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Neil Venn (Hemel Hempstead, Herts., UK.)

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The Girl in the Box Series, Books 1-3: Alone, Untouched and Soulless
The Girl in the Box Series, Books 1-3: Alone, Untouched and Soulless
Price: £0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Good story but poor characterisation, 20 Nov. 2014
I got 50% through Girl in a Box before giving up. I might come back but was getting too annoyed at the author to carry on. The girl in question has been excluded from society by her mother for 15 years or something and only allowed to watch an hour of TV a day - if she's good. But somehow she's developed a confidence and arrogance of a streetwise teenager and the vocabulary of a TV addict. Yet she has no concept of the value of money. Some of the other characters are better written and the premise and plot are engaging enough, but I think it was a mistake for this author to write from the girls perspective.

Band Hero - Super Bundle (Wii)
Band Hero - Super Bundle (Wii)

167 of 169 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you prefer pop to rock..., 9 Nov. 2009
... then I am sure you'll enjoy this title from the "Guitar Hero" franchise.

About me: I'm a forty year old bloke with two daughters - and I bought Band Hero because I like Guitar Hero, not because they nagged me!

I've opened the pack, set up and played for about half an hour with a friend from work. So I have not been through much of the set list but the comments I would make are firstly that there is a good variety of old and new tunes from a variety of sub-genres of pop, secondly that some tracks are more biased towards the drumming, the guitar playing or the singing - they all seem to include all instruments though so everyone can play (or you could alternate between instruments in a single gig if you are playing along I guess). Because pop music doesn't necessarily feature guitar or drum track as highly as rock tracks it may be a little less clear (than on Guitar Hero) exactly what track through the music you are playing and I even found myself playing a series of notes from a trumpet or something with my guitar. Slightly weird - but I'm slightly addicted so didn't mind!

I was very impressed with the instruments. I have played Guitar Hero World Tour so knew what to expect with the guitar - they have given it a slight cosmetic upgrade though (which means that my daughter and I won't argue over who's guitar is who) - it seems solid and a good size for almost anyone. The drum kit and mic really surprised me though. The stand for the drums is made of metal and seems really solid, the wooden drum sticks seem very real to me and the whole kit seems like it could easily be sold as a stand-alone electronic drum-trainer kit it's that good. The mic feels like a real mic - not plasticky and toy-like at all, very solid and (again) realistic.

The software has received a make-over too since GH World Tour (I've not played GH5) and suits the pop theme. Much brighter with more bling - without being girly or distracting though. There are the new playing modes of course (Party Play, etc. - see the description because I haven't played them all) but the gigs are set up different too - rather than playing a single gig from start to finish (assuming you don't get boo-ed off stage) after each track you return to the menu system to choose which to play next from the set. I'm going to have to see if there's a way around this because I'd rather just keep playing.

Overall I'm glad I bought Band Hero rather than Guitar Hero - I'm not a rocker and I find some of the tracks in GH World Tour just too painful to play more than I had to to complete my "career". Band Hero has a lot of tracks I know and I think it will be much better for playing at parties and getting fools to sing along too whilst I try to pretend to be a credible musician. I can apparently "import" many of the tracks from World Tour and also download the rock tracks I want from the online store so I don't have to miss out on Queen, ZZ-Top or Oasis.

If you are a rocker and take your playing quite seriously you should probably buy GH5 - but if you want to play with family and friends (who can't name a Korn song nor know what band Zakk Wylde played) with then Band Hero would be the better purchase. Either way, prepare for some late nights and some sore knuckles if your fingers are used to finding frets on a guitar.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2009 7:59 PM GMT

Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data
Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data
by Stephen Few
Edition: Paperback

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read. Sensible advice., 1 Sept. 2008
I'm about half-way through as I write this review but I am already very impressed with this book. Few has an easy-to-read style that's not full of fluff or pompous nonsense, and he provides sensible advise for producing effective designs.

The book begins by defining the term "information dashboard": the definition is suitably broad that you may realise that solutions you've build before would fit in and would therefore have benefited from the design advice given in the book. To make his points about poor design, Few then uses a selection of examples found on the web. Many of these are eye catching and graphically pleasing - but the commentary makes you appreciate the problems each exhibits. In the middle of the book, Few describes accepted scientific theories about human vision, perception and cognition that we should take into account in our designs - and these generally support the arguments that the example dashboards used earlier in the book were poor designs in one way or another. Later in the book (and I have not read these chapters yet), Few provides practical advice that can be applied in dashboard design. I am expecting these to be almost self-evident by the time I get there thanks to the Background Few has provided me with. But I am still looking forward to reading them nonetheless.

