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Mr. R. J. Jepps "Richard Jepps" (Cambridge UK)

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Suse 10.1 (Linux)
Suse 10.1 (Linux)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reliable server OS, 16 Jan. 2007
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This review is from: Suse 10.1 (Linux) (CD-ROM)
I had a very solid installation of SUSE Linux Professional 9.3, so I waited until SUSE 10.1 came out, thinking that it would iron out the worst bugs in 10.0.

Installation was difficult. I made a mistake repartitioning the disks, and lost the lot. Fortunately I'd made a backup before I started. Installation was unreliable. Each time I set up my SoundBlaster card (an ongoing problem) I broke things so badly that a fresh install was the quickest option. Installation was painfully slow and started asking questions after 20 minutes (by which time I'd gone away). This doesn't matter the first time. It does matter the sixth time. After disabling the built-in AC97 chip in the BIOS setup, installation and setup number seven just worked. If the last sentence would still look like nonsense after several hours with a friendly search engine, installing Linux might not be for you!

Now that it's installed and set up with my favourite software SUSE 10.1 is a solid operating system, with a very smart (KDE) graphical user interface. You choose either Gnome or KDE or both during installation.

As a server operating system it has been totally reliable. Apache, Subversion, JBoss, Samba, CUPS and Oracle 10 XE all sit quietly in the background day after day after interminable day!

It's also pretty good at mundane client tasks. Thunderbird is a very competent mail client. The junk controls aren't quite as good as Outlook's yet, but they're learning all the time. On the other hand there are some great open source plug-ins. My favourite is ToCyrillic that lets you type cyrillic characters with a standard QWERTY keyboard.

For software development, Eclipse, Java and JBossIDE all install and run with no fuss.

SUSE 10.1 makes better use of my 3GB RAM than XP does by default (I know I could tweak XP, but not tweaking is so much easier). For any given process I'm not sure that any given Linux application would win a flat out race against its Windows version, but somehow everything seems to run much more smoothly without all the pauses and interruptions that Windows throws in to brighten up your working day.

As a desktop client it's very usable for day to day tasks. It doesn't give me quite the same confidence that I had with 9.3, as the automatic updates are very slow, and Firefox hangs or crashes from time to time, although I think this might be related to Skype. The Zen updater was broken for a long time, but the latest patches sort this out.

The last few days I've been trying to set up Skype, a Creative webcam and a microphone. This has been a world of RPM dependency mismatches, failed builds from source and general pain. I'm waiting for the one guy in the whole world who cares about Linux drivers for Creative webcams to build his RPMs against the latest kernel. At least there is one guy who cares ...

SUSE 10.1 just isn't as multi-media friendly as Windows XP out of the box. It plays CDs without any trouble, although neither Real Player nor Amarok seem quite at home somehow. I gave up trying to play DVDs. I just didn't have the patience when I knew I could boot into XP and have it playing in seconds. So far it's only multimedia stuff that causes me to reboot into XP. Mea culpa, but I'm a busy man.

SUSE 10.1 takes some technical knowledge and an awful lot of patience to set up. If you have the knowledge, the patience and a real job to do, then this is a great product to do it with. This is the third version of SUSE Linux that I've used. Each version has been noticably more capable than the one before, and with each new version my confidence has grown to push it harder than the one before.

Despite the installation, update and multi-media problems it's so good at what it does best that it has earned its 4 stars.

The next version, SUSE 10.2 is now available.

SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3
SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new world of software to explore, 2 Aug. 2005
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I started using SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 at home about 6 months ago and recently upgraded to 9.3.
For a user, the experience out of the box is pretty much like Windows - only basic software installed, and as long as the installation goes smoothly, it's all pretty straightforward. Mine wasn't - but this can happen with Windows too!
The installatation at 9.3 went a bit more smoothly than at 9.2. This time it recognized my SATA drive on the default AHCI setting. This means that I can dual boot with Windows XP without changing the BIOS settings each time I want to switch. HOORAH! Or at least: hoorah! I find that I very rarely boot into XP, because Linux is much more interesting!
I still have two driver problems:
1. my sound card doesn't work - I think this is an IRQ clash that Windows can resolve but Linux can't. This is a standard hazard when you buy a machine that is built to run Windows (Dell Dimension 8400).
2. 3D acceleration is disabled for my ATI Radeon X800SE graphics card. ATI do not supply open source drivers. You can download a proprietary driver, but this isn't nearly as good as the Windows equivalent, and installation involves editing configuration files. A mistake here can cause hardware damage, so this isn't very consumer friendly.
3D acceleration is required for some games and advanced graphics applications. You don't really need it the rest of the time. The ATI driver is a mixed blessing - it is noticably inferior to its Windows equivalent. You end up with a slightly clunky user experience either way. If you are buying a machine to run Linux on, I couldn't recommend an ATI graphics card.
Apart from the above there was very little set up. YAST detected everything well enough to produce a working system without any driver tweaking.
As a user, the experience is fairly familiar, although the applications are different. All my home web-browsing is now done with Firefox. I really like it. It has good compatibility and has features that I miss when I revert to IE. You don't need a virus scanner, and I don't miss the pauses that I get from my various Windows boxes when McAffee decides to scan a massive zip file for the n-hundredth time.
So far so good. Desktop users can stop reading here!
As a power user/administrator Linux and Windows are from different planets. For a start, most Linux software is open source and free of charge. This gives a home user access to software that would cost a small fortune in micro dollars in the Windows world. Web servers, databases, office and graphics all for nothing - with source code and instant access to a lively (and often feisty) development community. There are few black and white guarantees for the corporate-minded - although you can buy these from Novell, IBM, and others at the usual prices.
Administration is the usual. Setting up a network is no fun, and worse when it's mixed Windows/Linux. But what's new!
The SUSE distribution comes with recent stable releases of a huge range of software, however I did find that these were often not the latest released versions - so the DVD isn't as useful as it could be. I usually get an rpm for the latest version from the internet and deal with the inevitable version conflicts. Inside the box, both DVD and CD disks are supplied, there are two high quality manuals and 90 days of installation support. The usual petty penny-pinching is completely absent, and you get the feeling that the product is there for your convenience, rather than a corporate cash-cow. The manuals tell you how to set up the most common servers (apache, squid, CVS, subversion, ...)
I have used UNIX at work, but not for about 10 years. Doing my own Linux administration was a bit of a shock at first, and there is a huge learning curve. I've started to use vi for editing config files, set up apache, eclipse, java and subversion, become hooked on KAsteroids, sworn at Samba, Dell and ATI, and generally had a whole load of geek-style fun. I can't tell you if SUSE Linux is the best distribution, but just at the moment I'm hooked, and my Windows XP laptop is feeling a bit lonely.

Executable UML: How to Build Class Models
Executable UML: How to Build Class Models
by Leon Starr
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical but heavy reading, 20 Sept. 2003
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This book is targetted at intermediate UML modellers. It is too heavy and detailed for students and UML beginners (try UML Distilled instead). The content is heavily focussed on class diagrams. The other diagrams don't get more than a passing mention.
If you regularly model complicated systems to any level of detail then this book should have something for you. The idea behind the book is that your completed UML model will be run through a model compiler, and turned into executable code. To a degree this limits its usefulness because UML model compilers are still relatively rare even in mainstream software houses. If you don't have a compiler you will still build better models, but you won't be able to measure how much better they are.
Leon's models go beyond anything I've seen in the real world in terms of precision, completeness and detailed capture of business rules. I'm still sceptical whether they go far enough to be "executable". Leon describes the concept of "colouring" - a layer on top of the UML model that provides code generation hints to the model compiler. Unfortunately there are no substantial examples, so it is difficult to visualise how much needs to be added to the UML to be able to execute the model.
The rules for producing executable UML are in some respects obvious, but very tempting to "optimise" away when looking for a short cut in delivery time. Leon's case for following the rules is solid gold, as I remember every time that I don't!
This is another book that doesn't contain any amazing revelations, but does provide a lot of high quality information for the diligent practitioner.
I would quite happily keep it on my desk for reference but for one disappointing detail - the cover is very light weight and curled very badly before I had read more than a few chapters. It really could do with a cover that can stand some heavy use. At the price I have to say that the publisher has made a miserly cost saving.
Happy modelling!

