Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation

Yes, I too was amazed how a generation of young people (along with a lot of older people who should know better), all catapulted a Chicago Machine politician with almost no business experience and who thinks like a college sophomore into the highest office in the Land, not realizing that his agenda was not some kind kind of cool "New Left" ideology made in the Apple I-Phone era, but rather, policy written back in the 1970s, and with the rubber stamp of approval from cynical unions and special interests (the teachers' unions, trial lawyers, etc.). I was truly shocked as someone who lived in Chicago, that people could be this damn naive and think that any Democrat from Chicago could possibly be uncorrupted by the "Machine".

Now to the book: I have not read the entire thing, but read a good part of it. The chapter on health care is very timely, now that Pelosi and Obama have rammed through their health care "agenda" using parliamentary tactics not seen in America since the robber barons of the 1880s (perhaps Hugo Chavez's Venezuela would be a better example). The author asks, "what would happen to your auto insurance if insurers were not allowed to charge anyone any more than anyone else, and had to accept everyone ? Well, of course, your policy would become much more expensive, and that is exactly what will happen with health care.

Mattera demolishes the "40 million uninsured" argument, showing that most of them have access to insurance, but just have not gotten around to applying for it. Solution: force them to !! Many of the uninsured are not even American, they are illegals from Mexico. And many make over $50,000 a year. Some just choose to buy a Blackberry instead of insurance. So the "solution" is going to be to force that 23-year old waitress to pay $ 2,500 a year for insurance, all so the 65-year old doesn't have to pay $ 7,000, but rather, $ 5,000. EXACTLY. It is a WEALTH TRANSFER FROM YOUNGER AND POORER PEOPLE TO OLDER, RICHER PEOPLE. Duh ! Meet the new Left !

All of this is just too predictable, but the author does a very good job of presenting good "talking points", all within a book structure that is fun to read (unless you are a lefty, of course), and humorous.

Just remember: Obama is from the "Machine", and nothing he is proposing was not already tired and worn out in 1977, from wind mills to bullet trains to "talking" with dictators, to underfunding our military. It is just that now that "Mr. Rock Star" is presenting it, the MTV generation has been duped into being zombies, that it will all work just like they drew it out on the whiteboard at Harvard.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Effective UI: The Art of Building Great User Experience in Software

Read this book, but first make sure it's the book you think it is!

I dug this book because I wanted to explore the headspace, perspective, context and helpful flows that lend themselves to building the right experience for the right users.

Just like the designers, developers, architects and business-heads I work with, my job includes working to ensure the right people are on board with the best approaches and the best solutions. For me, this book took a super-realistic approach towards the challenges and opportunities that come with driving to get the right UX solutions.

It's not crazy to say that building software that performs is really difficult. That said, designing and building software that performs and offers the right experience comes with a whole different level of difficulty (it's way harder). This book definitely isn't a step-by-step manual - there's no 2+2=4 kind of formula for good UX.

The way I see it, there are enough "how-to" books out there if I wanted to learn more about building software that performs. There are however very few books that offer insight into successful approach and philosophy behind setting the business/design/development table for building the right experience for the right users - this is one of those rare books. I found helpful (and still find it helpful) because I care about UX and not just impressive tech and performance.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Google Nexus One Unlocked Phone

I have to agree with the other reviewers who are rating this phone with five stars. I've been a software developer for over 30 years and have owned many cell phones; my last one was a Blackberry 8800. I also have lots of friends with iPhones and this phone beats them all. I agree the speaker has a tinny sound but I rarely use that. Everything else about this phone is just fantastic. IT's FAST running apps and with internet downloads. The other day while driving home in my car I had the phone plugged in to the AUX in on my car stereo listening to mp3's. I received a call and the music automatically stopped and I only heard the ringer. I answered the call, completed the conversation and when I hung up the music automatically started again right where it left off. The music app I was using is the free one that came installed on the phone.

The one thing I do think the iPhone does better is the layout of the on-screen keyboard. The keys on the iPhone are spaced out a little further apart making them easier to hit and less chance of making a mistake. But the autospell feature on the Nexus One is much better than the iPhone. One of my iPhone friends misspelled Mississippi (spelled Missisipi) the exact same way on their iPhone and my Nexus One. The autospell feature on the iPhone couldn't make a guess but the Nexus One presented Mississippi as a choice. Also in order to change the battery on an iPhone you have to mail it back to Apple for a replacement but with the Nexus One you can change it yourself.