This book is in no way biased towards any display technology, user interface technology or programming technology and is therefore applicable whether you are producing a single-user desktop application, a multi-user, multi-screen information wall (as you've seen in pictures of the stock exchange) or even if you are producing printed reports. The advice given is about the design thought process rather than any particular notation so is applicable regardless of the software design methodology you may use.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic and would say it's a "must-have" if you are practically involved in the specification, analysis, design and even implementation of Information Dashboards.

Wiring and Lighting Manual (Readers Digest)
Wiring and Lighting Manual (Readers Digest)
by Reader's Digest
Edition: Hardcover

74 of 80 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For absolute beginners in a new house, 4 Feb. 2008
This book might be suitable if you are working in a fairly new house and are not yet confident to tackle basic wiring jobs without some guidance. But if you are already comfortable replacing an electrical socket and fitting new lights then you might find this too basic. I found that in too many places it suggests you call in a qualified electrician - it stops just when the enthusiast DIYer starts to get interested in the job!

Unfortunately I cannot seem to find a book that covers what I want (everything up to and including fitting a new consumer unit) that is not at least 15 years old. I do want a book that covers modern regulations and practices, not one that is frightened to get too close to them.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 7, 2015 10:54 PM BST

Learning for Action: A Short Definitive Account of Soft Systems Methodology, and Its Use Practitioners, Teachers and Students
Learning for Action: A Short Definitive Account of Soft Systems Methodology, and Its Use Practitioners, Teachers and Students
by Peter Checkland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £33.29

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clarify your understanding, 29 Jan. 2007
I would suggest that this book is not ideal as a very first experience of Soft Systems Method - so please don't buy it as a gift for someone who currently knows nothing about SSM. However, if you have learnt a little about SSM during a course on a bigger topic (business analysis for example) or by researching on the world wide web, and you want to know more and actually put it into practice, then this book will help clarify your understanding and should inspire you.

Peter Checkland, the author of this Learning in Action and the creator of Soft Systems Method, uses this book to present arguments to counter the miscommunication about SSM that has spread over the years and is trying to set things straight. This might be distracting if this book is the first you have heard about SSM. I am not an experienced practitioner of SSM but, as an instructor, I have become aware of how the techniques in SSM have been adapted, misused and/or corrupted, either intentionally or unintentionally. When you understand SSM and it's application as intended by it's creators, the component parts all start to make sense. You can understand when and where to use it and how it would be of benefit. I learnt, for example, that the intent of creating Business Activity Models is to model what activities 'ought' to be there supporting the business: not what are or what might be if some business change is applied, just what ought to be there based on a structured analysis of the business. The steps that follow the creation of the Business Activity Models are to compare the models with the current reality and to plan what business change might be applied to improve the situation.

This a short, slim volume and is easy to read (I like short, slim volumes - there is often too much bloat in books, just there to boost the authors ego). If you are concerned that it will be all very academic because the creators chose to use the German word 'weltanschauung' in the original texts about SSM instead of 'worldview' or 'viewpoint', fear not: this book only gets academic when it needs to (which is very rarely) and that-german-word is only used twice, I think, and one of those is in the index! The content includes some history of Soft Systems Method - but only just enough to put things into perspective. The bulk is an account of where, when and how to apply the method followed by a variety of real-life case studies. The instructional text is very clear and consise and the case studies are welcome both as examples and to add weight to the arguments about how useful this method really is.

I think that book does what it set out to do and probably deserves 5 stars for that. So why did I not give the book 5 stars? Only to make potential purchases stop, think and maybe read this review to know what they are getting: this book is not purely a tutorial and so may not do what potential buyers expect it to do. If you are the sort of person who quickly tires of history and arguments then this book may not be for you. For the rest of us; those who are interested in the history or are content to skip what does not seem relevant to learning, this book comes highly recommended.

Business Analysis
Business Analysis
by Don Yeates
Edition: Paperback

95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great breadth, good depth., 23 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Business Analysis (Paperback)
This book is a compilation of chapters by a variety of authors who are all experts in the business analysis domain. Thankfully though, the editors have a good job of keeping the structure, language and depth pretty consistent. It is consistently fairly dry but there was little that really sent me to sleep like some books in this domain that I could mention. I think it covers the breadth of skills you are likely to need as a business analysis, but keep in mind that it is published by the British Computer Society to address the ISEB Business Analsys Diploma, so it may cover more that most analysis will use in their daily jobs. In terms of depth, it gives you enough to get started and hold your own for a while, but you will probably want to invest in more detailed references on specific topics such as Soft Systems Methodology, process modelling with UML or data modelling with ERDs - depending on your previous experience and the demands of your role.

In summary: a highly recommended introduction to Business Analysis, useful whether you are new to the role, thinking about a change or have some experience and want to work out in what direction to expand your knowledge.

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