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A Grave Situation
A Grave Situation
by Rodrigo Ribera D'ebre
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.46

3.0 out of 5 stars plot plods;, August 17, 2014
This review is from: A Grave Situation (Paperback)
Unfortunately, the plot plods. At times the narrative is simply too mundane. We are exposed to the trivialities of everyday life in Los Angeles and Santiago Chile. Most often, the story is tedious to get through. The style recurringly is like do A, do B, do C and so on. Very predictable.

Perhaps the first few pages were readable. After that, dullness. Livened perhaps by some hilarious first person impressions of Santiago and its people. A female character pokes fun at the supposed pretentiousness of the locals. Ranging from their poor Spanish to the put downs of Mexican cooking.

The narrative could do with being tauter and just more interesting to read.

Near Field Communication with Android Cookbook
Near Field Communication with Android Cookbook
by Vitor Subtil
Edition: Paperback
Price: $40.49
8 used & new from $40.49

4.0 out of 5 stars how to read and write tags, August 15, 2014
NFC is a limited range technology that has proved successful in a few uses. Mostly to do with financial transactions. The book starts with a good question and answer section. Mostly about objections often raised to NFC. Principally, the concern is power drainage. The response is that NFC is low power, at least compared to Bluetooth or WiFi. So the book argues that you can keep your NFC transceiver continuously on.

Some chapters deal with a common NFC use - reading and occasionally writing tags. The reading is far more common. While the writing of a tag means it must have more complex and hence more expensive circuitry. Hopefully you know that an URL is a special case of an URI. The book has a list of the standard prefixes for all the possible URIs. Because the limited capacity of an NFC tag means it is ideal to hold an URI. Granted in practice the most common URI put into the tags will probably be an URL anyway. But it helps to be aware of the broader possibilities inherent in what can be put into a tag.

Naturally, the reading and subsequent parsing of a tag then specialises to parsing an URI. One section of the text explains the parsing. Easy for experienced programmers.

The book also goes beyond tag access. Another key recent functionality is Android Beam. Which is Android's take on the Simple NDEF Exchange Protocol [SNEP]. It lets 2 Android phones exchange data in a peer to peer mode. Perhaps here is where it can interesting for some readers. You have a chance via the code snippets to garner inspiration for novel interactions. Of necessity, the snippets just display trivial functionality. Your job is to improve on these.

JIRA 6.x Administration Cookbook
JIRA 6.x Administration Cookbook
by Patrick Li
Edition: Paperback
Price: $44.99
11 used & new from $43.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars integrate with github etc, August 15, 2014
When the book says Jira is an issue tracking package for a corporate environment, in practice for some of you, this will mean handling complaints and bugs. In the computing community, bug tracking is a common necessity for any firm putting out software.

The book is directed towards a system administrator of Jira. There is much flexibility built into what you can make for your users. A form that a user fills out can have fields that you define as mandatory or not. The former means the user must fill out a field. You should probably exercise care about how many such fields you assign this status. Tempting after all to define all fields as mandatory. But that can deter some users from reporting an issue. While this might be frustrating from your standpoint, you have to make a tradeoff between ease of reporting and the comprehensiveness of those reports.

Jira is much more than form filling. One chapter delves into how you can define a workflow. Using an simple graphical interface to build a directed graph. A finite state machine, for those readers with the appropriate background. This network machine can then be used by your users in a project. The transitions between nodes [states] of the network can themselves have intermediate screens where users can fill in extra data or get information.

If indeed you want to use Jira for software development, then chapter 7 is germane. It shows how to integrate it with github, bitbucket and other 3rd party packages and websites. As you may know, several of these sites are now often used by programmers to archive their code in a globally accessible manner. A key paradigm change in the programming field. Jira lets you accomodate your users if they use these websites.

HTML5 Game Development Hotshot
HTML5 Game Development Hotshot
by Makzan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $38.30
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars templates of games, August 15, 2014
HTML5 is now the official standard for web pages. But another major topic on the web is games. Makzan shows how to combine the two. You should be aware that this also involves CSS stylesheets. Whenever you read of HTML5, implicitly CSS is used, as a factoring of structure away from visuals.

The book is a collection of game examples. Involving the use of JavaScript, as a simple object oriented programming language. The examples collect the visuals to be shown in web pages and the game flow logic. You should maybe focus on first defining the latter. This is the internal skeleton upon which to later draw the graphics.

