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"The only frontiers are in your mind"
28 | 07 | 2017
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Family guy, geek, entrepreneur, software craftsman: Visual FoxPro, C#, SQL Server, MySQL, Linux consultant, conference speaker

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Learn to Code in Swift: The new language of iOS Apps by Kevin McNeish
Sunday, 28 February 2016 16:26

As a subscriber of a mailing list curated by Kevin McNeish I received his call to action around begin of December last year,

 Call for action: Review Kevin's book "Learn to Code in Swift"
Call for action: Review Kevin's book "Learn to Code in Swift"

and following his request I sent him an email that I'd be interested to read and review his title. Luckily, I was among the first 20 to respond and after some quick exchange of emails I had his book title "Learn to Code in Swift: The new language of iOS Apps" on my Kindle device.

Today, I left the following review on Amazon:

Solid content delivery of the concepts of Swift - Easy to understand

Frankly, I know Kevin since more than a decade, attended one of his five-days workshop, and he simply keeps on delivering solid, high quality content that is logically structured, easy to read and to understand. Despite being a seasoned software developer in other programming languages I was very pleased when Apple introduced their completely renewed and well-designed programming language Swift. And although I'm more focused on using C# on Xamarin to develop smartphone and mobile application I always like to keep an eye on other technologies. As Swift is surely one of them I thought to give Kevin's book a shot... And he has delivered as expected.

Only by looking at the table of content I knew that this is going to be a fun read. The book is actually structured like a set of full-day classes or better said a training workshop for beginners in Swift. It starts with the basic elements of Swift, then covers code workflow and finishes of with more advanced topics like closures and error handling. Throughout the chapters there are some samples which have some hidden gems (for those knowing Kevin, his family and friends more closely). Those samples put a smile on my face and gave me a couple of chuckles, like in chapter 10 when Kevin explains the handling of arrays in Swift using "well-known" names as array elements.

Unfortunately, I'm giving a 4 stars rating only for two reasons:

  • The amount of either typographic, grammar or contextual errors. The book version I had at the time reading had at least an error in every chapter. Some of them are quite obvious just by reading through the chapters, others are a bit trickier, ie. explanations in text don't match the illustrations or diagrams. Surely, the quality in this area could be better with a little bit of editorial activities.
  • Formatting issues and display of images or videos. Actually, I read the book using three different devices - a classic Kindle, an iPad mini using the Kindle app, and the web edition of the Kindle app. First, on the classic e-ink-based Kindle some of the images either didn't load at all or the display was too blurry or too dark to enjoy the visual appearance. Same applies to videos which wouldn't even play (but this could be due to my low-bandwidth internet connection). Second, after finishing 'Chapter 22: Generics in the Real World' you'll get the Amazon book rating screen despite two more chapters and appendices to read.

Luckily, these issues are easy to fix, and I hope that Kevin is going to provide an update soon.

I'd like to close my book review with a paragraph from the 'About the author' chapter which sums it up beautifully: "I learned that writing software is a very creative process. In just a matter of hours, I could conceive an idea, create a software design and have it up and running on a computer."

This book on learning how to write software in Swift is highly recommended.

Eventually, you might be interested to give it a shot right here and check out the free book preview of Learn to Code in Swift by Kevin McNeish.

Even though I develop mainly in C# and using Xamarin to develop iOS apps I have to admit that reading Kevin's book was very informative and helped me to get a better insight intormation to iOS application development in general.


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High Performance Responsive Design by Tom Barker
User Rating:★★★★★ / 1
Sunday, 16 November 2014 16:18

It seems that I have a little bit of time these days. Luckily and thanks to the O'Reilly Reader Review Program I was able to get access to "High Performance Responsive Design" by Tom Barker. Actually, after my last review it was a tough preference compared to "MongoDB - The Definitive Guide" - which is hopefully now next on my reading list. Thanks to approximately 176 pages I was able to dig through this title very quickly, and honestly it was a great experience. Looking forward to see more on this topic.

At the time of writing this review it wasn't available on Amazon yet:

This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed.

Anyway, here's my summary which I'm going to publish on the 5th December on Amazon, too:

What an eye-opener!

Although, as good as everyone working in the field of web sites or web application development is talking about Responsive Web Development (RWD) Tom Barker has a simple but nevertheless shocking statement: You're doing it wrong!

Okay, almost... Even though the title is explicitly addressed to web-frontend developers I would rather see it as a guidance for the web-backend developer. Yes, Tom starts his semi-scientific observations on the appearance of web sites but the actual improvement is supposed to happen on the server-side. Responsive Web Development covers way more aspects than just seemless arrangement and dynamic positioning of <div> sections and images. It's about network & bandwidth usage, battery life-time on mobile devices, load performance and rendering time, and other metrics related to surfing web sites.

Thanks to Tom's experience as Director of Software Engineering and Development at Comcast, and an Adjunct Professor at Philadelphia University he seems to have a fable to bring the full story in easy to understand steps to the reader. Chapter by chapter he first addresses commonly used practices, then sheds some light on the individual aspects to finally point out what's wrong with those approaches - inclusive famous anti-patterns - and how it could be improved for better user experience on various devices. Modern web development - as advocated by others, too - should be based on mobile first experience. Start with the smallest screen, with the lowest resources and then extend the user experience gradually until reaching 4K smart TV environment. Define your development iterations on swag - Scientific Wild-Ass Guess or sometimes more politely called guesstimate - and specify your performance service-level agreement (SLA) as early as possible. Thanks to a test-driven development (TDD), use of headless web browser technology and performing continuous integration (CI) one can easily keep track of code commits and their impact on the existing code base.

