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J. Mostert

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Data Mining with Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Data Mining with Microsoft SQL Server 2008
by Jamie MacLennan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £33.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great coverage, 21 Jun. 2009
This book broadly covers not only the data mining functionality in Analysis Services but also that in Excel 2007 (which you might not even learn about if you're focusing on Analysis Services only) and provides good, hands-on examples of everything. For my background (well acquainted with SQL Server but not with BI or Excel) it suited my needs perfectly.

This book is of intermediate level, being neither an exhaustive reference of everything (get something like "Analysis Services Unleashed" for that) nor a starter book for people who know nothing about database development. And while it does cover MDX and OLAP, the focus is primarily on DMX (for data mining) and you probably won't be able to learn MDX from it -- but that's OK, because you're going to want a separate book for that anyway if the Report Services designers and Excel pivot tables can't do it for you (try "SQL Server 2008 MDX Step-by-Step", I'm having good experiences with it).

The Debugger's Handbook
The Debugger's Handbook
by J.F. DiMarzio
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £73.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Outdated and overpriced, 14 Jun. 2009
This is a bad book that you should not buy. That's the short of it. The long of it?

First, and least damningly, the book claims to be language-independent, but it has a heavy VB6 slant (not even VB.NET -- the book uses the fact that much VB6 code works with only minor alterations as VB.NET). The very first program discussed uses variants in a completely gratuitous way, and the author goes on to explain a bug and its resolution in a way that will be meaningless to users of any of the other languages discussed in the book. That might be fair dinkum if the other languages got similar exposes on *their* particular pitfalls, but that doesn't happen. Certainly, one might expect a book that includes C++, for example, to contain at least one example of a buffer overrun, one of the most common and dangerous bugs in C++ programs that haven't embraced proper allocation patterns -- but there isn't. I would have less problems with a book clearly written from a VB background if it were honest about this.

The touted language neutrality is instead a thin veneer obviously intended to boost sales, since VB6 books have had their heyday. "Chapter" 11 provides a clear demonstration of this: it is in its entirety 8 pages long and discusses a trivial coding mistake in VB.NET using AppSettingsReader. The author then turns around and discusses how the same mistake doesn't happen in C# with ConfigurationSettings, completely ignoring the fact that VB.NET and C# share the same framework library and you could just as easily have flipped the languages around! This is the sort of thing that passes for a "language neutral" approach in the book: randomly use another language every now and then, even when it has no bearing at all on the code being discussed.

The book certainly tries hard to find an audience, but its lack of sincerity dooms it. The first eight chapters (out of 17) contain review questions that might mislead well-meaning educators to think this book has a place in a classroom. It certainly does not. With inane questions like "in what year was the term bug first used to describe an electrical fault" and "how has Microsoft helped in the fight against memory bugs" (just two choice samples from the first chapter) it immediately disqualifies itself as a serious didactic work. This is further strengthened by the book's promise in the introduction that each chapter has "a set of exercises", which "include questions on the previous chapter, code samples to debug, and descriptions of programs to test your new skills". Aside from the review questions, nothing of the sort is present. Reader who are yearning for exercise will have to get a move on themselves.

The introduction again lies to us by claiming that these chapters contain "many common error codes, descriptions, and code solutions for use in your everyday programming. That is, multiple error codes from the larger software manufacturers will be listed by number and description, accompanied by possible solutions and code samples for those solutions." What they actually contain is a handful of descriptions of errors raised by Microsoft code, mentioned in passing, all utterly trivial. This is the sort of language a disreputable hotel owner might use in advertising his establishment, whereby a room seven miles from the coast that looks out on two skyscrapers with the barest of space inbetween is described as having "an ocean view". Books shouldn't lie to their readers. You're in no position to be dishonest when you're immobile and flammable.

This is a book supposed to teach people better coding practices. What it will teach them is what a VB programmer whose career flourished in the 80s and 90s would think of writing good code (I have no idea if the description actually applies to the author, by the way, but that is how it reads). There should be absolutely no audience for this in 2009. For that matter, there was no audience for this in 1988 either. This book is absolutely not worth its price tag; buy two better books instead. It shouldn't be hard to find some.

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