Mstation Book Reviews
Valid RSS pre Dec 04 reviews are here

Fri, 28 Jan 2005

Revolution in the Valley

Andy Hertzfield, Revolution in the Valley: the insanely great story of how the Mac was made, hardback, O'Reilly

This is pretty cool. We get a protagonist's view of a lot of the process
that led on from the fabled visit to Xerox-PARC by Steve J and Bill G
and culminated in the production of Apple's Lisa and, more
groundbeakingly, the more affordable Macintosh and later on ... Windows.

It puts me in mind of Tracey Kidder's wonderful account of the making of
a Data General minicomputer. That was called Soul of New Machine and was
published in the eighties. That book is also mentioned in this book and
the awareness shows. This one is not as tightly scripted as New Machine
but it is very nicely put together all the same. 

What we have is the human voyage from idea to culmination with a lot of
detail of both what was happening technically and what was happening
with the humans concerned. Hertzfield takes quite a balanced view of their
leader, Steve Jobs. Both his leadership and sometime generosity of heart
are presented along with his more sociopathic tendencies. One great
anecdote relates how Steve Jobs would often park in the space for
handicapped people. One day as he "brusquely" walked past Jean-Louis
Gassee, JG allegedly remarked "Oh, I didn't realise it was for the
emotionally handicapped" or something like that. heh heh.

The book is nicely designed and illustrated as well, with photos and pages
from engineering notebooks.

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Point and Click Linux

Robin 'Roblimo' Miller, Point and Click Linux!, Prentice Hall

This is a book and CD that aims to be an easy way to start with Linux.
The book holds your hand during installation and then gives run throughs
of the applications that are included ... and these cover the usual
activities of web browsing, email, file  transfer, and also such things
as playing  around with digital photos, and some games. There's also a
section on the command line. The distro used is the newish, commercial, 
Mepis and it all works quite OK.

This book and CD are a reasonably painless way to start out with Linux
and solves the usual problem for beginners of trying to figure out
exactly where all that documentation is, or with the really trimmed
back distros of trying to get online to get where the information is.

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Wireless Hacking Projects

Lee Barken and var, Wireless Hacking: Projects for Wi-Fi Enthusiasts, Syngress

Have you set up your wi-fi community network yet? Well, you 
don't have to but it is a good way to meet neighbours and generally
further the human understanding thing. 

Wireless Hacking Projects has been put together by members of the wireless users group and they know a thing or two
about the subject, so much so that they offer help to other groups
wanting to get started ... in addition to this book.

After an overview of the wireless world we're taken through most
areas we're likely to think about, and given information and
projects along the way. In addition to obvious ones such as setting
up an Access Point (AP), there are quite a collection of less
obvious areas such as Mesh Networking, Solar-powered AP's, re-
programming your AP to run Linux, mangling your card to provide an
external antenna, and much, much, more.

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Design Patterns

Eric and Elisabeth Freeman, Kathey Sierra, Bert Bates,
Head First Design Patterns, O'Reilly

Perhaps you've been doing OO programming and feel like you
could do with a bit more conceptual territory at the top
end. Perhaps you're one of the many who shifted to C++ but
due to cranky, unintelligent project managers and various
other excuses, you didn't quite make the shift from function
based design.

Perhaps not. Well, anyway, what this book aims to do is give
you a sound grounding in the business of design patterns. The
object is to create code in such a way as to help maximise 
reuse and extensibility.

The example language used is Java but the lessons are fairly
universal for OO programming in general. The teaching method
involves a fair bit of repetition that uses humorous asides
to help keep your eyes open. But it will only be boring if
you have no interest in the topic ... in which case you
wouldn't be looking at it anyway.

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