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About the Author
Dr. Simon Monk (Preston, UK) has a degree in Cybernetics and Computer Science and a PhD in Software Engineering. He is the bestselling author of Programming Arduino, Programming the Raspberry Pi, and other books.
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However, it is a very specific path to a few projects. To fit projects into a < 200 page book for too much has been breezed over. If you follow the careful path made by the author then you can do some remarkable things with your BBB, however if you stray even slightly from that path you might find yourself frustrated.
To give an example, in the digital input over a web server project, Monk sets up the most basic of NodeJS servers. It can only serve a single page. If you try and include your own CSS (or a local js library), then your code will fail. For that matter the example fails if you are using a USB connection to your BBB. The code only works if you have followed enough to that point that your BBB is connected to the internet and you are accessing it via your network. It is awesome that anyone with BBB and a home network can press a button and see a webpage change because of it, however if that person wants to go further, they will easily find themselves having to make major changes for a relatively small difference. Rebuilding a server myself, simply to include an external CSS file to me means the example is simply not robust enough. A few more lines of code and and a few lines of explanation would make for a much better example. There are several similar issues with other projects.
The price here on Amazon is awesome for this great book. If you're curious about BeagleBone Black development, you won't waste your money buying this book. Almost every section is going to have some nugget of info that you'll consider worth the ten bucks this book costs.
I will say that I struggled a bit with my rating on this book. I would have liked to give it a 3.5, quite honestly. The main problem(s) I've found is that there are fairly annoying little inconsistencies between the code and the text description, and these can trip you up a bit. One of the more obvious issues is in chapter 9, where the author uses port "8080" throughout the textual descriptions for making his web server connections. However the code actually uses port 8085--so unless you figure that out, it's not going to work for you, because the Beaglebone server simply isn't listening on port 8080. I did get it to work quite easily because I've worked with sockets and ports a fair amount in other languages; however I wonder if other folks will struggle a bit if they don't have much of that sort of experience?
Also, I agree with the reviewer(s) who've opined that perhaps a more rigorous explanation of actually running the code is in order. For instance, sometimes the latest version of cloud9 (in Debian, anyway) doesn't actually KILL the process running on the CPU when you hit the stop button in the IDE. I mean, the IDE *says* the code is stopped, but if you check "ps aux | grep <keyword>" you'll find that there is still a rogue process running. Now that isn't the author's fault of course, and maybe he has never experienced this--but if it does happen to you and then you try to run some web-based code in chapter 9, the port is probably still bound...and in that case will fail. So you'd better be somewhat skilled at using the console output messages (at a minimum), in order to help figure things out when they won't run as you expect them to. I guess my point is that it's hard to believe that the author never saw such a thing, so a few words of wisdom on what to watch for (and how to deal with it) would have been helpful. Maybe he hasn't experienced it, so this comment will help folks who do experience the problem.
Finally, I also do agree with the reviewer that stated that it would have been nice to get a bit more background on the Linux OS under the hood. For instance, the author seems to use the node package manager (npm) to update node.js throughout the book--but unless I've missed it, he never really seems to go into detail on what it's for...and why/how it differs from the OS's package manager (opkg or apt-get, if you're on Debian). Again, a person can research this on their own--and I do think there's a certain degree of confidence that comes with doing so, and solving one's own problems as such. However when you "don't know what you don't know," it can be quite helpful to get a gentle nudge or two in the right direction.
Overall though, I think this is a pretty good book. Since you can't assign half-stars, I gave the author 4 stars because the book does do a good job on most things. Indeed the examples are a bit simplistic in most cases (until the one using jQuery in chapter 9, lol!), but I wouldn't necessarily call that a bad thing. In fact I think it's helpful to have a concrete, simple example, because it makes it easier to learn the basics--so long as the simple example covers the them. And in fact I think the author does a pretty good job along those lines, and I find myself going back over the code repeatedly...and learning a bit more about the different parts, each time I do.
So I would recommend this book to anyone looking to get going on the Beaglebone platform. Whether you're running the new Beaglebone Black, or the original Beaglebone (the white one), the examples work very well, especially if you're using the most recent version of whichever distro you so chose to use. I'm using the latest version of Debian on the original Beaglebone, and thus far haven't run into anything that a little time spent with Google can't solve.
Knock on wood...