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Book Reviews

Submission + - Book Review: "NHibernate 3.0 Cookbook"

RickJWagner writes: Are you a .Net developer? Do you have to persist your application objects to a database? If so, I know of a book you might be interested in. The book is Packt Publishing's "NHibernate 3.0 Cookbook", and it's out in print now.

NHibernate is a port of the popular Hibernate object-relational mapper (ORM, for those who like TLAs.) An object-relational mapper is a framework that lets the developer get and retrieve application state from a database, and it does so in an efficient, non-intrusive, and flexible manner. Hibernate is the top of the line ORM implementation, yet it's easy enough to learn that even a newbie will find it easy to get started.

This book is written in Packt's 'Cookbook' style, which means it's really a series of how-to templates that guide the reader through some goal-centric activity. A 'recipe' is a formula for accomplishing something, like setting up a session for a web application, or using a profiler with NHibernate, or creating a validator class. You may not know what some of these things do-- but you will when you read the recipe! Each recipe follows a repeated pattern, with sub-sections "Getting Ready", "How to do it", "How it works", "There's More". At first glance, this can be a little deceptive for readers of technical books-- there's really no lengthy text sections that explain the basics of the tool in the early chapters of the book. You might be lulled into thinking this means there's no explanation for how things work, but that would be wrong! The truth is, there is plenty of good NHibernate theory and explanation, it's just that it's contained within the "How it Works" and "There's More" section of each instructional section, not in a chapter devoted to overview just by itself. For this reason, I'd urge bookshelf browsers to be sure to read one topic through front-to-back thoroughly, to get a feel for how the book presents theory as well as practical hands-on-the-keyboard instruction.

As far as content goes, there is a lot of useful content in this book. The author presents 70 different recipes for activites that range from the basic (i.e. your first class-to-database mappings) to the unusual (i.e. using NHibernate Spatial for solving distance-related problems.) The author offers plenty of good text in most of these, but again-- don't be upset by the placement of the high-level material. It's all there, it's just placed a little differently than what you'd find in most technical books.

The book is easy to read. The text is plain and straight to the point, and the author's writing style is quite readable. The code examples are likewise clean and well-formatted. (By the way, I'd urge you to go to Packt's site to get the source bundle if you buy the book. There's a lot of code referenced, you certainly wouldn't want to type it all by hand if you can get it handed to you.) The book runs a little over 300 pages, and most of the type is generously spaced. This is not a strong theoretical reference, but it is more than adequate as a primer for the vast majority of the tasks you'd want to accomplish with NHibernate.

So who is this book good for? I'd give it high marks for .Net developers who want to use NHibernate, regardless of experience level with the tool. I say that because there are enough use cases presented that there is almost certainly a subset of new material for almost anyone. How about Java Hibernate users? I think it's a decent book for them-- NHibernate is a very close port of the base product, so a Java user can get something out of this book, too. (For that crowd, this would obviously not be a good primary choice, but is worthwhile reading if you already have a Java go-to reference for Hibernate.) For anyone else wanting a good high-level overview of ORM use-- I'd say this book is only of marginal value. This is because the bulk of the explanatory material is presented in the context of 'how to' accomplish some particular task and isn't easily accessible without skipping from recipe to recipe.

By the way, lest you think NHibernate is only for .Net devs, I mostly ran the code samples under MonoDevelop on Ubuntu. This was my first adventure with MonoDevelop (the open source IDE for Mono, which itself is an open source, multi-platform port of .Net.) I was pleasantly surprised by the level of polish in the development environment, it really is a nice environment. Again, if you're a Java developer, I'd consider this book a decent learning supplement but would not recommend it as a primary for Hibernate proper.

There you have it-- your pocket guide to the NHibernate 3.0 Cookbook. I hope your recipes turn out well!

The book can be viewed here: https://www.packtpub.com/nhibernate-3-0-cookbook/book
Book Reviews

Submission + - Book Review for "Spring Dynamic Modules in Action"

RickJWagner writes: Every once in a while a technical book comes out that so exhaustively covers a topic that it becomes the definitive word on the topic. These books are the end-all reference, the final authority, the singular go-to reference that every practitioner falls back to in their hour of need. This book review covers one such book, the newly released "Spring Dynamic Modules in Action" from Manning.

