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Daniel Woods (East Kilbride, Scotland)

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AppleScript: The Definitive Guide (Definitive Guides)
AppleScript: The Definitive Guide (Definitive Guides)
by Matt Neuburg
Edition: Paperback

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Useful information presented in an unfocussed format., 15 July 2004
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Unfortunately, this title doesn't live up to the standards typical of O'Reilly publications. The actual information content is good: the author definitely knows his stuff. But being a technical wizard doesn't impart the ability to write well. And it shows.
It takes until chapter 5 before the actual basic syntax of the language is discussed, Chapters 1-4 are busy talking about how flexible AppleScript is (very); how to think when tackling a problem (pretty much the same way as with any other language, thanks); and presenting customised solutions to problems that the author has experienced but that everyone else will view as utterly irrelevent. In addition to this, the author has trouble keeping his eltitist ego under control, with examples of calling scripts from Ruby, Python, Perl and Objective-C: in each case, essentially nothing more than shelling out to 'osascript'. His deliberations on 'broken' parts of AppleScript are pompous, as is his comparison of just about every feature to another language in his repertoire at every opportunity. In this book on Apple's scripting language, he appears keen to remind us mere mortals how many 'real' languages he knows.
The treatment of the AppleScript language and its quirks is thorough despite these criticisms, although the examples given are far from clear and the topics lack structure.
In summary, there's information in this book that you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else, but you'll have to work to extract it and, if you're anything like me, won't enjoy the process.

Linksys BEFW11S4-UK Etherfast Wireless Access Point + Cable/DSL Router with 4 Port Switch
Linksys BEFW11S4-UK Etherfast Wireless Access Point + Cable/DSL Router with 4 Port Switch

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple setup and hassle free... Unless you're using a Mac..., 17 Aug. 2003
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I use this little wonder to act as a gateway between my internal network (currently consisting of a PC and Apple PowerBook) and the outside world (through a Telewest-supplied cable-modem).
Setup is really simple: connect your PC directly to the cable modem, run the given install program, switch the connections so that the router's between the PC and the modem, and click 'Next'. It automatically picks up the settings you need to get going and configures the router.
That's all you need to function perfectly well. For the more inquisitive, the router has the functions you'd expect: static and dynamic routing, WEP encryption, MAC address cloning and filtering, port forwarding and a DMZ.
Beware if you're intending on connecting an Apple PowerBook (or, I suspect, anything else that's Airport Extreme) via wireless. Although the PowerBook picks up an IP address via DHCP consistently and with no problems, you'll have to crank back the Tx speed on the wireless to 1-2Mb (rather than the default 1-5-11), or suffer horrendous packet loss that renders it unusable. For most people this isn't a problem, as broadband typically operates at 0.5 to 1Mb/s (2 if you're lucky). But it may cause problems if you do heavy file transfer between network machines via wireless.
Even with that caveat, it's a very nice piece of kit.

Dragons of a Vanished Moon: Dragonlance (Dragonlance: The War of Souls)
Dragons of a Vanished Moon: Dragonlance (Dragonlance: The War of Souls)
by Margaret Weiss
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ending, but a bit of a fragmented story., 1 Aug. 2002
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I don't think anyone would disagree that the previous volume in this trilogy, Dragons of a Lost Star, left more than a few dangling threads after its gut-wrenching conclusion. And I probably wasn't alone in wondering how Weis and Hickman could tie them all together in the final installment.
The book opens moments *before* the last left off, seen this time through the eyes of Palin in the Tower of High Sorcery, but doesn't linger there long before moving off to other territories, exploring what happens with Mirror and Skie, how the Qualinesti cope with their losses, and Mina's inexorable march on Sanction. Successes and failures carry the feeling of being influenced by the unopposed will of the One God, and the heroes of the story always seem to be fighting a losing battle against hopeless odds. Which is, of course, the stuff of heroic fantasy.
Unfortunately, the scope of the tale requires more than a trilogy. The story simply seems to lack focus, and jumps about between Palin, the Qualinesti, the Silvanesti, Mina, Silvanoshei, the Great Dragons, Sir Gerard, and so on without lingering on any one of them long enough for the reader to really _care_ about any of them. Crises of faith that could be explored in depth are solved almost immediately after having arisen, monumental battles dissolve in a single chapter, and the feelings of the characters involved seem like a distant concern. Instead of feeling their emotion at their triumphs and failures, the reader is left feeling like nothing more than an observer passively wondering how the heroes will get out of this one rather than fearing for them.
This aside, there's no escaping the grandeur of the tale being being told. Weis' and Hickmans' style remains fluid and graceful, and they've certainly lost none of their flair for bringing on the shocks. The final chapters of the book are absolutely amazing, bringing the story to a neat, complete end but leaving much to be explored later.
All in all, this is an excellent, well written piece of work, but with a breadth of material that should have covered a trilogy of its own.

