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Thomas Beck "www.beckshome.com" RSS Feed (Mechanicsburg, PA)
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Making it Big in Software: Get the Job. Work the Org. Become Great.
Making it Big in Software: Get the Job. Work the Org. Become Great.
by Sam Lightstone
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.13
48 used & new from $0.45

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking on Originality and 4 Other Reasons I Wouldn't Read It Again, April 27, 2010
I really wanted to like Sam Lightstone's book "Making It Big In Software" and read it cover-to-cover, at some times forcing myself to read on. There are some good points in the book, which at its best represents a blend between the interviewing style of "Founders at Work" and the pragmatic advice of "Career Warfare". Unfortunately, the book is at its best far too infrequently to make it a recommended read.

Aside from really lacking any really original advice or insights that are fairly common knowledge to folks who have spent a couple of years in the software industry, there are several other reasons I probably won't be referring back to this book very frequently:

* The questions were pretty much the same for every interview. That's great for statistical comparability but really didn't do much to draw out the stories from the interviewees. At one point, I found myself thumbing to the end of each interview to find out if the "Do you think graduate degrees are professionally valuable?" question was going to be asked again.
* An earlier reviewer pointed out the value in the use of personas to illustrate examples. Done correctly, I agree that this is a very powerful technique. However, the software development antics of Moe, Larry, and Curly in this book seemed less like personas and more like an attempt to compensate for the lack of more illustrative examples.
* Lots of borrowed material. Much of it from the standard software journeyman's body of knowledge and some of it from popular authors such as Steven Covey, who seems to be a personal favorite of the author.
* A chapter on compensation with salary ranges? C'mon, really? Aside from immediately dating the book, this is information that clearly could have been put out on a website and updated periodically so that the reference doesn't get immediately stale.

This book may be of slightly more value (3 stars) to someone new to the field of software. I hope I'm not being unduly harsh but I find it hard to see how folks who have been around in the industry for 5 - 10 years can rate this book with 4 or 5 starts.


Ultra-Fast ASP.NET: Build Ultra-Fast and Ultra-Scalable web sites using ASP.NET and SQL Server
Ultra-Fast ASP.NET: Build Ultra-Fast and Ultra-Scalable web sites using ASP.NET and SQL Server
by Rick Kiessig
Edition: Paperback
Price: $32.47
67 used & new from $3.89

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatic, Valuable, and Creative ASP.NET Peformance Guidance, April 1, 2010
I picked up this gem of a book when it first came out in eBook format during the PDC. I sent it over to my Kindle and got through the entire book during session downtimes. I planned on being the first to post a review of this book on Amazon but I've sat it out too long and will now be the fifth review.

The first four reviewers did a pretty respectable job of providing and overview of Mr. Kiessig's qualifications and the book content and have all awarded the book the entirely deserved 5 start rating. Rather than pile on more information about Rick Kiessig or what's in the book, I'm going to tell you why, as a person who has spent a good amount of time looking at .NET application performance, I recommend this book to every person I work with as mandatory reading:

* Although there are great rules out there for web site optimization and corresponding tools to test these rules (e.g. Yahoo's Yslow), it's great to see the client side examples from an ASP.NET specific point of view.
* It's interesting to see someone who bucks the current trends and provides some real insight on when it's appropriate to use ORM's, saying essentially that objects are good but ORM's might not be the best engine if you're building a Formula 1 race car.
* Try finding another book that will even touch web gardens, partitioning an application into different AppPools, or using the /3GB switch. Try finding a Microsoft engineer who will talk to you about those items and offer objective guidance.
* The write-up and source code on asynchronous web pages and background worker threads - worth the price of the book alone.
* Creative, out-of-the-box ideas: using SQL Server Express for caching, using BI services to support the web tier of the application, etc. - not the kind of advice you find in your typical MSDN article.

It would be interesting to see how ASP.NET MVC and Silverlight play out performance-wise but alas, these technologies are a bit newer and Mr. Kiessig had to get a book to press. I'd gladly pay for the second edition of this book if it includes a couple of additional chapters that address these technologies. Until then, this is by far the most thorough and pragmatic book on ASP.NET performance to be had on the market. It might be simply an eye-opening read or the book that saves your skin one day. Either way, you won't regret picking this book up.


Facebook Me! A Guide to Having Fun with Your Friends and Promoting Your Projects on Facebook
Facebook Me! A Guide to Having Fun with Your Friends and Promoting Your Projects on Facebook
by Dave Awl
Edition: Paperback
99 used & new from $0.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up-To-Date, Fair and Balanced Guide to Using Facebook Features, July 13, 2009
This book provides the ideal balance between introduction to the Facebook application and reference manual for the more experienced user. The first few chapters will prove a bit superfluous to all but the greenest of newbies. After that, you can count on some pretty solid information on using Facebook to enhance your online social communications leveraging the breadth of Facebook's communication features. Several elements of the book appealed to me particularly:

* Very visual and, for the most part (ca. July 2009), up-to-date with respect to the latest enhancements to the Facebook user interface
* Offers pragmatic advice on using Facebook features without overhyping features such as messaging, where there are clearly other capable tools.
* Provides a balanced view of Facebook's features and alternatives for integrating other alternative mechanisms in with Facebook to augment the out-of-the-box offering.

