I’ve been doing my usual quarterly sweep of the always too full bookshelves and hit the usual dilemma of what to keep, what to donate to charity and what to recycle. Among the technical books in this batch is the ‘Sendmail Cookbook’, something I’ve always kept as a good luck charm to ward off the evil of needing to work with mail servers with m4 based configuration languages. Sendmail is one of those projects that I’ve not kept up with over the years. Read on →

I’m still new to Ansible and while it’s been interesting seeing how people are starting to use the tool, picking up bits and pieces from different blog posts is a little too hit and miss for my learning needs. When I spotted Ansible Configuration Management (PacktPub) I decided to take the plunge and see if it could provide me with a more consistent introduction. And it did. This book makes an ideal first stop for anyone wanting to learn Ansible. Read on →

I picked up a copy of Learning AWS OpsWorks during the PacktPub holiday sale. It was cheap, short and covered a AWS product that I’ve never had need to dig in to and knew very little about. The book takes you through creating a basic stack, the layers inside it and deploying an application to managed instances. Its coverage is very high level and doesn’t really go beyond a cursory explanation of the services used. Read on →


I don’t often impulse buy technical books. They cost too much and consume too much shelf space to be purchased frivolously but when it’s 1.95 for a Kindle book on Go and I’m stuck miles from home it seemed like a good idea. An Introduction to Programming in Go is a well written guide to your first hour in Go. While you can probably find coverage of the same material on the web, having it all nicely curated in one place is worth the money for someone like me who just wants a little taster and overview. Read on →

Disclaimer: I read the early release version of this book. Some details may change between the version I read the final, published one. The first two chapters of Heroku: Up and Running are my favourite of the book. After the usual selling and explanation of virtual servers and the arrival of ‘The Cloud’ the authors cover the concept, culture and technical architecture of Heroku. The technical details of a closed company are never covered as deeply as you’d like but the material here is interesting, explains quite a lot of Herokus main technology and approaches and how th platform has evolved to enhance an opinionated work flow that seems to suit many developers. Read on →

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been heavily involved in large scale A/B testing frameworks and after reading Bandit Algorithms for Website Optimization I feel like I’ve been shown a whole new toolkit in under 90 pages. This slim book quickly explains the basic principles of A/B testing and then introduces both one of the major problems with it, sending traffic to an inefficient option, and presents three algorithms based on studies of the multi-armed bandit problem that will introduce you to new, faster, ways to determine which trials are worth investigation and further exploration. Read on →

Reviewing the second edition of Cisco Routers for the Desperate was quite hard for me as I have very little to add to the Cisco Routers for the Desperate 1st edition review I posted a few years ago. After reading through this update pretty much all those comments still stand. It’s an excellent, useful, well written book and the author still has a -distinct- written tone. I enjoyed the book; I must have considering I bought the second edition! Read on →

With a title like Resilience and Reliability on AWS I had quite high expectations for this slim book. Unfortunately, they were not met. The first four chapters provide brief introductions to AWS and some of its more popular services. While these were fine I’d point people looking for this level of information at the Amazon Webservice Advent 2012 instead. Following this are a handful of more cookbook like chapters that each present a small amount of theory and advice about how to run a given applications on AWS - interspaced with multiple pages of python code. Read on →

Over the years I’ve realised that tools I can extend always return the effort taken to learn them many times over. While a number of us have worked through the source code of existing Puppet types and providers and the handful of official wiki pages and unofficial blog posts the release of Puppet Types and Providers means that the rest of you won’t have to - this book brings most of the power with far, far less of the pain and uncertainty. Read on →

When I picked up this very slim tome I knew nearly nothing about Gradle. Over the hundred odd well written pages of Building and Testing with Gradle I learned enough to understand the basic how, when and whys of the tool. The book itself covered basic Gradle usage, how it compares to existing tools like maven, how to use ant and your existing ant task toolbox from within it and a basic look at how to write a custom task and integrate your own testing. Read on →


It’s been years since I’ve read a book on VMWare. Between the maturity and ease of use of their GUI tools and my own continual move towards Free virtualisation I’ve not had the professional need or the spare time to invest but when a book comes as highly recommended as the VMware vSphere 4.1 HA and DRS Technical deepdive does you have to make some room on your (virtual) bookshelf. Despite its small page count this book covers its subject material in a simple, direct and technically clear way. Read on →


Hadoop is one of those technologies that seems to have forever changed the way parts of the industry work but has had no effect on my actual job. In an attempt to keep myself current for the after techtalk conversations I decided to buy Hadoop: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition by Tom White - and I’m very happy with the choice. While there are massive amounts of information online about Hadoop and the ecosystem emerging around it I still found HadoopTDG to be a useful book and worth the money (especially on the iPad as it’s a bit big for comfortable tube reading). Read on →

After working my way through JavaScript: The Good Parts I decided to put away all my misconceptions and give PHP a try. While I’m not actually looking to write any projects in the language at the moment I was interested to see how much of the PHP bashing was still based in fact and to learn what an expert in the language could show me. So I bought PHP: The Good Parts, which is a completely different book from the previous title in the series. Read on →

The ThoughtWorks Anthology is a collection of short articles and essays written by a number of their employees (some of who are now ex-employees) about software development with a heavily agile slant. The topics range from the very high level “Lush Landscape of Languages” and “What is an Iteration manager anyway” to the more technical and technique focused “Refactoring Ant Build Files” and “Object Calisthenics”. While the general quality of the writing is very good, especially my favourite - ‘Object Calisthenics’, the biggest problem with a book like this is that a lot of the essays authors, and some of their also knowledgeable co-workers, have personal blogs where this quality of information is available on a (near) daily basis, in both greater depth and more a conversational nature.

