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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Publisher: Basic Books
Authors: Douglas R. Hofstadter
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A very good piece of art, but not a "metabook" in anyway...

The book primarily starts to talk about the "core" of the famous GEB figure. And it can basically said to be the Godel theorem. In the introduction, author explicitly states that he has thought of an essay about Godel theorem at first and that his ideas "growed like a sphere" then. It is credible and nice that Escher is involved significantly with his famous, brain teasing works and the concept of "self reference" in these figures is well presented together with the great analogies of Godel theorem that is also intimately related with this concept. Another important thing that the author constantly points out is the idea of "isomorphism". The meaning of patterns and the actual meaninglessness of formal systems is related to this idea before rushing into the AI topics. By the way, Bach is just a little flavor for the book which is subjectively included for the sake of completeness of the trio.
Things start to get a little bit mysterious and annoying when Zen Buddhism is presented to make some kind of convincing relationship between the main plot, but I think it's not convincing. The author is not sure that whether he really understood what Zen is. But I'm sure that he misuses it. What lies beneath the eastern philosophies is some kind of Pantheism and its reflections to the practical life. That's all. Anyway, the chapter about Zen can be totally omitted. It's an unnecessary part of the book.
It's vital to see that the author is not a blind defender of strong AI as some intellectuals were so in the era the book is written. He stresses the complexity of intelligence, but more importantly in what way it is complex and how. He tries to make "isomorphisms" and "mappings" of the brain and thought and finally suggests that if sufficiently large layers of abstraction and sophisticated symbol manufacturing and processing units are established we can have an intelligence on a machine. By the way, the relationship presented between Godelian issues and the intelligence is not strong as the ones described in the first part. I mean, we really have to be sure that intelligence is not a "brain-bound phenomenon" (a term exactly used in the book) if we are to ignore low level details. It's not guaranteed that we'll achieve intelligence on a machine if we do abstractions and use some other kind of hardware. (Though, we can go very far) Physical and biological rules might be more effective than we think and it might be that the way neurons work presents a scheme that is very specific and hard (maybe impossible) to implement on any other platform. (This idea is proposed by Penrose, but very speculatively. Indeed, we don't have much knowledge about these issues)
As for the nature of a possible AI (that he suggests), the author stresses that this machine would not be prone to programming for example, since the obvious programming statements (or say simplest, atomic operations) get lost in the layers and we actually don't know how it does a certain operation.
So, what? This book has lots of beautiful ideas that are well presented and it's really easy to read although the concepts may seem unfamiliar at first. What makes it more valuable is that the author has a certain sense of literature and the text gets extremely nice at times. The creative dialogues of Achilles and Tortoise also indicate this feature.
This book is a classic. BUT, it's neither a Bible of any kind nor a "metabook" (or any kind of thing that it's sometimes regardes as) and a book in this field is not expected to be so. (That's why he still get 5 stars from me) Author dubs it as a statement of his religion and it really is, as there are lots of excitement and mystery throughout the book. I asked myself why this book is so popular. People putting it very high is probably influenced by the "style" of the book. It pulls the reader into the bizarre world of the author even if you don't notice it. The artistic value is important here. This book could well be an above average book by a monotone and uninspired writing. But, it's a very good piece of art with valuable, ingenius ideas and what can we expect more?
In short, I strongly advice this book if you want to have some sense of the topics it touches, but don't get hypnotized. I also advice you to read Penrose's work "Emperor's New Mind". For me, these two form a good couple while most do not think that way.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Windows 98 for Dummies
Publisher: For Dummies
Authors: Andy Rathbone
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Not a Desktop Reference.

Do not buy this book if you want to use it for a Reference. At least 3 times, I have looked in it for troubleshooting certain PC problems and could find only a line or two, if even that, on what i was looking for.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: sed & awk (2nd Edition)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Dale Dougherty, Arnold Robbins
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
sed, awk ... useful tools

sed and awk typically get a bum rap from perl users. "why learn sed or awk when perl can do both?" yes, it can. and so much more.
but what if you just need to print, say, the first field of a file? or just replace a few characters in a stream? what about the situations when you dont have perl handy (ie a freshly installed IRIX box)?
the sed & awk book is *the* standard. it's not written by anyone famous or whatnot, but it does a fantastic job of covering the basics, the meat, and advanced uses of sed and awk (and variants).
if you spend time on the command line and need to know a few quick tips, this is the book to have for sed and awk. you'll learn regexp material, how to use sed and awk and a bunch of useful routines.
highly reccomended for UNIX shell geeks.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Andre Lamothe
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Did we read the same book?

This 1000 page tome has the best and most game programming information I've found in one place.
Yes, I also own WGP for Dummies. This is definitely worth owning though, due to the expanded coverage on Windows programming, expanded information on all interfaces of DirectX, as well as some general programming techniques applicable to games.
If you know C and you are an aspiring game-developer, you should buy this book, BECAUSE NOBODY PUTS ALL THIS STUFF IN ONE PLACE BESIDES ANDRE!! If Andre had more competition in the game programming writing market, then maybe this book would receive a lower score (or maybe not). You can buy books about DirectX and general 3D graphics programming, but nobody else ties it together (and ties it together well) but Andre. That's why we need him and like him.
Repeat: Andre is good. Andre knows what he's talking about. Andre is our friend. :-)