Chosen of the Gods (Kingpriest Trilogy)
Chosen of the Gods (Kingpriest Trilogy)
by Chris Pierson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dragonlance as it should be., 30 Jan. 2002
Chris Pierson certainly seems to have come out of nowhere, claiming only "Spirit of the Wind" and "Dezra's Quest" as his Dragonlance titles, but I cannot think of another author who has so perfectly captured the feel of the first novels by Weis and Hickman.
"Chosen of the Gods" centres around the quest of the First Daughter of Paladine to find the 'Lightbringer' of prophesy, tying in with the struggle of a commoner turned to banditry on the borderlands at the edge of the Istar empire. Fearing the loss of his crown to this 'Lightbringer,' the Kingpriest bows to corruption and Evil to retain his power, turning the military might of Istar upon its people.
The result is one of the few stories worthy of the Dragonlance title, one far better than most of the mass-produced nonsense that has been cranked out in the past. Varying between heroism, sacrifice, tragedy, and brutality, Pierson captures the Dragonlance feel completely. He has no shortage of fresh ideas that tie in seamlessly with established writings, and unlike most new ideas, a sense of credibility is maintained. For veterans of the series, the story contains several references to previous works, adding depth and making it seem like a part of the world rather than a bolted-on afterthought. Some old characters make welcome appearances: remember Loralon and Quarath from the Legends trilogy? And let's not forget one very dark, very evil, very powerful wizard...
A gem in any fan's collection.

Windows XP Professional Edition
Windows XP Professional Edition

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glossier, friendlier, but essentially minor upgrade., 12 Nov. 2001
Windows 2000 with WindowBlinds. Aside from a few enhancements to the Start menu, and a slide in favour of task-oriented usage, that's all that XP seems to be. Sure, the interface is cleaner, the icons prettier, but it's all just gloss. The Blue Screen of Death has _not_ disappeared, and I still encounter one every now and then, but the message is more descriptive and makes more sense than the register dump of previous incarnations.
In terms of speed, it appears to run _slightly_ slower than 2000; the performance gains that Microsoft are fond of touting appear to be swamped by the copious amounts of eye-candy.
Installation is pure simplicity--as long as your hardware is on Microsoft's OK list (which is thoughtfully checked against your current hardware prior to installation). Installing as an upgrade straight over the top of 2000 went okay, and a clean install to replace the woeful Millennium Edition was simple (modem users note: getting XP compliant versions of your modem's drivers and putting them somewhere safe before installation is a must!).
Product activation is simple enough (and can be completed online). I haven't made any real changes to hardware, so I don't have experience of the kind of changes you can make before XP thinks it's been installed on another machine and requires reactivation.
All in all, if you've got Windows 2000, I wouldn't splash out on XP unless you've got the spare cash. If you're stuck with one of the 9x flavours, however, it's a must--the stability enhancements are worth the money.

No Title Available

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Place to Start, 3 Sept. 2001
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EuroTalk's neatly packaged Japanese outing offers a 'skim-the-surface' view of the language, covering enough in a number of diverse areas to be both useful and entertaining. Topics include first words, numeracy, time, countries, shopping, human body, colour, and simple phrases. Each such area contains four parts: word practice, speaking practice, simple quiz, and hard quiz.
Words are introduced by means of pictures, accompanied by both male and female speakers, with captions in both Japanese and Roman script. A fifth option in each area allows these pictures and captions to be printed out for study when a computer isn't to hand. Speaking practice allows you to record your speech with a microphone and compare it with the native speakers recorded on the CD.
From the topic-selection screen, it's possible to select a quiz mode, wherein a card game (easy or hard) can be selected from a menu--another means to test your memory.
I can't offer any real criticism of the product. The interface is pretty bland looking, but simple, intuitive and functional. A few words and phrases are all that's to be learned; there's nothing on sentence structure or guidance on how to put the words you've learned into your own sentences, but that's apparently what the intermediate level CD's for...