I’ve had Hardening Apache sitting on my shelves for over five years (Sep 2004 or so Amazon tells me). While I can remember dipping in to it for the Apache chroot chapter it never seemed to progress to the top of the pile, and now I’m cleaning out a lot of my old books I decided to finally give it a chance. The book is very well written, covers a good range of subjects from building apache from source to adding extra security modules and checking its running state. Read on →

Considering the deadlines most of us have to work to it’s not surprising how much the idea of refactoring, which by continuously improving the design of code, we make it easier and easier to work with. appeals to us. But why should developers have all the ‘fun’? Databases need some love and care too! It’s easier to review this book if we look at it as two smaller books. In the first book, chapters 1 to 5, the authors take you through the details of Refactoring Databases. Read on →

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this then you’ve seen my very basic website at some point. I learned some HTML and CSS back when Netscape 4 and HTML 3.2 roamed the earth and while some of my very front end gifted co-workers have bought bits of my knowledge up to date I still don’t understand how to properly lay out a CSS only multicolumn page without cheating. I’m not sure if it’s because i had vague expectations on what this book would cover or just if I’m not the target market for HTML & CSS The Good Parts but I’ve read the thing from cover to cover and nothing really stands out to me. Read on →

I’d never even heard of this book until Bob used its name in the same sentence as the excellent “Cisco Routers for the Desperate”. However while that book is about hands on practical Cisco advice Network Ninja is all about the theory - from IP addressing to routing protocols. While no one’s ever going to confuse 200 easy to read pages with the Stevens books this slender volume is an excellent refresher for the experienced admin who doesn’t do too much to the network on a day-to-day basis or for the less experienced admin who wants to know some of the why instead of just the command lines. Read on →

Although I’ve been a big fan of virtualization for many years I’ve mostly been a VMWare man. UML was good for the time but VMWare workstation and GSX always seemed to be better solutions - and they had the benefits of dealing with Windows. At $WORK we looked at using Xen for our new development environment but it never felt very finished, little things like needing to compile your own dhcp client in order to get PXE booting working always felt very wrong. Read on →


First a disclaimer, I’m not a heavy Ruby or Java guy. Most of my coding for the last couple of years has been perl and shell - because I write little things that I need right now and those two languages excel at that (CPAN is still THE decision clincher). I recently became involved in a side project that is written in Ruby and Java though and in an excellent timing coincidence a friend returned my previously unread copy of the JRuby Cookbook. Read on →

Considering that JavaScript: The Good Parts is only 124 pages it took me a lot of attempts to work my way through it. A combination of the authors attitude and the dry presentation put me off within the first three chapters every time i tried to read the book. However a side project I was helping out on needed some JavaScript reviewed and considering how little of the language I knew I forced myself to work through the book and I’m glad I did - despite its short comings it’s an excellent introduction to the language for programmers with a couple of other languages under their belt. Read on →

When it comes to progressing your technical career there are (IMHO) three main pillars, continuing your technical advancement, networking (with other people, not just wires) and building up your online presence. Land The Tech Job You Love covers all these critical points and expands the other parts of the job seeking process - researching the company, preparing for the interview and how to answer the more ambiguous questions that often come up. Read on →

With all the hype and misdirection around the cloud it’s always good to find a little bit of concrete information. If you’re interested in the general principles of how the cloud (and Amazon Webservices in particular) could replace some of your existing infrastructure then Cloud Application Architectures isn’t a bad place to start. The book is a slim tome, it’s easy to read in a couple of sittings and covers all the basics. Read on →

When it comes to sysadmin buzzwords Project California: a Data Center Virtualization Server ticks a lot of the boxes, which is a little misleading as half the book is about solid hardware level details that are actually rarely covered. While this makes the first half more than a little dry it does introduce concepts that many of us take for granted, such as why DDR3 is faster than DDR2. The second half takes you through the Cisco UCS stack and where the benefits are. Read on →

If you already know GDB then this book might be useful. It’s full of command summaries and option listings but lacks an actual introduction or any walk through examples. A google for GDB tutorials bought back some well written intros with actual sample code I could work through which is probably a more useful approach for most people.

