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jakeone (Cambridge)
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New Urban Farmer
New Urban Farmer
by Celia Brooks Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible, easy-to-follow instructions. Idiot-proof, 22 Mar 2010
This review is from: New Urban Farmer (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have never gardened in my life (except for a bit of composting and weeding!) but I recently acquired a piece of land which I'm turning into a vegetable garden. I've bought gardening books in the past and have found them to be full of jargon and inadequate instructions, more aimed at the intermediate gardener rather than the complete beginner. This book is a breath of fresh air - accessible, unpretentious and brilliantly laid out.

Each chapter begins with a table of the month showing you what you can plant (indoors and out), what you can harvest and (whilst it's not a cookbook) - a cooking recipe for that particular fruit or vegetable, which is a nice touch. You'll be surprised how much there is to do in a month! Each chapter then tells you what you should be doing specifically around the garden for that month: digging up potatoes, turning your compost, stop harvesting asparagus, start planting brassicas, control herbs, ventilate your greenhouse, harvest tomatoes - and so on... It's brilliant. It's like having a seasoned gardener telling you what you should do, when you should do it.

I also love the style of the book - little vignettes of life around the garden and neighbourhood - without being pretentious and effected.

It's gardening for beginners as it should be - simple, unpretentious and clearly laid out.

I missed most of last season but I'm pretty sure I'm off to a flying start this time round with this book by my side. The title of the book says it all - thoroughly recommended for the New Urban Farmer.


Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
by Steven D. Levitt
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Economics has never been so readable, 18 Mar 2010
I studied Economics at university and hated every moment of it. I wonder if things would have been different if the authors were my lecturers. What Superfreakonomics does is demonstrate in an entertaining and highly-readable fashion many economic ideas in a social context. The result is humourous, thought-provoking and for those who like to discover new things, there are many "I never thought of that before" moments.

Whilst very readable, one needs to take some of the conclusions they reach with a pinch of salt until further investigation allows. But the book is not an academic textbook and doesn't pretend to be. Due to space limitations the authors make conclusions which may be false or certainly need further research (specifically the chapter dealing with global warming). In fairness, the authors acknowledge this where relevant.

It's not an academic dry text and that - believe me - is a great thing. Even if the reader's interest does not lie in economics, the effect of making one think and seeing the world differently will make this an enjoyable read to anyone who simply enjoys learning and discovering new ideas.


Freesourcing: How to Start a Business with No Money
Freesourcing: How to Start a Business with No Money
by Jonathan Yates
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.23

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing earth-shattering, 22 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I commend the author's attempt to show people that there are options out there - that you don't have to let a lack of money stop you from starting a business; that you can think of ways to do things without money. However, I felt that much of the advice was pretty obvious. Maybe it's just me.

Have you heard of Freecycle? Do you know about the free MS Office alternative, Open Office? Do you know about the Open Source movement? Do you know about bartering? Have you thought about asking family to help you out? Have you thought about using LinkedIn to network with potential customers? This is the sort of advice to be found in the book. I suppose if you have not heard of the aforementioned options/services, then the book could be quite useful, but for me (and I guess many other people) there was nothing new.

I also felt some of the advice would result in a false economy, i.e. the time you put in is disproportionate to the returns you'd get. For example, if you were an accountant and needed to buy some accounting software, isn't it better to just bite the bullet and borrow the money from the bank, get your software and start fee-generating work immediately? It's a false economy to barter/scrimp/save/scrounge for a month.

Ultimately, I don't think the book is saying anything new. Most people who start a business know (even if it's only on an instinctual level) how to "bootstrap" and get going with little or no money.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 10, 2010 6:46 PM GMT


JavaScript: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
JavaScript: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals)
by David Sawyer McFarland
Edition: Paperback

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last, real world Javascript answers, 30 Dec 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As some other reviews point out, this book won't teach you much about JavaScript per se, but it will teach you an awful lot about the JavaScript library, JQuery. At first, I was put off by this because I was convinced I needed to learn "raw" JavaScript. This book changed my mind.

"Raw" JavaScript can be quite cumbersome to use and many frequent tasks facing a web developer have to be written from scratch and tested for compatibility across multiple browser versions. Rather than attempt all this yourself, the author advises you to use a JavaScript library (e.g. JQuery) where many of the repetitive tasks facing web developers, e.g. building galleries, validating forms, hiding/showing elements etc. have already been written and tested for you. JQuery is basically JavaScript with most of the cross-browser incompatibilities eliminated and with added, powerful functionality to handle the most common tasks facing web developers.

Having seen the power and convenience of JQuery, I wouldn't worry too much about learning raw JavaScript - unless you had very specific requirements that JQuery couldn't handle. Indeed, this book has made my other purchase - a dry 800 page book about JavaScript - obsolete.

