Mstation Book Reviews
pre Dec 04 reviews are here
Mon, 20 Dec 2004
Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, Atari, & Gamepark 32 Syngress Joe Grand There are plenty of after Christmas projects here for those who find themselves looking for something to do at that time. As can be seen from the title, there's a good range of consoles to choose from as well. The Xbox is very well catered for but the Playstation is not. There's a section on making a serial port and another on booting code from the memory card. There's also one on having an independent hard drive. This could be very useful with the new thinline PS2 as it doesn't have space for a drive. The instructions don't deal with the new model though. The Xbox section has quite a lot of projects including how to run Linux. That one is purely a software hack, so no tools needed there. In the hardware section there are a number of projects including installing network LED's on the front of the case, adding a remote reset switch to a controller and many more. In the Atari section, one fun project is to take a 2600 case and make it into a PC and using a wireless mouse and keyboard to control it. The Nintendo section has projects for the GBA and the old-timer, NES. There is actually a section on retro-platforms as well. To top it all off there's quite a good appendix on electrical engineering which includes what different components do in a circuit along with some equations.
O'Reilly David M. Bourg, Glenn Seeman This is the second book on O'Reilly's games shelf. The first one was Physics for Games Developers and, somewhat shamefully, M station lost it at the bottom of a pile and haven't reviewed it yet -- coming up! The AI book is mainly concerned with weak AI although later in the book there are sections on Fuzzy Logic and Neural Nets. The start is taken up with predator following prey algorithms and we're led through a basic example followed by various improvements to make movement look more realistic and intelligent. In such a way, our understanding is added to as we go along. It's also helpful that the examples used relate directly to games which makes them quite easy to follow if you already know a little bit about games. One need this book really fills is that there are precious few AI books out there with code examples. I saw one other one in the Hands On series and its examples looked, at a glance, to be truncated. Most are equation oriented which is fine for their purpose but will have low-level mathematicians seeking other texts to find out what's going on. So, here we have a two-in-one and it's useful.
Developing Series 60 Applications Addison Wesley A Guide for Symbian OS C++ Deveopers Leigh Edwards, Richard Baker, various This review gives me a chance to plug an article I did for O'Reilly's on developing apps for the Symbian series 60 platform. Who, you say? Series 60 is a smartphone platform and there are quite a few of them out there. When you first look at one of those phones you might get the idea that a little thing like that might have such a reduced subset of the language that it might be a bit of a breeze to knock something interesting out. Unfortunately, that's not the case. This seven hundred plus page book is a good witness to that. One problem is that there is quite a lot going on in there, and another is that the SDK is nothing particularly special in the usability way. This book takes you right through the general architecture, tools, and application development itself. The best way to get going is to join up at forum.nokia.com, download the appropriate SDK (there are quite a few), compile and run the Hello World app, and then start reading.
O'Reilly RB and BF Thompson Perfect PC, you say, perfect for what? Don't worry, the authors thought of that and provide a few different ideals: mainstream PC, SOHO server, LAN party PC, home theater PC, and a small form factor PC. It's all interesting too, with reasons given for choices, and scattered nuggets throughout. One of the main helps is that you get choices for most components which could save you a whole lot of the time in the shop as you look at piles of components without any clue whatsoever about what is good, bad, and acceptable. You'll also get told things like if you're buying a readymade server, just buy IBM, which is interesting given what's been happening at other companies. Each PC project has a seperate section with color photos and lists of components, and helpful hints along with how much time to allow.
Pogue Press Rob Griffiths Most of the OS X titles we've seen randomly around the shops start at too low a level, so while the book might be big and thick, the material is mostly concerned with the blindingly obvious and so isn't of much interest. This book starts at a higher level than that, and so people who already know a bit can find a bit more to go through. In addition to four hundred and two pages of tips about GUI apps there's also a section on Unix. It's probably harder to surprise Unix users as there's so much information available already but most non-guru types will find a few things they didn't already know.
No Starch Press Leander Kahney Leander Kahney has had some fun chronicling the weird, the wonderful, and the not so wonderful of the Apple makers and their acolytes. No Starch has also had some fun in producing a graphics-rich hardback which is pretty sure to end up under quite a few Christmas trees. There are a couple of geography related things you should ignore though. First, last I heard, the island of Tasmania was quite close to Australia and so people living there are usually not called Kiwis -- who are from New Zealand. The other is that the electronics shop area of Tokyo is called Akihabara, not Akibahara ... and one page later it's mentioned correctly. Anyway, Kahney takes us on a trip through love communes, haircuts, tatoos, personalities, and some of the machinery. It's sociology rather than geekery in that it's mostly non-technical. In some ways the whole Apple thing is almost about the anti-geek, as it's based on ease of use, looks, and the cool factor. Whatever; this book is fun.