First, a quick word about OSGi. OSGi is a specification meant to make Java more 'modular'. In practice, this means it is an attempt to solve the age-old problem of 'jar hell', including all the class loading issues that go with it. (Users of JEE application servers know what I'm talking about here.) OSGi lets you specify every external library your component needs, to the version. So if you need FooLib v1.2.3, and the application beside yours needs FooLib v10.9.8, that's not a problem at all-- both applications can happily run in the same OSGi container, at the same time.

Should you care about OSGi? The answer is 'maybe'. It's without question a big deal to the makers of Java application containers-- everybody from JBoss to Mule has an opinion on OSGi, and many vendors are busy baking it into their infrastructure. What will differ to you, the user of the container, is how the container developers decided to make OSGi available to their users. This book is about how Spring went about it, and what you need to do to use Spring and OSGi together.

Spring DM (short for 'Dynamic Modules') is a framework that enables you to use the popular Spring framework with OSGi. Spring, of course, comes with a multitude of components for solving all kinds of enterprise application needs. So this book is all about using Spring with OSGi.

It's a big book, over 500 pages, written by 3 authors. In those 500 pages you get lots of valuable content:
- An introduction to OSGi and an explanation of its purpose
- Explanation of how Spring can be used within an OSGi container, review of the currently available containers
- Details about how Spring DM works, and the parts you need to understand
- Details about OSGi services, and how they relate to Spring DM
- In depth best practices for data access, enterprise Java projects, and web applications (includes specific advice for popular web application frameworks)
- Testing practices
- Extended uses of OSGi, including likely future direction

A big part of what makes this book valuable are the many pieces of advice from the authors as they explain best practices for using various tools. So you want to use Eclipse, Ant or Maven? No problem, these are all covered. About to use MyFaces, Wicket, or DWR? All covered. Are you a Tomcat user or Jetty? Check and check. I'm sure you get the picture-- if you use these tools, the path ahead of you is already blazed and you can avoid some headaches by leveraging the author's experience.

Make no mistake about it, there will be some headaches ahead of you. Seldom is an application written today that doesn't use an external framework or library of some sort. Using these pre-packaged bits of functionality (and we need to be thankful for them!) might mean 're-packaging', if the library isn't offered as an OSGi bundle. This re-packaging means pealing apart some .jar files and editing the manifest files inside-- yuck! Luckily, this book offers you two things to help you with this task: tooling and advice. Tooling comes in handy because it can automate a lot of the manual, error-prone drudgery that goes along with such a task. Advice is even more valuable-- these authors have already worked done the hard work and have written down what you need to do to make your efforts successful.

So who is this book appropriate for? I'd say anyone who is going to use Spring DM. If you're convinced this is the right framework for your needs, you need a copy of this book. If you're not sure, or if you're just a casual reader wanting to know more about OSGi-- then I'd say you should look through the book first before you buy it. You might like it, or you might not because a lot of the book is all about hands-on use of Spring DM and the little tricks you need to make it work right the first time. But if you're just interested in an overview of the technology, this book might be too detail-oriented and not enough high-level for your tastes.

The book can be viewed at http://www.manning.com/cogoluegnes/.

Final opinion: If you use Spring DM, you need to buy a copy of this book. It's going to be the definitive resource on the topic for a long time.

Comment Re:Woot! (Score 4, Informative) 55

Yes, it's true I do a few book reviews. But there are a few things you should consider: - I never accept any payment from Packt or any other publisher. My reviews are done purely for the joy of reading and learning. - I always write what I honestly believe to be true. If a friend were to ask me what I thought of a book, I'd tell that friend just what you see in the review. - I always post reviews under my real name. It's part of giving you my honest opinion. So does that make me a shill? I don't think so, but it's in the eye of the beholder. Rick

Comment Re:Doesn't IBM JRules have BRMS... (Score 1) 55

Yes, they do. (I've recently worked with that one a bit, too.) But at it's heart ILog (the IBM product) is still a Rete implementation, which means it conforms to the 'IF/THEN' or 'WHEN/THEN' advantage/disadvantage. Interestingly enough, many vendors of BREs view their BRMS as the 'strategic advantage' that commands a higher price. The basic rule engine doesn't seem to be treated this way.... BR, Rick

Comment Re:Fiendishly difficult (Score 1) 55

Hi PCM2. The point I was making is that IF/THEN questions are very easily answered. (And verified by the reader above who mentioned the ease of using spreadsheets.) But if you have a problem that isn't predicated on the attributes of a single object, things can get much trickier. But don't take my word for it-- go download Drools (especially with the excellent Eclipse plug-in) and give it a shot. You'll soon see that there are questions that are easily answered, and questions that are not.... Best Regards, Rick
Book Reviews

Submission + - Book Review: "Drools JBoss Rules 5.0: Developer's

RickJWagner writes: Book Review for "Drools JBoss Rules 5.0 Developer's Guide"

Drools (sometimes called "JBoss Rules") is a Business Rules Engine and supporting ecosystem. Drools, like other BREs, promises to lower the barriers to entry for application programming. Armed with this book, can a Business Analyst be used to write application logic? I don't believe so, and I'll tell you why.