Test Driven Development (The Addison-Wesley Signature Series)
Test Driven Development (The Addison-Wesley Signature Series)
by Kent Beck
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.99

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Test driven development by example, 7 Sept. 2003
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This book starts as means to go on - first write a test! OK I'm exaggerating, the first test is on page 4. The point is that this is a very practical book, and it gives very clear insights into one man's method of development. This is the most interesting part of the book - otherwise you could stop once you'd read the title!
The concepts will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of extreme programming (XP), although it isn't necessary to use XP to use test-driven development. The concepts themselves are both simple and elegant, and therefore easy to understand. The catch is that to put the concepts into practice requires a great deal of conscious effort and self discipline. Believing in TDD is not enough, you really have to live it!
I'm at the believing stage myself. I have used it on occasions when stuck on difficult problems and it really does work, although I haven't yet cultivated the patience to use it all the time. Some of the problems that I've come across in practice are addressed here (e.g. use of mock objects instead of a database/remote server/flaky module).
The book is written in a very easy-to-read style, and a very even tempo. It's aimed at an intermediate level audience, the main problem that a beginner is likely to have is not in understanding how, but why.
There are a few little quibbles: most of the code is in Java, but in the middle of the book the author switches to Python, before mercifully switching back again to finish. I also noticed that one of the tasks that had been crossed off as done was deliberately broken to move forward, without being uncrossed. This looks accidental, but it gnawed at me as I read on. Minor flaws in a well written book.

Sharpe's Enemy [VHS] [1994]
Sharpe's Enemy [VHS] [1994]
Offered by Discountdiscs-UK : Dispatched daily from the UK.
Price: £1.97

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Low budget, high quality historical drama., 23 May 2003
Sharpe's Enemy is the fourth of the films in the series, from the golden age before the screenwriters lost the plot.
The usual cast are on high form and many of the more interesting characters put in an appearance - a thoroughly vicious and evil Hakeswell, played to twitching perfection by Pete Postlethwaite, the supercilious and dastardly Major Ducos, Assumpta Serna as the damaged and ferocious Teresa, a very saucy performance by Liz Hurley, and a strong supporting cast including a rocket artillery lieutenant, a chef, and a repentant deserter.
The low budget is obvious enough to fans of the book, but although the big battle scenes are scaled right down, the film is true to the spirit of the original: fast, furious and with crisp interplay between the characters, and some touches of humour that adds a little geniality to one of the grimmer tales in the series.
The screenplays that most closely follow Bernard Cornwell's originals are markedly superior to those that have been heavily reworked for the small screen (e.g. the abysmal Sharpe's Gold). As one of the former, Sharpe's Enemy is highly recommended.

The Elements of UML™ Style (SIGS Reference Library)
The Elements of UML™ Style (SIGS Reference Library)
by Scott W. Ambler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small, stylish & solid, 6 May 2003
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This is a very neat book in pocket-sized format. It won't teach you the UML if you don't already know it, but it does give you strong guidelines on how to create UML diagrams that clearly convey information to the reader.
If you spend more of your time modelling than coding then this book is top value for money - and won't take up much desk space. If you are developing your own UML style guidelines then save yourself a lot of time - this book condenses a lot of knowledge into its tiny volume.
There is a discernable influence from the author's previous work, e.g. on Agile Modelling, however you don't need to have bought into this philosophy to gain practical benefits from the author's considerable modelling experience.
Less useful for beginners and hard core programmers, excellent value for designers, modellers and architects.

The Manager Pool: Patterns for Radical Leadership (Software Patterns Series)
The Manager Pool: Patterns for Radical Leadership (Software Patterns Series)
by Don Sherwood Olson
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Style obscures content., 17 Mar. 2003
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The book contains 61 patterns which could mostly be described as "soft-skills for management". If you're a conservative hard-skills manager you might as well save your money - you're going to hate everything in this book, no matter how much you need it.
For everyone else there's some high quality content, in tune with the currently popular people-centric methodologies. The pattern format is ideal as it reduces the ideas to individual concepts, easily explained in 2-3 page chapters. However, the folksy American writing style and mnemonics make extracting the content much harder than it should be. In particular the pattern names could do with being translated into names that are meaningful outside of California for the benefit of the English-speaking world.
Another small but irritating point is that the patterns are not summarised on the inside cover in the incredibly useful GoF style. The 8 pattern summaries on the back cover show how close they came to getting this right.
To summarise - if you're a manager who believes in soft skills, and people-centric working practices, and you can cope with the excessive American cultural references, then there are some good ideas in short, digestible chapters.

