic tradition, but is also practical, in the sense that gives design advice based on fundamental concepts. I have used this book as the basis for a "Database Systems" module which I taught a few years ago and I found it better for teaching than Date's books. The chapters are better organised. In my opinion, the blend of theory, examples and exercises is perfect. Very good book for undergraduate and graduate students who want to learn about database systems. May not be the best for some professionals with enough experience, but some chapters (e.g. on Extended Entity-Relationship models) are excellent for people at all levels.
Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
Authors: SIMON SINGH
A combination of easy-to-understand explanations, history, suspense, and just plain fun made this the best history book I've ever read. Singh starts with Mary Queen of Scots and her fumbled plot to kill Queen Elizabeth. The history behind the plot was explained, and then he back-tracked all the way to the fifth century b.c. to give us an idea of where it all started from in documented history. The author's style of creating suspense surrounding a particular event and then giving you history on that event before he tells you the outcome was an excellent way to keep a non history buff glued to the pages.
The characters were well written within the history. Instead of falling asleep to a list of names and dates, I was saddened to read of the fate of Alan Turing when they discovered his secret, all fired up about the buried treasure surrounding the Beale Papers, and laughing at the quandry of the poor Navajos who were 'captured' by Americans who mistook them for Japanese spies.
The other high quality aspect was the cryptography explanations. Never having known much about cryptography beyond the absolute basics behind Enigma, I found it extremely easy to understand his explanations of how this or that cypher worked, and how historical figures went about cracking them. Even his explanations of how Enigma worked were simple to comprehend. Based on his explanations I'm confident I could create coded messages myself - maybe even decipher one!
It probably has a lot more to do with my ignorance of Egyptology than the authors explanations, but the only portion of the book I didn't like was the explanation of how the hieroglyphs were deciphered. The explanations themselves were clear, but it seemed to me there were some assumptions made about why people in ancient Egypt did certain things that just seemed a bit off to me. The author was clear enough and accurate enough about everything else that I'm assuming the fault is mine, and I'll be reading some Egyptian history sometime soon.
Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Massively Multiplayer Game Development (Game Development Series)
Publisher: Charles River Media
I have very mixed feelings about this book. While it presents a wonderfully broad discussion of MMOG development and is chalk full of ideas that you can use in development, it is at the same time often incomplete. The problem is not in the desire for the sections of the book to more deeply discuss their subject matter, but more due to the fact that the sections often fail to fully describe even what they are attempting to talk about. Included source code is fairly sparse making it difficult to discern what the authors were reaching at even when he provides UML (minus complete descriptions). At least one python project fails to work at all and there is no information for corrections on the Charles River Media web site.
So, do I recommend this book? Yes. Knowing the book as I do now, I would still have purchased it, however this may be one that you want to look through somewhat carefully at a local bookstore prior to purchasing. Expect to have to expend considerable effort when developing code based on portions of the book as you will progress along merrily based on the descriptions only to hit a roadblock in the code based on an incomplete or completely missing description of a critical portion of the topic. This book is definitely for already competent developers/designers, though you should already be prior to attempting to craft a MMOG anyway.
This book will likely float between 2 and 5 stars depending on the reader.
Best of luck to all!
Product: Book - Paperback
Title: C Programming Language (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
Authors: Brian W. Kernighan, Dennis Ritchie, Dennis M. Ritchie
The first time software development ever really scared me was working through the exercises in this book on my old XT clone. I discovered that I "thought" in C already. The language packaged the constructs which I had been translating into FORTRAN at work.
I already knew Pascal, FORTRAN, BASIC, and assembler, so I wasn't a virgin programmer. But The C Programming Language turned my life around--it handed me a language which naturally mapped to the way I thought through programming problems. Working the exercises in this book not only taught me the C language, but it also tightened up my programming style.
The book begins in a non-threatening manner, and walks the reader through the basics of software creation in C. From the simple, classic "hello world" program to useful utilities, this book makes software creation seem easy. It teaches not only the C language, but also the discipline of writing quality code.