Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Review of Python for Kids

For those looking for a good introduction to Python, whether it be for yourself or your kids, I would highly recommend this. It's easy enough for beginners to pick up easily and although it's tailored towards kids, adults can learn just as much from it.
It goes from installing what you need to run Python to programming up a simple game. It's interesting enough to keep kids going and wanting to learn more.
For a beginning programmer, this is a great way to get started by learning a nice language that's used in all sorts of fields now. I would definitely recommend it.

Disclaimer: This book was received as part of the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program. All comments represent my thoughts and opinions.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Review of Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 1

Okay, I've been doing engineering stuff for a few years now and I always go to the internet to find information about various parts as needed. It works well but sometimes it's a pain because all the information is scattered all over the place. If you want it all in a convenient place, look no further! This is just what you need. If you're looking for something to teach you and build on concepts, then you'll want to look elsewhere. This is more a reference book than something that will teach you how to integrate everything together.
To really understand the beauty of this book, you really need to have a background in electronics. This won't go much over the theory you want if you need to learn. You can get information from the book and it does a pretty good job explaining things in practical terms, which I find very welcoming, but it's not really a good place to learn about the theory of RC circuits, individual components and why they work the way they do, etc. I do find it useful for getting a quick look at how something works because you're bound to forget some details as time goes on.
I will say I didn't read through the entire thing, because it's not meant to be used that way, but I did go through and look at all the sections to see what kind of information is there and I would have to say it's definitely something to keep around the workshop.
Bravo to the authors in putting something very useful together. This will get used over and over again, especially when I start to teach my kids more about electronics as they get older.

Disclaimer: This book was received as part of the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program. All comments represent my thoughts and opinions.

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Review of The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide (Now in Color!), 2nd Edition

Well, I'm on a roll right now going through LEGO books and I have to say this is an EXCELLENT reference book for anyone that's in to LEGO bricks. I haven't really played with them for a while and what little I've dabbled in lately has been Technic/Mindstorms stuff so looking through his book brought back some memories.
As a note up front, this guide only goes through all the basic bricks and doesn't really touch the custom parts for different series or Technic stuff. Just good ol' plain LEGOs.
First off, it's in color and that's a definite plus. I'm sure you could get by with B&W but having it color makes things that much more clear and vivid.
The book starts with the basics such as names, sizes, and things like that and explains how they connect together and stay together because of the design. Kind of a nice way to get started for a new person.
Then it goes into basic techniques on how to build better walls by overlapping. Very handy for different types of builds. They were thorough on things too, which was quite welcome.
Then they moved to more project related elements that added to the basics explained before with a lot of good pictures and explanations on how to put it together. I liked how you could build a ball. It did a good job documenting it all. Eventually, you get to how you build an entire Sphinx. Not bad.
One feature I thought was nice was an explanation on how to make mosaics or patterns from real images. You take a digital picture, pixelate it quite a bit, and then it's possible to make something similar. There are also techniques using graph paper that help in making patterns that I never thought about doing.
Then in the Appendix, there was a parts listing for basically every brick with it's name, size, and description. That is very handy for anyone looking for something specific.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone as a reference. It's well done and a great book to have.

Disclaimer: This book was received as part of the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program. All comments represent my thoughts and opinions.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Review of The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 1

I got this book because my son is quickly approaching the age of being able to play a lot with LEGO and I figured it would be a handy reference to have. I know when I was a kid, I was always wondering what I could build with my LEGOs but just wasn't creative enough and didn't have anything handy to use as a reference and ended up giving up not long after.
So, with this book, they state there are about 200 models with about 25 brick by brick breakdowns and I would say, that is definitely the case. I didn't realize there were only 25 brick by brick breakdowns and was disappointed after I went through it all. The 25 or so cases where there was a nice breakdown, I was very happy with as it did a pretty good job detailing how to build each model. I did notice some inconsistencies as I went through the models as some had detailed pictures of what pieces you needed while some were a little lacking. I chalked it up to laziness at first to the author until I realized that this was a collaborative effort by many people, hence the differences from build to build. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that but it again took me by surprise, mainly because of my lack of attention. I would have preferred a little more consistency and thoroughness on the "brick by brick" builds of some as they weren't close to brick by brick, especially the more complicated ones but overall, they did a good job.
I guess in some ways, this book is great because it does give some brick by brick breakdowns. With that, you get the base knowledge and then you can make slight modifications on your own. In fact, that is probably better because it forces you to be more creative yourself and learn how to adapt.
The hardest part about this book is if you wanted to build most of the items in the book, you're going to have to have a VERY LARGE set of LEGO bricks to play with. Otherwise, you're not going to be able to make most of the models. Hopefully you have a big set.
I did like the color pictures and they did add a lot to the builds. I think that was great.
I'm going to give this 4 stars. It's not perfect but they did a lot of good things that given the resources, would really help any budding LEGOmaniac.

Disclaimer: This book was received as part of the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program. All comments represent my thoughts and opinions.