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J. S. Hardman "Consultant software developer (contractor)" (Near London, UK)
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RHS Botany for Gardeners: The Art and Science of Gardening Explained & Explored
RHS Botany for Gardeners: The Art and Science of Gardening Explained & Explored
by Geoff Hodge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.94

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Botany for gardeners, pitched at a sensible level for most readers, 24 Nov. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At age 11, I chose which secondary school to go to, based on the simple question of which schools in the area included botany O-level in their curriculum. There was only one, so that was where I went. Unfortunately, they withdrew the subject before I got to study it. I wasn't pleased. However, I did do biology, which included some botany. And since then, my interest in botany has not waned. I do plenty of gardening, including growing fruit and vegetables. I also do voluntary conservation work, including coppicing, hedge laying, re-planting etc.

Based on that background, it's fair to say that this is a book that should interest me. And, I'm happy to say that it does. It's a great book, that I wish had been available when I did my O level biology etc. The diagrams and artwork are great, the explanations of the science are very well done - at a level that provides good explanation but without going too deep into the science. The range of subjects covered is excellent too. I'll list a few and why they are useful to me, but the coverage goes well beyond this:

* The Plant Kingdom, including algae, mosses, lichens, ferns, conifers, flowering plants, hybrids and cultivars - all things that are present in my garden

* The structure of plants (form and function) - buds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, bulbs - giving a basic explanation that is useful to any gardener

* Inner Workings - cells, photosynthesis, nutrition, hormones - again, useful to any gardener trying to get the best from his/her garden

* Reproduction, germination, sowing, saving seeds - the basics that everybody needs to know about, if you don't want to spend a fortune at the garden centre every year

* Soil, pH, nutrition, pruning, light - knowledge needed to get the best from your garden

* Pests - insects, fungi, viral, bacterial, parasitic, breeding for resistance - if you've lost entire crops (as I have over the years) to blight, slugs, cabbage fly, etc., then this will be interesting to you.

It's a great range of subjects, explained at a reasonable level, with great illustrations. It also feels like a proper book should (you'll know what I mean when you pick it up). The paper is slightly yellow, and some of the print is quite small, so readers of a certain age might want a decent reading lamp, but the book is so good in other ways that it's worth putting up with the paper and font size.

Recommended.


Case Logic BEBP115 Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop/Tablet
Case Logic BEBP115 Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop/Tablet
Offered by Appods
Price: £41.18

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but for my usage, there are better, 24 Nov. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Over the years I have tried/used many different backpacks and rucksacks, using different ones for different purposes or in different scenarios. When it comes to carrying a laptop etc, or carrying office type stuff, my preference has been to use either the `Swissgear GA-7301-14F00 Hudson 15.4 Inch Laptop Backpack' or the `Targus TCG650 Metro Notebook Backpack 15.4"'. Both have huge capacity, lots of sections, flexibility, the ability to stand upright, and good protection.

So, the question is, does this `Case Logic BEBP115 Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop/Tablet' fill a purpose/scenario that either of those other two does not, particularly when those others are available at a lower price?

Well, even when fully loaded, this Case Logic Backpack looks more professional, with sleek lines, black colouring etc. It has surprisingly good capacity, although not as good as the backpacks mentioned above. It has one security pocket (facing your back), so people cannot open the pocket and steal the contents when you are carrying this on your back in a crowd. It also provides good ventilation channels to keep your back dry. It even fits into most overhead luggage racks/bins as well. And it has a 25 year quality guarantee.

On the downside, this Case Logic Backpack does not stand upright, which I find really annoying. Every time I put it on the floor, the backpack topples over. The grab handle on top may be too small for anybody with large hands - it's only just big enough for me. The individual storage areas are not designed as well as the Targus or the SwissGear, meaning that the contents are not organised as well, and are not protected as well (from other things in the backpack). If used in the way shown in the screenshots on the product page, I would expect my phone and MP3 player to be stolen within days when travelling on the London Underground (you don't want to know how many times I have had backpack pockets unzipped in the melee that is the London Underground at rush hour). The pockets are also not so great if you want to keep drinks easily available. Drinks put in the side pockets are at risk of falling out when the backpack topples over. Importantly, I also find that this Case Logic Backpack sits too high on my back. The only way to adjust it to sit lower results in it hanging away from my back, which is not comfortable at all. The bits you pull (I don't know what to call them) when opening and closing zips do not feel like they will last long (time will tell).

So, a professional looking backpack, but for the way I use my backpacks this is one that really does not compete with offerings from Targus and Swissgear. I might use this one when travelling on trains that I know have small luggage racks (e.g. Southern commuter services), on flights just for limited carry-on stuff, or when going to meetings/conferences where my other backpacks would look out of place, but otherwise I'll be sticking with Targus and Swissgear. That's not to say that this is bad - it isn't (although the toppling over is really annoying). It's a good backpack (if expensive), it's just that for my usage, there are ones that work better for me. Some people think the ones that I prefer are just far too big - for those people, this Case Logic backpack may be better suited.


