Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Core Java for the Impatient

I’ve just finished reading Core Java for the Impatient by Cay S. Horstmann. I also own Scala for the Impatient by the same author, and I really loved that book. Having had previous experience with Scala, I was excited to read up on the newer features introduced in Java 8. Maybe it’s because I’m a C# developer professionally, but I’m really impressed with the new Java 8 features.

Horstmann’s books are excellently written for existing developers to quickly become familiar with newer languages and technologies. This book isn’t meant for a beginning programmer to dive right into software development using Java 8, but if you have C#, Java, Scala, or other C-style experience you’ll be set. The pace is excellent and the book flows really well.

While it’s expected that you’re already a proficient programmer, I didn’t get the feeling that it was expected for the reader to understand functional programming. Java 8 introduces a lot of functional style which I’ve seen existing Java developers complain about. I’ve also seen C# developers complain about Java verbosity. While I can’t help people who dislike functional programming, I can say as a C# developer that Java 8 really helps reduce the verbosity of the language.

Before Java 8 you’d have to construct a whole new class that implemented a single method if you wanted to create a Runnable (I have limited experience with pre-Java 8, so forgive me if that’s incorrect). In Java 8, you can assign a runnable to a lambda expression. The compiled code will still contain a one-off class but you as a developer don’t have to worry about those details. This kind of syntactic sugar really makes for more readable and more maintainable code. This is the first material I’ve read which covers Java 8, so I assume Horstmann has covered everything. I actually don’t think Java could have packed anything else into Java 8 that wasn’t covered in this book. It’s hard to believe so much great content was presented in less than 500 pages.

The book is written to appeal to the applications programmer, so Horstmann offers a lot of material such as functional concepts in the Collections and Streams chapters, annotations support, date/time improvements, and internationalization. He doesn’t walk you through creating a parser or an actor system like he does in Scala for the Impatient, but he does give you the necessary information to create a maintainable application in Java. The fact that you’ll learn how to create and process annotations as well as to perform runtime compilation of classes opens a world of possibilities (these sections obviously only touch the surface).

The book also covers Nashorn, a JavaScript REPL that provides access to Java types. I have node.js experience, so this really interests me. I’ll need to investigate the performance implications of running Java code from within this JavaScript environment, but this also opens a lot to an applications developer. For example, if you want to play around with a type in Java’s core library, you can fire up a REPL and instantiate the type rather than going through the rigamarole of creating a throw away project. As a C# developer, I use LinqPad regularly on Windows and Mono’s `csharp` interactive shell on OSX.

Again, I love how concisely the content is delivered. The code that accompanies the book is well structured, allowing the reader to quickly jump between text and the full implementations of the code in the book.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is how information with short examples are presented in the chapter’s text and exercises are presented at chapter end to give a more hands-on experience. If you skip over the exercises, you’ll still get all of the important material of the chapter.

I would recommend this book to any non-beginner who wants to learn about Java 8.

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Review “Learning 2D Game Development with Unity: A Hands-On Guide to Game Creation”

I’ve just finished reading Learning 2D Game Development with Unity: A Hands-On Guide to Game Creation, and I really enjoyed it despite many issues with the actual text (I’ll try to cover everything here). I’m just starting to learn Unity3D for 2D game development, so I’ve only watched a few of the official videos and followed a few tutorials online (the best so far being from pixelnest.io). After reading this book, I felt way more competent at creating my own game than with tutorials I’ve done elsewhere.

That’s not to say there aren’t some problems with the actual book contents. Quite a few people also have had problems with the book based on the Amazon reviews. I think the greatest comment, and a sentiment I share, is that the book could benefit from a technical edit. I’m a professional software developer, and I struggled to follow what was going on at one point.

This leads me to a major issue I had with the book, dropping a star from my review: Chapter 7 (Setting up Player Physics and Colliders) belongs before Chapter 5 (The Basics of Movement and Player Control). I don’t know how something like this could have been missed, but there’s no excuse for a ‘follow along’ book to be anything but sequential in its content. I’ve self-published a programming book, so I know getting things in the correct order while writing and editing is difficult. I also know that it’s unlikely for an editor or even a technical reviewer to catch this (you literally have to be ‘following along’ to encounter this problem). I toyed with giving the book 4 stars because I loved the content so much, then I thought about how well presented other books I’ve given 4 star reviews are and this book isn’t presented at the same level. If you take my advice and read Chapter 7 before Chapter 5, you’ll have almost no problem with this book. I went through the entire book in about two weeks using Unity 5.

