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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 13 declined, 3 accepted (16 total, 18.75% accepted)

Books

+ - Spook Country->

Submitted by
Eater
Eater writes "This weekend, I finished Bill Gibson's latest book, Spook Country. If you haven't read anything by Gibson lately, you may be surprised to learn he's stopped writing about the future. Plenty of future-stuff happening in the present for him, it would seem. No more Ono Sendai decks, Betaphenethylamine, or Russian EMP gliders. This has all been replaced by Google and Wikipedia, Ativan, and WEP cracking. It came off as a little egregious to me at first, but I suppose that's because I always cringe a little when I see "current" computer references in fiction or movies. However, his presentation was better than most.

At some point after Virtual Light, I think I fell out of love with William Gibson. I still think he's one of the most amazing visionaries of our time, but his delivery doesn't immediately suck me in like it used to. I remember being hooked within ten pages of Virtual Light. Now, it feels like the first third of the novel is devoted to disjointed character development and an endless string of names to remember that don't quite gel into an interesting plot until you're well into the story.

This is something he's very consciously aware of. In an amazing documentary, he confessed that readers often complain his more recent books are nothing like Neuromancer. He says this is because Neuromancer was a very young man's book, written by a young man, and that is a cognitive place he doesn't have access to anymore. Futher, he says this is probably a very good thing for his work. I can sympathize with that point, and he's probably right. To draw a parallel, William S. Burroughs was a different man in the 1950s than he was in the 1980s, and his works reflect that progression. I suppose that all writers must embrace that sort of evolution. That said, I personally prefer Naked Lunch to Cities of The Red Night; as writers mature, I don't suppose it's a given that their readers will mature with a similar progression. This applies equally to Gibson as it did to Burroughs.

Spook Country gains momentum quickly in the final chapters. All men love spy stories, and this is one infused with some unique technical and cultural elements. It seems Gibson is just getting comfortable with this new direction of writing, and I look forward to reading more of it. If he's able to harness his born talent as a technical visionary and apply it to the world we currently live in, his new work will become more captivating than Neuromancer ever was."

Link to Original Source
Programming

+ - Web-application development with PHP and AJAX

Submitted by
Eater
Eater writes "Understanding AJAX is intended for developers who are already familiar with PHP and JavaScript development. It presents AJAX as a tool for adding responsive and flexible improvements to existing applications, as well as designing new AJAX applications from scratch. The author of the book, Josh Eichorn, is an active PHP/AJAX developer who maintains the PEAR HTML_AJAX library and is also the creator of phpDocumentor.

The book is organized into two sections. The first section begins with a brief history of AJAX, and moves on to explain the concept of "Rich Internet Application" as bridging the usability gap between native applications and typical Internet applications. This is a succinct and elegant way of demystifying the oft-buzzed concept of "Web 2.0".

Cross-browser development is well addressed early in the first section. An analysis of the JavaScript XMLHttpClient request is given early on, and a robust way of implementing this across common browsers is explained in detail. Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers are the main focus, although attention is given to Opera and Safari as well. A strategy for falling back to IFrames for asynchronous requests by older browsers is detailed to provide seamless support for the majority of users.

The concepts of Document Object Model (DOM), Single Object Access Protocol (SOAP), and XML-RPC are covered in chapter three, "Consuming the Sent Data". Document-centric and remote procedure call approaches are detailed, contrasted, and illustrated with frequent code examples.

Perhaps the most practical aspect of this book is the emphasis on integrating AJAX into an existing development cycle. This book doesn't make the mistake of adopting AJAX just for the sake of it being a cool technology. Sensible recommendations are given so the reader may objectively weigh the pros and cons off incorporating AJAX into a user interface, and strategies for overcoming common obstacles of AJAX adoption are well-defined.

The remaining material presented in section one covers debugging, gathering metrics for measuring improvements, and a specific set of criteria for user interface guidelines.

The second section of the book begins with three AJAX libraries: Sarissa, scriptaculous, and the PEAR HTML_AJAX (the author is also the developer for this last one.) The first two are JavaScript libraries, while the third is a PHP-centric library. Perhaps the only major drawback of this book is poor coverage of non-PHP development (although this is explicitly stated as a non-goal from the beginning.) While the Sarissa, scriptaculous, and HTML_AJAX libraries are covered in detail, a short round-up of other AJAX libraries is given in the appendices.

The second section (and thus, the book) concludes with a comprehensive use-case for the technologies explained previously. For a real-word example, a trouble-ticket application is given, the design goals of which are discussed in detail, and the reader is led through a list of examples for creating it from start to finish. The advantages of using AJAX for this example are well explored and evaluated at the culmination of the exercise.

To summarize, this book is a very practical and thorough explanation of AJAX development. I found the author's objective approach, with user-facing end results as the primary metric for success, was both informative and pragmatic."

Not only is UNIX dead, it's starting to smell really bad. -- Rob Pike

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