Go Coco Coconut Water 500ml (Pack of 12)
Go Coco Coconut Water 500ml (Pack of 12)
Offered by GoCoco
Price: £19.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for use during serious exercise, 3 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I drink Go Coco coconut water to avoid dehydration during exercise. I have drunk other coconut waters previously (e.g. Cocofina), but the Go Coco is more palatable. Coconut water is a bit like marmite - some people love it, some people hate it. Having worked on tropical islands when much younger, I'm well acquainted with the taste of fresh coconut water, as well as rehydration mixes such as Dioralyte. Particularly when working hard, I find coconut water refreshing, as well as rehydrating.

One advantage coconut water has over some other drinks, is that in a room with subdued lighting, it looks like plain water. That means that if I at an event where people are not supposed to take in drinks from outside, as the place running the event wants to sell their own vastly over-priced drinks, I can sneakily fill a glass with my own coconut water and nobody is any the wiser. I got through quite a few bottles like that at a dance event that ran this week, and am ordering more to replenish my supply now.

Recommended for anybody who likes coconut water (not the same as coconut milk!)


Fractals: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Fractals: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Kenneth Falconer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to fractals, best for those reasonably comfortable with mathematics, 2 Nov. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am one of those people who is very visual, and who finds it fascinating to identify patterns in things, particularly things that are not man-made. I also develop computer software, and have developed games software (in the dim and distant past), including generation of landscapes for use in games. I have been aware of fractals for a long time, and have implemented simple fractals when exploring ways of developing landscapes for use in games. It is with that background, and on-going study for an OU degree including maths and computing, that I read Kenneth Falconer's "Fractals: A Very Short Introduction".

For me, with my background and reasonable mathematics knowledge, I found this book fascinating. I would have liked it to have gone further and to have included more graphical examples. It is, however, "A Very Short Introduction", so is obviously limited in how much content it can have. For me, it leads me on to find other books on the subject. However, I suspect that, for readers less comfortable with mathematics, the balance of this introductory book could usefully have been changed, possibly with more graphical examples and less of the underlying mathematics.

So, good for me. Possibly, not so good for those who are less comfortable with mathematics and computer simulation.


The Kill List (Audiogo)
The Kill List (Audiogo)
by Frederick Forsyth
Edition: Audio CD

3.0 out of 5 stars Topical and well researched, but not one of Forsyth's best, 26 Oct. 2013
This review is from: The Kill List (Audiogo) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I listen to audio CDs whilst driving. With some, it's easy to follow the characters and the story from beginning to end, with others the story jumps around from character to character and it is easy to lose track of who is who, or which character is being referred to in a particular piece of the story. With Frederick Forsyth's "The Kill List" I found that early in the story I lost track of who was who, but as it went on, it became easier to follow. Whether it was because of that or not, I just didn't find the story gripping. Topical yes, well research yes, but gripping no. It also felt like it was written to appeal to a larger audience by including both US and UK personnel. Perhaps that's over-cynical, but that's how it came across.

Whilst the story is ok, it is not great. The reading by John Chancer is mostly ok, although his British accents could really do with some work. Overall, it's ok, but it's certainly not one of Frederick Forsyth's best.


Ranorex Test Automation Guide
Ranorex Test Automation Guide
by Ranorex
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not much different to what can be found online, 20 Oct. 2013
Automation of user interface testing is an area where people really want guidance on best practices, as done badly it can be a maintenance nightmare with low return on investment. If you want step-by-step instructions on how to use the Ranorex toolset, then this book is fine (but not much different to what is available online, and with the drawback of not having an easy way to search for the detail you are looking for). If you want best practices, this book really doesn't provide the answers. We've built up significantly more knowledge about best practices in my current team than are described in this book. I read it end-to-end, and one of my colleagues had a good skim through it - I don't think either of us found anything in it that we didn't already know.

Not recommended.


Plumen 001 ES E27 Screw Fitting 11 Watt CFL Designer Low Energy Light Bulb, 8 Year Lifetime
Plumen 001 ES E27 Screw Fitting 11 Watt CFL Designer Low Energy Light Bulb, 8 Year Lifetime
Price: £18.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Big, whacky, fast to illuminate, 28 Sept. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Plumen Low Energy Light Bulb is a bit whacky (probably why it won Design of the Year 2011). But if you have the right place for it, it looks great. It is big though, so it may not fit where your previous bulb did. It comes on very quickly (strangely, it seems to illuminate quicker than some old-fashioned filament bulbs in the same room, which I had never previously realised even had a delay). It produces a reasonable colour light - a bit yellow for my taste, but I normally use natural daylight bulbs when I can get hold of them. It's equivalent to a 56W filament bulb. This one has a screw fitting, so if you have bayonet sockets, this particular one is not for you.

I cannot comment on lifetime - the manufacturer claims 8000 hours. I'll update this review when (if) it fails.


