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Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Revised Core Rulebook (Star Wars Roleplaying Game)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Authors: Bill Slavicsek, Andy Collins, J.D. Wiker, Steve Sansweet
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellent improvements.

It is amazing how Wizards of the Coast has improved the RPG, especially the StarFighter and Vehicle Combat rules. They work much better than the old "abstract" system. And if you don't have the old Core Rulebook, this has all the rules you need that that one had in it, so don't buy the old one, and get this one. The Player Classes also had some improvements made to them, except I feel like the Fringer kinda bit the dust. Other than that, an Excelent book and very fun to read.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Beginning PHP 5 and MySQL: From Novice to Professional
Publisher: Apress
Authors: W. J. Gilmore
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
"Novice to Finished Project" Ahead of Schedule

Prior to purchasing this book I had some web design experience, as well as some programming experience from years ago. Then recently I took a programming course based around Java, and in November successfully bid for a web project which I knew would need a database and some dynamic web pages. After a little research I decided that the PHP/MySQL combination would suit, and then I browsed Amazon for a suitable book to get me started.

I can honestly say that Jason Gilmore's "From Novice to Professional" book has been an excellent investment for me. The learning curve was nowhere near as steep as I was anticipating, and it got me from "novice to finished project" a month ahead of schedule. I'm not saying that I didn't have to source a certain amount of information elsewhere - mainly from web forums - but Jason's book was the mainstay of my reference material. Not only that, but during testing of the project I ran in to one major problem that I could not find the answer to anywhere. One email to Jason and he was good enough to reply within twenty minutes with a working solution. This turned out to be a significant added value to my investment in the book.

I found the book to be well written and the sample code to amply demonstrate the points being made. Unlike some people who seem to only look for "real world" examples I would much rather see concise code that directly demonstrates the concepts under consideration than a "real world" example that may never bear any relevance to what I want to achieve. This book gives me such concise examples. In addition it does also provide a number of real world examples that have also proved useful. For example I duplicated the MySQL database class quite early on in my project and that has definitely saved me considerable subsequent work and given me a more robust site.

The structure of the book is both good for reading in sequence and for dipping back into as reference material. Although I have now had to source more advanced material to move on to the next level, I still keep this book to hand and refer back to it regularly.

I thoroughly recommend this book.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Learning Python, Second Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Mark Lutz, David Ascher
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Succinct Yet Thorough Intro To Python For Programmers

Mark Lutz and David Ascher deliver precisely the needed information to meet the objective stated on the cover of the O'Reilly text, "Learning Python" (Help for Programmers).
A succinct, yet thorough treatment of the Python programming language is presented in some 350-plus written pages that are well organized and facilitate the development of Python programs in a "Read and Code as You Go" fashion.
After spot reading the Chapters on "Getting Started", "Types And
Operators", "Basic Statements", "Functions", "Modules" and "Common Tasks In Python", I was coding and running my first text file I/O Python programs within the first half of a day. The authors concise presentation of the concepts definitely facilitated the "learning curve", which so often is an obstacle when learning a new programming language. The material was also indexed very well with clear index descriptions to easily determine what the topic was and where to find it.
What I found to be the strongest point of the book were the "Gotchas" sections, in which the authors discussed topics such as Python Language Constructs, Program Class Usage and Coding Practices to be aware of. I found the "Common Coding Gotchas" section at the end of Chapter 3 of great benefit in coding and debugging my first self-authored Python programs (As I learned, Python is definitely a language where you want to indent consistently, avoid the mixing of blank spaces with tabs and not forget the use of colons to denote decision logic). The application of these concepts alone were a great asset in reducing the "Learning Curve" for me.
The program examples provided reinforced the clear, concise concepts presented by the authors. The programs that I studied were suited to running in both a Linux environment (using Linux Python Version 1.5.2 for SuSE(tm) Linux 7.0 and Red Hat(tm) Linux 6.1) and MS Windows(tm) NT/98 (using Active State's Active Python(tm) Version 2.1).
Exercises presented at the end of the chapter were effective at reinforcing the programming concepts presented. With some supplemental tutorial material for non-programmers, this book could be used as an educational text for a Python programming class, particularly one geared for programmers with scripting language experience.
The authors did a good job of covering a number of topics important to application programmers. Object-oriented Constructs, Manipulation of String Objects, Operating System Module Use, GUI Programming Component Frameworks and Applications such as Tkinter and JPython are discussed to provide the reader a good exposure to the extent of the Python language implementation and its strenght as a robust, object-oriented scripting language.
The book is definitely an invaluable resource for providing the essential material necessary to construct your first Python programs, especially if you've had prior programming experience with other scripting languages, such as REXX, Javascript or Perl.
Definitely one of the best O'Reilly publications I've read to date. Kudos to Mr. Lutz and Mr. Ascher for their contribution to making the experience of "Learning Python" a fun and productive pursuit. Five Stars!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Head First EJB (Brain-Friendly Study Guides)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Not for me

While it presents all of the information you need to pass the test, I found the style of the book didn't really work well for me. I also felt that the grouping of information/topics didn't help the learning process (e.g. by the time you get to security, exceptions, etc. at the back of the book, you find yourself forgetting about the session beans, etc. at the front of the book that they are referring to). While the book was ok to learn the EJB concepts (an easy read), it required me to read through it quite a few times. I was also annoyed by the number of errors in the book (wrong answers for questions, etc.). There seem to be a fair number of errata you definitely want to look at on the website. As far a prepping for the Sun Certification exam, the information was so dispersed throughout the text, it didn't help much and I relied on a number of mock exams separate from the book. However, many people taking the SCBCD test swear by it, so your mileage may vary.

Personally, I thought Kathy's Java2 Sun Certified Programmer & Developer was a better effort.