Looking anew at the intense feud between leaders of the Texas Republic’s Navy & Army – #bookreview

To the People of Texas
An Appeal: In Vindication of His Conduct of the Navy

By Commodore Edwin W. Moore, T.N., edited with an introduction by Jonathan W. Jordan
(DeGolyer Library, hardback, list price $60.00 plus applicable sales tax and $5.00 shipping)

A friend who knows that I enjoy naval histories recently sent me a copy of this intriguing but somewhat expensive book.

It was published last summer, yet it is still new enough and important enough to view as a “new” book worthy of wide consideration. It is a 2011 reprint of Commodore Edwin W. Moore’s 1843 defense of his conduct and strategies as leader of the Texas Navy. Only a few copies of Moore’s original manifesto remain in existence, mostly in rare book collections. So this is a welcome event for those who relish works of history related to the Republic of Texas, before it became a state, or rely on them for academic and artistic research.

The first two sentences of editor Jonathan W. Jordan’s well-written introduction go right to the heart of reason why Commodore Moore felt compelled to defend himself for more than 200 pages in his original book:

“Within four years of assuming his post, the Texas Republic’s greatest naval commander became the mortal enemy of its greatest army commander. The hatred that burned between Commodore Edwin Ward Moore and President Sam Houston would fuel a fifteen-year war of charges, insults, and invitations to duel that would corrupt the reputations of both Texas patriots before the U.S. Senate, the Texas Congress, and the peoples of two republics.”

Indeed, Jordan notes, “Their bitterness would endure to the end of both men’s days, far beyond the life of the frontier republic, and would shape the historical legacies of Moore, Houston, and the Texas Navy.”

What created this intense hatred between two essential military leaders? According to Jordan: “Judged from the words and deeds of the antagonists, the acrimony appears to have been a hybrid flower born of three toxic seeds: a divergence over what Texas should become; differences in strategy; and the age-old reality that army generals do not always grasp the best uses of naval power.”

Along with being a “vindication,” letters from and to Commodore Moore within the book give a fascinating look at life and politics within the upper levels of the Texas Navy.

For example, in one letter written on May 7, 1842, to George W. Hockley, Texas’ Secretary of War and Marine, Commodore Moore reported that “nearly every officer in the Navy has tendered his resignation to-day—the reasons assigned, are, that they cannot get their pay, and as they owe a large amount, they must resort to other means of paying it.”

That same day, Commodore Moore wrote another letter to Secretary Hockley reporting that he had just purchased the steamer Patrick Henry, adding: “…she is represented to me to be in a good running condition, and if she can be of any service to the Government to the westward, or any where else, the Government is welcome to the use of her, free of any charge, until I want her, which will not be for some time.”

Secretary Hockley responded to the first letter by telling Commodore Moore that “[t]he resignations of all who wish to leave the service, you will accept forthwith…”

And Commodore Moore responded by reporting that he had “advanced all my means, and used all my credit to sustain the Navy on repeated occasions, but each successive of the last three sessions of Congress have cramped it more and more until the officers have nearly despaired.”

He added that, based on existing promises of future pay and his own pleadings to his officers, “nearly all of them have withdrawn their resignations…” and agreed to serve their country longer without pay, even though “many of them at this time are without a decent pair of shoes….”

This fascinating work contains several pages of illustrations from the era, plus notes to the introduction, notes to the text and a select bibliography. Libraries, scholars, historians, lovers of Texas history and others should give special consideration to this important book.

The new DeGolyer edition can be purchased by sending $60.00 plus applicable sales tax, along with $5.00 shipping and handling, to:

 The DeGolyer Library
 Southern Methodist University
 P.O. Box 750396
 Dallas, TX  75275-0396

Include shipping information and make checks payable to “The DeGolyer Library.” The book’s publisher is “unable to accept credit cards.”

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a freelance book reviewer and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.