Business Rules Engines, especially those based on the Rete algorithm, strongly favor rules written in 'if/then' format. (Sometimes the marketers will call this 'when/then' logic.) The basic premise is that you write your rules as a series of rules that individually specify matching logic for some objects you make available to the engine, then you specify what to do if any of the objects match your conditions. Example "IF there is a customer with age > 60, THEN allow senior discount". That's the marketing promise, anyway.

This book does a great job of showing you how to build a banking application, complete with validation, data transormation, and reporting functions. Each of these are implemented using Drools, of course, and workable code is provided at every step. The author takes care to explain nearly every line of code provided and highlights important classes and features as they occur. I think the author did well here.

Writing business rules is quite a bit different than writing logic in a language like Java or C++. I'd compare it more directly to writing SQL-- you're declaratively specifying which objects (out of a group) you want something to happen to, so you're thinking in terms of matching logic rather than ordered steps in an algorithm. You also don't always have complete control over the order in which your rules are fired, so it's not like garden-variety coding where it can be treated like a 5-step recipe. It just takes a different mindset. Once you're used to it, things are easier to understand, and this book can help. (By the way, I've fooled around with BREs for about a decade now, and support a production application that uses Drools, so I'd consider myself moderately skilled in BRE usage.)

In the course of writing the banking application the book is anchored upon, the author occasionally makes design decisions that are specific to doing things "The Rule Engine Way". One example is the use of 'global' facilities for validation reporting. The author might have chosen to implement this another way, but chose what he considered the best path and briefly explained his reasoning in making the choice. That's exactly the kind of thing that I think a BRE-literate reader would find of value-- expert insights into how to use this tool, not mere explanations of syntax, etc. Unfortunately, these insights were relatively few in nature and not highlighted where they were presented, so they might not be apparent to readers that aren't already thinking in the BRE way.

One thing the book glossed over that I wish was given more coverage is Guvnor, the Drools Business Rule Management System. Basically, a BRMS is a web application used to change existing rules, write new rules (provided they have been pre-templated by a rule author, usually), and version the rules. I'm told this is one of the key differentiators between Drools and commercial offerings like IBM's JRules, so it's a little disappointing that it was given virtually no coverage in this book.

As the author fleshes out the banking application, we encounter a little scope bleed as the reader is introduced to iBatis, Spring and Tomcat. While I see how these are necessary for the provided application, I viewed them as distractions and potentially barriers to successful implementation for some readers. To counter that, I offer the author kudos for covering a multitude of Drools facets like Domain Specific Language inclusion, Complex Event Processing, and rule ordering through "Drools Flow". All these are valuable tools in the Drools user's toolbox and they are given adequate coverage.

As I hinted at in the opening paragraph, marketers of BREs love to show demonstrations where rules are written in shocking clear 'if/then' syntax. These rules are purported to control powerful application logic and can be maintained by low-cost business analysts. Is this reality with Drools? No, I'm afraid not. It's also not true with JRules, Blaze, or any other Rete-powered BRE. What marketers will show you is how easy rule maintenance can be-- but they're not showing you how difficult things can be when your logic doesn't neatly fit the 'if/then' paradigm. For example, commercial vendors love to show insurance logic where they offer rules like 'IF the driver's age is over 25, THEN give them a discount'. Next time you see one of those, ask the marketer to show you something along the lines of 'Calculate the average age of the drivers in the household'. Notice how that doesn't say 'IF'? Requests of this type will typically require a skilled rule author, not a business analyst copying from a rule template. This type of logic does not play to the strengths of the engine. Actually, implementing this type of logic can be fiendishly difficult-- that's the reason BRE developers are among the best paid of application developers (Check Dice or Monster.com). I say all this to let you know BRE usage sometimes is easy, sometimes is really hard. In a workspace like that, I like to have advice handy from a multitude of providers, and I'll be happy to add this book to my reference collection. I just wish there were more highlighted best practices in this book to help the user leverage the author's expert experience. (By the way, there are a few more books on rules engines available, but most all of what I've seen is truly awful. I do believe they were written by business analysts, and probably ones who have never actually written an application powered by a BRE. I do not find that fault with this book.)

