Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tinkering by Curt Gabrielson

My kids are at the point in their life where they are naturally curious. They're still really young but it's interesting seeing them learn new things. I got this wondering what it would teach me that I could teach them and I have found that it's a nice reference for doing basic science experiments.
About half of the chapters go through a subject matter of some sort and each has a different set of items that can be made or tested out. Think of them as pretty simple projects a kid around 10 could make by themselves if they are handy or they can do it with the help of an adult. Interspersed between chapters, you have notes that are meant more for parents or mentors of kids that want to "tinker." They have some good things to say and of the advice I saw there, the one that stuck out most was that it's okay to be hands off and let kids fail every once in a while. You learn more by failing a couple of times and figuring out what went wrong than by getting it right the first time. I'm not trying to seem full of myself but a lot of things came naturally to me and I got them right the first time but that has also really held me back in some ways because I didn't fail that often. Because of that, I hold back on things I might fail on when I know I should just give it a go. If it breaks, it shouldn't matter but I'm scared that it won't work the first time.
Anyway, for anyone that wants their kids to tinker with things and learn in a hands-on way, this is a great book to pick up.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beautiful LEGO by Mike Doyle

So, I had some LEGOs when I grew up but I never really got into it that much because I either wasn't that creative or because I would make something and then not want to take it apart because I didn't want to lose what I had. Kind of a lame way to grow up with LEGO right?
Well, I was flipping through the list of available products to review as an O'Reilly reviewer and came across Beautiful LEGO. I want to make it known that I received this book for free in return for a review.
I wasn't sure what this would be and as a paid book, unless you really love LEGO or pictures, it's probably not going to be worth the money for the book itself, especially the digital version. The captions for some pictures are on the next page, pictures that span two pages get broken up, and it's kind of a pain in that sense. HOWEVER, the creations made by these various LEGO artists are absolutely amazing!
This book is just very simple. It has pictures of creations and a few, short interviews from various artists. It doesn't tell you how to make anything or give any step-by-step items like typical LEGO related books so if you're looking for that, go elsewhere. If you just want to admire people's creations though, this is excellent.
What I liked most about all of the creations had to be the birds/animals, the architecture, and the vehicles. There are some other impressive items but three mentioned categories really show the creativity and detail that go into these builds. At least that is my opinion on the content.
If I had not received the book for free, I would not have paid money for this, mainly because I'm a cheapskate, but for any LEGO fan or artistic type, this would make an excellent coffee table book for people to thumb through or to give kid's inspiration on what they can do with their bricks. It's an excellent book with wonderful pictures.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Violent Python by TJ O'Connor

This book is an interesting exercise in penetration and security testing for those using Python. In the beginning, it talks about how this book can be used for all sorts of people, from the beginner in Python to more expert Python users. I would have to say that if you're just now learning Python, you should start with a different book and once you have the basics down, then come back to this book. It goes over the basics but doesn't mention anything about syntax so if you don't already know the real basics, you're not getting it here.
Overall, this book is quite useful for learning how to do penetration testing and in some ways, I question if we want to teach people how to write worms and how that type of thing works but honestly, you can find all that information online for free. It's not really the intent of this book either but could be a negative byproduct.
What I wasn't a fan of was the fact that the code steers readers to use an outdate version of Python (2.6) when some of the code and libraries used in the book are actually from a newer, stable version (2.7.1). Being such a new book, it's a bit of a surprise that an outdated code base is used.
I also found the book assumed a little too much of the reader/user. The first chapter goes over the basics and also some basic testing of servers but doesn't explain you have to have one set up that you can test against and if you don't have one to test against, it's hard to test out the code that's given.
Overall, it's pretty good but you really need to know your stuff fairly well for it to really be worthwhile.

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

Friday, May 31, 2013

My Review of Arduino Workshop by John Boxall

Okay, as soon as I saw this book available for review, I had to pick up the book. I actually had a chance to go through it before and was pleased to be able to get a copy of my own.
I have long been a fan of John Boxall and his Arduino tutorials on Tronixstuff and learned a lot from his tutorials. They were always very well written and had great pictures to show how things worked. This book is no different and basically is a print version of what he has online in a more formal setting. This is a must own book for anyone that wants to learn Arduino.
Each chapter in this book touches on the basics to begin with and then progresses through more difficult and complex projects using various sets of hardware. If you really want to be able to go through the entire book, you're going to have to pony up some good money to purchase the hardware. It won't be cheap but it's worth having all those tools at your fingertips for rapid prototyping purposes.
In addition to Arduino information, it also give a very brief overview of basic electronics, which I already know, but would be helpful for anyone that is learning.
Once again, this is a highly recommended book and something I would definitely suggest to anyone that wants to learn Arduino.

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

My Review of Understanding and Using C Pointers

I've read a few online manuals on pointers and even took a beginner C class that touched on pointers. They were all pretty good in getting the basics across but none of those did a great job of explaining pointers like this book did. I have to say it's a wonderful book that goes through every aspect of pointers and really helps you understand all you need to know.
I learn by watching and doing, basically, monkey see, monkey do. Reading about pointers is nice and all but seeing how it works and then being able to put in even a little code really helps solidify concepts for me. The code snippets were nice as they were things I'm accustomed to seeing in the systems I work on some and the diagrams explaining how memory addresses are referenced and change with specific commands really helped out a lot.
I would highly recommend this to anyone learning C and needs more information on pointers or a more seasoned individual that would like to expand their knowledge about pointers.