An omnibus of 3 novels from ‘the greatest Western writer of all time’ – #bookreview

Long Way to Texas: Three Novels
By Elmer Kelton
(Forge, hardback, list price $25.99)

Elmer Kelton, author of more than 50 books, primarily Western novels, died in 2009. But his works live on in popular collections and reprints.

This new omnibus from Forge gathers together three “rare” Kelton Westerns: Long Way to Texas, Joe Pepper, and Eyes of the Hawk.

The title novel, Long Way to Texas, focuses on a Confederate lieutenant in charge of a small group of riflemen who are running out of water and food after a Civil War battle at Glorieta Pass in New Mexico.

Joe Pepper is about a man whose strong sense of justice pushed him to the wrong side of the law and on to violence that is about to result in his hanging.

And Eyes of the Hawk tells the tale of a strong-willed man who would rather destroy a town than forgive someone who he thinks has wronged him.

Readers unfamiliar with Kelton but curious about Westerns can start virtually anywhere within his long list of novels and find many good books to read. This new omnibus is as good a spot as any to get hooked on Elmer Kelton’s realistic and nicely detailed tales.

The late Texas novelist has been hailed as “the greatest Western writer of all time” by the Western Writers of America—no small honor.

His other accolades include seven Spur Awards, four Western Heritage Awards, and a lifetime achievement award from the Larry McMurtry Center for Arts and Humanities.

Book reviewers frequently have noted that what Kelton does best in his writing is capture the essences of real people and real places and describe them clear, down-to-earth terms.

“I have often been asked how my characters differ from the traditional larger-than-life heroes of the mythical West,” he noted in his 2007 autobiography Sandhills Boy. “Those, I reply, are seven feet tall and invincible. My characters are five-eight and nervous.”

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a freelance book reviewer and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.

The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications – #programming #bookreview

The Tangled Web: A Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications
By Michal Zalewski
(No Starch Press, paperback, list price $49.95 ; Kindle edition, list price $31.95)

When Michal Zalewski writes, people listen. And many software programmers pay — or should pay — very close attention to what he recommends.

Zalewski is an internationally respected information security expert who has uncovered hundreds of major Internet security vulnerabilities

“The dream of inventing a brand-new browser security model,” he states in The Tangled Web, “is strong within the community, but it is always followed by the realization that it would require rebuilding the entire Web. Therefore, much of the practical work focuses on more humble extensions to the existing approach, necessarily increasing the complexity of the security-critical sections of the browser codebase.”

Today’s Web indeed is a mess, a complex morass of “design flaws and implementation shortcomings” within a technology “that never aspired to its current status and never had a chance to pause and look back at previous mistakes,” he says. And: “The resulting issues have emerged as some of the most significant and prevalent threats to data security today….”

In his well-written new “Guide to Securing Modern Web Applications,” Zalewski states that “a substantial dose of patience, creativity, and real technical expertise is required from all the information security staff.”

Anyone who works with the Web application stack needs to clearly understand its built-in security vulnerabilities and the consequences that can occur when unwanted penetrations occur.

Zalewski’s 299-page book is structured into three parts – Anatomy of the Web, Browser Security Features, and A Glimpse of Things to Come — and 18 chapters:

  1. Security in the World of Web Applications
  2. It Starts with a URL
  3. Hypertext Transfer Protocol
  4. Hypertext Markup Language
  5. Cascading Style Sheets
  6. Browser-Side Scripts
  7. Non-HTML Document Types
  8. Content Rendering with Browser Plug-ins
  9. Content Isolation Logic
  10. Origin Inheritance
  11. Life Outside Same-Origin Rules
  12. Other Security Boundaries
  13. Content Recognition Mechanisms
  14. Dealing with Rogue Scripts
  15. Extrinsic Site Privileges
  16. New and Upcoming Security Features
  17. Other Browser Mechanisms of Note
  18. Common Web Vulnerabilities

Zalewski’s other published works include Silence on the Wire and Google’s Browser Security Handbook.