This leads me to another problem which reduced my review by a ½ star: Chapter 14 is incomplete. Chapter 14 covers a then-beta feature of UGUI control layout and interaction. Unfortunately, there is only a single page between adding your first element (a Mask) to the canvas and the end of the book. Had the book just ended there, I would have thought, “OK, that was very high level,” and probably shrugged off the last chapter. The summary of Chapter 14 says “We gave a brief overview of building a simple Options menu with some text elements, buttons, and graphics” and almost none of this was even covered in the chapter (possibly because I’m reading the ebook?). Again, this seems like it would have been caught with a good technical or even a copy edit.

Another 1½ stars get deducted for what others have emphasized as a general feeling of being ‘all over the place’ with the instructions. There are a few times where numbered lists go from selecting a GameObject and doing nothing to modifying some other GameObject and selecting the first GameObject, which then gets modified. I actually found some humor in this, because it reminds me of peer programming with an extremely caffeinated coworker. I couldn’t ignore this in the review, though, because it happened more than once. For another example, the ‘Creating Components’ section of Chapter 2 explains the steps for creating components in what read like commands (but are statements) and the following section defines the actual steps. If someone was to follow the command-like steps (not in list form) of the one section, then the actual command steps (in list form) of the following section, this would become very confusing.

I experienced a general feeling of the book being ‘all over the place’ through Chapter 4. This was where I realized that the end-of-chapter ‘Exercises’ were actually continuations of the chapter content. I’ve literally never read a book where an ‘Exercises’ section wasn’t supplemental content to further your understanding of the material within the chapter. Rather than an ‘Exercises’ section, this book really should have just labeled the section appropriately. DON’T SKIP EXERCISES or you’ll be skipping part of the content.

I will say that other reviewers on Amazon have had unnecessary problems with downloading companion code. The code is very clearly linked on the book’s preface and from the InformIT product page. Even if you were to purchase the book from Amazon or somewhere else, I don’t know where else you’d look for companion content than in the preface.

Please don’t read my review as negative, I’m only trying to point out the issues I’ve found with the book. If you follow all of the exercises, read Chapter 7 before Chapter 5, and pay attention to what you’re reading (some of the examples in the book have incorrect code which have been fixed in the companion content’s project files for the chapter), you’ll really enjoy this book. I enjoyed making the example 2D platformer throughout the book. I didn’t hate or dislike the book, but I also don’t think beginners should have to piece together the contents of a book just to ‘follow along’. All of this stuff could easily be resolved with an updated (and well edited) copy of the book.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is how options are explained concisely in a single place. This made me feel way more familiar with the Unity editor and the options for game components. While watching some of the official videos on Unity’s site, I felt like the speaker was moving way too quickly for most people to follow along in the editor while explaining very little about what every option meant. Many tutorials I’ve seen online explain the steps to make a simple game (often lacking sound effects, particle effects, or even most of Physics2D). This book does an excellent job of explaining the basics of everything used to make a 2D platformer game. In fact, if it wasn’t for the editing issues I mentioned earlier, I would have given this book 4.5 or 5 stars. It’s meant for beginners, and I feel like non-programmers and programmers can all easily digest the material.

I made a list of many mistakes I found while reading this book. I’ll be emailing the authors the list, so hopefully the addenda will be updated. I’d love to see the book updated for Unity 5.

Ratings Summary

Overall: ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)

Editing: ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
Not ‘poorly’ edited, but very close. A lot of the mistakes could have easily been caught by having any non-technical reader proofread the contents.
Presentation: ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
I gave three stars for presentation because there are some code snippets in the book that just won’t work. I’m not talking about issues like Unity 5 doesn’t have this.rigidbody2D anymore, so you need to create a private variable and gain a reference in the Start or Awake function. I’m talking about things like the EnemyController’s Flip method flipping the instance and invoking flip on a colliding enemy instance, causing the two operations to cancel out. Then, there’s the issue of at least one image, Physics2D configuration, not matching the text in which the text says Player-Player is unchecked while the image shows Player-Enemy unchecked (using image settings makes your player invincible).
Material: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
I enjoyed the material. Best of many tutorials I’ve followed. I give 4 stars because the book is very basic (it’s for beginners), yet doesn’t exactly introduce best practices. For example, the basic platformer developed in this game creates a single level in which 1×1 components are used for the scene’s map. There’s no mention of performant alternatives like using Tiled and Tiled2Unity to create a single mesh map. This *could* be because Tiled2Unity wasn’t out at the time of the writing, but I’d expect at least the acknowledgement of the performance limitations.
Enjoyment: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. With my notes about following exercises and reading Chapter 7 before Chapter 5, I would recommend for beginners to read this book. One last caveat: if code in the book doesn’t seem to ‘work right’, try the code on the author’s companion site.