The other point I LOVE about the Nexus One that I bought from Google for $429.00 plus shipping is that it's unlocked. All I did was install my SIM card and I'm using my Nexus One on my old contract that is the $10.00 a month charge for an extra phone. I didn't have to sign up for a 2 year contract and I don't have to shell out an extra $30.00 a month for a data plan which I think is outrageous. GO GOOGLE!

I have been raving so much about my new phone that my wife is ready to buy one and she has just gotten a new LG View.

If you're thinking about a smart phone, this is the one to buy.

Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites

Writing an introductory book on a topic like web programming is always difficult because the audience is varied. The readers will range from complete newbies who have never written a program before to experts in other technologies writing their first web pages, or perhaps even experts in other web technologies using these technologies for the first time.

PHP, MySQL & JavaScript perhaps goes a bit fast for someone with no programming experience whatsoever, but does not assume expert programmer status. The PHP and MySQL sections are very well explained and would be great for someone with little experience. For someone with a lot of experience in other programming languages, the PHP section might be a bit slow, but can fairly easily be skimmed to get the main content.

The MySQL section was a great, but somewhat short, introduction to relational databases. A little more depth might be helpful. Many volumes have been written on relational databases, elsewhere, however.

The JavaScript section went at a good pace for someone who already has quite a bit of programming experience. It might be a bit fast for someone at the level that the PHP section assumes. Readers who are new to programming will have enough information to write working code, even if they don't understand all of the nuances behind the language.

Overall the Learning PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites book is a good starting off point for anyone wanting to learn web development with PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript. Readers with little programming experience should be able to follow the discussion without much trouble. The information is organized in a orderly way, so more experienced developers can skim or skip over what they already know.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Angelology: A Novel

This book is in the genre of secret histories/societies, a hidden artifact, etc. Given that the genre has had so many entries in the past few years, I didn't expect much from this book, and thought I'd probably read a dozen or so pages and then toss it down.

Wow, was I wrong! I loved this book that takes us from 1998 at St. Rose's convent of perpetual adoration in upstate New York to Paris at the brink of war, to the Balkans near the end of the war, back to the present, with a side trip to a thousand years ago. The author has a real feel for intrigue, giving us just enough information at each moment to keep us interested!

The basic premise is that the offspring of Angels and humans have lived among us for thousands of years, and a nasty bunch of characters they are! A group of people calling themselves "angelologists" study them and try to find ways to make sure that the human race isn't kept in subjugation by them. Our main characters are several generations of humans (Gabrielle, Evangeline) and one very bad family of these hybrid angels.

I loved every minute of this book, although I did find the end a bit unexpected (and not in a good way). But the jarring effect it had didn't take away from the overall loveliness and craft of the work.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

SwissGear Wired Laptop Backpack - Great Pack for the Professional!

I travel a LOT for my job and basically have to carry my office on my back. I've gone through numerous backpacks and none really fit the bill...till now. I had noticed that a lot of my work peers were using various backpacks from Swiss Gear and all loved them for the right reasons. So I took the plunge with the new SwissGear Wired Laptop Backpack and couldn't be happier. Quality is definitely 5-stars and the organization within is about perfect. I carry a Dell 15" XPS laptop so the computer compartment is definitely big enough - but for the first time I don't have to struggle putting it in.

If there was any area for improvement it would be these two things. The cell phone carrier on the front strap is just too little for any kind of iPhone, Droid, or other full size 3G phones. Something like the Palm Pixi might fit, as would any smaller, normal phone. The other thing I would like to see is a small outside pocket (w/ zipper and flap) on the back. The most used and opened pocket on the backpack is the top compartment between the two straps. However if you have the pack attached to your roller bag, you can't access that compartment very easily.

For the frequent flyer, beware that this pack can grow to monstrous proportions if you continue to fill it (which you will). I have not been denied boarding for the pack being too big, just be aware that it's a big pack. Which is why I bought it!!

Highly recommended, two thumbs up!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Restful Java with Jax-RS (Animal Guide)

No one really enjoys reading specs, particularly not JSRs (Java Specification Requests, for those of you who are lucky enough not to have encountered these fun-filled documents). For those of you doing Java web development and looking for a good way to build RESTful applications, this might have been a sore spot when trying to understand JAX-RS -- the Java specification that outlines an API for building REST apps using annotations.

While both Jersey and RESTeasy, two popular implementations of JAX-RS, do provide fairly helpful user guides, the specification provides a wide-ranging set of capabilities and neither sufficiently conveyed the breadth of these, in my opinion. But now there is a new resource in the form of Bill Burke's RESTful Java with JAX-RS. Bill is the creator of JBoss' RESTeasy framework so he knows the specification well and it shows in this book.

