Micro-ISVs usually face a dilemma after having released their first program: how can I start selling it? Traditional project management books like The Art of Project Management are extremely useful – but leave the reader in the rain when it comes to selling and distributing stuff, as they are targeted at developers working for an institution. Rocky Smolin’s book wants to be completely different, leaving the project management stuff out – can it stack up?
November 2008 From Program to Product   the review November 2008 347 From Program to Product   the review

The first chapter of the book looks at psychological aspects – who are you, why do you want to be an entrepreneur and most importantly, what you need to do in order to become successful. It ends with an interview with an expert who was huge in home computer times, but left the business since.

Rocky then moves on to various tasks that should ideally be done before starting to code – think specifications and elementary market research. This chapter’s interview is with the developer of a program for jewelry designers, and gives valuable insight into low-tech audiences!

Next up is a look at UI design. Programmers are prone to making many mistakes in their first apps. Even though the book can not replace dedicated UI stuff, it definitely provides a god starting point for further studies.

The final chapters look at pricing, legal stuff and minor issues which can hinder a product’s success. The Appendix contains a full software licensing contract which can be reused on your own programs…

Like most other APress books, From Program to Product is well-written and easy to understand. I had no problems understanding the tome, even though I am not a native speaker. Paper quality was decent, too – scribbling notes into the book is possible.

In the end, Rocky Smolin’s book didn’t tell me anything new which I didn’t know from my few year’s worth of industry experience (and economics training paid for by the Austrian government). On the other hand: people currently preparing their shareware product, will benefit a huge lot and should get the tome ASAP IMHO. The price of less than 20$ is more than acceptable.

Confucius himself has once stated that learning by mimicry is a cheap and painless way to get smarter: truer words have rarely been spoken. As the dollar price falls lower and lower, advertising on US-based sites is more affordable than ever…but coming across ideas and execution models is as hard as it always was. Can Gradation Design help out?
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The book is created by a Japanese publisher called PIE Books and is almost completely free of text – instead, it is chock-full with over 200 different designs from all markets (CD covers, posters, packaging,..). As with most “photobooks”, some concepts are lovely while others suck:
1 Gradation Design   the review

A small second part contains a table of various gradients based on pretty weird colors – I have found these very useful when it came to making my own designs:
2 Gradation Design   the review

Unfortunately, the book suffers from a weakness found common to almost all “photobooks” and similar fine art stuff: availability. Amazon currently lists the book as out-of-stock and charges moderate 31$ for it – the publisher’s site is completely useless…

In the end, PIE Books Gradation design is one of the most inspirational tomes I dug through so far – many of my future banner ads will be based on gradients. If you enjoy looking at “photobooks” and can get your hands at a copy, hit it – people who prefer text-based books should stay far away as they are likely to be disappointed…

Stephen Johnson is considered an absolute authority on all things related digital photography – his book scored a rave review on TamsPalm a few months ago. Now, he wrote the foreword for another O’Reilly book with the bold title “The Creative Digital darkroom”: is it as good as his own?
Books 004 The Creative Digital Darkroom   the review Books 003 The Creative Digital Darkroom   the review

Katrin Eismann and Sean Duggan divided their book into ten chapters that each look at a typical problem that plagues images. For example, two chapters focus on color, while another takes a detailed look at file management(see the freely available TOC for further info).

Each chapter is subdivided into a few ‘recipes’ that cover specific workflows. Usually, more than one approach is provided for each “topic” – fans of choice will definitely enjoy browsing the book…

Like most O’Reilly books, The Creative Digital Darkroom is well-written and easy to read. The processes are described in extreme detail and focus on Photoshop. Adapting them to GIMP IMHO is possible, although some things take a bit of time to figure out. As for the sample images – they alone make owning this book worthwhile.

In the end, this book is NOT intended for people who want to learn photo editing from zero upwards. Instead, it is a excellent ‘dictionary’ of image editing techniques: if you have a bit of free time and feel like spiffing an image up up, leafing through this tome is likely to uncover a bunch of gems. If you are looking for ‘cookbook/trick tome’ and already know how to handle your image editor, get this by all means. The price of 31$ is acceptable…

The world-wide Sudoku craze is starting to ebb off – unfortunately, Mr. Lee’s book has been laying around in our labs for quite some time. So far so good: is it still worth buying?
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Programming Sudoku is divided into seven chapters. The first looks at the rules of the game and can serve as an excellent introduction to the game for beginners and people who never cared about Sudoku puzzles(e.g. yours truly).