As a full-stack developer and recently involved in a greenfield web development project based on the MEAN-stack I am very glad that I read this book title at a very early stage of our project. Without any hesitation I'm going to recommend this book to any team member, maybe even ask them to read it as a compulsory lecture. Furthermore, I'd like to pick up this topic during our next user group meetings.


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Microsoft SharePoint 2013 Administration Inside Out
Thursday, 13 November 2014 17:18

Microsoft SharePoint is a great product to work with - no doubt, no questions asked but it can be (and is) quite confusing at any stage of your knowledge. Luckily, I had access to this title when I needed it most... For a software development job I had to set up a Microsoft SharePoint 2013 test lab, and honestly without this book it wouldn't have been possible.

Check out the original (and first) review as published on Amazon:

Great reference - a must-read!

Microsoft SharePoint is a great product to work with - no doubt, no questions asked but it can be (and is) quite confusing at any stage of your knowledge. And basically you cannot use SharePoint to the maximum. I was already following some online video courses with Brian Alderman prior to reading this title hence my expectations were already at a higher stake than usual. The other authors didn't ring a bell in me but I was pretty sure that they would easily match the high quality of content.

The book is actually more like a compendium. The overall structures of chapters is well organised and all chapters are written in a very detailed style. There are a lot of PowerShell scripts as most configuration of SharePoint is done via scripting. Sometimes, this is actually a little bit messy to read and to stay focused on the actual task. But the others took care of that and there are online resources to actually get all scripts to do the job.

Speaking about authors, given the circumstances that we have a pool of authors it happens that certain information is repeated and in rare occasions there are controversial statements for the same functionality. Kind of confusing and my reasoning to downgrade my rating a bit. Apart from that, this title is very easy to understand, filled with lots of PowerShell scripting code, and practical advice and guidance to achieve proper planning, installation, configuration and operation of Microsoft SharePoint 2013. Independent whether you need to have an test environment for software development, or you have to set up a full-fledged server farm with a good number of servers.

As stated initially, I started to read this book already last year during my 30 Days of SharePoint challenge prior to implement a SharePoint client using the Client Side Object Model (CSOM) interface. This book on installation, configuration and administration of Microsoft SharePoint 2013 was a heck of an asset and even though I initially had to deal with an installation of SharePoint 2010 at customer's site, I was in pretty good position to move on to a fully virtualised test bed on Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft SharePoint

Overall it took approximately four to five hours from creating the private network (VPN) on Azure, allocating the various Windows servers for the "perfect" development infrastructure and to get Visual Studio 2013 hooked up for some serious software development. I'd assume that it might have taken me days without the lecture of this title.


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Social eCommerce by Stephan Spencer, Jimmy Harding & Jennifer Sheahan
Thursday, 13 November 2014 16:14

Another book title based on my participation in the O'Reilly Reader Reviews programm. This time we are diving into the depths of online marketing. Whether it's for your own business or providing professional services to your clients as a consultant you definitely should have a go at this book.

Following my review as published on Amazon:

Practical and efficient guide

The book structure is divided in some general background information regarding past, present and maybe future social media networks to keep an eye, then explicit guidelines and marketing strategies on different fields of business, and last but not least great advice on how to get the message out to a broader audience. This allows for quick navigation and using the book as a reference rather than a back-to-back read. Personally, while reading about a particular marketing strategy I went back and forth between other chapters to fill in some interesting side-note and to cook up some ideas.

Although, using and running paid advertising services for some of my clients I still came across a big pile of improvements. The authors describe the benefits of shifting away from plain numbers in terms of search engine ranking towards conversions (and therefore earning money) very well. I'm going to keep this title in an easy to reach location on the bookshelf for obvious reasons:

  • It clearly helps me and my clients to create better and more successful marketing campaigns on social media networks.
  • It's a treasure trunk of links to outstanding online resources in order to create better adverts.
  • Lots of practical information about things to avoid ;-)

 Surely, a must-read book title for anyone selling products or services online. Create value, trust in your brand and then focus on revenue.


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AngularJS by Brad Green and Shyam Seshadri - Some lack of quality
Saturday, 18 January 2014 13:47

New year, new review...Thanks to O'Reilly blogger review programme I had a chance to put my hands on their title on AngularJS by Brad Green and Shyam Seshadri.

This time, a quick and crisp review as published on Amazon:

Some lack of quality

I spent quite some time with this book title from O'Reilly. First, it's an interesting topic and second, I got the 'Early Release' version and later then the full version of the book. Personally, I think the book could have been a good start for beginners but I have to admit that while digging deeper into the chapters I got more and more confused about the actual learning goal. Yes, the general overview on AngularJS is easy to follow and helps to understand how AngularJS is organised.

But then somewhere around half way through it's getting more and more tough to actually 'get' the authors' intention. Additionally, the code samples are getting off-track and quite often there syntactical errors in the code samples. Given the fact that modern JavaScript development, which includes AngularJS, is fast-paced and dynamic I was kind of surprised by this lack of quality.

This title leaves some mixed feelings on my opinion.
Would I recommend it to someone else to read? - It depends on the level of knowledge the other person might already have with AngularJS, HTML5 and JSON.

Quite frankly, I read very well into the first couple of chapters but then it got 'chewy'. From time to time it took me quite some motivation to continue to read. Nonetheless, the book title is nice addition on my digital bookshelf and I might use it as a reference in future cases.


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