The only books on capacity planning I’ve ever skimmed my way through have been dense, dull tomes of long mathematical formulas, advice that’s hard to use in any practical way and page counts in the treble digits. Thankfully John Allspaw has bucked this trend with The Art of Capacity Planning and instead written a slender, thought provoking, book. The main focus of the book is that measurement is good, blind guessing is bad and that capacity planning, like security, is an ongoing process. Read on →


Behind every good manager lurks dozens of bad ones. While Behind Closed Doors is full of mostly common sense tips it’s uncommon to deal with management that actually apply more than a couple of them. It’s an easy, quick read and an ideal gift for that special manager in your life that you really wished wasn’t. 7⁄10 The Python Phasebook is a concise, well written set of examples. Each ‘phrase’ is a short task with some sample code that shows one of the possible solutions. Read on →

A short review for a short book. Apache JMeter (Packt Publishing) is a good book if you’re new to both IT and testing and want your hand securely held. It introduces you to the basic ideas behind automated testing, takes you step by step through some simple GUI test cases and then doesn’t go any further. It’s a short book and maintains its beginners focus well but it has a very short lifespan (luckily it’s also available as a cheap PDF) and if you’re comfortable with GUIs and basic testing, or willing to click around for a while I’d recommend you dive straight in to the JMeter GUI rather than investing half a day to read this book. Read on →


There is something immensely isolating about working alone in a very secure, huge data centre, at 4am on a Sunday morning in an isolated “business park” in rural Scotland that only a few people will ever understand. The mind wanders, your ears strain to hear things over the quite loud air conditioning and just five minutes in daylight with a can of diet coke and someone to talk to would make the last 48 hours seem tolerable. Read on →

Marooned In Realtime was the first Vinge book I read and it has prompted me to start looking for all his others. A small number of time travellers (that can only go forward) awaken to find out humanity is gone. Amid a plan to gather all the other travellers together and kick start the human race one of the more powerful techs dies in odd circumstances, a 9000 year old traveller returns, aliens might be waiting to finish us off and an ex-detective is ordered to lead a manhunt to find out just what happened to the projects architect and biggest supporter (who may have been murdered by old age). Read on →

This is more like it, True Names by Vernor Vinge is a great mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Technical wizards join forces in cyberspace to oppose the “Great Adversary”. When one of them is compromised and turned in the real world a hunt for the most dangerous of the online personas is launched, leading to a great chase and some nicely described online battled. I’m not doing it justice, just click the above link dammit. Read on →

I’ve been on a sci-fi novel kick again recently and despite its short page count Blood Music by Greg Bear was the one I found slowest to finish from my first batch. A rogue biotechnologist starts his own experiments in to biological computers based on his own lymphocytes while on the company clock. He gets caught, ignores all precautions and injects himself with them. They then become intelligent and start spreading. Read on →

Cisco Routers for the Desperate (No Starch Press): If you’ve tech savvy but Cisco challenged then this books for you. It’s not a one stop shop but it covers almost everything you need to get started. We’ve just bought an office copy so I can have mine back. 8⁄10 – Cisco Routers for the Desperate book review Using Moodle (O’Reilly): Don’t bother, read the online docs or the application help pages instead, they contain pretty much the same amount of information.


Author: Michael Lucas ISBN: 1593270496 Publisher: No Starch Press There is a special place on my shelves for slender books that are focused on a single topic, offer practical advice, are pragmatic in their coverage and engagingly written. “Cisco Routers for the Desperate” (CRftD) meets all four criteria. Most sysadmins inherit a couple of Cisco routers and treat them as (forest green) black boxes. We don’t need to touch them very often and when we do the lack of familiarity makes the experience one of dread. Read on →

Authors: Dan Farmer, Wietse Venema ISBN: 020163497X Publisher: Addison Wesley Forensic Discovery is a small book that packs a big punch. In just over 200 pages it presents more information than books three times its size (and weight). The book is divided in to three main sections. The first, “Basic Concepts”, explains two of the books core ideas, the order of volatility, how it influences the gathering of evidence, and the importance of time based information. Read on →

I really liked Building Scalable Web Sites, its topic coverage is impressive - the author obviously knows what he’s doing - it’s written in a practical, easy to follow style and the text explains the theory while remaining pragmatic. There are few books on the market that contain this much useful information in what has always been an under-documented “niche” and it’s sure to save every admin at least a few scalability related headaches. Read on →

“What do you think of the Getting Things Done book?” “I’ll worry about time management when a tech publisher has a book on it.” “Have you seen Time Management for System Administrators?” Queue the sound of Amazon.co.uk being loading in FireFox I’m happiest when I’m bouncing between lots of different tasks - whether they’re all independent or part of a larger project. This is great in an emergency or when I’m working in a small team with a decent workload but not so good when it comes to simultaneously juggling small, quick turn around requests with longer, concentration demanding projects. Read on →

The Perl Testing Developers Notebook (PTDN) is the first of the O’Reilly Developers Notebook series I’ve read. The format’s good, a mix of the cookbook and hacks series, but does the substance match the style? At nine short chapters this book packs a fair amount in. It starts with how to write, run and read tests in chapters 1 and 2. Moving on to using Devel::Cover (a chunk of chapter 3) and, in chapter 4, introducing Test modules that’ll help you cover your bases before releasing a module (or depending on your perspective make you jump through cargo coding hoops.) These early chapters provide a well written, nicely paced, introduction to Perl testing. Read on →

