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Mr AI "Tell me what books I like, I can't decide." (UK)

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Collins Italian Language Survival Guide: A Visual Phrasebook and Dictionary (Collins Language Survival Guide)
Collins Italian Language Survival Guide: A Visual Phrasebook and Dictionary (Collins Language Survival Guide)

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 24 Jun. 2004
I actually ended up with a cheap phrase book on holiday in Florence. I'd ordered this, but it didn't arrive before I left.
On returning, I was amazed at how much clearer it was. In fact a quick read through led to several 'ah...that's what that was' moments.
My only concern would be finding the information you want fast. While the visual stuff works perfectly for some situations, you'd still get the normal phrasebook problem of scrabbling for the right entry sometimes.
I'm looking forward to packing this book on my next Italian venture: the old phrasebook is staying home.

Winning Chess Strategies (Everyman Chess)
Winning Chess Strategies (Everyman Chess)
by Yasser Seirawan
Edition: Paperback

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 24 Jun. 2004
I fit the description of the audience of this book perfectly. I understood how to move the pieces, I could look ahead a few moves. I even knew a few of the basic opening patterns. But I was missing the underlying structure.
This book really helped me understand the different roles of each piece. He works through, a piece at a time, and I learned things from each.
I suspect that alone this book isn't perfect. It keeps referring to the importance of Tactics, and I bought it along with the Tactics book in the same series. Together they're formidable, however, and I definitely feel I've improved.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to feel like their beginning to play real chess, rather than moving the pieces around. I suspect for a player who plays regularly this is yesterday's news, but it met my needs perfectly.

Winning Chess Tactics (Everyman Chess)
Winning Chess Tactics (Everyman Chess)
by Yasser Seirawan
Edition: Paperback

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction, 23 Jun. 2004
I'm an occassional, friendly kind of player, so I can't tell you if this book improved my rating or any such. I suspect it is written for folks like me.
In enjoy chess, but I've found precious little that can help a ppor player like me improve. This book is great. It introduces many tactial pitfalls and helps you see the patterns that lead up to the problem. I've definitely been able to plan ahead more and see where I'm exposing myself to exploitation.
The book explains everything in simple language. There are example games, but they aren't the "He's avoiding the problem in <TEN MOVES>" style you see in chess columns and online. And most comforting of all, he makes you feel like you're really playing better chess as you learn stuff. Which is great.
So buy the five books in this series if you want to move from 'quick game with the kids' level to 'ah, now is see why my computer thrashes me every time' level (although it hasn't helped me actually beat my computer!).

AI Game Development
AI Game Development
by Alex J. Champandard
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading, but Not Terrible, 28 May 2004
This review is from: AI Game Development (Paperback)
This is a misleading book title. It is not, as I expected, a book on developing the AI for games. (And I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought the title implied that).
It is a book on writing bots for 1st person shooters using any and all possible techniques in academic AI.
After a bit of digging around, I realised that this book is based on the academic work done by Alex at Edinburgh university. It doesn't reflect on the practice of game AI done by real people in the industry.
For example, he introduces stuff like genetic classifiers, and gives equal weight to stuff like neural networks and reinforcement learning (which should be at most a couple of pages), rather than concentrating on the real stuff of game AI: state machines, movement (obviously not needed if you're only doing bot AI), pathfinding.
Okay everything is there somewhere, but the organisation and emphasis shows that Alex hasn't been near the business end of game AI for a while.

Geometric Tools for Computer Graphics (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Computer Graphics)
Geometric Tools for Computer Graphics (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Computer Graphics)
by Philip Schneider
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £75.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Accurate, 19 May 2004
This is one of only three books that never strays far from the side of my computer. I work as a consultant to the games industry and I don't hesitate to recommend this book to clients.
I use this book as a reference, I'm not sure if anyone would want to read it through (unless you needed a serious crash course in 3d math). And so far I've only come across one bit of math that the book didn't contain (incidentally I tracked that down in another of Dave's books). So it is extraordinarily exhaustive.
The book isn't easy reading: "Make it as simple as possible but no simpler." This is Dave's strength in all his books: he doesn't shy away from the fact that the topic can be hard and the math is complex. His co-writer has a similar style in this book. At the end of the day the books that claim to let you write great 3d engines with no experience in 30 days are having you on: its the serious industry books like this that will really make a difference to your career.

Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting...very interesting, 2 Mar. 2004
This review is from: INVESTIGATIONS (Paperback)
Stu is a biologist (come business consultant) who has never received the mainstream academic recognition he probably deserves. His ideas are certainly not easy reading for 'mainstream' scientists, but I feel his unique positiong in the vanguard of complexity science give him some insight.
This book stands midway between his previous books. It is more technical than At Home in the Universe, but not to the extent of Origins of Order. He continues similar themes: the emergence of complex, interactive systems can be seen as a neccesary function of the rules of the universe, rather than as a bizarre random occurrence. This time, however, he is applying the ideas to the notion of an autonomous agent, rather than thinking purely in biological terms.
Which made me wonder who this book is aimed at. Stuart assumes that you know a lot of general science knowledge (certainly a lot more biology and biochemisty than your average popular science reader - see the other reviews here). But on the other hand he doesn't analyse his theories in a rigorous way (in fact he keeps saying how they can't be analysed just yet, more research is required).
I think his insight is spot on, but the experience of reading the book left me slightly underwhelmed.
Oh and one final point: be careful of his tendency to occassionally remember he is writing 'literature'. The odd paragraph burst forth with a myriad of bright and natal metaphorical buds: which had a nasty habit of making me giggle!

Miller's Crossing [1990] [DVD] [1991]
Miller's Crossing [1990] [DVD] [1991]
Dvd ~ Gabriel Byrne
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.14

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterwork, 7 Nov. 2003
My overriding memory of this film is one of feeling satisfied when the DVD had stopped turning. A deeply satisfying movie.
It is quite different to the Coen brother's other work; it is played straight, and doesn't have the usual counter-intuitive characters. Shot in a very beautiful, elegantly lit manner it is evidence of their mastery of film.
The brothers manage to turn every genre on its head. While being about Gangsters, this movie manages to weave its way through characters and action without effort. There is violence, but never gratuitous and action, but never at the expense of character. All in all it is a movie about a strong, ambitious, flawed, lucky, and lonely man. Wonderful.

Physics for Game Developers
Physics for Game Developers
by David M Bourg
Edition: Paperback

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Almost Credible, 12 Oct. 2003
This book seeks to give you an in depth overview of physics algorithms and techniques.
It is aimed at occassional hobbyists, I feel, and gives some easily implementable algorithms for a homebrew engine.
Unfortunately the algorithms that the author espouses are not useful for real game development, outside simple particle systems. He makes no serious attempt to solve the real problems in simulated physics, and his included code is plain unstable.
For example: one of his demos (the car crashing into crates - you can download it from the book's website) resets every 4 seconds. If you change his code so it doesn't reset you see the instability. After about 6-10 seconds the car sinks into the ground before leaping into the air and off to infinity. He has obviously created the demo to last just long enough not to show the shortcomings in his approach - I was shocked and disgusted when I saw this.
I've worked with professional physics middleware packages for four years. Getting physics right is tough, but there are a couple of open source physics packages on the web that get their approach right, and are far more useful for game development. This book gives you enough to put together simple particle systems (the chapter on cloth effects is a nice extension, but still misses some of the fundamental problems in cloth simulation). It gets you nowhere near a stable physics solution for a complete game.

Rio 600 Car Cassette Adapter MP3
Rio 600 Car Cassette Adapter MP3

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Briefly Excellent, 21 Sept. 2003
This product does what it says on the tin: it lets you play CD, Minidisc or Gameboy sound through your car Tape player.
I found it excellent, with good sound quality and couldn't be easier to use.
But the build quality is very poor (I'm surprised at the review that says this is one of the BETTER quality versions!). The connectors rapidly deteriorated and the sound is now very poor.
The wires are so prone to internal cracking that after 6 months, my version requires a good 5 minutes of careful balancing before the sound comes through in stereo.
Overall I wouldn't discourage you from buying it, but don't look at it as a £5 purchase. Look at it as an ongoing £5 per six month rental, as you need to buy frequent replacement units.

Focus on 3D Terrain Programming (Focus on Game Development)
Focus on 3D Terrain Programming (Focus on Game Development)
by Trent Polack
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost Great, 26 July 2003
This is a perfect book for the occassional hobbyist looking for some inspiration for a homebrew game engine.
The first half of the book introduce basic concepts and is excellent, and the second half contains more complete algorithms.
The book makes a big play of featuring a whole new algorithm, unfortunately this turns out to be quite a minor adjustment of an algorithm that is widely considered inadequate for games. It also, of course, means that this algorithm is untried.
The reason the book isn't suitable for more professional work is its lack of understanding. The authors don't seem to grasp the fact that modern graphics hardware can take huge amounts of geometry. So much so that the fastest terrain algorithms are those that make best use of the graphics bus (especially on PS2, but also in a big way on PC). Chasing every triangle the way the book suggests went out of commercial best practice last century!

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