I can't emphasize the importance of the last two points to my assessment of the book. It showed me how to integrate other Web 2.0 technologies that I'm very happy with, e.g. FlickR for photos and Twitter for status updates, into Facebook. This integration allows me to enjoy what I believe to be the best of what Facebook has to offer (a huge social network of people you already know) with dramatically more sophisticated, open, and evolved media and messaging capabilities of other platforms.

For the new to intermediate Facebook user, this may be the only book they'll ever need. More dedicated and fanatical Facebook users might find that this book doesn't go deep enough. I find myself somewhere in between. I've caught on to Facebook pretty quickly but I still don't plan on using the majority of features outlined in this book. That's why the book is a solid 4 starts for me. Were I a bit more into Facebook and a bit less into other Web 2.0 technologies, I could see this being a 4.5 or 5 start book.


The Twitter Book
The Twitter Book
by Sarah Milstein
Edition: Paperback
126 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 140 Characters Explained in 231 Easy-to-Read Pages, June 30, 2009
This review is from: The Twitter Book (Paperback)
Think of The Twitter Book not as a book but rather like a longer, really well done, Powerpoint presentation. For the most part, the top of every other page of the book has a really clear storyboard message which is explained on the subsequent two pages with creative examples, both textual and using simple, colorful graphics. As countless reviewers have already pointed out, it's a case of the book medium emulating the tool it's describing - terse and colorful.

The book is an easy read in an hour, give or take 10 minutes. It also functions well as a reference document if you need to go back and look up Twitter features, such as hashtags and retweets, as you gain more familiarity with the Twitter service. At 231 not-so-dense pages, the book is rightsized for a service that enforces a 140 character message limit.

If you've looked at Twitter before and didn't get what all the fuss was about, give it another shot after reading this book. Try the "Three Weeks or Your Money Back - Guaranteed" plan in chapter 1. You've got lots to gain and very little to lose.


Release It!: Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software (Pragmatic Programmers)
Release It!: Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software (Pragmatic Programmers)
by Michael T. Nygard
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.24
59 used & new from $3.73

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Application Architecture and Integration in the Real World, June 26, 2009
I've recommended this book to many colleagues of mine and haven't heard a disappointing review to date. I've heard the terms `pessimistic' and `realistic' used with equal frequency to describe this book. Having just completed my second reading, I can affirm that these terms are both representative take-aways. Nygard openly admits to being more than a bit paranoid about the way he approaches enterprise application architecture. Although this may seem alarming to many new to the IT field, those of us who have been around for a while recognize this as a necessary, at times life saving, defense mechanism.

Despite the presence of patterns, this is not really a pattern book that can be read piecemeal. It's best read and enjoyed end-to-end. The books serves to teach us old dogs some new tricks as well as serving as a way to say "welcome to the field of enterprise application architecture" to team members new to this role.

Book Strengths
--------------
* Real world production incidents, just in case you think: (a) you're the only one who ever gets into such situations; or (b) such things don't happen in the real world with large enterprise applications (where do you work?)
* The patterns. Even though there's no sample code, the real value is in describing and cataloging these patterns.

Book Weaknesses
---------------
* Organizational inconsistency. Two sections of the book (Stability and Capacity) follow the anti-pattern / pattern approach while the other sections of the book (General System Design and Operations) follow more of a narrative approach.

Yeah, the book focuses almost entirely on Java-based systems but almost all of the book has direct applicability to other enterprise technologies. In the last chapter of the book, Adaptation, Nygard's writing style tends to wander a bit and deviate towards a rant. However, it's hard to fault him for this, especially when he states things so eloquently:

"Real enterprises are always messier than the enterprise architecture would ever admit. New technologies never quite fully supplant old ones. A mishmash of integration technologies will be found, from flat-file transfer with batch processing to publish/subscribe messaging. Any strategy formulated predicated on creating a monoculture--whether it is a single integration technology or a single programming language--is doomed to be a costly failure."


WordPress for Business Bloggers: Promote and grow your WordPress blog with advanced plug-ins, analytics, advertising, and SEO
WordPress for Business Bloggers: Promote and grow your WordPress blog with advanced plug-ins, analytics, advertising, and SEO
by Paul Thewlis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $37.99
62 used & new from $0.01

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wordpress Beyond the Basics, June 23, 2009
Touted as a `beyond the basics' book targeted towards business bloggers, WordPress for Business Bloggers delivers a wealth of WordPress and blogging knowledge in the context of a fictitious case study. I picked up this book as a way to jumpstart my involvement with WordPress after several years of involvement with other blogging tools. I was not at all disappointed with the results.