So, what's the verdict? I'm glad I read this book (twice, to make sure I got everything) and would recommend it to anyone using Drools. If you're not yet a Drools user, I don't think this book offers enough remedial material to effectively help you get on board-- for that I recommend the excellent documentation offered online with the product. (By the way, I hope you like cheese. The Drools doc authors seem to have some sort of cheese fixation, so references to cheese are plentiful.) For a Drools user like me, this book offers a view at parts of the toolkit I hadn't yet used and a view of how an expert user might go about designing an application. I'll call it a keeper.

Submission + - Book Review for "Plone 3.3 Site Administration: Ma

RickJWagner writes: This book is written for the person who has to set up and run a Plone site. It's not a development book-- it doesn't show you how to write software, rather it shows you how to acquire, install, and configure software components that will greatly enhance your Plone site. It covers a lot of ground, but much of it is covered in only the barest detail to instruct you in how to add a feature to your site. It doesn't devote much text to explaining what the add-ons do, only how to get them and how to integrate them into your site. There's also a lot of good general advice for a web-site administrator.

Here's a rough run-down on the contents of the book:

Chapter 1
What you'll need to run a Plone site (computer and basic tools, like a text editor) and installation procedures.

Chapter 2
Is titled "Site Basics" and covers the use of Buildout, which is a framework for installing add-ons in Plone. Buildout is very important for a Plone administrator, so it's nice to have coverage of the tool. Truth be told, I wish there was a little more material on Buildout in this book, but this is enough to get you introduced and the web can tell you the rest. To the book's credit, it uses a hands-on approach and immediately instructs you on how to use Buildout to change the default portlet navigation feature of your site and how to add blogging capabilities.

Chapter 3
The third chapter is about appearance, so it covers themes and changing the way your Plone site looks. As with much of the book, there isn't a lot of introductory overview, just step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish some given action. (In this case, the action is changing the look of your site through a new theme.) Buildout is used, of course. Also covered here are some handy tools for examining the things that make up a 'theme' and how to make your own theme. In making your own theme, the book instructs the user on the use of ZopeSkel and Paster, two tools important to Plone development. Again-- the book covers very little "Here is a tool, this is what it does, here's a nice diagram", rather there is "do this, do that, run this script, see how it changed your site".

Chapter 4
This is the administration chapter. The first topic covered is one that confused me on my first Plone site-- how do I add a user account without the requisite mail account? The author covers this topic well, I'm sure it will be appreciated by many Plone tire-kickers. Next, the book gives us the low-down on Zope 2 administration as a prerequisite to user and group management in Plone. (By the way, the CMS application Plone is running on the Zope application server. Sort of like the JBoss administration console is a feature-rich JEE application that runs on top of JBoss, for you Java-types.) The chapter concludes with a very nice section on using Plone with LDAP, which I'm sure is going to be a real-life concern for many corporate Plone users.

Chapter 5
The next chapter is the "Deployment and Maintenance" chapter. It covers such necessities as backing up and packing Plone's underlying database. It also covers log rotation and automation of tasks through mechanisms like cron and windows task scheduler.

Chapter 6
Chapter 6 is the Optimization chapter. It starts with some good advice about keeping Buildout configs (of course!) in source control for managing production deployments. From there, the book gets a little recommendation-happy as it shows how to install and configure several caching components (choosing which is best for you is left as an exercise for the reader), a couple of load balancers and a process supervisor. Front-end HTTP server configurations are covered, again in the usual "You'd better know what you want, but here's how to configure a few" style. Lastly, performance monitoring and viewing is given good coverage.

Chapter 7
This chapter is the 'security' chapter, and it carries some valuable tips. The first is how to restrict TCP/IP access to your host, then you are told how to effectively manage user permissions. Application of patches in Plone is covered, which naturally comes with some good advice about your buildout configuration files. There's also a section about using Apache Cassandra for monitoring user permissions-- in typical fashion, this side-topic is given little material outside the instructions on how to install and configure it. (Figuring out what Cassandra is, how it works, why you would choose it, etc. are left for you to figure out.)