A clever technique shown in Project 2 is how to use CSS classes to store state information. Some games can be designed and understood as finite state machines. If there are not too many states, and most of these have different and distinctive visuals, then the method of Project 2 could be applicable.

More broadly, the collection of example games can be used as a template starting point. This includes understanding the class inheritances used. Straightforward way for you to encapsulate behaviour in a compact manner. This is of course a general property of object oriented coding. But if you are new to games, the book is a good way to see how it is applied to your context.

Having said this, some aspects of the book seem tedious and strained. Each chapter has subsections called 'classified intel', 'prepare for lift off', 'engage thrusters'. The first time, it's cute. Later, just cheesy.

Learning iPhone Game Development with Cocos2D 3.0
Learning iPhone Game Development with Cocos2D 3.0
by Kirill Muzykov
Edition: Paperback
Price: $35.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars detailed example of a game, August 14, 2014
The text is very much a detailed building of an example game within the cocos2d framework. It walks through chapter by chapter, systematically adding features to the game. All within the Xcode and Objective C context that hitherto has been necessary for iPhone application development.

Game ideas like using sprites, the implementation of simple physics to determine the movement of these sprites as a function of time, and how to play sound, are explained step by step. For sound, you are warned that sound files exist in different formats, and conversions are sometimes required to a given format that you might standardise on.

You should pay attention to the chapter on the user interface. Given the small screen size of the iPhone, the UI should be kept as simple and intuitive as possible. The user is unlikely to read many instructions. In this sense, conforming to how UIs are done in other mobile games may be a good idea. So that she can rapidly transfer over any UI knowledge from other games.

Note that unavoidably, the book was unable to discuss Apple's recent announcement of the Swift programming language as the preferred new environment for the iPhone. Given cocos2d's popularity, I imagine it will still be heavily used for the near future, even without any upgrades to accomodate Swift. In practice, we are likely to see the latter.

Last Orders: The War That Came Early
Last Orders: The War That Came Early
by Harry Turtledove
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.17
51 used & new from $13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars compare to Guns of the South, August 13, 2014
Got to say, I was impressed after reading most of the reviews. No one [as far as I could tell] gave away the twist at the end. Well I certainly will also refrain.

You have heard the saying "Always reinforce success, never failure"? Perhaps attributed to Napoleon. Anyhow, this latest Turtledove story can be appreciated in the context of his writing career. If you, an author, have built up an expertise in some field, then it can be an efficient use of your time and skill to parlay that into the background of a novel. And even a series of novels, if they sell well enough. Turtledove got his PhD in Byzantine history, and he wrote several stories in a fictional rendering of that. These sold ok, but face it, the background knowledge and more to the point the interest in Byzantium is minimal amongst the public. Then he wrote The Guns of the South. A seminal work that I regard as his best novel.

No surprise, the American reading public has far greater interest in the Civil War than Byzantium. Also, Turtledove's take in that novel was qualitatively far different from all earlier alternative Civil War stories. Plus the writing skill in developing the characters and in the action scenes was suberb. From that, he wrote out a long series. And also did other series on World War 2.

But the problem is that the current book lacks the tautness of Guns. Several reviewers already remarked on the tepid dialog and repetitiveness of episodes. It does tidy up many loose ends. And deliberately leaves a few dangling as entry points to a next book if demand suffices. However some of you might want to read Guns after going thru this book. Compare the dialog and actions. Guns was written over 20 years ago. Sadly, no improvement over time in story telling.

iOS Development with Xamarin Cookbook
iOS Development with Xamarin Cookbook
by Dimitris Tavlikos
Edition: Paperback
Price: $44.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars first decide to use C# instead of Objective C, August 13, 2014
Most of the coding for Apple's iOS is done in Objective C and uses Apple's Xcode. Indeed, you should probably do so. But perhaps you have a specific reason not. Then this book explains with many examples a different route. Using Microsoft's C#. However the book is careful to warn that you will still need a Mac in order to fully test your code. Turns out that Apple's iOS simulator, which runs on a Mac, to simulate running on an Apple mobile device, often does not fully emulate all the hardware features. Granted, this may change over time. Right now, you should get in addition to that Mac, an appropriate mobile device.

