Mstation Book Reviews
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Mon, 02 Oct 2006

Sound System Engineering

Don Davis, Eugene Patronis jr.,
Sound System Engineering, 3rd Ed,
Focal Press

This is just the book you want if you want or need to go beyond your collection of mental and other lore about sound systems and their deployment in the wild.

What we have here is a fiercely scientific approach to everything from sound progagation to signal processing. The first chapter starts off with the relevant maths which is then used to enlighten you on every aspect of this interesting field -- large room acoustics, loudspeakers and loudspeaker arrays, mics, audio measurements, to name just a few. The book finishes with a "putting it all together" chapter followed by one on wiring practices, which most people will find useful, and which doesn't have equations, just useful pictures.

I imagine there will be a few students that blanche when they see this book just because of the common effect of equation-cringe but, as usual, a logical process of understanding is quite easily doable if a calm attitude is adopted!

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Philip K. Dick

Emmanuel Carrere, Philip K. Dick,
Bloomsbury paperback

This paperback coincides nicely with the release of the movie, A Scanner Darkly, which I haven't seen yet but I will. The stills from the rotoscoping look quite cool.

This book is an absolute must for PKD fans. It tells the story of his life while continually dipping into his fiction to illustrate how his life and his work entertwined.

It's not an altogether happy story of course. PKD had more than his fair share of demons and bad habits although quite a few of his habits were thrust upon him by circumstance and the times were heavy with the idea that drugs were both enlightenment and salvation. They weren't and aren't of course but it is worth noting that criminalisation vastly added to the number of victims by introducing "bad" drugs and worse than usual people into the equation. Is it that badly educated, stupid people will always vote in cretinous politicians?

Read in one way, PKD's story is that of a living nightmare, as his works bear out. But there are lots of moments of light along the way, sometimes provided by his humour, and sometimes provided by passers-through, including the people at Cal State Fullerton who rescued him from one of his dark times when he had nowhere to go.

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Music Business Guide

International Showcase: The Music Business Guide,

This was thrust into our hands at PLASA, the sound and light show in London. It's a bit over two inches thick and is heavy! The word "International" is a misnomer. This is about England and lists everything from concert services to venues, and includes the likes of media, studios etc.

It isn't complete. The book would have to be several volumes for that. It could be useful in some circumstances though.

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David Flanagan, Javascript: The Definitive Guide,
5th Edition, O'Reilly

Not much loved, but very frequently used on the Web to perform all kinds of tasks, this book sets the whole thing out and it must have had quite a few takers in the past as this is the fifth edition.

I wonder to what extent AJAX has spurred things on. The "J" stands for javascript but I suspect that a great number of people will be using frameworks to get their AJAX things happening rather than writing lots of javascript code. Those, however, that take some time over learning javascript properly will be ahead of the game.

And this book would do just fine for that purpose. It starts out by looking at datatypes and statements and looks at the DOM and XML, amongst other things, and then gives a full run through of objects and methods. These are always fun to look through as usually there's something to get an idea flickering.

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Umerto Eco, The Name of the Rose, Everyman

Toni Morrison, Beloved, Everyman

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, Everyman

Roald Dahl, Collected Stories, Everyman

We got a nice clump of books from Everyman the other day. These titles are what one might call modern classics and are their usual, being nicely-bound, nicely printed (with a ribbon for place marking even), and all at a reasonable price. The only quibble some people might have is with the different colored slip covers - different from the black and white that is, not different from each other. Perhaps modern classics buyers are more colorful people. Who knows.

There is some varied reading in these four volumes. "The Name of the Rose" is a murder mystery set in a 14th century monastery. That alone wouldn't have made it the critical and commercial success it was had it not been for the loving exploration of the time - a time just leading into the rennaissance with it's explosion of ideas and invention.

"Beloved" is American Gothic and "The Handmaid's Tale" is a dystopic thriller that presages the modern surveillance state quite, well, we won't say nicely.

And Roal Dahl's stories should be known to most people. Provocative, mischievious, and imaginative are some words used to describe his stories. Fun might be another, but definately fun of a noir nature.

Nice bundle.

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CSS: the missing manual

David Sawyer McFarland, CDD: The Missing Manual,
Pogue Press/O'Reilly

I wonder how many people who play around with web pages actually bother to do more than collect CSS components and assemble them in an hoc way. If you're just wandering the web looking for info it's easy to get little bits to do with this and that but quite hard to find a proper course.

Well, here it is. This book takes you through the basics and then introduces you to various interesting things you can do. One of the interesting things is that style sheets enable lots of cool looking things that can't be done with plain HTML. Just give me the functional text, you say? Well, this sort of thing can be used just for pure eye candy (and why not?) but can also be used to aid the function of understanding by the use of clever layout etc. Another functional plus of CSS is that pages become smaller and redoing a whole site with external style sheets becomes a very small job. But you already knew that.

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