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Practical OCaml Hardcover – October 19, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1590596203 ISBN-10: 159059620X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Apress; 1 edition (October 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159059620X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590596203
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,428,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Joshua B. Smith is a consultant specializing in data problems and computing infrastructure. He got into computers while an undergraduate at Denison University in Ohio and spends most of his programming time using Python, OCaml, and Java. Josh lives in Chicago with his wife, Carol, and their two cats.

More About the Author

Joshua Smith is a consultant specializing in data problems and computing infrastructure. He got into computers while an undergraduate at Denison University and spends most of his programming time using Python, OCaml, and Java. Josh lives in Chicago with his wife and their two cats.

Customer Reviews

1.6 out of 5 stars
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Executive summary: this is not Practical Common Lisp for OCaml.
Andrei Formiga
It's possible that I might learn something by reading this book, but I get the feeling that it will be mostly in spite of, rather than because of.
Mark Vandewettering
It's bad enough to be misleading and confusing rather than just annoying.
reeses

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Owen on November 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a bad book. It's unfortunate, too, because it was a great idea. The book contains many errors, from typos to grammatical errors to code indentation issues to problems which demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of the subject matter. As a professional OCaml programmer, it is clear to me that this was not written by somebody who understands the subject.

Trying to learn OCaml from this book is a very bad idea; you will end up discouraged and confused at best. Please don't buy it.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By S. Chaudhary on November 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Monday morning, on release day of this book, I stopped by a B&N to pick up this book. When they didn't have it, I drove an hour to try another store. Finally I ordered it on Amazon and paid extra for second day delivery.

Since I am relatively new to functional programming, I can't judge the technical content. I can tell you that other beginners should stay away from this book.

The writing style is surprisingly bad, considering the author has a degree in English and this book had a professional editor. Much of the book looks like a bad cut & paste job. The author often describes a concept in very general terms, dumps a dozen lines of code and moves on without ever explaining what the code is doing (strange for a programming language book).

There are free OCaml tutorials on the web which do a much better job of explaining the language. The publisher did a good job with Practical Lisp, how come this book doesn't have the same quality? At $50, this book will be going right back to Amazon.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Andrei Formiga on July 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Executive summary: this is not Practical Common Lisp for OCaml. It's ambitious but disappointing. However, it's not so bad as it seems at first sight.

OCaml is a sexy language that combines the expressiveness and terseness of scripting languages with the static type checking and performance of languages like C++ and Java. A book may be a good investment to learn a new language, and this is one of the few books available on the language. How does it fare?

This book has received very harsh criticism overall, and it mostly deserves it; it is somewhat of a mess. But it is not uniformly bad: some chapters are very bad, others are acceptable or interesting, depending on your background. The problem seems to be that the worst chapters come first; although it shows signs of bad editing throughout, the first few chapters are especially bad. And I mean really bad: bad text, bad editing, bad examples, lots of senseless repetition, conceptual errors, using language features not yet introduced (and that go unexplained), the list goes on. Later chapters are considerably less irritating.

Clearly inspired by Peter Seibel's terrific book Practical Common Lisp, the chapters on this one are divided in two types: the ones that explain the language, and the "Practical" ones, containing extended examples. This is a great idea, and even badly executed as it may be in Practical OCaml, it still results in interesting chapters.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By reeses on April 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was the first technical book that I have bought somewhere other than Amazon in a while, and it reminded me why I tend to avoid that section of physical bookstores.

One gets the feeling that the author was learning OCaml while writing this book. He makes reference to several concepts that he does not explain. Monadic computation and polymorphism are two terms used that I feel the author did not actually understand while composing the book. In fact, if a book spends several paragraphs (badly) addressing the topic of polymorphism in a particular language, it should not leave it off with,"OCaml has polymorphic classes similar to C++ and Java, but the polymorphism at the type level in OCaml is parametric polymorphism instead of object polymorphism. The subtleties of the differences are well beyond the scope of this book..." and go on to direct the readers to a Usenet group.

There are also a number of forward references in the book -- rather than presenting only concepts that have been presented to that point in the book, there are numerous concepts mentioned or used and then annotated with,"This will be discussed in a later chapter," sometimes with no real reference allowing a read ahead.

Other complaints revolve around the typography of the book. It's bad enough to be misleading and confusing rather than just annoying. Critical characters are left out, which in the descriptions of the toplevel imply that certain things that should be marked as input will appear as output. If you didn't already know a little OCaml before picking up this book, you might think that you had typed something incorrectly, or were using the wrong version of the language environment, or have the wrong modules loaded.

I would recommend not buying this book and reading one of the online tutorials along with as many open source utilities as possible. A good book is inevitable, but this book doesn't even have a good page.
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