Hitler's Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted
Hitler's Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted
by R.H.S. Stolfi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard work rewarded, 22 Dec. 2002
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On first reading I found this book both heavy going and badly flawed. There is a lot of repetition which obscures the arguments, and the "what if" sections are written in the past tense, which I found both confusing and dangerous when using this work as a reference. For example "By 10 October, the Germans commanded most Soviet territory up to the Volga River. The seizure of Moscow, the advance beyond it, ...". Of course the Germans didn't seize Moscow - so be careful when reading the chapter "Constructing an alternative historical past".
I think the book would be better without this chapter, as it is self-defeating to argue that the Germans could have won, when the rest of the book argues convincingly that Hitler's psychology would prevent the German forces from fully exploiting their advantage in military doctrine that might otherwise have provided the means to achieve final victory.
Having said all this, the book also contains some highly original insights into Hitler's psychology, that provide convincing explanations for those of Hitler's actions that are considered inexplicable blunders in conventional historical thinking.
The repetition has to be forgiven if the book is to survive sustained academic scrutiny. I am not sure that the book's theories will necessarily prevail over the conventional. However, the book did provide a key to unlock Hitler's reasons for confronting the Allied powers and the decisions that provoked the declaration of war in 1939.
I think that for its originality, if not its readability, this book deserves its five stars.

Achtung Panzer!: The Development of Tank Warfare (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS)
Achtung Panzer!: The Development of Tank Warfare (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS)
by Heinz Guderian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blitz-read, 22 Dec. 2002
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This book was written in German and first published in 1937, but if you're expecting a turgid and dated account, think again! The writing is crisp and pacy, and soon sucks you in to the author's absolute passion for his subject.
This book describes the theory of "Blitzkrieg" as we now know it (although this word is a journalist's invention), and explains how the theory was developed. The tank engagements of the Great War are analysed in detail, and the contribution of other branches of the army, and to a lesser extent the air force, examined.
Guderian argues convincingly for the mechanization of infantry and artillery - in contrast to the narrow parochial arguments of the majority of his contemporaries, and considers supply, transport, paratroops (also untested in 1937), smoke and chemical weapons etc.
The most fascinating thing about this book is that although it reads like an incisive historical account, it was actually written BEFORE the start of the Second World War, when the arguments contained in the book were more or less pure theory.
There are perhaps a few places where Guderian exaggerates his case, but in the context of a still contraversial theory which had yet to be generally accepted, his sales pitch is remarkably restrained.
The maps tend to be sketch quality, however there are some nice black and white plates (about 40 photographs) mostly depicting early armour. These must have been added later as one of the photographs shows the 1940 paratroop drop on Rotterdam.
A thoroughly remarkable book that predicted the future with remarkable accuracy.

Agile Modeling: Effective Practices for eXtreme Programming and the Unified Process (Computer Science)
Agile Modeling: Effective Practices for eXtreme Programming and the Unified Process (Computer Science)
by Scott Ambler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £36.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK - but get work to pay., 19 Sept. 2002
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... This book is fine if you are going to implement Agile Modelling at work - or if you are exploring to your current processes. However from the point of view of personal development I wouldn't say that this is an essential purchase, and there are probably better investments for your reading time.
Part 4, the section on the AM and the Unified Process, is particularly disappointing. The overview of the process is unclear, and the book concentrates on the Enterprise Unified Process - the author's own super set of the ubiquituous Rational Unified Process.
The author is also very shy of the "Use Case Driven" concept of the RUP. To be fair he explains why, and I entirely agree with his assessment, however because he doesn't describe the RUP in it's own terminology it's difficult to reconcile his description with the process as I know it.
When it comes down to implementation detail there is plenty of material, so it's not all bad news. This book may have more appeal if you are an AM/XP convert, but for me Part 4 aimed at the right target, but missed!

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