Despite the software industry’s many efforts to find security “silver bullets,” Zalewski contends that “[a]ll signs point to security being largely a nonalgorithmic problem for now.” What still works best, he says are three “rudimentary, empirical recipes”:

  1. Learning from (preferably other people’s) mistakes
  2. Developing tools to detect and correct problems
  3. Planning to have everything compromised.

“These recipes are deeply incompatible with many business management models,” he warns, “but they are all that have really worked for us so far.”

Zalewski’s book puts a bright, uncomfortable spotlight on the fundamental insecurities of Web browsers, but it also shows you how to improve the security of Web applications.

Whether you program Web apps, or manage Web app programmers, or are studying to become a Web app programmer, you likely need this book.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, all available on Kindle. He is a freelance book reviewer for the Dallas Morning News and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA tester.

The Mayor’s Daughter – #fiction #bookreview

The Mayor’s Daughter
By James Hoggard
(Wings Press, paperback, list price $16.95; Kindle edition, list price $9.95)

James Hoggard’s beautifully written family drama, set in the 1920s, begins with a simple and very familiar premise. An artistic, intelligent young woman who is still in high school falls in love with a young man who dropped out to work at an oil refinery. But her parents disapprove of him. They consider him far beneath their daughter.

The young man has no father, and his mother runs a boarding house of questionable repute, the parents point out. Furthermore, local rumormongers have said that men and women both live under its roof, so it might be a whorehouse.

The young woman, Ru-Marie Coleman, tries to expand her independence and continue her relationship with Buster Lopreis. But herr parents respond by escalating their efforts to break them up. Meanwhile, Buster keeps trying to win Ru-Marie’s parents over, even though they call him “the problem” and refuse to speak his name.

From there, the story’s tensions gradually build, until events finally spiral out of control and two families are ripped apart.

Along with love and hate, Hoggard’s engrossing tale delves into “the airs of superiority” that people who grew up in poverty can take on once they become financially successful or at least reasonably well off.

Ru-Marie’s father, Jeff Coleman, owns a sporting goods store in a growing Texas town known as Kiowa Falls. (It bears some slight resemblance to an early-20th century Wichita Falls, where the book’s author is an English professor at Midwestern State University.) Coleman also has become Kiowa Falls’ mayor, with help from wealthy backers to whom he now owes allegiance.

There is irony in Jeff Coleman’s and his wife Eileen’s expanding hatred of Buster. “The problem” is almost a mirror image of who they used to be. The mayor grew up poor, living in a boarding house without a father. His wife grew up in a boarding house, as well.

Now that they have been accepted into their town’s society, one of their greatest concerns is what other people will say about them. Indeed, Ru-Marie’s mother has become obsessed with what’s “acceptable” and “not acceptable” for her daughter.

“He’s trash, Ru-Marie, just trash, and what will people think?” Eileen says during one of her many arguments with her daughter over Buster.

At one point, Ru-Marie complains to Buster about her father: “He won’t ever say it—I don’t even think he dares think it—but it crazes him to no end to think if I keep going around with you, I’ll end up p.g.—their damn silly term—and me somehow his surrogate, back in the same, impossible poverty he thinks he grew up in.”

Buster, ever the peacemaker, responds by urging her not to be hard on her parents. He remains hopeful that he can somehow change their opinions of him.

The Mayor’s Daughter takes on increasingly darker tones as it delves into secret marriage and one other aspect of early 20th-century North Texas life: a lingering tolerance for “frontier justice” in a city that is now modernizing and growing rapidly.

With this book, James Hoggard, author of 19 other works including novels, short-story collections, poetry and translations, demonstrates once again that he is a masterful storyteller worthy of his many writing awards.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, all available on Kindle.

Eight recent books of fiction, nonfiction & poetry – #bookreview

Here are eight recent books to consider, whether you prefer fiction, nonfiction or poetry.  

Midnight Movie
By Tobe Hooper, with Alan Goldsher
(Three Rivers, paperback, list price $14.00 ; Kindle edition $0.99) 

Fans of Tobe Hooper’s horror movies, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, likely will relish this experimental first novel. It is written in a fake documentary style that also blends in some fictional blog postings, fake tweets, fake news articles and fake testimonies.

