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review 2017-02-26 10:08
Use the Internet
HTML5 and CSS3 All-In-One for Dummies - Andy Harris

Well, I reckon it took me almost two years to actually get through this monstrosity and I don’t think I know any more about web programming than I did when I started. Well, okay, that’s a lie, I know quite a lot more, especially since when I started I claimed that being able to use the HTML tags in Goodreads counted as having a basic understanding of web programming. It turns out not to be the case, and in fact the HTML tags that Goodreads uses are woefully out to date. In fact the amount of HTML that you can use on your posts is minimal (though it is somewhat more than some other sites that I have visited). As for Booklikes, there is so much more scope in their posts that it actually leaves Goodreads for dead.

 

The question that I raise though is whether this book is actually useful. The problem with the development of software is that it is always on the move you may discover that a version that he uses in the book is no longer available – this was what happened when I tried to play around with MySQL and with AJAX – his versions are out of date which means that if you try to type his programs out then they don’t actually work. Mind you, I ended up getting MySQL to eventually work and even through together a basic PHP website (though it is pretty basic).

 

Interestingly ,I have noticed that there are a number of people claiming that if we go and learn the latest programming languages we can all go off and make heaps of money. Some dude on Youtube made this claim with PHP (and reckons that he even dropped out of university) while I get all of these spam emails trying to get me to part with my money so that I can learn Python or Agile. The catch is that even though you may know how to program those languages, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are suddenly going to make lots of money – if a stranger walked in off the road and made a claim that they were this hot shot computer programmer and had absolutely no references whatsoever, would you hire him? The thing with making your way in this world is to be able to sell yourself, and to get practical experience.

 

This is where I believe this book falls down. Sure, he has lots and lots of examples, but that is basically where it ends. Sure, it may work as a reference book but the problem is that pretty much everything is available on line these days. Further, while one may be able to show you how to do something that doesn’t necessarily make you a programmer – to be a good programmer you need to be able to solve problems, to be able to work on projects, and to be able to work as a part of a team. That last one is important because while one could program alone (you can tell be age since I still use the term programmer, which is an Eighties term), the scale of some of the programs out there, and the needs of businesses these days, generally means that the small scale projects are few and far between – everybody has a website these days, and if they don’t Wordpress and others are just a click away.

 

The other thing is that there are so many websites out there that offer tutorials that I am wondering whether actually purchasing this book was actually worth it. In fact, it has now been put back into my garage (where I store stuff that I don’t need ready access to) and I doubt I am going to be pulling it out again. The thing is that there are videos on Youtube, and the aforementioned tutorial sites such as CodeAcademy and W3Schools (among others). The other thing that I think this book lacked, which would have been something that would have gone a long way to actually helping me at least to learn, is the lack of exercises to do and problems to solve. Reading about something is all well and good, but the best way to learn is to actually get out there and do it.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1226977695
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review 2016-11-01 00:00
Programming Livecode for the Real Beginner
Programming Livecode for the Real Beginn... Programming Livecode for the Real Beginner - Mark Schonewille Takes you through the various parts of a LiveCode program.
The author really knows his stuff, but the writing style is a bit dry.
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review 2016-03-14 06:11
A Reference Book for a very Useful Computer Language
The C++ Programming Language - Bjarne Stroustrup

Honestly, I'm not really sure why I ended up reading this book. Okay, part of it may have something to do with my interest in getting back into computer programming but considering that the only programming language I have ever used is BASIC (though you could also throw in Neverwinter Nights, namely because they did have a pretty sophisticated editing suite which allowed me an enormous amount of freedom when I spent three years of my life playing around with it) and C++ is probably not the first computer language somebody should jump into, especially an amateur like me. Still, I had mentioned it to my Dad and he leant me this book, suggesting that while I wouldn't be able to use it to actually learn the language (there are websites for that), it would give me an idea of how computer languages work.

