Software Development

Follow a new Zend framework book

Pádraic Brady is in the midst of creating a book about the Zend framework. On its own, not huge news, but the way its being done is most interesting. It will be free to read, and new chapters will be added as they are written. Also each paragraph can be commented on. So think something is not clear or not correct, tell the author right there. Bruce Eckel has in the past done similar things with his ‘Thinking in …’ books, and he believes it makes for a better book.

The new zend framework book is called Surviving The Deep End, and can be found on its own site. 2 chapters are currently available

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Software Development

Review of Coder To Developer

I was a little disappointed after reading this book. I am a fan of Mike Gunderloy’s writing style (print & web), but I feel this book wasn’t quite honest. Yes there is plenty of great info for those new to programming or with limited experience, but the book is very C#/.NET centric. Anyone who doesn’t use C# may feel a bit ripped off. All code examples are in C# and many of the tools mentioned are relevant to .NET only. A number of sections are very helicopter in view, with links to relevant in depth information that can be found elsewhere. For example, patterns get just 2 pages. Those with limited programming experience (possibly self taught), or coming from non object orientated or 4GL environments will get the most out of this book, others will find it a light read.

Readability 4 from 5
Subject Depth 3 from 5

Title Coder To Developer
Year 2004
Author Mike Gunderloy
Publisher Sybex
Pages 352

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Software Development

Review of The Art of SQL

Starting with a small negative. This book frustrated me at times. There is no shortage of great (and essential) information from start to finish, but the constant ‘battle’ references, and over explanation on non essential points drove me crazy. eg. In the discussion of atomicity, an extra couple of sentences on its 5th century Greek origins is a distraction. That aside, this is the best practical SQL/Relation model book I have read. Chapter 6, ‘The Nine Situations’ is perfect to make yourself look at data situations in different ways, and the different ways of handling them. I had not thought of breaking them down like this. Don’t even think of reading this book unless you have a number of years of RDBMS experience & some failure, as you will be left behind. Even experienced database developers will be challenged, and may have to come back to a topic later (like I did a number of times), for it to make its point. An almost brilliant book.

Readability 3 from 5
Subject Depth 5 from 5

Authors Stephane Faroult & Peter Robson
Publisher O’Reilly
Year 2006
Pages 367
ISBN 0596008945

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Software Development

Review of Code Complete 2nd edition

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Many programmers with years of experience (including myself), can become a little lazy or narrow in their thoughts about programming and software construction. This is the book to break this. The breadth of the book is amazing and makes you think about your code and coding style in different ways. Examples are numerous and finely grained to get the individual point. Also they cross languages such as C++, Java, VB, APL and pseudo code so they point is not obscured by language differences. Chapter 20 on ‘Software Quality’ is the stand out, and will expand all developers minds from narrow short term considerations that can often prevail.

Readability 4 from 5
Subject Depth 5 from 5

Title Code Complete (2nd edition)
Year 2004
ISBN 978-0735619678
Author Steve McConnell
Publisher Microsoft Press

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Software Development

Review of ‘Producing Open Source Software’ by Karl Fogel

Anyone who has searched through the massive list of projects at Sourceforge and other places will know they are full of interesting ideas that never got off the ground, or stall after a couple of releases. And it is not an outrageous statement that a group of developers with all the required technical skills does not necessarily make a successful project, especially when the target audience are not fellow developers. At the same time FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) has the ability to draw on such a diverse range of people in both background and abilities and the potential is enormous when properly harnessed and directed.
Continue reading

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FOSS

The Pursuit of Free Software (as in free speech)

It is a quiet time work wise at the moment, so I decided to clean out some of the accumulated gunk that has has gathered on the hard drive. Apps, articles etc that looked good, get downloaded and not seen again for 6 months.

Saved away was a pdf of the book “Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M.Stallman”. I must say I didn’t read every essay to the last line, but it was an interesting read, if a little dogmatic.

I admit that I came to start using free software / open source software, for “…purely practical reasons…” as he believes most recent users have. To me, the freedom aspect was a bonus, which I have recently begun to better understand. The first time I installed a GNU/Linux distribution, I had no interest in diving into the source code and extending or modifying and redistributing. I wanted a solid OS, and that is what I got for a very good price. The same when I installed any of a number of other apps such as Firefox, Apache, MySQL (the list goes on). But recently I have been looking at extending/forking an existing app which is no longer being maintained. If this had been a proprietary application I wouldn’t be in a position to do so. Fortunately the license is GPL so I have the freedom to do so. Maybe I am wasting my time and the Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ nature of the marketplace, had already weeded out an inferior product, but I don’t think this is true. So build on the work of others and reinvent less of the wheel. If it fails it doesn’t matter at least there was the opportunity. More details to follow once the alpha is ready.

Back to the essays. The term “free software” has lost the battle with the term “open source”. This is my belief, not his admission, but I see his frustration in that what he has long advocated, has been narrowed from his vision, and become the dominant position in the wider community. “Free Software” has just conveyed the wrong message in its title for most people. It has a long history, but is it to late to modify the term “free software”? To me the word liberty makes more sense, but was apparently rejected long ago. To me a change may reinvigorate the discussion on the real freedom of software, rather than the marketing use of the term “open source”.

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