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An Introduction to GCC
An Introduction to GCC
by Richard M Stallman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Very small and very informative, 27 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: An Introduction to GCC (Paperback)
When I first learnt to program, I did so using an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) called Codeblocks. As a result, whilst I became a decent coder, the actual mechanisms underlying the compilation of my program passed me by. In fact, I could write code but I needed to use the Codeblocks interface to compile what I had written. I had no idea about command-line compilation and a rudimentary idea of the steps your computer takes to go from your high level source (in my case C++) to machine code.

I am ignorant no more (I hope)! This book, whilst only around 120 pages in length contains a brief enough description of the GNU C Compiler and in doing so provides a totally general grounding in the steps of compilation. First off, let me begin with pre-requisites: A familiarity with Unix/GNU Linux OS's (I was running Ubuntu 11.10) and a passable knowledge of either C or C++ (functions, variable declarations, if, for, while etc...) and no mathematics. Regarding the OS, you ought to be familiar with working from the command line.

The book is pretty much a guided tour to using gcc in a command line environment detailing the list of options that can be tacked onto the end of the command. For example `-l' will link against a defined library, `-S' will assemble your code only, not fully compile and a host of other options. First off is an interesting history of gcc followed by a chapter detailing the various steps that what is confusingly called the `compiler' takes (e.g. the compiler -> pre-processes, assembles, compiles and then links your code). There is a very short but very good introduction to the difference between static and dynamic linking and make-files are briefly covered with enough being said to help out a beginner.

The pre-processor itself is given an entire chapter, which is very helpful as it further reinforces the fact that it is the `first stage in the compilation pipeline'. Later in the book there is also a very good chapter about optimizing program performance letting you in on some of the ways the compiler tweaks your code, things like loop-unrolling and CSE (Common Sub-Expression Elimination). Debugging is covered also, as is the compilation of a C++ program with g++. As another reviewer mentioned, there is a revealing and helpful discussion of C++ templates. You will also learn to use the archiver to create your own libraries which is very helpful. I found the chapter on platform specific options very interesting as it increases your awareness of the importance of considering different systems and details how gcc can be used to help.

The code samples (which are in C and C++) when they appear are well explained and often not so long that you would not want to type them out yourself, they further enhance the learning allowing you apply what you have learnt and see it work. Whilst the writing of the book could never be called imaginative, it is clear and unambiguous.

In short the quality of information for the price and size is fantastic. As a programmer of any half decent level you will want to know what compilation involves and whilst this book is specific to gcc and g++ the concepts within it are quite general. I read through this in a few days and found that I could look at makefiles and gcc commands with plenty of options with more confidence and a good idea of what was meant. I have also used the handy trouble-shooting section a few times so it's a handy reference.

Banjo-Kazooie (N64)
Banjo-Kazooie (N64)

5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional game for a great console, 27 Dec 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Banjo-Kazooie (N64) (Video Game)
I recently set up my N64 for the first time in around 12-13 years. The exact date was 06.12.13. My interest in this game had been re-awakened by the complete lack of enthusiasm I was showing for modern consoles.

Technically speaking, for its time it is a great looking game with very crisp visuals that clearly pushed the N64 to its limit. It's use of a significant number of textures to create more realistic worlds is well documented. The music is incredibly catchy and really tailor made to each level. You can feel a particular level's theme through
it's music. Very good indeed. Clearly a lot of time went into creating this game.

Still on a technical stand point this game does have one particularly frustrating flaw. The sometimes jumpy and un-predictable camera angles which by their quick switching have caused me to plummet a long way quite a few times! But this really is a minor flaw, and it is rather hard to fault this game further. Admittedly the visuals may seem dated
but for those who grew up with them, it's easily forgotten. The gameplay and variety are all that's needed!