Links

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Review: Swift for the Really Impatient

I’ve recently finished reading Swift for the Really Impatient. It was a really good book; I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I had previously read Scala for the Impatient by Cay S. Horstmann. I’d like to note that, despite the similarity in title, Swift for the Really Impatient is not written by Cay S. Horstmann. I found the writing style to be noticeably different, but in neither a good nor a bad way. I just wanted to mention that Swift for the Really Impatient is written by Matt Henderson and Dave Wood, in case you’re a Horstmann devotee.

I’d like to make one thing clear for future readers. This book will not teach you to write your first functional OS X or iOS application; it assumes you’re an experienced Objective-C developer wanting to learn Swift’s syntax quickly. It differs in this way from Horstmann’s books, the style of which the authors have attempted to mimic. For example, after reading Scala for the Impatient the reader will be be able to write parsers, perform file and network functionality, as well as design and implement a minimal (yet powerful) distributed event bus using actors. Swift for the Really Impatient won’t teach you any of these types of things. Again, it’s related to Horstmann’s books only by similarity in title.

The book flows very well and very quickly. I read the entire book in my spare time, spanning only a few days. At only about 140 pages, compared to The Swift Programming Language book written by Apple (~600 pages), Swift for the Really Impatient is by far the easiest and quickest book to digest if you want to gain an understanding of Swift. If you’re familiar with Scala, you’ll breeze through this book.

One thing that kept throwing me off in the book was how it really feels targeted toward developers who were previously familiar with Objective-C. This isn’t a bad thing, considering you’ll need to at least understand Objective-C to really dig into OS X and iOS development using Swift. It’s also not a prerequisite for reading and understanding this book. The reason it threw me off is because the book doesn’t really ever explicitly define the target audience as having prior Objective-C knowledge, so sections explaining that “…the syntax of Swift should look familiar to Objective-C developers…” offer very little to developers without Objective-C backgrounds. It is fair to mention that the description on the Amazon product page for the book does clearly define the target audience as experienced Objective-C developers. If you pick this book up having had no prior experience on Apple’s platform, you’ll probably see some of the Objective-C code and think “what the…?!” Good news, though! You should be able to easily glance over the Objective-C parts and still fully understand the syntax of Swift.

I would actually take the authors’ references to Objective-C and expand them a little. Much of the Swift syntax would be familiar to someone with Java, C#, Groovy, or even JavaScript experience. The only places I think some developers may have a hard time are with the sections on Optionals and pattern matching. I felt like the authors excellently explained these concepts, but I’ve experienced first-hand in Scala how Java developers have struggled with these concepts. If you find yourself struggling one these sections, take your time and maybe reread the section (be less ‘Really Impatient’).

I loved how well the authors explained closures. If you have a JavaScript background, the section on closures will make a lot of sense. A book I previously read on Swift application development using Cocoa did a comparatively terrible job explaining closures, so it was refreshing to see the subject clearly and concisely presented in Swift for the Really Impatient.

The book definitely delivers the material you need to quickly understand the capabilities and syntax of Swift. The reason I’ve given it 4 stars instead of 5 is because it doesn’t explain how to execute Swift code. There’s no mention that XCode 6 is required to build and compile Swift. XCode is mentioned only on one page, less than 20 pages from the end of the book. The section mentioned XCode explains how to bridge Swift and Objective-C code which took me a couple of tries to figure out when I attempted this while following Apple’s official documentation. I’d imagine that a truly ‘Really Impatient’ developer would get frustrated with the short explanation of the process.

Swift for the Really Impatient should absolutely be the starting point for any developer hoping to code for Apple products. It is quick, concise, and (most importantly) accurate. I may even go so far as to suggest the book to any engineers who are interested in learning the syntax of different languages.