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

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Review of Blender Master Class

I picked up this book because I still need to learn some CAD modeling for the 3D printer I just purchased. My free options were OpenSCAD, Blender, or Google/Trimble SketchUp. I know Blender is the most powerful of the bunch so I decided on giving it a try.
The book does a really good job in explaining some basics of how everything is set up on the GUI. It's similar to Photoshop in some ways, which can be useful if you use Photoshop. I haven't so it was nice to have all the explanations in the book.
It also goes through a quick run through of GIMP as that will be useful for fully utilizing Blender.
The rest of the book was pretty good but I ended up quitting half way through as it's better suited for modeling life like models instead of doing models you would normally 3D print. You can definitely print things you come up with in Blender but for my purposes 99% of the time, I wouldn't need something as powerful as Blender. If you want to do animation or life like modeling, Blender is perfect. If you want to do architecture, SketchUp is great. If you want to do basic parametric modeling, OpenSCAD works well.
This book, as far as I made it, did a great job taking you step-by-step through how to make a few different models. The images used were very helpful to know how the modeling works.
Overall, I would recommend this book for those doing life like models or animation. If you're looking for something more like engineering models, you'll be better served using something else.

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Review of Programming PHP

I picked this book up because I thought I would try to get into making my own website to be able to post some information. I didn't realize I needed HTML knowledge to get going with PHP but I guess after thinking about it, it makes perfect sense.
Anyway, the book is just like many of the other programming books in that it covers a wide variety of topics and is well organized. I always find it interesting to see the history of how these languages began and this too has a good history.
The content of the book is nice and good enough to get around and know what you are trying to do.
Overall, I would say this is a nice reference to have around.

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Review of The Book of GIMP

I had used GIMP a few times at work since I use Linux there and I basically used it to resize a few images but never really understood the capabilities of the program. I had heard that it was a very powerful editor, somewhat like Photoshop, but didn't really care much to look into it at the time.
Then I needed to do some more advanced things that I wasn't sure I could do with Paint in Windows that I ran in a VM on my machine. I looked online for some information about how to do things and found I could do a whole lot with it.
Well, then I saw this book come up as a reviewable book and I decided I should get it to see what I could get out of the program.
I have yet to go through the entire book as it's pretty hefty but it's an excellent reference. Actually, it's more like a textbook with each chapter having exercises at the end to do. There are plenty of images to go along with each section to show how the image changes when a specific edit is made. It's very useful. The index is also great for finding things you need to do.
All in all, it's a great reference to have to be able to use a free photo editor that has a lot of the capabilities of Photoshop.

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Review of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi

I have been interested in playing with a Raspberry Pi for quite some time and it'll be a while before I do as I have too many other projects to work on right now, but I decided to go through this book to see how useful it would be. I have to say it's definitely a recommended reading for anyone getting into this great, inexpensive computer!
It is quite detailed on how to go through everything from setup to advanced topics like using GPIO to control things and read sensor information. I also think the primer on Python is a great way to get people thinking more about using Python for things. I have been trying to get going in Linux for a bit now and found these instructions, even though it's for the RPi, to be quite useful. There's even a section on how to connect and use an Arduino with the RPi. I appreciate that section!
My only complaint and the reason I gave it 4 stars is the lack of thorough editing before releasing this book. There were multiple grammatical errors in the book that I found to be a bit annoying for a published book, although I know they can be hard to find. I also found a mistake in the code in one of the loops that would make it go forever as one of the variables is never incremented. You need to know a little programming to use what's in this book so most people reading this with some sort of understanding would likely catch the error but for those that are new to it may not.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and found it very useful. Now I need a little more time and my own board to play around with!

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

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Review of Getting Started with MakerBot

I just read the Make magazine about issue about 3D printing and the comparisons of hobby grade printers and decided I had to find out the details of at least one and this book was a good way to delve into it.
One problem or advantage of this particular 3D printer (MakerBot Replicator 2) is that it isn't closed source so if you want to make modifications to it to make it bigger or optimize the programming, you won't be able to. However, because it's closed source, that leaves all the major tuning work for the manufacturer so you get a more straight out of the box and up and running experience with it. Pick your poison.
Most of this book is dedicated towards the basics about 3D printing and what it's about and then setup and using the Replicator 2. Since I still don't know which one I plan on getting, I couldn't really validate these sections but all the instructions made it pretty simple to get up and running with the printer so I think that makes it worth having if you already have this particular printer and need help with it. Otherwise, this book may be too simple for you.
What I found useful for anyone that doesn't have a printer yet and wants to learn more is chapters 8 and 9. They go over the software you can use to make 3D models and things you need to take into consideration. Good stuff there. But then they go into details about how to use currently 3D scanners like the XBox Kinect and the Asus Xtion to get 3D models you can use to make something. That is worth knowing and made this book worth reading.
Overall, I would recommend this is you are planning on purchasing the Replicator 2 and don't have any experience with 3D printing. If not, you can find the information in chapters 8 and 9 elsewhere so it may not be worth it but going through it nonetheless is still a very good idea.

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Review of Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing

I didn't realize this was just a magazine but thought the whole thing was dedicated towards the comparison of all the 3D printer models. I guess it makes sense after I think about it some.
I have been interested in possibly getting a 3D printer this year so this was a nice way to get all the information I needed in one place! Some of the other information in the magazine is better suited for those that already have a printer so while it's nice to read and know, it's not as useful to those that do not have a 3D printer yet.
Reading the comparison was definitely an eye opener to what is actually out there and the capability of the various models. It reviews some of the higher end models but also the affordable ones more to my budget. They did a very good job comparing the print quality by using consistent models to determine which printers worked the best.
Overall, if you're looking at purchasing a 3D printer this year, pick up this magazine. You'll be glad you did. If you are looking for something more detailed about each printer, then you'll probably do better checking online at each individual website.

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