Chapter 8
The final chapter again offers advice on using zc.buildout effectively, this time in the context of upgrading to future versions of Plone.

Overall Impressions
This book is difficult to categorize. On one hand, it often shows the reader how to install an add-on with precious little instruction on exactly what it is you're installing. On the other hand, it does provide very good instructions on how to get those add-ons downloaded and configured for your site. For readers unafraid to augment the book's material with a web browser, there is a lot of valuable insite here. (But for readers who like nice high level diagrams and introductory text that gives you some hint about products you're about to introduce to your environment-- this may not be your favorite book.) I think there is a lot of knowledge about use of buildout here, the reader certainly has enough examples that it will be a familiar friend by the time you're done with the book. There's also a lot of good advice about administering a production CMS site in general. Use of cache products, version control tips for configuration, ongoing maintenance, etc. are all covered. The back of the book states this book is meant as a resource for Plone administrators and content editors. For this audience, I think the book hits the mark well. For others interested in Plone-- i.e. developers who don't have a production site to run-- the book may not feel like such a good fit. All things considered, I think this book is a good resource for the Plone administrator, it's stated target audience.

The book can be found here: https://www.packtpub.com/plone-3-3-site-administration/book

Comment Maybe try Python, for a sampling of the ages (Score 1) 3

I'd recommend starting with a language like Python. You can start with old-school straight-line code, then add in the object-oriented and finally dynamic bits. When you feel you're really ready to step into the 2000-era environment, you can pick up a nice api-heavy framework (say something like Plone) because that's how a lot of work gets done today. That'd bring you up to speed in all the relevant eras, while starting you out with something that'll be accessible right from the start. Good luck! Rick P.S. I started out in 1990 as a COBOL programmer and have thus far managed to stay on top of the wave by not getting out of the game. Hang on, the multi-core revolution looks ready to throw us into the next era (leaving the object-oriented, framework heavy era behind.)
Book Reviews

Submission + - Book Review for "Groovy for Domain-Specific Langua (packtpub.com)

RickJWagner writes: This is a book targeted primarily towards the Java programmer who doesn't yet know Groovy. Groovy is a dynamic scripting language that runs on the JVM and offers easy integration with the Java language. Groovy also offers dynamic language features that lend themselves to the creation of DSLs (Domain-Specific Languages). This book attempts to simultaneously teach the reader how to use Groovy and how to build a DSL.

DSLs are something of a hot topic these days. A DSL is a 'Little Language' or a language written just for one business domain. As programmers, we're familiar with DSLs whether we realize it or not-- each time you use 'Make' to build a C project, or use 'Ant' to make a Java project, you're using a DSL. A DSL is a purpose-built language, with it's own verbs, rules, syntax, etc. It's made for one purpose only, and is meant to make things as easy as possible for the intended user. If the user has a need outside what the DSL can provide-- they're just tough out of luck! General purpose languages are for doing whatever the user needs-- DSLs are for doing only one task, but making that one task exceedingly easy for the user.

The book does a good job of making Groovy understandable for a Java coder. Programmers of other stripes would be able to use the book, but the author aimed squarely for the Java sweet spot and I think did a good job of hitting it. Where language integration was to be shown, the JDK was the recipricol part in the examples, and the classes singled out for interfacing were ones that would be well-known to a Java coder.

Writing DSLs has been done for many years, but was largely an undocumented process until just recently. I think the rise of dynamic languages has something to do with that. Dynamic languages offer some key features that make DSL creation a little easier. A few of these features the book covers are closures and meta-programming. Closures are anonymous methods, packaged in such a way that they can be passed as parameters to other methods. Meta-programming is using code to write other code, and can be used to perform some neat tricks like allowing the user to call methods that don't have a previously written definition. (If that sounds really strange to you, I agree. But it turns out this is something very handy if you're writing a DSL!)

The book is written in a way that thoroughly the breadth of features offered by the Groovy language, but not a lot of depth in all of them. For this reason, I found myself sometimes referring to external sources when I was encountering some language construct that seemed a little less familiar than most. It wasn't a problem-- the book did a fine job of letting me know of the existence of some language feature and how it might be used in writing a DSL. If I didn't immediately grasp the use of the feature after the typical single example of seeing it used in sample code, I'd just pop out to the internet and get a few more examples. The book is nearly 300 pages as it is, and very little of that is wasted. I give the book good grades for technical content.