In the book’s bizarre plot, a movie that Tobe Hooper made as a teenager and lost is somehow rediscovered and shown in Austin, Texas. That event unleashes a killer virus on the world that only the filmmaker himself can stop — if he can just figure out how. (This book is not recommended for readers who faint easily at the sight of blood, zombies…and over-the-top literary excess.)

Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten: Enforcing Law on the Texas Frontier
By Bob Alexander
(University of North Texas Press, list price $32.95)

After lawmen gunned down the notorious outlaw Sam Bass at Round Rock, Texas, a young man who lived nearby, Austin Ira Aten, decided to change his career aspirations, from cowboy to Texas Ranger.

Aten joined the Rangers in 1883, soon after he turned 20. He then became, over time, “a courageously competent lawman…favorably known statewide…a high-profile Ranger,” according to the author of this well-researched biography.

While performing his Ranger duties, Ira Aten also became “directly linked to several episodes of Texas’ colorful past that scholars and grassroots historians have penned thousands—maybe millions—of words about.” And Aten’s well-regarded law-enforcement career continued long after his Ranger years, Alexander’s excellent book shows. 

Ciento: 100 100-word Love Poems
By Lorna Dee Cervantes
(Wings Press, paperback, list price $16.00) 

This handsome, enjoyable volume from San Antonio, Texas-based Wings Press keeps its subtitle’s promise. A widely published poet has accepted a difficult challenge and penned a hundred 100-word poems focused on love.

The poems deal with love at direct levels. So you’ll find no easy hearts and flowers here. The images include “steamy matinees”, “sensuous leanings” and “exquisite private views,” to mention just a few. 

Battle Surface!: Lawson P. “Red” Ramage and the War Patrols of the USS Parche
By Stephen L. Moore
(Naval Institute Press, hardback, list price $34.95 ; Kindle edition, list price $34.95)

Stephen L. Moore has written several books on submarine warfare. Battle Surface! blends superb research with a writing style that rivals good fiction. Moore recounts the true story of a U.S. Navy commander who defiantly charged his submarine into the midst of a huge Japanese convoy and stayed on the surface, dodging enemy fire and sinking several ships with torpedoes.

One superior decried the action as “dangerous, foolhardy, and of too much risk.” Others higher up, however, thought differently, Moore notes. They awarded Cmdr. “Red” Ramage the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

Elmer Kelton: Essays and Memories
Edited by Judy Alter and James Ward Lee
(TCU Press, paperback, list price $19.95)

 “Walrus hunter.” That was one of the civilian jobs the U.S. Army recommended to Elmer Kelton when he was discharged as a “rifleman, infantry” following World War II. Kelton became a journalist, instead, and a prolific writer of fiction and nonfiction books before his death in 2009.

This engaging, warm collection of essays and remembrances celebrates Kelton’s life, his personality, his love for the American West and his “straightforward and clean” writing style. In the words of one of his friends, Felton Cochran: “I tell people Elmer Kelton didn’t write ‘westerns’—he wrote western literature.”

Rudder: From Leader to Legend
By Thomas M. Hatfield
(Texas A&M Press, hardback, list price $30.00 ; Kindle edition, list price $30.00)

Earl Rudder could have kept working in a small-town Texas drugstore after high school. He exhibited little ambition and had no money for college. But this excellent biography shows how a chance encounter soon led him to college athletics, coaching and the Army Reserve, and then to D-day heroics, Texas state politics and, finally, the presidency of Texas A&M University’s statewide system.

This excellent biography shows how Gen. Rudder guided A&M through major upheavals that included desegregation, admitting women, and making the Corps of Cadets voluntary.

Working the Land: The Stories of Ranch and Farm Women in the Modern American West
By Sandra K. Schackel
(University Press of Kansas, hardback, list price $24.95)

Women do not just “keep house” on a ranch or farm in the modern American West. This well-written book shows that they have long been doing virtually anything they can to help keep their rural lifestyles viable and afloat in tough economic times.

