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J. S. Hardman "Consultant software developer (contractor)" (Near London, UK)
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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: £17.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Big, whacky, fast to illuminate, 28 Sep 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 Sep 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: £13.90

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Applying Kanban both inside and outside work, 2 Sep 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.


Leiths How to Cook (Leiths School/Food & Wine)
Leiths How to Cook (Leiths School/Food & Wine)
by Leiths School of Food and Wine
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for the beginner, good for the experienced, 24 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When I am cooking, working from a typical cookbook (not this one), conversations tend to go along the lines of:

Me: "The cookbook says, "Cook potatoes until done. How do I know when they are done"
My Wife: "Put a fork in them"
Me: "And?"
My Wife: "Does the fork go in easily?"
Me: "How easily is easily?"

You get the idea. For me, cookbooks need to use precise language, not woolly language that assumes you were brought up in a family who, for generation after generation, have loved cooking and passed the knowledge from one generation to the next.

I also like cookbooks with lots of pictures, so that I can see what I like the look of, and so that I can see what it should turn out like. And I like a range of recipes from the really simple, to something that looks like it came from a Masterchef final. The odd unusual ingredient is fine too - there are things used in this cookbook that we couldn't get in our local town, but we're between two cities, either of which can source pretty much anything.

At the other extreme, my wife uses cookbooks as a general guide, adapting things here, tweaking things there. She doesn't need all the technique detail, but again likes a picture and likes a clear list of ingredients (that she might then adjust).

So, to find a cookbook that works for us both is not a common occurrence. But, with "Leiths' How to Cook" we have found that book. This mighty tome (I hate to think what it weighs) is clearly presented, full of full colour pictures, not just of the end results, but also showing techniques and intermediate steps (e.g. 12 pictures to show how to fillet a flat fish). The ingredients are clearly presented, and the steps are given in full, glorious, detail, so that I can follow them without having to ask a million questions. The spine of this hardback book has been done so that the book can be left open on a flat surface, with the two opposite pages both flat. The recipes are also laid out so that for most (all?) it isn't necessary to turn a page with hands covered in flour etc.

A brilliant cookbook, with appetising recipes that are presented for use, no matter what level of previous cooking experience the reader has. Highly recommended.


Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban
Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban
by Henrik Kniberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.50

5.0 out of 5 stars One of those books that everybody on a project should read, 24 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having been a contractor for many years prior to my current position, I have experienced working practices at different client sites that have varied from pure waterfall to mostly Agile. In my current position, I am working as part of a distributed team (UK, USA, Australia) using a number of Agile practices, including both Scrum and Kanban.

With that background, I found "Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban" an interesting and useful read. It spurred me on to do some things that fall within my remit (e.g. highlighting the "top 5 recurring bugs"), and it reminded me to draw up some cause-effect diagrams (a technique I have used intermittently for years but without knowing it had a name). It also covered things such as the stable-trunk pattern, the importance of a clear definition of Done (or "ready for system test"), and regular process-improvement meetings (retrospectives) that seem so obvious, but which many teams do not implement. However, for me, the key thing that I gained from this book was the importance of a "work in progress" limit at each point on the project board. One hazard of having experience of working at every point in the SDLC is that so many people call on you to do things, which without a "work in progress" limit eventually becomes unsustainable. Again, this is something I had worked out for myself already, but the idea of formalising a "work in progress" limit across the project board is definitely one of those "of course, why didn't I think of that?" moments.

Whilst the emphasis is on Kanban, this book does talk about Scrum, XP etc. I wonder if it's a book that is more useful if you have already been working in a Lean/Agile environment for a while, but I think it would be useful even if you haven't. For those who are new to Lean/Agile, it may be worth reading Part II before Part I, in order to understand the techniques before seeing how they are used in practice.

Relatively short (always good), easy to read, and very useful. Highly recommended.


Case Logic Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop
Case Logic Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop
Price: £46.31

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Professional looking, but not as practical as some other backpacks, 18 Aug 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 Backpack for 15.6 inch Laptop' fill a purpose/scenario that either of those other two does not, particularly when they are similarly priced?

Well, even when fully loaded, this Case Logic Backpack looks more professional, with sleek lines, black colouring etc. It's reasonably comfortable on your back too, with ventilation channels to keep your back dry. It will also fit 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 is too small, particularly for anybody with large hands. The individual storage areas are not thought through. If used in the way that is shown on the attached details, I would quickly lose my drinking container(s) as they would fall out when the backpack topples over. My favourite pens are too long to sit securely in the place shown for those. There are no velcro straps to hold things in place, so other bits and pieces would not stay in place long. I certainly wouldn't put my cables where shown on the details, as they would soon fall out during use. I also wouldn't put my smartphone in the pocket intended for that - in the crush on the London Underground it would get stolen within days.

So, a professional looking backpack, but one that really does not compete on practicality with similarly priced offerings from Targus and Swissgear. I might use this one when travelling on trains that I know have ridiculously small luggage racks (e.g. Southern commuter services), on flights just for my 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.


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