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Review: Microsoft .NET – Architecting Applications for the Enterprise, 2nd Edition

I’ve recently finished reading Microsoft .NET – Architecting Applications for the Enterprise, 2nd Edition by Dino Esposito and Andrea Saltarello. This book caught my attention for two reasons. First, I really enjoy software architecture. Second, I’ve read lots of work by Dino and always found them enjoyable.

The book gives examples of a few architectural patterns like Domain Driven Design (DDD), Command Query Responsibility Segregation (CQRS), and Event Sourcing. It starts with a pretty heavy focus on DDD and seems to assume that you’ve read *The* Domain Driven Design book by Eric Evans. I’ve only skimmed through that book, but it was enough to get many of the references. This book does cover the high level definitions of DDD in a way that the reader can jump right in. The accompanying source code even provides the same example in DDD and CQRS (the two main architectures being discussed).

There were two major things I liked about this book. I really enjoyed how the book isn’t presented as ‘this is the best software architecture, so you should use it.’ Things are presented in a way that clearly states the authors’ position on each architecture. For example, DDD is discussed as a the typical go-to architecture for enterprise systems. It’s a proven pattern that ‘just works’ in many cases. The discussion of CQRS clearly identifies some weaknesses in DDD and supplies an alternative with the explicit caveat that a CQRS-based architecture will change how you think about data.

The other main point I liked about the book is how real-world the discussions are. I usually get that feeling from Microsoft Press books. Early on the authors say, “To design a system that solves a problem, you must fully understand the problem and its domain.” In one of my previous positions, one of the first things I asked when joining the team was, “How have you documented what we’re trying to build?” I received a weird non-answer from the team’s senior developer. I went to the team’s manager and asked the same thing so I could understand the requirements gathering and technical design analysis that went into the product. He said, “We don’t have any of that — we’re Agile.” I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. Obviously it would strike a chord with me when the authors said, “Agile architecture is sometimes presented as an oxymoron, like saying that if you’re agile you don’t do any architecture analysis, you just start coding…” Elsewhere they described the businessman-developer disconnect that occurs when requirements are incomplete, which is exactly what happened on the previous team I mentioned. It’s like I always say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there?”

Another aspect of the book that I think can get buried in reading is the point about developing for a task-based user experience. Too often do developers start coding at the database and work their ways up to the user interface. Without a clean architecture, this can lead to situations where a column in your relational database has to change all the way to the UI. That’s silly. With a good architecture that clearly identifies boundaries in code, you inherently create more reusable and more maintainable code. I think this should be everyone’s main goal while writing code.

I also thought it was cool how the book and accompanying example code demonstrate using a NoSQL database (RavenDB) for an event sourcing application. While I don’t know where I’d ever use Event Sourcing over a more common architecture (mainly because I have to account for the expertise of other developers), I really like the Event Sourcing pattern. Now that Akka.NET is gaining traction, I wonder if Event Sourcing will become the way of the future.

One minor issue I had with the companion content was that it didn’t run as-is. There was a problem with the NuGet packages and MVC5 for which I found a solution at https://naa4e.codeplex.com/workitem/1.

I would definitely recommend this book for senior developers and engineers. It provides concrete examples and guidance from experienced architects toward more solid enterprise application design.

You can download the companion code for the book at https://naa4e.codeplex.com/

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Review: From Mathematics to Generic Programming

 

(This is a repost of my Amazon review) I’ve been out of college for a while. I did well in math classes in high school and college, but I’ve been recently feeling rusty. I wanted to read this book to combine something I love (generic programming) with something I feel is missing in my daily life (mathematics). I wasn’t at all disappointed.

The book covers a lot of interesting historical stories of advancements, discoveries, and progressions in mathematics. It starts with the cravings of the Greeks to learn and how the study of the world around them incorporated arithmetic, geometry, astrology and other teachings. The book presents many different abstractions via axioms, theories, and proofs. These are then seamlessly related to generic programming.

Although the programming pieces of the book don’t stress this enough, the examples are a guidance toward functional programming concepts. Stepanov covers monoids, groups, semigroups, rings, etc. I was surprised by the amount of ground covered in this book. He even discusses how mathematics can be applied to social networks to do something like find friends of friends of friends (graphs).