Notes to a Software Team Leader: Growing Self Organizing Teams (Unabridged)
Notes to a Software Team Leader: Growing Self Organizing Teams (Unabridged)
Offered by Audible Ltd

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some useful content, but I was hoping for more, 28 Sept. 2013
I bought "Notes to a Software Team Leader" in audio form, to listen to whilst driving. For most books, this works well, allowing me to use "dead" time to some purpose other than just getting from A to B. However, even though it is well read, I think I would have preferred "Notes to a Software Team Leader" in printed form, simply because it would allow me to think about one topic before moving on to the next. In audio form, whilst driving, it is simply not possible (well, not safe anyway) to keep pausing the audio, rewinding a bit, replaying bits etc., in order to think about each topic or statement. As a result, I actually listened to the whole book 3 or 4 times.

In terms of content, I was a bit disappointed. Roy Osherove wrote a useful book on unit testing (second edition due out any day now), so I had high hopes for this book. Whilst it does contain some pearls of wisdom, including some bits that would cause quite a stir at some places I have worked, much of the time I felt like I was hearing words but not useful content. The really useful content could have been summed up in something far shorter.

So, it's ok. I have made use of some of the ideas (e.g. doing one task each week that takes me slightly out of my comfort zone, and encouraging my team to do the same) so it has been useful, but I was expecting much more. I'd suggest getting it in printed form rather than audio, or at least make sure you are using audio equipment that allows you to pause and rewind easily.


Personal Kanban: Mapping Work / Navigating Life
Personal Kanban: Mapping Work / Navigating Life
by Jim Benson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Applying Kanban both inside and outside work, 2 Sept. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I work in a software development environment where we use both Scrum and Kanban at different times. Outside work, I've made do with an electronic diary/to-do list, managed using an application that I developed that does various useful things, including keeping the diary/to-do data on my PC synchronised with mobile devices, so that myself and my wife have access to our shared diary from our smart-phones etc. Having used Kanban at work, and having already read one book about Kanban (by Henrik Kniberg), I thought I'd read "Personal Kanban: Mapping Work, Navigating Life" to see if it offered any good ideas about how to organise my outside-work stuff even better than it already was.

"Personal Kanban" is an easy read, stretched over 194 pages (including index etc). I say stretched, as there are very wide margins on every page, and the text feels padded. A number of books that I have read about Lean/Agile techniques have been to-the-point, with no padding, and hence very short. I quite like that, and certainly found myself for the first third of this book wondering where the really useful content would be. If you are new to Kanban and Lean techniques in general, you may find the first bit more useful than I did as it is building up understanding of why techniques are useful as opposed to how to use them.

The latter part of this book felt much more useful, bringing together the Kanban idea of Work-in-Progress limits, the Time Management Matrix (which has been stuck to my whiteboard as a reminder for a few years already), metrics (possibly more useful in a work environment), Maslow's hierarchy of needs (anybody who has studied even introductory management will have seen that before), Subjective Well-Being, the Agile "retrospective" etc. The book does not prescribe one system for organising yourself based on all of those ideas, but shows some cases, and gives the reader things to experiment with. For me, the key thing I have taken away from this book is the difference between push and pull. That has been the big problem with the diary management software that I wrote a couple of years ago - it resulted in a lot of work being pushed into my queue for today, rather than me pulling things into today. I'll definitely be making a change to that functionality based on ideas from this book, limiting how many work items are automatically pushed into today. I think that will make managing the diary that myself and my wife use much more satisfying. I've also put together a project board in Excel, based on material from this book, to help visualise the work-in-progress and future work for my team at work.

So, possibly not the first Kanban book that I would recommend people to read, but definitely one that adds useful ideas to how people might use Kanban. So, even if you have read Kniberg's book, you might want to still read this one. Even with the feeling of padding, I still read it in one day, which has been a day well spent, both for personal and work use.

Recommended.


Scrum and XP from the Trenches (Enterprise Software Development)
Scrum and XP from the Trenches (Enterprise Software Development)
by Henrik Kniberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Short, informal, but very useful, 31 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
First impressions when opening "Scrum and XP from the Trenches: How we do Scrum" are "ugh, what nasty yellow paper" and "wow, poor quality pictures". However, once past that initial impression, it's a very useful book. As documented in the book itself, it was written by the author in three days, whilst he had a fever. As a result, it does read like a brain-dump done quickly, rather than like a professionally edited book. "Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban", by the same author, is much better in that respect. However, a short, easy to read, brain-dump like this can sometimes be refreshingly informal. I quite liked it for a change, although I'm glad not all books are done this way.

Ignoring the paper, quality of the images, and some of the errors in the language used, the content is actually very useful. It's basically how one company does Scrum and XP, and so I found it interesting to compare how the company I work for does it against the company that Henrik Kniberg works for does it. I certainly picked up a few ideas that I will propose trying where I work, some of which could be big improvements, making things more efficient and more sustainable. It also reminded me that a few things we used to do, we have slipped out of the habit of doing. Reading this has spurred me on to get those things done again as they did add value. Of course, there are also things that the author's company does that we do differently, and I see no reason to change. As the author says, there are many ways of doing things with Scrum, and each team/company should identify what works for them.

So, for me as somebody who has been working in a distributed Agile team, doing both Scrum and Kanban, as well as aspects of XP (which the book touches on, but not in detail), this book has been useful in spurring me on to make some changes. I suspect it would be very useful for people completely new to Agile as well.

Recommended.


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