The best thing is that it tackles all the most common tasks you'll face in the "real world" - just take a look at its contents to see what I mean. Indeed, I can't envision a client-side feature that you couldn't implement with JQuery - and this book shows you most of them.

My only gripe is that there is a lot of repetition in the book. Some may welcome this as it certainly does make the text easy to read and understand but it also adds to its thickness :) Personally, I think by the time you get to page 260, you should know that line X is creating a variable or line Y is calling a function etc.

Thoroughly recommended for those who want to add a bit of JavaScript spice to their websites without taking the masochistic route of learning raw JavaScript. An understanding of HTML and CSS is recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2011 1:51 PM BST


Supper for a Song
Supper for a Song
by Tamasin Day-Lewis
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice recipes, but certainly not cheap, 12 Nov 2009
This review is from: Supper for a Song (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The recipes featured are tempting and the book's design and presentation is wonderful. However, the book is certainly NOT about eating on the cheap or using up leftovers. I don't know many people who have a "whole organic chicken" or "saffron stamens" lying around. Indeed, it seems that the book makes very little effort - very little indeed - to adhere to its original objective of cooking for the cost-conscious. (Listing "leftover chicken" in the ingredients section occasionally, when you remember, is not going to fool anyone...)

I could not help but feel cheated by the title. In fact, had this book been more honest and just presented itself as an upmarket cookbook, I would have given it 4-5 stars. But for for what it's trying to pass itself off as, it only annoys and infuriates the reader. At best, it's disingenuous, at worst it's downright dishonest, hence two stars.

Buy it for the recipes (because many of them do look delicious) but don't buy it thinking it will let you eat cheaply, it won't.


Accounts Demystified: The Astonishingly Simple Guide to Accounting
Accounts Demystified: The Astonishingly Simple Guide to Accounting
by Anthony Rice
Edition: Paperback

75 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically clear, 16 Oct 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I own a couple of businesses but had always left the accounting stuff to my accountants. That's OK up to a point but when you begin to understand the importance of the "numbers" in your business, you cannot, with good conscience, leave it entirely in the hands of others. Whether you like it or not (and I don't), accounts are vital to showing a business what is going wrong, what is going well - and what to do next. No sane business person can ignore this.

Years of "learned helplessness", disinterest and apathy meant I always believed accounting was just something that was beyond me. I tried several books (all of which were very dry) but they all tended to start off simply but become more complex. This book is different and it was this book that finally helped me understand accounting. Whilst it won't make you an accountant (and maybe that's not a bad thing!) it will teach you all you need to know as a business owner or someone working in the accounts department of a small business. I can now talk confidently and more intelligibly about my business figures with my accountant and bank manager but also run my businesses more effectively.

In particular, I liked how the author would often say, "Think of it as X" or "Basically, all it really is, is Y" - that really helped clear up a lot of the concepts and put accounting in "human terms" that were much easier to grasp.

I highly recommend it to any business owner or anyone who has to deal with the day-to-day running of any small-medium business. It will put you in a much better driving position and help you steer your business far more effectively.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 9, 2013 12:11 PM BST


Tactics of Hope: Your Guide to Becoming a Global Social Entrepreneur
Tactics of Hope: Your Guide to Becoming a Global Social Entrepreneur
by Wilford Welch
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read full of ideas and inspiration, 29 Aug 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you're an aspiring social entrepreneur looking for that one inspiring idea, this book is for you. The book profiles scores of social entrepreneurs from all over the world, tackling diverse social issues with equally diverse, creative solutions. Some ideas are breathtaking in their ambition, others are refreshingly simple - and all are inspirational.

Whilst the book is not a "how-to" book per se, it does offer plenty of ideas. It shows social entrepreneurship is within everyone's grasp if they want it. Whilst each of the individuals profiled in the book have each done something wonderful in their field, none (by their own admission) are "supermen" or "superwomen". They're just ordinary folks who cared enough about an issue, and started from wherever they were.

Each profile is given approximately five pages or so and outline the problem the social entrepreneur decided to tackle; how they got started; the trials and tribulations they encountered to make their idea a success; and the lessons they learned. Each idea is fascinating: the team who set up a free university in their country for the poorest in society; the female doctor who fought poverty and hopelessness in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro (and who later had her ideas adopted by mainstream hospitals throughout Brazil); the engineers who designed a waterpump to bring clean drinking water to villages - powered by children playing on a merry-go-round; the woman in New Orleans helping people start up businesses or find jobs; the man who convinced companies to donate computers destined for the scrapheap to be used to teach IT to the children of poor families. These are just a few - and they were all a joy to read.

The author positively encourages the reader to become involved with social entrepreneurship and the first few chapters even offer a guide rating how easy the initiatives in the book are to duplicate/modify to fit your own project plans.