Perhaps you are already proficient in C#. Or your firm has a large existing code base in C#. This is the starting condition for the book. It never really discusses the issue, largely taking it as a given that you have already made your decision.

The plethora of code examples is the book's strength. If you have a specific coding need, try skimming the contents and the remainder of the text to find something close to you. All the examples enhance the odds of a useful intersection. However, the number of examples also means that of necessity the code snippets are just that - brief. Take more time over a given example to ascertain if indeed it can be germane.

The examples include more than simply widgets and text. Some demonstrate the use of images and video. The latter can be especially compelling and impressive, given the size of the mobile device and the minimal bandwidth. Which perhaps is a cautionary note with these examples. Be careful about the sizes of your static images and video. What might be a neat and functioning example in your lab may not transfer over to the outside, in low bandwidth environments.

Another interesting set of examples is where they use sensor data from the iPhone, which is the most common Apple mobile device. You see how to get the accelerometer data or the GPS or compass data. Location and orientation based services are very common. So finding this data and then integrating it into a map for display will be useful to many readers. Granted, the accelerometer data might not be as commonly used. But recall that there was one major success -, which deployed a heavily used application to transfer data between 2 phones. As a metric of its success, it was bought by Google.

WebGL Hotshot
WebGL Hotshot
by Mitch Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: $44.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars you need some graphics maths, August 13, 2014
This review is from: WebGL Hotshot (Paperback)
You actually have to know some maths of computer graphics. Simple two and three dimensional geometry and trigonometry. Some code snippets got into enough detail to require this, to fully understand what is going on. So you should understand what a cross product is. This lets you find, given two vectors that define a plane, the normal to the plane. A very common and fundamental operation.

The text gives sufficient to let you appreciate how to build 3D into your web pages. Ironically, one example, Project 6, shows graphics with unnecessary detail. This example depicts stock prices as a function of time, for several companies. But the screen shots display the curves not as 2 dimensional, but in 3D. No doubt to show you how to embed them in a 3D space. Other than this, you should never do this in your own graphics. The 3D adds no extra information. Worse, it makes comparing prices between the companies, and indeed for the prices of just one company, harder. You have undoubtedly seen this before in other graphics packages.

See Turfte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Simply, do not use an effect in your graphics just because you can.

Overall, the book's message can be seductive. Try to bring a user inside your website. Not just a passive reading of information. The book is only an introduction, however. The writing of such new content can be very labour intensive.

FL Studio Cookbook
FL Studio Cookbook
Price: $20.44

4.0 out of 5 stars myriad recording abilities, August 13, 2014
The audio editing options in FL Studio are myriad. The book starts with detailed examples at the physical level, showing how to connect sundry hardware to your computer. The latter is taken to be a Dell laptop running Microsoft Windows. The external hardware includes a MIDI keyboard, headphones and monitors or speakers. While the MIDI keyboard might seem redundant, since the laptop has its own keyboard, in practice many audiophiles want this. Several MIDI keyboards provide a different and more intuitive physical user interface, with knobs, pads, sliders or touchscreens. Essentially, the tactile and often pure analog ways may let you more smoothly glide into your editing needs.

The many figures in the text show cases of instances like virtual instruments. FL Studio provides you, the composer, with a standard orchestra of instrumental sounds. But FL Studio goes beyond that. Options are furnished to experiment with novel audio effects. The plethora of parameters gives an effectively infinite space where you can tweak your recordings indefinitely. Which actually can be a danger of FL Studio. Part of your experience with it is developing an intuition of when to call halt and simply fix a final version.

The text also provide basic advice on composing the soundtrack. Like defining the drums and rhythm. This usually sets the basic feel of your song. After which you can insert the other instruments.

Naturally, the software also has a standard means of showing the sonograms and other music patterns. If you have used other recording programs, much of this will already be familiar.

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings
In the Courts of the Crimson Kings
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $7.59

4.0 out of 5 stars end of the series ? !, August 10, 2014
Sadly, seems like Stirling has put this series on the back burner. Maybe there was not enough traction so he has continued with his massive Dies the Fire books. Pity to some of us readers because his take on a Mars and Venus written in the spirit of pre-NASA days is glorious. There is a deliberate ambience of Edgar Rice Burroughs throughout this novel.

Perhaps if enough readers buy the new paperbacks of this book, you can spur him and his publisher to reconsider.

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