The Ten Career Commandments isn’t my usual kind of book, I got stuck in a friends office waiting for him to finish up for the day and ended up reading it because it was the only thing on the desk, and they only had a 2Mb office ‘net connection - the barbarians ;) The Ten Career Commandments is an easy read that will best serve people just starting out in the world of work. Read on →

When it comes to system administration, the system part can refer to the paperwork, processes and procedures as much as actual machines. Among the modern admins worries are such evil beasties as section 404 of Sarbanes Oxley, the data protection act, log retention for the lovely police state powers of our government and, in some industries, ISO17799, BS15000 and other similar standards. One of the topics I’ve been interested in recently is the ITIL approach. Read on →

A book about a debugging program is never going to be that exciting. At best it’ll be both comprehensive and concise, two things that don’t have to be mutually exclusive, at worst it’ll be a dull rehash of the perldoc. Which type is this one? The Perl Debugger Pocket Reference (PDRB) starts with some basic practises to help you avoid debugging (the usual use strict and use warnings) before walking through two very basic debugger sessions and then on to the bulk of the book, the command reference. Read on →

Author: Bo Burlingham ISBN: 1591840937 Publisher: Portfolio It’s difficult to spend much time on the ‘net and not come away with the impression that in business small is the new big. Companies like 37 Signals and The Pragmatic Programmers Agile publishing are proving that nimble and smart can make a decent living even in a world inhabited by lumbering behemoths. While there are numerous examples of challenging the big boys at their own game, a second type of small business is starting to get some coverage. Read on →

Author: Robin Williams ISBN: 1566091594 Publisher: Peachpit Press One of the great habits in the world of computers is a love of naming things. Patterns, refactoring techniques, types of security hole, all of these become easier to research and discuss once you have a common vocabulary. This book applies the same principle to basic design. It improves your design skills by helping you identify and recognise good and bad examples of the core principles. Read on →

Author: Claudia Baca ISBN: 0782144101 Publisher: Sybex Inc.,U.S. (Habour Light Press line) Change management is like version control: your projects don’t need it to survive but it does help stack the odds in your favour. Once you’ve worked within a well designed process you won’t want to do without it. Unfortunately the ability to create a change management system isn’t one that many techs have, myself included, so I went in search of a decent book on the topic that I could borrow ideas from. Read on →

Authors: Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister ISBN: 0932633439 Publisher: Dorset House Publishing Co “Your business success will depend on the extent to which programmers essentially live at your office. For this to be a common choice, your office had better be nicer than the average programmer’s home. There are two ways to achieve this result. One is to hire programmers who live in extremely shabby apartments. The other is to create a nice office.” - Philip Greenspun. Read on →

Author: C.J. Date ISBN: 0201612941 Publisher: Addison Wesley You can almost see the racks of database books from the back of the shop. While the shelves are often dominated by the cheap looking orange Oracle Press books, their black cover range is much nicer, or the red and black Microsoft Press tomes you’ll also find a respectable number written by C.J Date. One of the fields most renowned experts. What you won’t find are many books written by E.F Codd, and, considering how much of the database world exists due to his vision and work, that’s a big shame. Read on →


Author: Geoff Burch ISBN: 1841124702 Publisher: Capstone Publishing Ltd The authors of an unhealthy amount of business books seem to live in a world of external sunshine and abundance. Every sales call results in a gentle hug and every request for money a blank cheque. This book isn’t like that. Although it bills itself as a “guerilla guide to setting up on your own”, it’s more an overview of the practical , often overlooked, aspects of becoming self-employed. Read on →

Author: Kerry L. Johnson ISBN: 1857880471 Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing When it comes to sales people there are two main types, those that believe in win/win selling and the ones who don’t get my money; and hopefully have bad things happen to them. “Selling with NLP” (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) aims to provide salespeople with the skills required to increase rapport with their clients and help them understand the customers needs rather than just the wants. Read on →

I always seem to have a huge pile of books to read and an inability to actually read them in any order. This months pile includes: Behind Closed Doors. I’m a big fan of the Pragmatic Programmers books and this one is no different. It covers the things that we’re thankful good managers already know and gives us something to throw at^Wto the bad ones. I’m most of the way through it and it’s a 7⁄10. Read on →

Author: Mark Pilgrim Dive Into Greasemonkey Homepage Q: What is Greasemonkey? A: Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows you to write scripts that alter the web pages you visit. You can use it to make a web site more readable or more usable. You can fix rendering bugs that the site owner can’t be bothered to fix themselves. You can alter pages so they work better with assistive technologies that speak a web page out loud or convert it to Braille. Read on →