The second chapter looks at Visual Basic.NET and at designing applications for Windows. A nice load of basics are transported in the process: people who can program in C or VB6 will be able to pick the ball with ease.

The next three chapters look at various algorithmic tricks that can be used to tackle Sudoku puzzles. Even though Sudoku itself is straightforward, solving “difficult” puzzles can require extremely sophisticated and interesting algorithms…

Chapter six is especially interesting: it looks at methods for generating puzzles. Toppling around solving algorithms generally is a very interesting approach: this tome takes it to the max.

Finally, an appendix looks at a soduku derivative called Kakuro…

Wei-Meng Lee did an excellent job clarifying key concepts. The sample code is easy to understand, images are deployed wherever they are useful:
page Programming Sudoku   the review

In the end, Programming Sudoku is an excellent read for people who feel like reading up on methods for solving puzzles with a PC. The methods learned here probably can be applied to other games easily… However, the book has an additional positive effect: it serves as a quick introduction into Visual Basic.NET. If you currently develop Palm apps and plan to move over to .NET CF, getting this book will pay out. As for the price: at 17$@Amazon’s , it’s a total bargain!

Apologies to all of you for the delay in book reviews – however, the office movage left me without a scanner for some time…

Ever wondered how a dating web site manages to generate automatic “matches”? Ever wanted to find out how to group elements programatically? Ever looked for ways to predict stuff? If you answered any of the questions above with a Yes, Toby Segaran’s book should be for you. But can it stack up?
front Programming Collective Intelligence   the review back Programming Collective Intelligence   the review

Programming Collective Intelligence is subdivided into multiple, loosely connected chapters. usually, you can start reading any part of the book without issues – this is definitely not a structured text book.

Toby Segaran did a good job with the choice of topics – things like classification, matching and optimization are covered in significant detail. However, the book also covers more “exotic” topics like genetic programming: in case anyone of you ever wanted to write a “self-modifying” program, this definitely is very interesting.

Each subject is treated thoroughly, although useful things sometimes are spread out upon multiple, not-connected chapters of the book. Generally, the tome presents at least two different approaches for each problem – it is very likely that one of the algorithms given is well-suited for your application idea.

An appendix covers all algorithms in a somewhat structured fashion – I am puzzled why the book itself was not arranged in a similar form.

The author did an excellent job describing the different algorithms and problems and even added graphs where necessary. Unfortunately, non-Python folk are hit hard with understanding the examples(folks – this is NOT a C/Java or C/VB style difference).
page Programming Collective Intelligence   the review

For me, the Python examples manage to completely and effortlessly destroy an otherwise well-written book. Yes, there are many people who can do Python, but (especially in the Palm OS world), there are many who cannot. Of course, I can always reconstruct the algorithm if I need to…but this is an unnecessary step that the author could have spared his readers. People with a faible/need for the algorithms and problems covered in this tome (and who have no problems with Python) will find the 27$ a good investment – everybody else is recommended to stay far away…

Gather together a bunch of master programmers, and ask each one of them to write a chapter about a bit of code that they are really fascinated about. Pack it all up, sell it, and donate the proceeds to a charity of choice – in short, this is the thought process that went into O’Reilly’s Beautiful Code. The tome is almost 600 pages thick – but can it stack up?
 Beautiful Code   the review  Beautiful Code   the review

The book is subdivided into 33 parts which each were written by a different author. Thus, each chapter is (mostly) independent from all others, code samples are written in different languages,… . Topics covered range from “simple” things like sorting to Google’s Map-and-Reduce-approach for massively parallel computing – in short, you are treated to a “smorgasboard” of things that could be interesting to the one or the other.

Much of the book looks at Open Source code that is freely available on the net – for example, chapter 2 takes a detailed look at a part of the subversion version control system. Another highly interesting chapter by Charles Petzold looks at dynamically generating code for the .NET framework – as I also write PocketPC applications, I naturally considered it a very interesting read.