Style-wise, I found the book reasonable to read but not great. As well as the author does spelling out the nuances of the Groovy language, the DSL parts are interspersed among the chapters and sometimes could be hard to find unless you read a lot of surrounding technical content. Maybe this is the only way to cover two meaty topics at once, I don't know. But I found myself doing quite a bit of paging when I wanted to refer back to DSL-specific advice, sometimes falling back to the chapter-by-chapter summary in the front of the book to get myself in the right neighborhood.

The book has plenty of sample code, which I found well constructed and easy to read. The author adapted the practice of writing small snippets of code, then used assertions to demonstrate the behavior the reader would expect if the code were to be executed. I really liked that. The code itself was always cleanly formatted and minimal in length, which made it very easy to read.

So, did the book hit it's target? I believe it did. The strengths of using Groovy for Domain Specific Languages are drawn out, and the Groovy language is given a thorough overview. Java coders will find this book a reference that will let them start using dynamic features while still staying on the JVM. (By the way, Groovy compiles to Java, so all your existing Java code is usable from Groovy. So you might write an application that's 95% Java and 5% Groovy, and that's just fine with Groovy.) I think this book covered a lot of ground and did it well.

   

Comment Re:Okay but... (Score 1) 52

Hi Kevin, I am RickJWagner, your humble book reviewer. I too consider myself well-versed in tech (after 20 years as a professional developer), but am surprised very frequently by new topics that pop up. In the old days, after I knew COBOL and a little Assembler, I thought mastering algorithms was all that was left (except for CICS and other mainframe stuff). Nowadays I am amazed at the number of languages/frameworks/technologies we have available. It's a much broader universe than I ever expected. As for my motives, I just love to code. I do volunteer (never paid) reviews of tech books and post them on several sites. I have a semi-popular blog, where I write on programming topics. (www.rickwagner.blogspot.com). Thanks for reading, and I hope you find something you like in my writings. Rick
Books

Submission + - Book Review for "Plone 3 Products Development Cook

RickJWagner writes: Book Review for "Plone 3 Products Development Cookbook"

This book takes an interesting path to teaching Plone 3 development. Unlike most software instructional books, it starts way back in the often-unread Preface by listing 10 requirements a mythical customer is asking the reader to implement in Plone 3. The requirements are realistic and I think would probably be quite a stretch for an inexperienced Plone developer. The rest of the book is dedicated to implementing those 10 features, and coaching the reader on Plone 3 development along the way.

I wouldn't say this is a good book for a novice Plone user. There really isn't much introductory material, and there is little material to transition the reader from Plone installation to meaty development. A newbie could certainly use this book if it were augmented with additional material (say, the Internet and a fair amount of time allocate), but the reader had better be ready to self-educate on Plone/Zope/Python development if they are not already proficient in these areas. For developers who already know their way around Plone, however, this book is an excellent step-by-step guide to adding serious functionality to the platform.

The book follows a consistent theme throughout. The desired functionality is briefly (very briefly) described, then the reader is given the following sections: Getting Ready, How to Do It, How it Works, and (sometimes) There's More. Here's how these work:

Getting Ready — outlines installation prerequisites, the things you'll need to gather.
How to Do It — step by step instructions on how to implement your changes.
How It Works — after you've configured things in the previous step, this step explains why things work.
There's More — an optional section where further reading can be found, or maybe extras like test procedures.

The book includes more than just the 10 specified features from the Preface, though. The authors cover development best practices, documentation, a section on testing, and many other goodies that are not directly in the path of implementing those 10 requirements. I especially liked the parts about performance improvements, a consideration that's sometimes lacking in development books.

Many expert-level techniques are revealed to the reader, especially those concerning production of Products for Plone 3. The authors are obviously well versed in their domain and they freely share best practices the reader will be able to leverage. These tips deal with the whole development cycle, distributed in a sort of holistic manner, sprinkled into several chapters along with the primary material for that section. It's not a book on the development process, but if the reader is willing to listen as advice is given, they will become aware of many development best practices (automated testing, documentation, etc.) along the way.

Besides just the how-to aspect of Product development, the authors give the reader some insight into runtime aspects of a Plone site. The chapter covering cache configuration, for example, was lighter on Product development verbiage and much longer on advice that is bound to be helpful for a Plone site administrator rather than a Product developer. I imagine it's probably not uncommon for people to wear both these hats, so this is another useful characteristic. Developers and Administrators alike can profit from this kind of advice.