Based upon my experiences, I can confidently assert that no experience with WordPress is necessary to benefit from this book. The book states the assumption of such knowledge up front and, after that, never returns to WordPress basics. Ample materials on WordPress installation, operations and configuration can be found online and I appreciate that the book didn't spend any time rehashing these items.

Instead of focusing on simpler procedural activities, the book weaves together the challenges of solving business issues for Chiliguru, a fictitious business blog, with advanced WordPress operations, guidance, and plugins. The book manages to bridge the challenges of running a day-to-day blog with WordPress-specific knowledge in a unique style. One would be hard pressed to cobble together the information and knowledge this book imparts from the web-based tutorials currently available on the Internet. Examples of the unique content covered in this book include:

* Search engine optimization, including coverage of keywords, permalinks, and sitemaps supported by a variety of WordPress plugins
* Integrating social networking content from Twitter and Facebook into WordPress blogs
* Blog statistics analysis with both WordPress stats and Google Analytics
* Integration of Google AdSense and Amazon Affiliate programs into WordPress-based blogs
* Coverage of advanced technical topics including: increasing scalability via WP Super Cache, using WordPress MU for multi-blog environments, and backing-up, restoring and moving WordPress blogs.

If you're looking for a beginners guide to WordPress, this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you've accumulated some basic experience with WordPress or another blogging engine and you're looking for insight and knowledge to take your WordPress blog to the next level, you really can't go wrong with this book.


Already Dead
Already Dead
DVD ~ Ron Eldard
67 used & new from $0.01

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This Is Not A 5-Star Movie, March 16, 2008
This review is from: Already Dead (DVD)
I really live or die by Amazon reviews. 99% of the time, they are spot on. I felt like I was burned a bit by the reviews on this one.

I should have been a bit suspicious when a movie that never even made it to the box office (mainstream, independent, or otherwise) was holding down a 5 star rating on Amazon. Some of the sites that I normally rely on for movie ratings didn't even cover this movie since it didn't get a lot of press and didn't get any reviews by national or regional critics.

The majority of reviews that I read seemed held back on information so as not to give the "plot turns" away. Let me lay it out for you, there are no real plot turns so don't hold your breath waiting for any. Once you get past the opening scenes and understand the premise of the film, it quickly degrades into a typical Hollywood action / adventure type flick. That said, this is no worse than a lot of the trash that Hollywood releases to fill the theaters during the peak summer movie months. In some cases (pick most any action film on installment 3 or greater), it's actually better.

"Already Dead" is a 2-3 star movie that might be worth the low price you pay for the rental at Unboxed or your local retail outlet. Don't go in expecting too much though. There's a reason this didn't get picked up for mainstream distribution.


RESTful Web Services
RESTful Web Services
by Leonard Richardson
Edition: Paperback
34 used & new from $25.00

25 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seminal Tome for the Web Services Generation, May 23, 2007
This review is from: RESTful Web Services (Paperback)
Every IT generation has its seminal tome that transcends time and connects the dots in a way that no book had before it. For the object oriented generation in the 1980s, it was the Gang of Four (GoF) book. For the application architecture generation in the 1990s, it was Fowler's book on patterns (PoEAA). "RESTful Web Services" will be, in my opinion, that book for the 2000s Web services generation.

There is something absolutely special about this book that readers of GoF or PoEAA will immediately recognize and appreciate. The book covers a breadth of technologies and ideas yet it helps the reader see how they all connect. It uses short code samples (in Ruby, the choice of this generation) to illustrate rather than obfuscate the ideas. Most importantly, it makes the complex comprehensible and delivers epiphany-like experiences throughout the book.

There are too many highlights in this book to enumerate in this review. However, some of the coverage that I appreciated most included:

* The chapters on resource-oriented design, since there was practically no written information available on this topic prior to this book

* The chapter on resource-oriented best practices

* An overview of the service building blocks, including the different representational formats and WADL, which I wasn't aware of

* The chapter comparing and contrasting RESTful services with the "Big" (e.g. SOAP) service overhead that is common in most enterprise environments

I would have liked to see this book touch on simple POX versus true REST and handle the resource-oriented security concerns in a bit more detail but you can only ask so much of any one book. I'm fairly confident that "RESTful Web Services", like the seminal tomes that have gone before it, will become assumed reading for IT professionals and will be found on bookshelves in cubes across the world.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 11, 2007 11:48 AM PDT


Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days
by Jessica Livingston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.08
135 used & new from $3.77

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone involved with technology, February 19, 2007
This is an absolute must read if you're job, your passion, or both (if you're lucky) has anything to do with creating technical innovation. "Founders at Work" is a wonderfully meander through the stories of successful company founders - across several decades. Far from focusing on just those who made it big during the first dot-com boom or those who are profiting from Web 2.0, Jessica also includes some of the true pioneers in the field. She recognizes that, not only do these industry veterans have valuable stories to convey but, since many of them are helping to steer companies and venture capital funds to this day, their advice is quite topical and current.