The code examples in the book are written in C++. This may be intimidating for some developers. Don’t worry, the code isn’t overly advanced. If you’ve worked with another language that has generics, traits, mixins, or macros, you should be fine. These are the level of abstractions you’ll encounter in this book. There’s an appendix to introduce the C++ concepts, if needed.

There are plenty of exercises in the book. These are actually the only the only negative thing I have to say about the book. There are no solutions, no hints, and no companion code for the book’s exercises. Maybe when the book has been around for a while, you may be able to find a github repo where someone has worked through the tasks. I was sad to see nothing like this existed.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in mathematics and an interest in generic programming. I felt like the book was a little heavier on mathematics than generic programming. However, I also feel like most developers I’ve met don’t feel comfortable with the application of mathematics concepts.

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Software Abstractions take Skill.

I recently read Adaptive Code via C# and posted a review on Amazon:

This book is a new favorite of mine. I’ve always prided myself on writing clean and concise code. I’ve always been fond of SOLID principles. I wanted to read this book to keep my understanding of SOLID principles fresh. It also covers design patterns, although be aware that it’s not an in-depth design patterns book.

The book is broken into three sections. The first section is an introduction to Scrum and SOLID. Before I had even finished the first section, I was already recommending this book to colleagues. This leading content isn’t necessarily targeted toward developers. I think many managers or team leaders could benefit from reading the basics of Scrum and understanding the terminology for SOLID programming.

I already had a pretty solid (sorry for that) understanding of SOLID principles, so I felt like the second section was more of a refresher. In that vein, I think it’d be hard for me to definitively say how easily digestible this section will be for beginners. I think it will greatly help intermediate or expert engineers to gain a new understanding of software architecture. The book’s audience is meant to be intermediate and expert engineers, but I think beginners could get the content. It’s so well written and clearly explained that I think anyone who might struggle a little with the concepts presented in the book could easily substitute any gaps in understanding with Wikipedia or blogs. Though, I honestly felt like there were no gaps. This section may be boring for non-developers, although I know project managers, program managers, and directors that would find this section interesting. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that SOLID principles are not rules; they’re guidelines.

I thought the last section was excellent. It is split into three chapters in which you’re presented with somewhat realistic dialog (‘fortnight’) that follows a small team through the first two sprints for a chat application. I’ve read a few books on Agile and Scrum methodologies and this section was probably the most fun to read on the topic. It could just be that it’s written as a script with code examples, but it was refreshing and easy to follow.

This book does a great job at explaining technical debt. While reading the book, I realized nobody at my current job has ever said the term ‘technical debt’. I asked around and found that it was a new term to most. The concept of technical debt is one thing I know I had problems understanding as a beginner. As developers become more mature, they begin to understand that the field is usually roughly equal parts business and technology. It’s really important to understand these ‘trade-offs’ and the last section demonstrates pretty well how technical debt occurs.

If you’re on the fence about purchasing this book, you should buy it. It’s a quick read and an understanding of the subject matter will improve your software. I’ve never regretted purchasing a Microsoft Press book.

I gave a short presentation at work recently about SOLID principles, so I was stoked to have a chance to read this book. One of the biggest takeaways I hope anyone has from this book is the ability to abstract software in useful ways.

I recently solved an issue using techniques such as those presented in this book. Specifically, this solution included the Open/Closed Principle, Dependency Injection, and Single Responsibility Principle as well as the Decorator pattern. The issue was simple, one I’m sure many people have encountered in their time with C#; a dataset’s DataRow does not inherent from IDataRecord in the same way something like SqlDataReader does.

Suppose you have a domain model of some kind that you need ‘mapped’ from your database into a single object.

Here’s a demonstration of the problem. I use a csv of cars from Wikipedia and instead of mapping to a domain object, I write out to the console.