After the enjoyable and easy to read “22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” (my review) I decided to give “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” an afternoon of my time. This book is very similar in presentation, format and even writing style to the “Laws of Marketing”. It’s an accessible, easy read in which each law is broken down in to a very short chapter that makes it as enjoyable to dip in to while on the go as it does to read cover to cover. Read on →

Authors: Al Ries, Laura Ries ISBN: 1861976954 Publisher: ProfileBooks After the enjoyable and easy to read “22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” (review) I decided to give “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” an afternoon of my time. This book is very similar in presentation, format and even writing style to the “Laws of Marketing”. It’s an accessible, easy read in which each law is broken down in to a very short chapter that makes it as enjoyable to dip in to while on the go as it does to read cover to cover. Read on →

Authors: Al Ries, Jack Trout ISBN: 0006383459 Publisher: HarperCollins Marketing books ain’t my usual bedtime reading material but as the Open Source movement continues to forge ever onwards the softer skills are going to become every bit as useful as writing code or documentation. While looking for an accessible book on these dark arts I stumbled on Eric Sinks take on the The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and just had to read the original. Read on →

While marketing books ain’t my usual bedtime reading material but as the Open Source movement continues to forge ever onwards the softer skills are going to become every bit as useful as writing code or documentation. While looking for an accessible book on these dark arts I stumbled on Eric Sinks take on the The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and just had to read the original. The “22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is an extremely accessible book that details, as you’d guess from the title, 22 common elements of marketing that the authors consider to be (near) immutable laws. Read on →

I always feel both a little guilty and odd when discussing books about sales people and selling. While you need money to survive in any business the IT people are normally quite removed from the processes of bringing it in (technical pre-sales is one notable exception). Like most techs I’m not a natural sales person, add to this my intense dislike of pushy sales reps, both in my personal shopping and professionally (cold call me on the phone and I’ll NEVER buy your product) and I’m probably not the ideal audience for this kind of book. Read on →

I enjoyed the entertaining, if not exactly revolutionary, Blink and went looking for anything else by the same author. The Tipping Point is very similar in style and outcome to Blink; it delves in to an interesting subject in an entertaining way but leaves you feeling a little empty. The book itself is well written and has a pretty wide appeal, the subjects examined and ideas presented cover such a wide range of examples that there is something in it for almost everyone. Read on →

Ivan Misner has a remarkable reputation in business referral circles as a master networker and a talented author. Unfortunately Seven-Second Marketing: How to Use Memory Hooks to Make You Instantly Stand Out in a Crowd doesn’t seem to reflect this. This slender volume explains the value of a memory hook (or tag-line as some of us know them) before delving in to the different types, such as playing on your name, the nature of your work or using humour and rhyme. Read on →

Author: Mark A Sportack ISBN:1587050676 Publisher: Cisco Press When I first received IP Addressing Fundamentals my first reaction was “340 pages of hard back book to explain subnetting?” but I’m happy to report the books title is a little misleading; it also covers a number of related topics such as multi-cast, DNS and NAT in a clear, accurate and unfortunately overly dry style. The book itself is broken in to five parts: "Introduction to IP Addressing" which explains binary math before covering fixed length and variable length subnet masks. Read on →

I stumbled on to the site for Danger - Quicksand - Have A Nice Day through one of the other blogs I read and after reading the first couple of pages was sucked in. The book doesn’t cover anything really ground breaking but where it caught me was pointing out scenarios that I’ve been in and showing that I’m not the insane one for thinking they were odd or out of place. Read on →

I’ve just finished re-reading Using SANs and NAS from O’Reilly. It’s aged really well, provides an excellent introduction to the common terms, principles and usages. Well worth a read (and quite cheap these days). You can now find the Using SANs and NAS book review on my main site or over at London PM.

Author: W. Curtis Preston ISBN: 0596001533 Publisher: O’Reilly While storage capacity has grown (almost as fast as the amount of data we want to store!) our ability to manage and backup critical resources has been lagging behind, and is only just emerging from the dark ages. Although a couple of 250GB hard drives and a DVD burner may be an adequate solution for a home user, a company with large databases, shared file servers, remote home directories and tight data recovery windows needs something more; this book presents the two best options. Read on →

I’ve just finished reading Using SANs and NAS by O’Reilly, in short it’s a great book for picking up the basic principles behind both SANs, NAS and using fibre channel to connect them together. The book doesn’t really delve in to the technical details which means it’s aged pretty well. Taking its place I have Cisco Routers for the Desperate which provides an quick and easy way to get up to speed on the basics of using Cisco routers. Read on →

Writing this review was a little awkward. The book covers a topic I needed to know about while not having a huge amount of interest in learning, however it is an excellent book if you actually need to know about FogBugz so I felt it was worth a review. The book is end user focused and could be thought of as a “Missing Manual” for FogBugz. If you need a book to give an overview of what the product can do and introduce you to the basic and a number of the intermediate features then this is as good as it gets. Read on →