The book definitely reads differently than most tech instructional books-- it's more like an expert's working notes than it is a typical dev book. It took me a few chapters to catch on, but after I figured out how to best use this format I can see how this would be very useful for random-access reference work. You don't need to do everything in sequence, just skip right to where you need to go.

There's a lot of text provided, too. There are nearly 370 pages here, almost all of it good, meaty instructions provided in the soon-familiar instructional template the authors established early on. If you know exactly what you want to do, there is little room for ambiguous interpretation-- you're bound to get it right. Some might consider portions of the text verbose, but that can be a desirable trait in a book that's going to serve as both introductory survey and later valued reference.

If you're charged with doing Plone 3 development, I'd recommend this book. There's a lot of expert advice here, and it covers a wide range of development activities. I would imagine almost every developer will learn some things from this book, and many developers will learn a great deal. For producing Plone 3 products, it will provide a quick answer for many commonly encountered questions.

The book can be found here: https://www.packtpub.com/plone-3-3-products-development-cookbook/book
ISBN: 1847196721

Submission + - Book Review for "Plone 3 Products Development Cook

RickJWagner writes: This book takes an interesting path to teaching Plone 3 development. Unlike most software instructional books, it starts way back in the often-unread Preface by listing 10 requirements a mythical customer is asking the reader to implement in Plone 3. The requirements are realistic and I think would probably be quite a stretch for an inexperienced Plone developer. The rest of the book is dedicated to implementing those 10 features, and coaching the reader on Plone 3 development along the way.

I wouldn't say this is a good book for a novice Plone user. There really isn't much introductory material, and there is little material to transition the reader from Plone installation to meaty development. A newbie could certainly use this book if it were augmented with additional material (say, the Internet and a fair amount of time allocate), but the reader had better be ready to self-educate on Plone/Zope/Python development if they are not already proficient in these areas. For developers who already know their way around Plone, however, this book is an excellent step-by-step guide to adding serious functionality to the platform.

The book follows a consistent theme throughout. The desired functionality is briefly (very briefly) described, then the reader is given the following sections: Getting Ready, How to Do It, How it Works, and (sometimes) There's More. Here's how these work:

Getting Ready — outlines installation prerequisites, the things you'll need to gather.
How to Do It — step by step instructions on how to implement your changes.
How It Works — after you've configured things in the previous step, this step explains why things work.
There's More — an optional section where further reading can be found, or maybe extras like test procedures.

The book includes more than just the 10 specified features from the Preface, though. The authors cover development best practices, documentation, a section on testing, and many other goodies that are not directly in the path of implementing those 10 requirements. I especially liked the parts about performance improvements, a consideration that's sometimes lacking in development books.

The book definately reads differently than most tech instructional books-- it's more like an expert's working notes than it is a typical dev book. It took me a few chapters to catch on, but after I figured out how to best use this format I can see how this would be very useful for random-access reference work. You don't need to do everything in sequence, just skip right to where you need to go.

If you're charged with doing Plone 3 development, I'd recommend this book. There's a lot of expert advice here, and it covers a wide range of development activities. I would imagine almost every developer will learn some things from this book, and many developers will learn a great deal. For producing Plone 3 products, it will provide a quick answer for many commonly encountered questions.

The book can be found here: https://www.packtpub.com/plone-3-3-products-development-cookbook/book
Books

Submission + - Book Review for "CodeIgniter 1.7 Professional Deve (packtpub.com)

RickJWagner writes: CodeIgniter is a multi-purpose, open source PHP web application framework that can dramatically reduce the amount of coding required in developing a full-featured web site. This book promises to introduce the reader to the most productive APIs and demonstrate their usage with minimal code snippets. In that regard, I think the book lives up to it's promise.

The first chapter covers CodeIgniter's MVC framework, which provides a way for a programmer to logically partition code so it's easier to maintain. For those of us who aren't accomplished PHP coders, this chapter also contains a PHP style guide, which I thought was a nice feature. By the way, the code snippets throughout the book are clean and easy to read-- the author must have followed his own advice on code style.

The second chapter is an introduction to some of the more productive libraries you'll find in CodeIgniter. Here you'll find some excellent advice on how to take timing metrics in your application, how to secure it, and how to accomplish routine activities like retreiving data from the user's request. Other 'web topics' are addressed here, like how to manipulate the session, how to manage emails and file uploads, and much more.