And that's the thing I love about this (and many other Rare/Nintendo titles of this generation) game. The creativity. This is a platform game, but it constantly re-invents itself along the way, requiring shooting, racing and flying. The levels are all
brilliantly designed, each with their own theme (i.e. Deserts, Islands, Winter, swamps etc) and are very impressive to look at. The huge snowman in Freezeezy Peak that dominates the scene is fantastic in particular. Each level is large enough to offer variety and the initial sense of 'Where am I? What do I do?' but small enough to still be realistically conquer-able by your average gamer.

Through these nine levels that are laid out before you, you must venture collecting jigsaw pieces (the game's main 'currency') and musical notes amongst other things. The learning curve is very well judged, but beware: Some of the later puzzles are particularly tricky! And with each new level you are met by different foes each requiring a different way of taking them out. Add into this the very funny and immediately loveable (in some cases!) characters and this really becomes a standout game and in my personal opinion, the finest that the N64 had to offer.

And to my mind, this is why I love the old games so much. They were more like games. Less like movies. Less epic but with plenty more charm. Some of the puzzles are fiendishly difficult and you will get yourself rather flustered in the process of completing this game, but it's worth it. I am not totally against the latest generation consoles, but I really feel that platforming in particular belongs on Nintendo. And not really new Nintendo either. I just feel that many games have become too big and too complex. A smaller game like BK lovingly crafted by Rareware programmers in their heyday is just what the doctor ordered. Get your old N64 out of the cupboard and get gaming!

Excel VBA Programming For Dummies
Excel VBA Programming For Dummies
by John Walkenbach
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.95

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great intro, gets you up to a practical level very quickly, 6 Oct 2013
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To put my review into a meaningful context, I will say now that I have been programming for 2-3 years. The thing with this book though, is that almost nowhere within it did I encounter any terminology I would have found intimidating as a beginner. I had wanted to program VBA as it is enormously useful and this book was exactly what I was after.

The author begins by stating the strengths of Excel VBA and also it's history which is interesting enough. He then goes on to talk about the way that VBA programs are structured (if, for, while statements etc.) and how to write handy subroutines and functions. All the while the code is kept to small examples between 5-20 lines and I found that I learnt quickly from copying and tweaking them. These succinct code snippets definitely made progress quick and I found myself using what I had learnt practically straight away in my job.

The books aim is this: To get you to a good enough level of VBA that you can structure your programs nicely and create nice looking forms but giving you the knowledge you need to delve fearlessly into the standard help documentation. Once I had understood how to initialize my variables and write loops and conditional statements, browsing the help led to me finding all sorts of fantastic functions and methods that I had been previously ignorant of. As a result I would say my productivity increased considerably.

The author also provides, early on, a very important chapter on the Excel Object Model(which tells you how the Excel objects are linked to one another) and once you have an understanding of this, the rest will come much more easily. Later on, Chart Objects and User Forms are covered and I think this is the level to which most people would be happy to get to. The examples are well explained and there are no unpleasant large chunks of code left without explanation.

This intro assumes no prior knowledge of anything computer related (provided you can turn your PC on and know how to open Excel of course!) and is ideal for the beginner. Furthermore, Excel (indeed MS Office) is ubiquitous and learning a bit of VBA can be rewarding and eventually save you a lot of time. One of the aspects I did like was the author's tendency to clearly explain using examples and not some silly analogy (which I have experienced in Dummies guides before). Additionally, key points are made and then re-iterated throughout the text.

Mr Spreadsheet, as the author is also known also has a great web page with many VBA programs and ideas on it, that I found myself making large use of. He also has what I guess is a follow-up book to this, which may be my next port of call.

All in all, if you want to learn VBA this is a very good place to start for the experienced programmer and the beginner alike. Although I would have liked to have seen a bit more on Chart Objects. I would also like to apologise for the poor and rather dull structure of this review, I am no Shakespeare!

Ivor Horton's Beginning Visual C++ 2010
Ivor Horton's Beginning Visual C++ 2010
Price: 29.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Very good Introduction...., 26 Nov 2012
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If you are wanting to dive into C++ and then learn how to develop on a Windows Platform, I would say that this book would be well worth the money. I had already had about a years worth of C++ experience before coming to this book, and I wished it had been the first book I read on C++.