Author: Mike Gunderloy ISBN: 159059486X Publisher: Apress Despite the name, FogBugz isn’t just used for tracking bugs. The product covers all the essentials such as streamlined bug submission (if it’s not easy people won’t do it), accepting and replying to email submissions and dividing your workload into different projects and releases (with the aid of a nifty autosorter). Over time FogBugz has grown to include discussion groups, tracking of tasks via RSS and email on the technical side, and due dates and escalation reports on the management front. Read on →

I’ve been lucky enough to get a review copy of Painless Project Management with FogBugz (I’m not stalking Mike Gunderloy, honest! :)) and I’ve enjoyed reading through the first four chapters. While I’m not sure I’m the ideal target market, the book seems more for end users just picking up the product, so far I’ve found it extremely well written. My initial thoughts are that it’s accessible, covers all the basic functions and could almost be one of the Missing Manual books from O’Reilly. Read on →

I’ve finished reading Pragmatic Version Control Using Subversion and it’s a blinder. Whether you’re new to version control in general or just Subversion itself this book is highly recommended. Clear, concise and crammed full of useful, important and dare I say, pragmatic, advice and information. An excellent book in it’s own right and a worthy addition to the Starter Kit Series. My full Pragmatic Version Control Using Subversion book review Read on →

Author: Mike Mason ISBN: 0974514063 Publisher: Pragmatic Programmers Reviewed by: Dean Wilson When it comes to version control systems, CVS has long been the workhorse of the Open Source and Free Software movements, but with the release of Subversion it’s time to put the old nag to rest; and this book tells you what you need to do it. When it comes to software development the Pragmatic Programmers are widely recognised as masters of their trade, but with the release of their award winning Starter Kit Series they’ve begun to gain a reputation for writing, editing and finding book authors that are as talented as they are. Read on →

I was lucky enough to get a free review copy of Mike Gunderloy’s new book, Developer to Designer. While it’s not as good as Coder to Developer (and in fairness very few books are!) for the right audience (Windows developers new to building GUIs) this is an essential reference. I’ve now put a full Developer to Designer book review up under my reviews page.

Author: Mike Gunderloy ISBN:078214361X Publisher: Sybex International Having an easy to use, consistent and intuitive user interface is an incredibly important part of today’s software, but for every experienced UI, usability and human-computer interface professional there are legions of beginning Windows GUI developers (VB developers, Coders working with MS Office etc). Unfortuantly they are often left alone to struggle through the basic do’s and don’ts of building an acceptable and consistent, both with other applications and the OS itself, GUI. Read on →

I’ve added reviews of The Art of The Start and the The Bootstrappers Bible to my book review page. The Art of The Start is a decent enough look at what you should and shouldn’t know but for me the winner was The Bootstrappers Bible, it covers a lot of the same subjects but its pace was better suited to me and it seemed to be more pragmatic and less preachy.

Authors: Seth Godin ISBN: B00005R2F8 Publisher: Do You Zoom, Inc. The Bootstrappers Bible is a 100 odd page ebook, that was available for free and is now available cheaply from Amazon, that provides a pragmatic and realistic overview on the hows and whys of starting up a business with nothing but limited resources and your own intelligence. This book focuses on the essentials of competing with bigger, better funded players and contains more ideas, practical advice and essential knowledge than most books treble its size. Read on →

Authors: Guy Kawasaki ISBN: 1591840562 Publisher: Portfolio The Art Of the Start is a short, pithy and to the point look at some of the essential knowledge that any aspiring entrepreneur should have. The eleven concise chapters cover a range of topics including the old favourites, positioning, pitching, and raising capital and the less common bootstrapping, rain-making and even “The art of being a Mensch.” The author’s experience on both sides of the road to starting up a business, as an entrepreneur and a venture capitalist, is very visible in the text and helps convey context with his advice. Read on →

Author: Kent Beck ISBN: 0321146530 Publisher: Addison Wesley Summary: An interesting book that presents a useful approach, some good idea’s and many pithy quotes but not a classic. Testing is one of the most overlooked phases of the development cycle. From the worst case scenario of not being done to the more common case of all the testing being done at the tail end of a project, when time is most precious and least available, it is more often a rushed afterthought than a real part of the process. Read on →


Author: Jonathan Hassell ISBN: 0596003226 Publisher: O’Reilly & Associates RADIUS (the Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) isn’t getting any younger or popular, it’s a specialised technology that very few people seem to discuss and even fewer write books about. Unfortunately the ones we do have, such as this, don’t exactly encourage it’s adoption. The book starts with a solid overview of the AAA process/framework, AAA in this context being Authentication, Authorisation and Access Control. Read on →

I read a lot of books, some of them are inspiring, entertaining and relevant. Some are dull, overly terse and yet still useful; The O’Reilly Radius book is more akin to bad dental surgery. What really annoys me is that I can’t think of a better way of presenting such as dry topic, the book provides detailed coverage that is just as easy to read and understand (and as fascinating) as the original RFC version. Read on →

I go through a lot of books, after looking at my reading pile recently I realised something has changed in my reading habits, I don’t get through entire books anymore. I just seem to get through the first half, know enough to muddle through and then get on with that ever I needed the knowledge for. So in an attempt to start clearing the pending pile I’m going to focus on a batch of books at a time. Read on →