Thoroughly recommended to any would-be social entrepreneur out there looking for ideas or inspiration.


Prince of Persia (Xbox 360)
Prince of Persia (Xbox 360)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: 9.98

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive and tedious, 9 Mar 2009
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
I'm a big fan of the earlier Prince games but this one is a disappointment.

True, animation and graphics are stunning but beyond that, the game offers very little challenge or variety. The levels are repetitive and look almost identical and - for some reason - gone are the regular enemy encounters. You may come across one or two enemies per level - and even then they are identical and it's generally a matter of button-bashing to get through.

You begin your quest in a desert and run to various "openings" that lead you through caves and canyons etc. Here you perform your various acrobatic feats with the goal reactivating a garden at the heart of each cave. The game is certainly well animated and it's beautiful to watch but the novelty soon wears off and you feel you are just going through the motions. Once you have activated a garden, you return to the desert and go to the next opening which is - surprise - another network of caves and canyons. You repeat the steps above throughout the game. That's about it.

Furthermore, the game is simply too easy. You have a companion, Eleka, to assist you on your quest. Every time you slip, or mistime a move, Eleka rescues you. Whilst this sounds no different from the "sands of time" mechanism of past Prince games, the difference here is that you can use it as many times as you want, as often as you need. The result? You simply cannot die. This adds to the tedium - there's no sense of challenge or risk as you know whatever happens, you will be resurrected and allowed to re-attempt the move without penalty.

Great to look at, but not much fun.


Beginning CakePHP: From Novice to Professional (Expert's Voice in Web Development)
Beginning CakePHP: From Novice to Professional (Expert's Voice in Web Development)
by David Golding
Edition: Paperback
Price: 30.14

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue, 18 Dec 2008
Very readable guide to CakePHP that makes a comprehensive and useful companion to Cake's own website. The author explains the framework very clearly, breaks down the development procedure in simple steps and there are many "a-ha" moments to be had.

I should point out that it's certainly possible to learn Cake from its website and forego this book. However, my own past efforts were frustrated by encountering the inevitable errors/obstacles during the learning process and finding a lack of documentation/assistance. This book fills that gap nicely. (It would appear that more Cake books are being published now - yes, only three, but three more than when I started!)

The book uses an earlier version of Cake and some of the code is different from how the latest version of Cake does things. (This is particularly noticeable when you use Cake's Bake facility to create controller actions.) This results in some of the code not working if you are working with the latest version of Cake. However, with a little persistence, you can still follow the examples and decipher what's going on. (If nothing else, it's interesting to see how the current version of Cake has streamlined many of its procedures).

To get full benefit from the book, you should be comfortable developing in a LAMP environment (or at least have experience in programming). I installed XAMPP and Cake locally - quite simple to do and recommended. It would also help if you knew good (normalised) database design. Finally, there is a section about using Ajax with Cake which is, I feel, optional.

All in all, a great place to start for those who know PHP and who have finally decided to adopt a framework to speed up development.


Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred 10.0 (PC DVD)
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred 10.0 (PC DVD)

95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voice recognition software has come a long way, 17 Oct 2008
It's unfair of previous reviews to give such low ratings because of their own uninstalled software conflicts or hardware limitations. The fact is, this is voice recognition (VR) as it's meant to be.

I installed the software on my XP-running PC (1GB RAM, 1.7Ghz Pentium processor) without any difficulty and was dictating letters within 20 minutes or so. Whilst the software does not need to be "trained" it is recommended that you take the time to do so. Training is done via Naturally Speaking's "Accuracy Centre" which consists of reading samples of text of various complexity.

I was sceptical of the 99% accuracy boast but having seen it in action, I will happily eat my words. As its name suggests, one of the great things about the software is that it positively encourages you to speak naturally, i.e. don't slow down, don't over-pronounce words, don't - say - words - one - at - a - time. I have a tendency to mumble and talk too quickly but Naturally Speaking adapted to this easily.

The voice commands are simple to use (e.g. "Scratch That", "Bold This", "Select 'xyz'" etc.) and I'm sure that with practice they will become second nature.

I've only used the software in a quiet environment so I'm not sure how it would fare in, say, a noisy office but Naturally Speaking says it factors this in when you calibrate your microphone.

There is a plethora of commands that you can use to navigate programs and Windows itself but this hasn't really appealed to me, I've not used it and so I can't comment. However, if you're just looking for a great piece of software that can handle incredibly accurate dictation at great speeds, this is the market leader. I have used the product exclusively with Word and I'm churning out words at a rate that typists simply cannot match. (I am a touch-typist who can churn out 85 wpm but you can probably do 250 wpm with VR).

If you haven't used VR software before - or it's been a good few years - you will be amazed at how much it's developed.


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