Dead Or Alive 2
Dead Or Alive 2
Offered by multimedia-online
Price: £18.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An uncomplicated bruise-fest, 13 Mar. 2001
This review is from: Dead Or Alive 2 (Video Game)
Finally, a descent beat-em-up that's not Tekken!
I must admit that I was a little dubious about buying this as my first PS2 title. The game flaunts obvious attractions (a CG gallery? Oh please...), but don't let these lead you into thinking that there's nothing beneath the veneer. The game boasts its own set of tricks, including multi-level fighting arenas, the 'Danger Zones' debuting in the first installment, smooth graphics and a blistering frame-rate. The characters have an excellent repertoire of attacks, counters and throws, and some of the tag-battle changeovers are extremely slick.
Criticisms? There aren't enough characters. The 'extra modes' such as time battles and survival modes are completely unexceptional. Something a little more original please?
Still, as a no-brainer it qualifies highly. If you don't feel like immersing yourself into something like Final Fantasy IX or Shadow of Memories, you could do far worse.

Java Swing (Java (O'Reilly))
Java Swing (Java (O'Reilly))
by Robert Eckstein
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive and detailed coverage of Swing., 30 Nov. 2000
O'Reilly technical books have a well-deserved repuation for excellence, and this one is no exception. It launches into the innards of Swing barely after the introduction, explaining each of the major classes in detail. The functionality provided by each of the major GUI components is revealed, along with quirks and perhaps unexpected side-effects of use. The JTable and JTree classes (and their associated components) receive extensive coverage, as does the undo mechanism and the document model for text components. Creation of a custom look and feel is also discussed in detail.
NOT a book for the Java beginner, as it assumes a solid grounding in the language and at least a basic familiarity with the AWT, but a MUST HAVE for anyone involved with developing or maintaining Swing applications.

The Complete Reference, Java 2 ( Third Edition )
The Complete Reference, Java 2 ( Third Edition )
by Patrick Naughton
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coverage of the Java language, 30 Nov. 2000
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As a final year honours student, this book was invaluable to me, providing the solid grounding in Java I needed before tackling a somewhat daunting project. As a professional software engineer, it still provides a handy reference for when the Java documention gets a bit sparse.
Topics include everything from basic use of the String class, though networking (including an HTTP server), applets, the AWT, multithreading and image-processing. Only major criticism is that coverage of Swing is decidedly lacking, with a brief introduction to JApplet, JFrame and JTable. Despite the non-trivial nature of much of the content, the text itself remains easy to read and is interspersed with many well written examples.
Don't be fooled by the 'complete reference' title. Java is huge, and no single book can describe it completely. But don't be daunted by the thickness, either. There's a lot in the book, but every part of it's useful.

Faith of the Fallen (The Sword of Truth)
Faith of the Fallen (The Sword of Truth)
by Terry Goodkind
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy addition to the series, 2 Nov. 2000
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I must admit, I was a little disappointed with 'Soul of the Fire,' and thought perhaps that the series was waning. Not so. 'Faith of the Fallen' returns with the distinctive imaginative flair that has become Goodkind's trademark.
This installment in the series sees Richard captured and separated from Kahlan and dragged into the very heart of the Old World. Meanwhile, Kahlan holds the D'Haran armies together as they fight a hopeless battle against the advancing hordes of the Imperial Order.
The writing and story leans away from the increasing 'touchie-feelie' nature of the previous books, a change which I personally found heartening; Richard and Kahlan's near constant professions of love were beginning to detract from the quality of the story. Goodkind's personal political beliefs seem to play a part in the depiction of the Imperial Order's homeland, heavily communist as it is. In my opinion, however, this only strengthens the quality of the book, painting a more believable picture of a foe that previously had remained a largely unknown quantity.
Why not five stars? It's not the sweeping type of epic fantasy found in 'Wizards First Rule,' 'The Stone of Tears' or 'Temple of the Winds.' Some of the material seems a little re-hashed (Kahlan leading an outmatched army against the Order? That seems familiar...), and nothing really new appears.
But it's still excellent. The writing style remains fluid, the new and existing characters are still believable and deep, and the series looks to be back on form. Looking forward to the seventh!

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