I’m currently doing two short evening courses, ten weeks each, and on the reading list for one of them is The Tao Of Motivation. This isn’t my usual type of book, while my reading list is pretty diverse I would typically only read a book like this for the humour value. The book explores some of the basic principles of motivation including how to deliver praise, (very basic) NLP and visualisation. Read on →

How many books for beginners exist for your programming language /technology of choice? I’m assuming that if you are reading this site you are a tech of some description and so have some exposure to coding, if not stay with me ;) How many times, and in slightly different ways, has the same basic introduction to Perl, Python, TCP, Linux or Java been written? Now include the how-tos, on-line articles and tutorials. Read on →

Joel Spolsky is working on a new book, rather than spread more of his own wisdoms, if you don’t read his site then you should!, he is compiling and editing a list of the best software essays published either online or on dead tree. While it is probably going to be quite a while before the book becomes available you can currently view the list of nominations and, in most cases, read them online.

I’ve been a Terry Pratchett fan ever since I bought a copy of “The colour of magic”, he was a master of constant jokes, diverse and interesting characters mixed together in a fantasy world which had enough commonalities with our own to add an extra twist to the tale. If one thing stands out from that sentence it should be the word ‘was’, while the quality of the recent stories (Monstrous Regiment, Night Watch) is, if anything, better than the earlier books the newer books including Going Postal are very quiet on the humour front. Read on →

I’ve recently re-read Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I was actually looking for a different finance book and this one fell on me so I considered it an omen :) The book is pretty straight forward read which gives you a peek at the perspective of a business man who is trying to educate his son and sons friend in how to treat money. While the book isn’t exactly life changing it is a worthwhile read and contains a number of well explained nuggets, the best example and the one that stayed with me from my first reading about four years ago is the comparison between a “rich” and “poor” mans balance sheet. Read on →

I finally got around to reading the very good Pragmatic Project Automation, the short summary is that it’s excellent for new Java coders, a good read for new developers of .NET or dynamic languages, a useful but not critical read for people with four/five years experience in delivering software and working in small teams. The review is now up on the London PM Reviews page and also, surprise surprise, on the Liverpool Java User Group. Read on →

Author: Mike Clark ISBN: 0974514039 Publisher: The Pragmatic Programmers Pragmatic Project Automation is the third in the Pragmatic Programmers starter kit trilogy (so far…) of books. As it is also the first one not written by Dave or Andy the first question is, does it live up to the high standards set? The answer is a very strong yes. While the first two books in the series increased the developers workload (using CVS and writing unit tests) the third installment focuses on pushing the work back to the machine. Read on →

I do most of my small scripts and minor hacks in Perl, it’s powerful, cross-platform and it has CPAN. While I’ve spent some time investigating other languages such as Python, Groovy and even sed and awk for certain tasks, only one has held my interest; Ruby. It was recently announced that the second edition of the Pragmatic Programmers Programming Ruby (the pickaxe book) is now available for preorder in PDF and dead tree formats. Read on →

I’ve just finished reading You Need to Be a Little Crazy, a book that puts the life and day to day activities of an entrepreneur under the magnifying glass. The book is a pretty balanced look at the type of people that set up a company under normal circumstances (not a bubble), the down-sides and potential risks are mentioned to deter the casual and uncommitted members of the audience while the author conveys the reasons he enjoys the challenge and tries again and again; even when everything goes wrong. Read on →

Author: Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt ISBN: 0974514004 Publisher: The Pragmatic Programmers While the presence of a version control system doesn't mean that all is well with a project its absence is often a warning sign of bad practises. Pragmatic Version Control with CVS provides the fundamentals required to ensure your project has a least the basics covered. Firstly let's discuss what this book isn't, comprehensive and for experienced CVS users; unless you want something to hand to your less experienced co-workers. Read on →

Adam Kinney has a post about Longhorn and XAML books in production. While I’m an O’Reilly fan, I have way too many of their excellent Unix books, I’ve never been too taken with the Windows selection. It looks like they are gearing up though with two books written by Ian Griffiths and Chris Sells, two bloggers that should be required reading. Nice move Tim!

I’ve been a fan of the Pragmatic Programmers ever since I stumbled on to their first book, The Pragmatic Programmer. Since then I’ve happily worked my way through the Pickaxe book (Pragmatic Programmers guide to Ruby) and now I’ve started on their own ‘Starter Kit’ series. CVS has never been something I went too deeply in to, the basics of checkout, change, update and commit were fine for my purposes. These days I mostly write small bits of code, short articles and seldom collaborate with other people on projects outside of work. Read on →

A couple of my book reviews are now up on London PM’s review section, the two books are Coder to Developer and XForms Essentials. The first, Coder to Developer by Mike Gunderloy, is a great book for less experienced software developers looking to become more professional. The second is an older but still valid book focusing on the XForms spec. Its a little dry and academic but if you need to understand the principles XForms Essentials isn’t the worst option by a fair way.