First, an example using a DataReader:

using (var connection = new OdbcConnection(connectionString))
{
    connection.Open();
    using (var cmd = connection.CreateCommand())
    {
        cmd.CommandText = "select * from Cars.csv";

        using (var reader = cmd.ExecuteReader())
        while (reader.Read())
        {
            OverloadedDumpRow(reader);
        }
    }
}

Now, an example using a DataRow:

using (var connection = new OdbcConnection(connectionString))
{
    connection.Open();

    var adapter = new OdbcDataAdapter("SELECT * FROM Cars.csv", connection);

    DataSet ds = new DataSet("Temp");
    adapter.Fill(ds);

    foreach (DataRow row in ds.Tables[0].Rows)
    {
        OverloadedDumpRow(row);
    }
}

Aside from the implementation of data retrieval, OverloadedDumpRow should look exactly the same for both examples:

Console.WriteLine("A {0} {1} {2}", 
    row["Year"], row["Make"], row["Model"]);

The problem is that, since these two implementations don’t share a common base type of any sort (DataRow derives from nothing). This isn’t really an issue in a small example like this, but if you have a complex domain and you want to return data from your database and parse that data consistently. Think about what you’d have to do for each and every domain model just to parse resultsets from IDataRecord and DataRow. How do you determine whether or not you’ll even *need* both implementations? To be DRY, you’d need to pull your data from the following methods into variables or directly into your target domain object:

static void OverloadedDumpRow(IDataRecord row)
{
    Console.WriteLine("A {0} {1} {2}",
                    row["Year"], row["Make"], row["Model"]);
}

static void OverloadedDumpRow(DataRow row)
{
    Console.WriteLine("A {0} {1} {2}",
                    row["Year"], row["Make"], row["Model"]);
}

Obviously, this isn’t reusable. What we’d need is an interface. Something like this:

public interface IStringIndexed
{
  object this[string key] { get; }
}

Then, we could implement the redundant methods above in a single method:

static void DumpRow(IStringIndexed record)
{
  Console.WriteLine("A {0} {1} {2}",
    record["Year"], record["Make"], record["Model"]);
}

To get from IDataRecord and DataRow to this target interface, you’ll need an adapter. An adapter decorates a target type and exposes some new interface for that type. This can be a little confusing in our case because IDataRecord and DataRow have the same functionality (returning an object by string index), but they don’t have a consistent interface allowing us to write abstractions on top of these two types.

Our simple interface follows the single responsibility principle (implementations can only get an object by key) as well as the open/closed principle (you can now write extension methods against IStringIndexed).

Writing an adapter to use the interface from above is ridiculously easy. Here’s one of them:

internal class DataRowStringIndexedWrapper : IStringIndexed
{
    private readonly DataRow _row;

    public DataRowStringIndexedWrapper(DataRow row)
    {
        _row = row;
    }

    #region IStringIndexed Members

    object IStringIndexed.this[string key]
    {
        get { return _row[key]; }
    }

    #endregion
}

You would wrap an IDataRecord in exactly the same way.

Here are the two updated examples (notice both of these dump the record to console using the same method):

using (var connection = new OdbcConnection(connectionString))
{
    connection.Open();
    using (var cmd = connection.CreateCommand())
    {
        cmd.CommandText = "select * from Cars.csv";

        using (var reader = cmd.ExecuteReader())
        while (reader.Read())
        {
            DumpRow(new DataRecordStringIndexedWrapper(reader));
        }
    }
}

using (var connection = new OdbcConnection(connectionString))
{
    connection.Open();

    var adapter = new OdbcDataAdapter("SELECT * FROM Cars.csv", connection);

    DataSet ds = new DataSet("Temp");
    adapter.Fill(ds);

    foreach (DataRow row in ds.Tables[0].Rows)
    {
        DumpRow(new DataRowStringIndexedWrapper(row));
    }
}

This is the power of following SOLID principles and studying design patterns. This example isn’t taken from the book, but you’ll learn these skills and more in the book.

Code

A console application of this example is available on github.

You can purchase Adaptive Code via C# from informIT or Amazon.

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Functional Thinking is… functional

Submitted at: O’Reilly
Pros:
Concise, Easy to understand, Accurate, Helpful examples
Best Uses:
Intermediate, Expert, Novice, Student
Describe Yourself:
Developer

I’ve reviewed Neal Ford’s “Functional Thinking” video series as part of O’Reilly’s bloggers program and I must say it is one of the best videos I’ve seen.

I’m familiar with functional programming techniques from other languages, but I wish I had originally learned some of the concepts from this video. For example, when Neal gives an example of currying versus partial application, I felt like any developer I know would fully understand the difference between the two (not an easy feat).

Neal covers quite a bit of ground in this video, and he does it in a way that is easy to follow and clearly understand. One of the things I liked best about this video series is how examples are given in a format of first demonstrating code in an object-oriented Java snippet followed by a transitional snippet that is somewhat more functional, then a final fully functional example in one or more functional languages.