The book explores building a RESTful web app from the ground up and includes a full workbook in the second section with complete examples. The examples are included with the download of RESTeasy, which was not immediately obvious on my first read through. Each chapter of the workbook matches a chapter from earlier in the book giving the reader the opportunity to try out the ideas they've just read about. This feels like a good format for a book like this -- a motivated reader can charge through the content of the book to get a cohesive view of the API, while not getting too bogged down in the details of setting up each example.

Some of the most interesting material that's harder to get from the users guides and online tutorials is covered in the material on content negotiation in chapter eight and content marshalling in chapter six. The content marshalling chapter not only explains the built in marshalling capabilities and the use of JAXB but also details how to add in custom handlers. While I don't know how much this will get used in practice given the ubiquity of JSON and XML, I suspect for those few who really need to supply their own data formats or who want to replace the built-in handlers will be more than happy to see it covered here.

I have to say that I felt like some items were not covered which would have been useful. For instance, I would love to see some examples of integrating with existing web apps and frameworks. It's not immediately clear what the best route is here and searching online turns up few, if any, best practices or war stories. Similarly it seems that a section on testing REST-based applications would have been called for, even if it isn't strictly part of the specification. I guess the book tries to stick to outlining JAX-RS within the context of the spec, but this feels to me a bit too limiting in scope. In general, some guidelines on best practices, common integration and usage scenarios and other "real world" content would have been a welcome addition.

Despite these minor complaints, this book is clearly a must have if you're venturing down the path of RESTful Java development. The existing documentation is far too-limited and this book is an easy and even enjoyable read.

Friday, March 19, 2010

RESTful Web Services Cookbook: Solutions for Improving Scalability and Simplicity

Product Description

While the REST design philosophy has captured the imagination of web and enterprise developers alike, using this approach to develop real web services is no picnic. This cookbook includes more than 100 recipes to help you take advantage of REST, HTTP, and the infrastructure of the Web. You'll learn ways to design RESTful web services for client and server applications that meet performance, scalability, reliability, and security goals, no matter what programming language and development framework you use.
Each recipe includes one or two problem statements, with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for solving them, as well as examples using HTTP requests and responses, and XML, JSON, and Atom snippets. You'll also get implementation guidelines, and a discussion of the pros, cons, and trade-offs that come with each solution.
  • Learn how to design resources to meet various application scenarios
  • Successfully design representations and URIs
  • Implement the hypertext constraint using links and link headers
  • Understand when and how to use Atom and AtomPub
  • Know what and what not to do to support caching
  • Learn how to implement concurrency control
  • Deal with advanced use cases involving copying, merging, transactions, batch processing, and partial updates
  • Secure web services and support OAuth

About the Author

Subbu Allamaraju is a Principal Engineer at Yahoo! where, during the last one year, he has been developing standards and practices for designing RESTful Web APIs. Prior to that Subbu developed web services/Java based software and contributed to JCP and OASIS standards at BEA Systems Inc. Subbu has contributed to four books on J2EE, all published by Wrox. For a complete list of his works, and writings, see

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Professional Android 2 Application Development

I'm a software engineer with 3 years of experience developing Windows Mobile applications.
I needed a book which is
  1. In-Depth - Perhaps one of the most in-depth Android books available.
  2.  Updated - This book is one of the most updated books on Android, covering Android SDK 2.1 r1.
  3. Lots of sample code to complement the shortcomings of the online Android Developer Guide.
This book meets all of my requirements.
Being a careful reader, I found many errors just by reading Chapters 3 and 5 alone. I've posted these errors on publisher's errata page and also on this book's forum. No book is perfect, therefore misspellings and misprints are tolerable. But incorrect or outdated information is not, therefore I hope the author can correct
these errors in the next print.