Author: Mike Gunderloy ISBN: 078214327X Publisher: Sybex International For those that live in the land of the magic LAMP the name Mike Gunderloy might not ring any bells. For those in the Windows world it's more familiar, the author of too many books to count, articles in Microsoft Certified Professional magazine (among a fair few others!), his own <a href="http://www.larkware.com/">Larkware</a> site and now Coder To Developer. The book draws upon the author's years of experience to cover the areas that coders new to the real world of development will find themselves unprepared for, especially if they have come from a hobbyist or purely academic background. Read on →

Author: Micah Dubinko ISBN: 0596003692 Publisher: O’Reilly & Associates HTML forms are a necessary evil, outdated and overworked they are prime targets for a long awaited overhaul. From out of the shadows we have the only contender to step up to the challenge and push forward; XForms. XForms Essentials has an enviable pedigree, with Micah Dubinko an editor and author of the XForms specification itself, writing the book the information is almost straight from the horses mouth. Read on →

Author: Tony Bourke ISBN: 0596000502 Publisher: O’Reilly & Associates I like concise books, no one wants a 1500 page breeze block which has long winded examples and rambles through the subject matter (cough Wrox cough) but this book sets new standards in small. With eleven chapters and three appendixes in just under 170 pages you get a nagging suspicion that the meat of the topic is going to be left uncovered. Read on →


Author: Bill McCarty ISBN: 0764524631 Publisher: redhat press (Wiley) You are in a maze of Linux Firewall books – all alike. Fortunately one stands out from the others for two reasons, the first is obvious, its an official Redhat press book, you expect Redhat books to be pretty accurate. The second, slightly more subtle one, is the authors name; Bill McCarty. Best known for his excellent articles in the American Linux Magazine and his Learning Redhat and Debian books for O’Reilly the stage is set for a good read. Read on →

Author: Rob Flickenger ISBN: 0596004613 Publisher: O’Reilly & Associates The first time i picked this book up to read i never even made it through the first four pages to the preface, the foreword is provided by Eric Raymond and to be completely honest, does no justice to the rest of the book. While ESR focuses on the abstract details of hackers, in pretty much the same way as all his other writing, the meat of the book is pure, hands on solution. Read on →


Authors: Steve McConnell ISBN: 0735608776 Publisher: Microsoft Press One of the things that I used to find puzzling was how Microsoft Press released some of the best books on software engineering and application development while maintaining the level of quality they are famous for. I eventually realised that it was simple, all of the best programmers were writing books instead of code. When your sitting in front of a screen looking at another bluescreen cyou may argue with this being a good thing but if you’ve ever read any of McConnell’s other books such as Code Complete you’ll find the trade off to be acceptable. Read on →

Author: David H. M. Spector ISBN: 1565926250 Publisher: O’Reilly Building Linux Clusters was a book that I had high hopes for. Clusters are one of my hobbies and when I discovered that the same publisher that bought Running Linux to me was behind I saw good things ahead. And then I got it. This book was held back for months from its initial release date. I can understand this since pretty much anything in the Linux word is a moving target and around the release date clusters were a prime example so when I got my copy of this book I was looking forward to reading about a subject I have an interest in. Read on →

Author: Andrew Johnson ISBN: 1884777805 Publisher: Manning If you come from a non-programming background and you want to learn Perl go and buy this book. Now. The rest of the review will wait until you get back. If your coming to Perl from another language and you have basic to intermediate knowledge and experience of programming concepts go and buy this book. If you know Perl well then buy this book and when ever anyone asks you a lot of questions hand it to them and smile as you realise you’ve just done them a favour. Read on →

Author: Craig Hunt ISBN: 0782127363 Publisher: Sybex DNS is one of the elite few subjects that inspire newbie admins to break out in a cold sweat at the merest mention of its name, along with sendmail it has the stigma of being a critical system allowing no down time making it difficult to learn or tinker with and having documentation that is far over shadowed by an O’Reilly book. When i came to need a good tutorial on DNS i went to the Linux Documentation project and skimmed over the introductions provided there and then prepared to shell out for the newest edition of the rather unfriendly cricket book after being left hungry for more in-depth coverage. Read on →

Authors: Simon St Laurent, Ed Dumbill, Joe Johnston & John Posner ISBN: 0596001193 Publisher: O’Reilly Programming Web Services with XML-RPC is a slim concise volume that cuts out a lot of the current XML hype that plagues too many recent books and is all the better for its absence. The first two chapters of the book contain an overview of the XML-RPC standard itself and provide both a good overview of the technology and a flavour of the current implementations. Read on →

Author: Stefan Norberg ISBN: 1565927680 Publisher: O’Reilly I must admit that I was dubious about volunteering to cover this book when I saw it on offered on the list, I was expecting to open it up and see in huge letters, one to a page, Step 1 “Unplug the Ethernet cable.” Step 2 “Remove the power lead.” Step 3 “Feel secure.” But I thought what the hell, I work in a Windows shop so I’ll read it during the work day and get the company to cover my time. Read on →