That said, I also think this video series could have done without all of the Clojure examples. It was nice to see Groovy, Scala, and some functional Java examples. I feel like the content matter would have been a little more effective to someone unfamiliar with functional programming without the common shock of trying to discern a Lisp-style language.

I especially enjoyed Neal’s discussion about the paradigm shift from object-oriented programming to more functional programming. He is able to support this with concrete examples of functional concepts like map/fold, functional data structures, preferring composition over inheritance, and a lot more that I think any developer of any experience level would benefit from watching.

I’d recommend this video series to everyone interested in functional programming.

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My review of Python Cookbook, 3rd Edition by O’Reilly Digital Media

Product: Python Cookbook, 3rd Edition by O’Reilly Digital Media
Submitted at: O’Reilly

Fantastic Cookbook
by JimSchubert from Seattle WA on 7/27/2013

Pros:
Helpful examples, Well-written, Concise, Easy to understand, Accurate

Best Uses:
Intermediate, Student, Expert, Novice

Describe Yourself:
Developer

I read Python Cookbook as part of the O’Reilly Bloggers program. I would highly recommend Python Cookbook to developers with any level of expertise, provided they understand the basic syntax and usage of Python 3.

I don’t use Python regularly. I’ve stayed away from Python for a while because of the parallel development of the 2.x and 3.x versions of Python. One of the things I loved about this book is that the authors clearly state that the intention of the book is to cover Python 3 only. In fact, many of the recipes won’t work in Python 2.x. The book’s contents have made me rethink avoiding Python.

I consider myself somewhat familiar with Python basics, which is required if you want to gain the most from this book. While the book does start of with some simple recipes (like list comprehensions, string manipulations, math operations), it eventually delves more into advanced topics like metaprogramming, socket programming, and the intricacies of working with threads.

It may not cover extremely advanced topics in Python, but the book comes close. The last chapter discusses interacting with C libraries which you may already have experience with if you’ve read Gray Hat Python (also available from O’Reilly). I consider language interop a pretty advanced topic.

In all, I was very pleased with the content and delivery of this book. I generally bookmark one or two pages in a book, but with this book I ended with 12 bookmarked pages. It definitely left me excited about developing applications with Python 3.

One caveat to readers: some of these recipes are for demonstration purposes only and should not be used in production code. For example, recipe 10.11 shows how you’d load modules from a remote machine using import hooks. Just because you *can* do this, doesn’t mean you should.

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Computer Science Programming Basics In Ruby

Computer Science Programming Basics In Ruby
Originally submitted at O’Reilly

Product: Computer Science Programming Basics in Ruby by oreilly
Submitted at: O’Reilly

Great intro to basics!

by JimSchubert from Seattle WA on 6/7/2013

Pros: Accurate, Well-written, Helpful examples, Easy to understand, Concise
Best Uses: Student, Novice
Describe Yourself: Developer

I read this book as part of the O’Reilly blogger program. I have been a professional software engineer since 2008, and I thought that I wouldn’t gain much from this book from a technical perspective and just provide some creative feedback for future readers. I also regularly enjoy teaching others about technology and different aspects of development. I was very impressed with the authors’ presentation of material.

If you have a degree in computer science, this book is most likely not for you. The actual material discusses things like what an array is and how to use one. It also provides examples of how to use branching conditional structures, objects, files, etc; like the title says, these are the basics.

What impressed me the most was the use of diagrams throughout the book. As engineers we regularly try to cut corners by going light on documentation, which is a practice that plagues the field and turns our science into more of an art. What is even more difficult than writing documentation or learning materials for other engineers? Writing for non-engineers. This book does an excellent job of explaining concepts that most authors take for granted. For example, I think you would have difficulty finding an introductory level book that doesn’t explain arrays with a picture of adjacent boxes to represent indexes; as engineers we assume that new engineers may have issues with data structures, but we regularly take control flow for granted. I think we assume that control flow can be really explained by requesting it to directions, but this simplification may not work for everyone. This book presents control flow by providing an application example, then displaying the logic of the example in a flowchart. I love that. I think this aspect alone would easily reduce some of the intimidation a new student to the computer science field may have.

I would recommend this book to students or anyone considering a career move into software or web development. I would also personally be interested on reading more by this team of authors on advanced topics.

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