As usual for such collection tomes, project management and code style also got covered, and a few chapters on various web-service related things round the book off.

In the end, Beautiful Code definitely contains a load of nice, innovative code samples. However, like the No Fluff Just Stuff anthologies, the book does not present itself in a coherent fashion – the multitude of authors definitely demands its toll here. People who are used to rigidly structured books will not be too happy with it. People wanting a quick overview of the topics covered(look at the table of contents here), get ready to pay 40$ at Amazon’s.

When I first got my claws onto this tome in 2006, I was not too amused…a book about interfaces. WTF? However, recent projects made me value the beauty of this coding concept more and more…can the book stack up?
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Ken Pugh’s book is divided into three parts, which each contain a few chapters. The first part is called “All about interfaces” – and the Nomen est Omen rule really holds here. After being introduced into the concept of interfaces, the book looks at the different kinds of interfaces available.

Each interface type is illustrated with ‘real-world’ examples and a pro/contra list – choosing the right one is easy with this book. Of course, a look at interface programming techniques and their benefits/drawbacks.

The second part of the book is rather short, and looks at the development process required when working with interfaces.

‘Working’ systems are presented in part 3 of the book. I never cared much for working examples, and thus just skimmed this part of the book.

Last but not least, an appendix looks at ‘document’ formats for communicating across interfaces. Custom document formats are covered along XML breeds – nothing omitted here…

As usual for O’Reilly, Ken Pugh did an excellent job. The book is easy to read even for a person who’s not a native speaker; graphics illustrate key concepts. Even though many of the code samples are in Java, I had no problems understanding them(being a C/VB man).

In the end, everyone who has a faible for books about software design should definitely give this 20$ book a chance. It provides a very detailed look at all things interface – once you have seen all that interfaces can do for you, you’ll wonder about how you managed to go without them before…

Long-time TamsPalm readers will know Scott Berkun as the guy behind one of the best project management books ever(ugly review; but great book). Scott’s latest oeuvre looks at all kinds of urban myths surrounding innovation – read on to find out if it’s a real zinger!
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The first chapters of the book looks at various theories surrounding the creation of innovative ideas – for example, do innovative ideas really come in a single moment(e.g. Newton’s apple); or aren’t these moments just the result of long and hard work. Scott Berkun explains why history always centers around “the lone inventor”; and uncovers a few stunning inaccuracies in common history.

After having identified the sources where ideas come from, the reader is confronted with various reasons why innovative ideas can fail(even if they are insanely innovative). For example, why are most devices still shipping with QWERTY keyboards, even though Dvorak ones are much more efficient? Or, what could be done to make the USA use metric units and avoid space disasters like the one of the Mars Orbiter? The book then ends with a nice list of related books recommended for everyone interested in creating innovative things.

As usual for Scott Berkun and O’Reilly, the book is very easy to read. Impressive and/or amusing photographs appear all over the book – cutting a long story short, The Myths of Innovation feels like a novel rather than a classic tech book.

In the end, Scott managed to deliver yet another well-written and generally well-done book – but the subject matter is not something that every developer needs to know about. If the lines above managed to stir your interest, the price of 15$ makes this an impulse purchase that you will not regret. Last but not least, it also makes a great gift(great, easily available, cheap) – even for people who are not really into tech.

Creating a networked application is simple for everyone who knows Socket Programming…but creating a secure networked application is an almost impossible task. Apress’s recently-released book covers a variety of topics related to software security…can it stack up?
front Foundations of Security   the review back Foundations of Security   the review

The book is subdivided into four parts containing sub-chapters. The first part looks at the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of security – how to create a secure program; what the word security actually means; and so on.

The second part of the book starts out by looking at various kinds of malware. It then goes on to looking at buffer overflows, as they are one of the main attack vectors for such programs. After that, the book goes on to look at a variety of subjects related to web applications…while a lot of this isn’t directly applicable to mobile device applications, it is very interesting nevertheless.

Last but not least, Part 3 looks at cryptography. While the actual mathematics behind cryptography are not covered, the book manages to introduce you thoroughly into both symmetric and asymmetric encryption. This knowledge is detailed enough to use a cryptographic library to increase. The authors also added two chapters on key management and signatures/MAC’s – very interesting reading…

As usual for APress, the book’s paper is of high-enough quality; allowing you to make notes with a Parker 45 easily. Many images and code examples make the well-written text a pleasure to read! A variety of exercises at the end of each piece allow you to check your skills and train your brain.