 

Mind you, these days people don't even use BASIC anymore (yes, they do have Visual Basic, but with the development of the internet I've never had a need to go down that path, and anyway I wanted something that was a little more versatile than BASIC). I still remember back when I was a kid that the main languages, other than BASIC, were FORTRAN, PASCAL, C, and Assembler. These days you seem to have a plethora of languages that are being used, though C++ still seems to be a very popular one in many areas. Actually, it was interesting to see how some of the functions in Javascript have been lifted straight out of C++.

 

It was also interesting to learn that Stroustrup developed the language while working at Bell Technologies (the telephone company), though this wasn't outlined in the book. I thought it was a little odd that this was a language developed commercially, yet Bell doesn't seem to hold any rights over the use of the language. The fact that you don't even have to pay for a compiler also suggests that people don't have to pay money to Bell just to code in C++. As you probably guess, C++ is actually a reworking of an older language, namely C, and Stroustrup does spend some time outlining the differences.

 

As I have indicated, C++ isn't a language for beginners, and this certainly isn't the type of book that one would read to actually learn how to code in the language. Rather, he outlines the various aspects of the language, and even goes as far to show us how he used it to create a desktop calculator. The problem that I would find with learning C++ is that you need to run it through a compiler, which is basically a program that allows the computer to read the code. It isn't like HTML, or even Javascript, where you write your code and then run it through Firefox to see if it works.

 

Still, even after all these years, C++ is still a very popular, and widely used, computer language. In fact quite a lot of games (including the Fallout series) were written using this language. It certainly is one of those languages that any computer programmer worth his salt should know, it is just that it is probably better to learn it another way than to grab a copy of this book.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1571077181
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review 2016-02-07 03:09
The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer by David Leavitt, narrated by Paul Michael Garcia
The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer - Paul Michael Garcia,David Leavitt

This is a tough book for me to review, because at least 50% of it went in one ear and out the other. Don't get me wrong, it was interesting, it's just that I couldn't follow a lot of it.

Part of the problem was the diagrams. I'm pretty sure there were a lot of them, especially in the first half of the book, and the poor narrator had to read all of it out loud. I have a feeling that, even if I weren't a more visual learner, I still would have had trouble following the various long series of letters or numbers used to demonstrate Turing's ideas.

The other problem was that the first half of the book didn't seem to have a solid organizational structure. The author would discuss people or ideas that didn't seem to have much connection to Turing, then move onto another subject, and then another. It was interesting stuff, but I had trouble seeing how it all connected.

Thankfully, the latter half was much less confusing. I enjoyed the sections on Turing's cryptography work during World War II, and I loved the sections near the end on Turing's ideas about machine learning and artificial intelligence. While I didn't always agree with his theories about how a machine might best be taught, which were based on old-fashioned child rearing techniques (and which I recognize would not necessarily have been considered old-fashioned from his perspective), I found his way of thinking about machines to be fascinating.

He questioned the prevailing tendency to take human superiority for granted. Others repeatedly stated that machines could never be equal to or more superior than humans for various reasons: they would never enjoy the taste of strawberries and cream, never write a sonnet, never listen to a piece of music and feel moved, and never fall in love or cause someone else to fall in love with them. Turing refuted many of these statements and questioned the importance of others. For example, someone probably could create a machine that could enjoy the taste of strawberries and cream, but why would anyone want to do that? The bit about sonnets inspired one of my favorite quotes: “A sonnet written by a machine will be better appreciated by a machine.” To his mind, machines would have a way of viewing and appreciating the world that would likely be different from, rather than inferior to, the way humans would view and appreciate it.

He was also adamant that, when judging machines' intelligence and ability to think, they not be held to higher standards than humans. Humans require training and education before they can properly perform new tasks, and it's accepted that humans will occasionally make mistakes. Why shouldn't machines be given a similar amount of leeway?

I did think that Turing's “imitation game,” which has come to be called the Turing test, contradicted some of his other ideas, since it was based on a machine's ability to convince a human interrogator that it was human. Rather than accepting the idea that a machine's thought processes and ability to appreciate the world would probably be different from a human's, the Turing test brings us back to the idea of human superiority – a machine could only be said to “think” if it could imitate a human being enough to be mistaken for one.