Chapter 3 handles form inputs and databases. As is common throughout the book, the reader is given minimal technical overview. What you'll find instead is a very brief explanation of what's about to be covered, then a few very readable source lines that demonstrate use of CodeIgniter in action. If this book were your only resource, I'm sure there would be times where you didn't find enough material to get everything done you wanted to do. But if you have a web browser (and Google) handy, a book of this type can be an effective index to help you find the parts of a framework you want to leverage.

The next few chapters cover user authentication and application security. I found these to be a little spotty-- heavy in some places, light in others. Still, the material was useful and not difficult to read or understand.

A nice chapter on tips for building a large-scale application was next. I found this one interesting-- many of the ideas were well-known, but a few had not occurred to me before. I liked reading it. Next up was a chapter on Web Services. I didn't take the time to test the provided code for this chapter, but I would like to sometime. If it works as I hope it will, I may have a new way to stand-up test web services!

The final 2 chapters are on extending CodeIgniter (it's great that the library authors institutionalized this!) and donating code back to the community.

So who is this book for? The book itself tells you it's for expert PHP coders, but I don't believe that's exactly right. Given the easy-to-read nature of the book and the light treatment given to some of the meatier topics, I'd say this book is about right for a novice-to-intermediate level PHP coder. I haven't done a lot in PHP, yet I found the code reading very easy.

If I had a wish for the book, I'd wish for a little more depth in the harder topics and maybe some quick overviews for a few topics. (Diagrams accompanying the overviews would be nice, too. This book has few illustrations except for screen-shots.)

All things considered, I'd recommend this book to coders that are getting started with PHP and CodeIgniter. It's easy to read and will get the reader pointed in the right direction for solving many web problems.

The book (and a sample chapter) can be found here: https://www.packtpub.com/codeigniter-1-7-professional-development/book

Books

Submission + - Book Review - "OpenX Ad Server: Beginner's Guide" (packtpub.com)

RickJWagner writes: Book Review: OpenX Ad Server Beginner's Guide

This book outlines use of the OpenX Ad Server. This open source software is used by bloggers, website hosts, and marketeers to set up and execute advertising campaigns. It lets the user define which banners should be shown on which web sites, how often, for which advertisers, and for how long. It also tracks results for the campaign so you can fine-tune your results as the user clicks occur.

The book promises to teach an absolute novice how to use OpenX. In that regard, I find the book kept the promise it made. The reader is given clear instructions on how to download OpenX and apply it to their environment. Even the mechanisms used to FTP files around are given clear text and step-by-step screen shots. Once the software is installed and in use, the same kind of detailed instructions guide the user through every task needed to effectively set up and execute marketing campaigns.

For those new to online advertising, the book provides clear explanations of the underlying concepts. Advertisers, Campaigns, Banners, and Zones are all spelled out clearly in text and with accompanying diagrams. The diagrams, by the way, are clear and easy to understand. This is all necessary prep work, as the reader is then treated to chapter by chapter deep dives on working with each of these fundamental building blocks. The chapters instruct the reader on the necessary details and options associated with each of these constructs. Once the reader recognizes the patterns used by the books authors, one chapter after the other spells out how to configure and make best use of the options provided by OpenX.

The first chapters are devoted to the high-level basics, the middle chapters to implementing those high-level components, and the final chapters to administrative issues and gathering statistics for your advertising campaigns. I found this layout to be logical, as it gives the user the big picture first, followed by the exciting middle topics, and lastly the parts you need to really maintain the product.

After reading this book, you will be able to:

- Understand online marketing and the terms associated with it
- Install the OpenX ad server
- Manage relationships between advertisers and publishers, campaigns and websites, users and campaigns
- Use the OpenX server to place advertisements in specific areas of webpages, and determine which ads will show in which frequencies
- Generate statistics on your advertisements, so you can understand and refine effectiveness
- Upgrade OpenX
- Use 'GeoTargeting' to direct users to appropriate ads by geography
- Use 'Channels' to direct ads by type to web site areas that fit the topic
- Manage your users and administrators (including allowing users to affect the content of their own campaigns)

All things considered, I found OpenX to be a very capable platform for serving online advertisements and I found this book is an excellent introduction to both online advertising and the OpenX server. If you have an interest in online advertisement, I would recommend you have a look at this title.

The book can be found here: https://www.packtpub.com/openx-ad-server-beginners-guide/book

About the author: Rick Wagner is an Enterprise Architect and developer working in the customer demographics workspace. Rick is a Sun Certified Enterprise Architect and member of the International Association of Software Architects.

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