Overall, if you are creating a network application, purchase this book by all means. The knowledge contained in it could easily make the difference when a black-hat hacker chooses to attack your application. People who don’t create networked applications will benefit from the cryptography parts… . The Amazon price of 27$ is justified…

The No Fluff Just Stuff roadshow has toured American cities for a few years introducing software developers to a variety of topics that currently are ‘hot’ in the industry. Of course, not every chapter is relevant to everybody…let’s see what the ‘content mix’ contains this year:
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Development for handheld computers is separating more and more from ‘mainstream’ coding – for example, web services are becoming more and more important in the desktop world, while their importance for mobile development still is very limited. Thus, many of the excellent chapters on AJAX, JavaScript and other web related topics are rather useless…

Eclipse is covered in a separate chapter. The hints given herein could be of great value for users of an Eclipse-based development environment like Palm OS/Garnet OS Developer suite or Nokia’s Carbide.c++…finding plug-ins has never been a particular hobby of mine. No Fluff Just Stuff also covers IntelliJ a bit – this was a very interesting read for me as it shows what a modern IDE can accomplish…

As usual, Venkat Subramaniam looks at an agile development-related matter. This time, he chose ‘Bootstrapping Agility’…and looked at prequisites for agile development from a ‘why-it-works’ view.

A very useful chapter looking at the basics of usability and a list of each author’s favorite technical tool complete the list of topics.

The book’s paper quality is high as usual for O’Reilly – a Parker 45 with x-nib did not have any blotting issues. The book also survived a few days in my briefcase well…all o.k. here. The code examples come in a variety of languages, reading them can be a bit challenging for a C-only programmer.

Overall, the No Fluff Just Stuff Anthology 2007 is not a book that gets purchased for a specific reason like learning Eclipse or Agility. Rather, it is intended to give you an overview of ‘what’s hot’ in the industry…and this is a job that it accomplishes well. If you wish to ‘stay in the curve’, get the book at Amazon’s

Most Micro ISV’s or bloggers have at least contemplated using one of Google’s ‘AdXXX’ services – be it the AdSense ads that are seen on hundreds of web sites, or the AdWords system that feeds them with ads. However, as with almost everything Google, finding reliable answers online is not easy – this is where Harold Davis kicks in…
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The book starts off by looking at the different types of web sites, and at the reasons why and how often people visit the different page types. A big chapter on SEO explains the basics – more artistic tricks aren’t covered(they usually little to no value, as Google’s algorithm chanhes often).

After having covered the basics, Google Advertising tools takes a quick look at affiliate schemes…and dives right into AdSense afterwards. While putting AdSense on a company web site is not a particularly good idea IMHO, this could still be an interesting way to monetize your blog.

Once AdSense has been understood thoroughly, the book goes on to look at the system that ‘feeds’ ads into the network – AdWords. The treatment of AdWords is very thorough if a tiny bit out of date(for example, the 5€ account startup fee isn’t mentioned)…reading it will definitely help you avoid potentially expensive blunders.

A few chapters about the AdWords API complete the work…

As usual, O’Reilly manages to deliver excellent paper quality – no blotting whatsoever with a Parker 45 with an X nib! The book has a pretty sturdy cover that survived a few trips in my bag.

Overall, if you wish to work together with Google, get this book by all means! Having all information in one place(and with insider comments) is worth the book’s price(20$ at Amazon’s) in gold…imagine having to dig through millions of sites in an attempt to gather it!

With the demise of the Palm OS platform, publishers became less and less interested in creating books about Palm OS development-related topics. PODS, the only ‘somewhat supported’ IDE for Palm OS still stands without a printed documentation book…but since it’s Eclipse-based, O’Reilly sent me their Pocket Guide to fill the void(btw…it actually is pink, but my scanner somehow went on a strike):
Scannen0006 Eclipse IDE pocket guide review   the PODS book Scannen0007 Eclipse IDE pocket guide review   the PODS book

The Pocket Guide starts out by looking at the installation process for Eclipse. PODS has a different installation system(with a wizard)…not much to gain here.