Depite these errors, I still give Professional Android 2 Application Development a rating of 4 because of other qualities, and the author was very keen to address these errors. Just like reading any other books, one just needs to be careful in reading, perhaps the best approach is to read it along with the online Android Developer Guide.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Developing Large Web Applications: Producing Code That Can Grow and Thrive

Product Description


Developing Large Web Applications: Producing Code That Can Grow and Thrive


How do you create a mission-critical site that provides exceptional performance while remaining flexible, adaptable, and reliable 24/7? Written by the manager of a UI group at Yahoo!, Developing Large Web Applications offers practical steps for building rock-solid applications that remain effective even as you add features, functions, and users. You'll learn how to develop large web applications with the extreme precision required for other types of software.
  • Avoid common coding and maintenance headaches as small websites add more pages, more code, and more programmers
  • Get comprehensive solutions for refining HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and Ajax for large-scale web applications
  • Make changes in one place that ripple through all affected page elements
  • Embrace the virtues of modularity, encapsulation, abstraction, and loosely coupled components
  • Use tried-and-true techniques for managing data exchange, including working with forms and cookies
  • Learn often-overlooked best practices in code management and software engineering
  • Prepare your code to make performance enhancements and testing easier

About the Author

Kyle Loudon is a software developer at Yahoo! where he leads a group doing user interface development. Some of Kyle's experiences prior to joining Yahoo! include working on the user interface for the original Apple iPod, writing software for various other mobile devices, and leading the user interface group at Jeppesen Dataplan (a Boeing company) in the development of a flight planning system used by airlines around the world. He also spent a small amount of time with IBM in the early 1990s. For several years, he has taught object-oriented programming part-time at the University of California, Santa Cruz while working as a software developer in Silicon Valley.

Kyle received a B.S. in Computer Science from Purdue University in 1992 with a minor in French, and was elected there to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He has also done some advanced education in Computer Science at Stanford University.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business (The New Rules of Social Media)

First, let me state that I don't typically write this sort of reviews. This time however, I had to create a shout-out because Steve Garfield nails web video with Get Seen.

I help people "productize their knowledge" and yes, this includes producing videos for them. I like to think I know a thing or two about video. And that's just it, I still learned a lot from this book. And more importantly, I got ideas from it. It's truly a resource.

Steve has put together a book that helps people understand and apply video to their business. Steve includes real world examples, references external sites, and shares his experiences to save you weeks of frustration. Steve spells out the tools you need, the services to use, and the steps to take. You can do it because it's all here in a thorough, well organized, and lively book. You'll walk away with the advice, ideas, and resources to make it happen.

If you're a solopreneur or a small business, you need to get this book. If you're looking to incorporate video into your online presence, you need to get this book. If you're looking to take yourself, your brand, or your business, to the next level, you need, to Get Seen.

Friday, March 12, 2010


These boys do things differently and eschew standard business practices. It works for them and it probably can work for others (but not for every business). The 90 short chapters struck me as similar in style and tone to the 81 gems of the Tao Te Ching. But like the pull of the Ying and the Yang, there are some contradictions in Rework. For example, they tell us that immediately starting work on a new great idea is a 'bad move'. Yet the final chapter tells us that 'if you want to do something, you got to do it now."

Workaholism is for chumps, they say, and you should never work past 5:00. But "if you're inspired on a Friday, swear off the weekend and dive into the project." They tell us not to raise money, but they rose money from Mr. Bezos himself.

That said, this is a must read for any business owner. I own a web business and run it much like the writers of this book. Can't remember the last time I had a standard business meeting with an agenda and a powerpoint, and my employees are spread across the globe. I reply myself to customer service issues quickly and naturally, and I keep my product simple. I don't pay for advertising but instead use word of mouth and attention from the media. But this doesn't apply to all types of companies.

It works for small companies who use the power of the internet to maximize automation and who therefore have the LUXURY to eschew the way everyone else does it. But this IS the future of much of the way we will be doing business, and that's why this book is so useful and important. Lao Tzu would be proud.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor

The Forerunner 305 has lived up to expectations, based on my first few weeks of experience. I use it for jogging/walking and it appears consistent and accurate based on about 10 outings of 6 mile length.

Positives: Light weight, easy to read, much flexibility on output displays, docks and synchronizes seemlessly with the Garmin Training Center software, works as advertised. I particularly like to display current pace as well as average pace.

Negatives (but none are serious): Takes 30 to 45 seconds to find satellites. I have a short attention span and tend to get impatient waiting for it to lock onto the satellites.

Tip: I occasionally record a false start by accident, then stop the run after say 5 or 10 seconds. Unfortunately, this "run" is recorded on the GPS. After uploading the data to the Garmin Training Center, I deleted the bogus run from the uploaded records. But every time I dock/sync, the short run was restored to the training record. The solution is to upload data, delete the unwanted record, clear the GPS memory, then send the remaining good records from the Training Center back to the GPS device. Said another way, I couldn't find a way to delete a record directly from the GPS, but the workaround accomplishes the same thing.
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