I had thought this book would contain more biographical information than it did, but it was really more about Turing's ideas. The one aspect of Turing's personal life that the author did frequently write about was his homosexuality. The book briefly mentioned that he might not have been permitted to do cryptanalysis work at Bletchley Park if the government had known he was gay, and I was a little amazed that they didn't know, since he seemed to be fairly open about it. I have a feeling that the only reason he kept out of trouble for so long was because he was quiet, shy, and socially awkward. Although I knew from the start of the book that things wouldn't end well for Turing, the final section of the book, on his ill-fated relationship with Arnold Murray, his conviction for gross indecency, the estrogen injections that he was given to “cure” him of his homosexuality, and his eventual suicide (the author also briefly brings up the possibility that Turing was assassinated), was heartbreaking.

And here I thought this was going to be a short review. Anyway, the first half of this book was a mess and would probably have been better in paper or e-book form. The second half of the book was much better and made up for the first half somewhat. According to several reviews, Andrew Hodges' Alan Turing: The Enigma is overall a much better book, so I may see about reading it (or, more likely, listening to it) at some point in the future.

Additional Comments:

I enjoyed Paul Michael Garcia's narration, but the audio quality was very uneven, sometimes noticeably changing in the middle of a sentence.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-11 10:19
A Kids Book for Machine Code Programming
Usborne Introduction To Machine Code For Beginners - Lisa Watts

When I was a kid I dreamed of becoming a computer programmer so that I could write computer games, but unfortunately that dream never came about, despite the fact that I did manage to write computer games when I was a kid. Well, come to think of it, while I am not a 'paid' or 'university qualified' computer programmer, I must say that I did end up managing to write computer games, not only in BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), but also using game development programs such as the Bards Tale Construction Set and Neverwinter Nights (which came with its own construction set). In fact, I ended up spending so much time developing a very complex world with the Neverwinter Nights construction set that I have pretty much exhausted the last of my desire to write computer games, and so these days, even if I do play some games, it tends to be a short shoot-em up, usually on the Commodore 64 emulator, and usually this game:

 

Time Pilot

 

 

Anyway, the reason I mentioned that was because as a kid, to assist me in writing computer games, I wanted to learn how to program in Machine Code, or Assembler as it is more commonly known (though Machine Code and Assembler are slightly different). What I did not understand as kid, but what I have come to understand now after reading this book (for the first time by the way, because as a kid I ended up being too distracted by the games I had on my computer to actually begin learning how to write in machine code) I have come to understand the difficulties of such a task. With what I have learnt from this book, the programs that I wrote when I was a kid would have actually been much easier to write in BASIC than in machine code because the difficulty with machine code is that you are telling the computer, using its own language, what to do, and that is not an easy task. In fact, the thing about BASIC (and other languages such as Java, PHP, C++, et al) is that they are designed so that we humans can tell a computer what to do without resorting to its language (which at its core is a series of 0s and 1s, which represent an on state and an off state).

 

The next step up is what is called Hexadecimal, which is a numerical set that uses a base of sixteen (as opposed to 10, as we are used to, namely because a computer actually works in sets of 8, as opposed to 10, which is why when you go and purchase memory you end up purchasing them at 8 gig, 16 gig, 32 gig, etc). Anyway, here is a program, in the computer's language, that is used to add the number 4 to the number 2:

 

3E, 02

C6, 04

32, 577F

C9

 

So, if that doesn't make any sense to you, then you are in good company because I assure you that that collection of letters and numbers makes no sense to many of the computer scientists and IT gurus out there today. The reason is that, as I have mentioned above, because many of them simply do not use, or even need to use, machine code since much easier languages have already been developed to remove that necessity. These days the only reason that one would resort to the use of machine code is when one needs to do something that these other languages cannot do, and what is then done is that a program is created by the programmer so that if the need to do that again comes about a simple command is then used without having to go back and use machine code once again.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/948383931
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