From the great introduction right through the final interview, this book is packed with great anecdotes, advice, and information and inspiration. Makes you wonder as to what the story is behind the story - how did Jessica get unfettered access to such a broad array of the founding fathers?

I've included some illustrative quotes from the book below. Give them a read and then go pick up this book. The printed copy is a bargain and the e-book version is a steal. It may turn out to be one of the best investments you ever make.

* "You guys are nuts. Throw out your business plan. Your customers--or potential customers - are telling you what your business should be. The business plan was only used to get you the money. Why don't you rewrite a business plan that is focused just on providing what your customers want?" - Q.T. Wiles advice to Charles Geschke (Cofounder, Adobe) on the real purpose of a business plan

* "There were some warning signs. Consider McKinsey, which holds itself out as one of the world's leading repositories of knowledge on how to manage a business. They say they'll never grow their company by more than 25 percent per year, because otherwise it's just too hard to transmit the corporate culture. So if you're growing faster than 25 percent a year, you have to ask yourself, `What do I know about management that McKinsey doesn't know?'" - Philip Greenspun (Cofounder, ArsDigita) on scaling corporate culture

* That [not improving core product quality] was probably the biggest mistake we made. And that's the advice I give everybody. All those little coupon schemes, this is what General Motors does. They figure out new rebate schemes because they forgot all about how to design cars people want to buy. But when you still remember how to make software people want, great, just improve it. - Joel Spolsky (Cofounder, Fog Creek Software)

* "I think some people slept; I know I didn't sleep at all." - Max Levchin (Cofounder, PayPal)

* "There were times when we were really broke before we had our angel investment, when only one guy who had children was getting paid." - Caterina Fake (Cofounder, Flickr)

With nearly 21 of the 32 interviewees having the term "Cofounder" in their titles, Joel Spolsky's advice seems perhaps to reflect best on what was critical to the success of these companies. "But because they never really take the leap and quit their job, they can give up their dream at any time. And 99.9 percent of them will actually give up their dream. If they take the leap, quit their job, go do it full-time--no matter how much it sucks--and convince one other person to do the same thing with them, they're going to have a much, much higher chance of actually getting somewhere."


Windows Developer Power Tools: Turbocharge Windows development with more than 170 free and open source tools
Windows Developer Power Tools: Turbocharge Windows development with more than 170 free and open source tools
by James Avery
Edition: Paperback
Price: $40.07
47 used & new from $0.01

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Reference Tome - Trades Depth for Breadth, January 30, 2007
Windows Power Tools is a collection of brief tutorials and overviews of freeware and open source [...] development tools. What kind of rating you might give this book depends largely upon what type of background that you're coming from. If you're the kind who has stuck religiously to the Microsoft Press series of books and acknowledge only the old testament, than this book will be either an epiphany (5 stars) or outright blasphemy (1 star). If continuous integration, test-driven development, and object relational mapping (new testament type stuff) are terms that you are fairly conversant with, then this book will probably land somewhere in the 2-4 star range.

Since I put myself in the 2-4 star group, I'll start by mentioning that there are great online tomes of knowledge that contain most of the tools listed in this book and a bunch others not listed here. One of the most respected and well linked lists belongs to the author of this book's forward, Scott Hanselman. His "Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows" has been dutifully updated on an annual basis. Despite the fact that there are free, decent resources out there that fill some of the same purposes as this book, I enjoyed thumbing through the book and picking out tools I hadn't heard of to fill in some knowledge gaps.

The main reason that I landed on a 3 star rating instead of a 4 star rating is that the brief tutorial format that worked so well for James when describing Visual Studio functionality is his previous book, "Visual Studio Hacks", just doesn't do justice to tools that represent significant pieces of an application or support infrastructure. I would have preferred to see less tools and deeper coverage in certain areas. Understandably, since not everyone would want to see the same tools as me; a broader, shallower approach trades off depth and detail for marketability.

I've included my complete list of pros and cons below so that you can see how I came to my rating:

Pros
- Great reference book with enough of an introduction to get you started with a broad array of tools
- If you're an O'Reilly Safari subscriber, this book is included in your subscription
- The authors aspire to keep materials current on the book's companion Web site. At the time of this review, the site is little more than a list of tools in the book

Cons
- Lots of this material is available for free on the Web, if you have the time and inclination to find it
- Introductions to tools are not sufficiently in depth to communicate any more than the most rudimentary of use cases


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