The reason I say that is because (like most beginning programmers, I supsect) I was disappointed with the fact that my previous book (and many others at beginning level that I looked at) contained no information about creating a Graphical User Interface (GUI) with C++. Horton's book changes this.

Initially the book tells you about the various types of applications that you can develop with VS2010. It informs you of the difference between managed and native C++ and takes you through the basics of creating GUI environments with MFC and Windows Forms. I personally found that this provided a great motivation, as the ease (especially with Windows Forms) with which you can develop GUIs is rather impressive.

The first half of the book is dedicated to teaching all the fundamentals of the C++ Language and also the C++/CLI Language which is essentially C++ with amendments. The C++ will be used when coding MFC Applications and the C++/CLI used for Windows Forms.

After this has been covered Horton provides a good chapter on the basics of using the Windows API and then its down to GUI business with the remainder of the book. From my experience I would advise readers to go down the road of Windows Forms and Managed C++ as it is certainly easier. However at the end of the book regardless of which path you choose you will have developed a substatial application with a pretty interface and learnt enough to begin experimenting on your own.

Additionally, as you would expect from the title, the reader is slowly schooled in the features (by no means all of them!) of VS2010, which is definately the development environment of choice for many employers... Which is good news if you are using this to further employment opportunities. However, as someone else pointed out earlier, you will need more than the free VS Express Edition to use the MFC.

A good introduction, but I find that MFC layouts and protocol were perhaps not as simple as more modern methods like Windows Forms, or Qt in particular. In actual fact, if you are looking to learn GUI programming and have some basic C++ already I recommend getting into Qt and looking at the books available for that. Sorry for what seems like a long old rant, but I do like to go into detail.... Good book. Well suited to a newcomer.

Computer Science Illuminated
Computer Science Illuminated
by Nell B. Dale
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An introduction like no other!, 30 Aug 2012
Before I picked up this book I had been programming for around a year. This need not have been the case. After graduating I wanted to learn more about computer science, and found many books either too bland or too dense. What I wanted was a quality introduction to the general field of computer science.

This book was/is it. First off the style is so disarmingly polite and helpful that you are actually amazed by how much you have learnt after reading the text. The authors introduce the layered 'Onion' of the computer world and delve into each layer in a fair amount of accessible and engaging detail.

First off we learn about number systems and data representation, which is of fundamental importance. The book then takes us on a tour of logic gates and transistors and explains how things work at the hardware level. Next, come arguably the best part of the book, the programming 'layer'. The authors use a free to download virtual machine, that, by being tweaked and changed allows the user to get a really good idea of what is going on inside your computer when you ask it to execute an instruction. The CPU is covered in detail and the fetch-execute cycle is described well and given more meaning by the virtual machine.

By the end of the programming chapter you will have an idea about machine language, assembly language and higher level languages and I should imagine that you would feel confident to pursue futher study. Excellent chapters on networks, operating systems and the limitations of computing follow. Additionally, an intuitive approach to algorithmic analysis is given and big 'O' notation explained.

The key thing to realise about this book is that it gives a thorough overview and prepares you well for perhaps a degree in the subject. It introduces all the terminology that many other books assume that you will know. But do not be fooled into thinking the subject or this book an easy one. Its ideas are challenging, but you are in great hands with the authors and resources the book has available.

For ANYONE wishing to get into computer science, this is well worth the money.

Learning Python (Animal Guide)
Learning Python (Animal Guide)
by Mark Lutz
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good. Very Informative., 24 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I had around a years experience in C++ before coming to use this book. I kept in mind what me as a beginner would have been thinking whilst reading through the first few technical chapters of the book, and I suspect that, as other people have said, this is not appropriate if you have never programmed before.

However, having some coding experience already I would say I got the most out of this book. Early on it elucidates the strengths and weaknesses of Python and helps the reader to understand the fundamental differences of Python to other languages like C & C++. After this teh author spends a large amount of time talking about Pythons Fundamental types. This was my only gripe with the book. Around 150-200 pages are devoted to showcasing Pythons Built ins, methods and attributes, which to me seems a bit a waste of time as the help function and the dir() function can give so much help in this respects.

