Category Archives: Book and Other Media Reviews

Rush : Vapor Trails Remix – Phenomenal, well worth it and toss the old disc

Thanks to’s AutoRip I can listen to this before the actual disc arrives.

The new Vapor Trails remix sounds really good, it feels like I’m listening to all-new music. It’s like a power washer was applied, forcing out all the static and noise dirt. They must have included pieces or takes that were previously on the cutting room floor, there is now stuff in the songs I hadn’t heard/noticed before. Example is a little guitar solo after the bass solo part in Ceiling Unlimited.

Vocal tracks are totally different in some cases, like in Peaceable Kingdom. They had to have re-recorded some of this.

After listening to the “good” one I’ll have to listen to the old one to see if I can pick out some of this that was hidden by the noise, but there is definitely more stuff that wasn’t in the old mix. Feels like it is 20% different, as if the original release was the demo for the real thing.

Review of Head First HTML5 Programming by Eric Freeman and Elisabeth Robson

Head First HTML5 is a good book on HTML5, and by the end you will have a good familiarity with HTML5’s core components.

The example projects worked through in the book are good and relevant.  For example Chapter Five introduces location awareness and uses Google’s geolocation tools to show the location of your device and later even maps it using Google Maps.

One area I expected more was CSS.  Chapter One describes the major components of HTML5 as markup, Javascript, and CSS.  The book does a great job of teaching basic JavaScript, but does not give any intro at all to CSS, nor do the source code listings for the exercises include the CSS listings.

As with other Head First books I have read, I didn’t have any problem reading this book cover-to-cover easily.  I can recommend this book for learning many aspects of HTML5, but you’ll have to get your CSS introduction/refresher elsewhere.

Review of Practical Packet Analysis: Using Wireshark to Solve Real-World Network Problems, authored by Chris Sanders

Author Chris Sanders, a security consultant and researcher, delivers an outstanding plain-language book that serves two purposes: teaching the reader about network architecture, and applying that knowledge for real-world network analysis using the open-source tool Wireshark.

I first encountered Wireshark when my job produced a need to analyze offline capture data from a vehicular data transponder.  Following that experience I had a rudimentary knowledge of Wireshark, but had no idea of the depth of tools and analysis the tool is capable of.  Chris Sanders begins the teaching process by going over network architecture and the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, which I learned about in college but didn’t retain all the details.  The instruction includes real-world examples and shows how Wireshark can demonstrate some of the concepts.  As the reader progresses through the book, Sanders brings in practical examples of network analysis with Wireshark against popular services such as Twitter, Facebook, and a sports news network Web site.  Helpful chapters on wireless protocols and attacking slow network problems can be helpful for both network professionals who want to solve network issues and non-network-engineers (like me) who may want to do some basic troubleshooting in order to better know how to ask for help.

Sanders dedicates a chapter to network packet analysis for purposes of network security, going over some attack vectors and how to analyze traffic to see if victims may be on your network.

Overall this is a well-written book, and it is great that the tool of choice is open-source software that is available for many platforms.  If your job touches the area of network troubleshooting or packet analysis, this book should be on your shelf.


Cover of Practical Packet Analysis: Using Wireshark to Solve Real-World Network Problems by Chris Sanders

Review of Programming Microsoft ASP.NET 4 by Dino Esposito; Microsoft Press

Programming Microsoft ASP.NET 4 is an advanced book that gives a complete overview of the ASP.NET 4 architecture.  If you are an administrator of a business-critical Web application (or plan to be one) using the Microsoft suite of server and Web services tools, this book will provide a good and complete understanding of system internals you will need.  If you are new to the ASP.NET architecture and applications, look for something a bit more basic first.

Most of the ASP.NET books I heave read spend most of their pages teaching C#.NET and/or VB.NET is a way to spin beginners up from other languages and platforms in order to arrive at an example application that teaches the basics of how to develop a simple ASP.NET application.  This book moves the developer to the next step, which is understanding how the architecture works.  The first half of the book discusses how ASP.NET works together with IIS, in-depth ASP.NET event information, and custom server controls.  With a firm grasp of the internals, the author moves on to application infrastructure, including a nice chapter on jQuery.

The author includes an impressive chapter on application security that discusses threat vectors and what you need to know at every layer of the architecture.

Programming Microsoft ASP.NET 4 is not a beginner book for ASP.NET application developers and the author’s description of his intended audience fully discloses this… those new to ASP.NET should find a book that teaches ASP.NET basics with C# to build a simple application, then move on to this one due to its advanced topics.  The book explains these advanced topics well and I recommended it for developers responsible for ASP.NET applications.


Review of SQL Pocket Guide (3rd edition), authored by by Jonathan Gennick

SQL Pocket Guide is a very sensible deskside reference for developers and database administrators. If you are experienced in Structured Query Language (SQL) and can use occasional refreshers on commands and syntax, this is the perfect helper book for you.

Reading the SQL Pocket Guide from front to back is a little bit like reading the phone book, but I did so anyway. I have been using SQL for many years but managed to learn a number of new things from the Guide.  SQL Pocket Guide is organized logically, and the SQL statement examples in each command entry are very helpful and clearly laid out.

I liked this guide for its inclusion of the particulars for the most popular database management systems. This makes the SQL Pocket Guide universally helpful without being too generic to be useful for specific needs. If you develop apps against multiple vendors’ databases you will appreciate the specific vendor command implementation details, as the author has done that homework for you.

SQL Pocket Guide is a very handy reference, and having already implemented optimizations to my embedded SQL app code I can highly recommend it.

SQL Pocket guide cover image

Review of Head First Python, authored by Paul Barry

Head First Python is an excellent intro to the language.  The book’s teaching method keeps the pages turning, and by the end you will have built apps on three platforms (PC, Android, Web).  You will also have good familiarity with Python’s bundled editor and command interface.

I was pleased with the inclusion of Android interface coverage and Google App Engine (GAE). I had not yet deployed a project on GAE and that experience added value to the book. The example projects were good enough for instructional purposes, though after a couple of chapters on the same project I found myself losing interest… luckily the author changes the sample project a few times.  The exercises had a varied style to them, which helped maintain interest.  Some of the exercises are straight coding to solve a problem, but others present some code and have you piece code blocks together from a pool of provided code lines.

The teaching method used aids retention… before I completed the book I ran into a need to modify a python program that pulled stock quotes from Yahoo in order to help Microsoft Money update quotes following Microsoft’s sunsetting of the product, and I had learned enough to diagnose and fix the issue.

Many language tutorial books are hard to read from cover to cover and maintain interest and attention… I didn’t have that problem with Head First Python and was able to read the whole book easily. Anyone needing an intro to Python should consider this book.

Head First Python cover

Upcoming Reviews

I have just joined the O’Reilly Blogger Review Program and will be posting reviews here.  First up is an introductory book on Python.

You’ll also see reviews here of whatever devices I get to check out as a member of the Verizon Wireless Customer Council, a small user focus group of about thirty VZW customers that is sent devices to provide feedback.  Thus far over the past three years we have reviewed twenty devices, ranging from the now-crusty LG Chocolate, through a number of feature phones, Blackberry devices and Android devices.  I look forward to passing on feedback here.

Finally I plan to use this space to give thoughts on another love, which is the investment world.  I often see articles and have ideas that I need a forum to pass on and this one is as good as any.