After that, Ed Burnette moves on to cover the basics of the Eclipse IDE…views, editors and perspectives. Even though the book is very compact, it contained quite a few new and interesting details that I didn’t know about before(e.g. foldout views…a real screen real-estate saver). Chapters 3 and 4 cover Eclipse usage for Java development..but reading them still pays out, as much of the process is applicable to Palm OS C development.

The remaining chapters of the book present various ‘bonus’ features of Eclipse that can be really useful. For example, did you know that Eclipse’s task view automatically parses your code for comments like //TODO?

Last but not least, the book contains a table of keyboard shortcuts that can greatly simplify the life of coders who use PODS on a laptop or generally don’t like to use the mouse much.

O’Reilly’s books never were problematic from a quality point of view. Paper quality is high, and the compact size makes transportation easy. The book contains loads of illustrations and can be read in a very short time:
Scannen0010 Eclipse IDE pocket guide review   the PODS book

Overall, if you use PODS to develop applications, you must get this book by all means! While a few pages will not be applicable to Palm OS C development, the time-saving insight given herein was a real helper even for a PODS veteran like me. The price of 10$ at Amazon’s voids all discussion…if you use PODS, get this…NOW!

Many (great) books were written on the topics of agile methodologies and classical project management. However, they all focused on their specific domain and didn’t present a birds-eye view of why some things work and others don’t. Software Project secrets wants to be a different kind of book – it intends to show where classic project management techniques fail and how agile methodologies can address the shortcomings. This sounds like a big goal – but can the book reach it?
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The first part of George Stepanek’s book looks at classic ‘project management assumptions’ in the PMBOK, which is an American standard manual of project management. It then contrasts those assumptions with the realities of the software development business to show how, where and when they fail. A case study of a small software project that failed ends the first part of the book.

The book then continues to present an overview of Crystal, Extreme Programming and the RUP – these are three pretty interesting and popular agile methodologies. The methodologies get described in good detail, their core assumptions are put side-to-side with the assumptions of the PMBOK shown before.

After that, Software Project Secrets looks at methods for budgeting agile projects and how to make sure that they stay on track. Another case study closes the second part of the book – this time, the project shown in Part 1 is successful because of the use of agile methodologies.

The third part of the book contains a big literature reference, a glossary and a copy of the agile manifesto…

APress did a great job on this book’s paper quality and binding. There was no blotting with my Parker 45, and the hardcover has a pretty sturdy appearance. This is a book that will definitely survive in your suitcase…for a pretty long time. The text is written very well – easy to read and understand – no problems here.

Overall, Software Project Secrets is a very interesting book for all those who like the software project management thematic. While a bloody beginner probably won’t benefit much from reading it, a person having read books like The Art of Project Management and the Extreme Programming Pocket Book will probably enjoy the text very much. Last but not least, the three most important agile methods are explained here in a compact form…the price of 35$ is slightly high, but justified…

When one hears Digital Photography – expert techniques, one first thinks about composition and such stuff. But if this is what you expect, there may be better books…Ken Milburn’s tome is very focussed on Photoshop! But is the selection of topics interesting…read on to find out!
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The book starts off by looking at what a workflow is, why you should have one and how it should look. After that, it moves on to digital camera techniques for stuff like steady shooting and other things. A look at monitor calibration ends this (well-done) segment.

After that, the book moves on to Photoshop techniques for ‘technically’ better images. You learn how to apply filters(selectively) to enhance contrast and other parameters. A chapter on RAW files is there, too – useful for everyone who has a camera that dumps RAW files. Chapters on repairing and montaging pictures are in the book’s repertoire too.

The last chapter of the book is very interesting – it presents ways to make money with your images…interesting and maybe even lucrative!

Digital Photography Expert Techniques is well-written and contains many color illustrations. Paper quality is very high – no blotting with the Parker 45 x-nib.

Overall, if you use Photoshop for image post-processing, purchase this book by all means. The hints given inside are really worthwile, and the price of 30$ on Amazon is o.k.. If you, on the other hand, use an alternative image processor(read: GIMP) or none, this book will not help you very much. While many of the workflows can also be applied to GIMP, the ‘wisdom’ transported here can probably be had cheaper elsewhere.

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