However, this is really a minor gripe and depends on how confident you feel. The book contains a very good chapter of dynamic typing, and from then on highlights key concepts very well with ample pieces of code to demonstrate the points.

I have to recommend Python anyhow for a beginner language due to the phenomenal amount of help available online and also the ease of use of IDLE, Pythonds dynamic GUI. This makes learnign quicker and more interactive.

Advanced Engineering Mathematics
Advanced Engineering Mathematics
by K.A. Stroud
Edition: Paperback
Price: 34.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great for what it is, 25 Jan 2012
If you are an engineering student of any discipline, this book is probably essential. It is less valuable for physicists & mathematicians.

To be fair, I was studying physics and found it very elucidating. It offered clear derivations of math methods and then would take you onto and example to show you how to apply it. This is pretty much what is needed if you are an undergraduate physicist or engineer, as the book does not get hung up on mathematical rigour... It just derives what you need to know and then shows you how to do it, and with questions at the end of each chapter this learning is further enhanced.

If you are a mathematics student it would probably be wise to get a book that contains more mathematical rigour and a broader subject matter. Books like Boas & Kreyszig.

That being said though, this is great for what it is. A no fuss maths book for engineers and scientists that begins slowly and takes you from numerical methods to vector calculus & complex analysis. I did learn alot from it.

Vector Calculus (Springer Undergraduate Mathematics Series)
Vector Calculus (Springer Undergraduate Mathematics Series)
by Paul C. Matthews
Edition: Paperback
Price: 24.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, 20 Sep 2011
Another reviewer on here says pretty much all I want to say. But I would like to emphasis the point that this book does require more than elementary vector arithmetic and such before you can grasp it really. I used this in the second year of my degree and had a good knowlegde of vectors and single variable calculus under my belt. I was laos familiar with aspects of multivariable calculus.

That said, this book was great in developing on that. It concisely delivers information well enough to ensure a graduate level understanding of all sorts of physics/engineering topics. It does pay special attention to integral theorems, grad div and curl and has a very useful section on suffix notation. This all paves the way for the penultimate chapter on Cartesian tensors. I did find it hard going at times, but if you are looking for a book that gives you a good grounding ready for application to a physical science, this is a good one.

C++ For Dummies
C++ For Dummies
by Stephen R. Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Good. But not excpetional., 14 Sep 2011
This review is from: C++ For Dummies (Paperback)
I jumped into C++ around a year ago having not really taken a proper look at the books for beginners that were on offer, as a result I went straight to this dummies guide. To be honest, I can actually understand alot of peoples issues with this book, however if it is given time and some extra background reading it is a good companion.

To put my review into some context, my background was this: No prior experience in C++ but a good background in Maths and some programming in Matlab. Having said that the book assumes you know what an integer is, in addition to floating point numbers. Information on these can be sourced quickly online. The only other time Maths makes an appearance is in an explanation of binary and hexadecimal number systems. But thats all, again these topics are more clearly explained online, so Maths shouldn't be a barrier to anyone (as some do tend to worry about this).

As for the actual C++ it starts off gently enough introducing variable types, flow control and logical operations, the majority of things are well explained but the authoer is partial to a ridiculous analogy or two. There were times when a simple explanation would suffice and perhaps an example to back it up, but instead he opts to tell some daft story. This is rare enough though, and really any issues you do find with this book, they can be put right by either expreimenting or seeking out sources online.

C++ for Dummies, I think, gives a good enough intro that after completion you are good enough to experiment and pursue ideas alone. But it is not the best intro out there. C++ by Steven heller or the Herbert Schildt book are probaably safer bets.

I would however, once half way through this or any intro book get yourself a copy of Bjarne Stroustrup's C++ Programming Language, the seminal book and an outstanding reference. Using this in companionship with any intro book is a great way to learn.

So in short: Good book, but there are better. Shop around, read intros and prefaces... flick through contents.

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