Sandra K. Schackel interviewed more than 40 women in New Mexico, Texas and other states and found them actively wrangling animals, running machinery, creating summer camps and bed-and-breakfasts on their land, and even holding jobs in town to help support their spreads and their families.

The Road to Roma
By Dave Kuhne
(Ink Brush, paperback, list price $15.95)

This book’s seven well-written short stories are mostly set in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin, Texas, and they reflect the writer’s strong sense of place and character. The stories previously have been published in a variety of literary journals, and their focus is on the deeper, sometimes transformative moments that occur in ordinary people’s lives.

 Si Dunn‘s latest book is a novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, all available on Kindle.

Making Embedded Systems (for things that blink & go ‘Beep!’ in the night) – #programming #bookreview

Making Embedded Systems
By Elecia White
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

Elecia White loves embedded systems. “The first time a motor turned on because I told it to, I was hooked,” she writes in her new book, Making Embedded Systems. “I quickly moved away from pure software and into a field where I can touch the world.”

In that world, she has “worked on DNA scanners, inertial measurement units for airplanes and race cars, toys for preschoolers, a gunshot location system for catching criminals, and assorted medical and consumer devices.”

It is a world where “embedded systems don’t have operating systems. The software runs on the bare metal. When the software says ‘turn that light on,’ it says it to the processor without an intermediary.”

So this is not a book about embedded operating systems. Just embedded systems. And the intended audience is intermediate and experienced programmers seeking new challenges.

The author’s basic definition of an embedded system is “a computerized system that is purpose-built for its application.”

She says she wrote her book (and it is well-written, by the way) “almost as a story, to be read from cover to cover. The information is technical (extremely so in spots), but the presentation is casual.”

So she hopes readers will not treat Making Embedded Systems as “a technical manual where you can skip into the middle and read only what you want.” With that approach, “you’ll miss a lot of information…[and] You’ll also miss the jokes, which is what I really would feel bad about.”

Embedded system compilers typically support only C or C++ (and often just a subset of that language), she notes. And: “There is a growing popularity for Java, but the memory management inherent to the language works only on a large system.”

Meanwhile, debugging an embedded system often can be challenging, because it’s not always easy to tell if a problem lies in the software or in the associated hardware.

Elecia White’s 310-page book is divided into 10 chapters, with illustrations, code examples and a good index:

  1. Introduction(Discusses embedded systems and how their development differs from traditional software development.)
  2. Creating a System Architecture(How to create – and document – a system architecture.)
  3. Getting Your Hands on the Hardware(Dealing with hardware/software integration and board bring-up.)
  4. Outputs, Inputs, and Timers(The simple act of making an LED blink is more complicated than you might think.)
  5. Managing the Flow of Activity(How to set up your machine, how to use [or not use] interrupts, and how to make a state machine.)
  6. Communicating with Peripherals(“Different serial communications forms rule embedded systems.…” But: “Networking, bit-bang, and parallel buses are not to be discounted.”)
  7. Updating Code(Options for replacing the program running in a processor.)
  8. Doing More with Less(How to reduce RAM consumption, code space, and processor cycles.)
  9. Math(“Most embedded systems need to do some form of analysis.” Make your system faster by “[u]nderstanding how mathematical operations and floating points work [and don’t work]….”)
  10. Reducing Power Consumption(Your system may run on batteries. Better system architecture and reducing processor cycles can help cut power drain.)

Making Embedded Systems also includes helpful information on how to read a schematic diagram, why it’s best to run tests on three of the same prototype devices, not just one, and what interviewers look for when meeting with applicants for embedded systems jobs.

An embedded system, the author says, often is viewed as a jigsaw puzzle that only fits together one way. But she challenges readers to see the puzzle as also having “a time dimension that varies over its whole life: conception, prototyping, board bring-up, debugging, testing, release, maintenance, and repeat.”

Embedded system design presents many challenges, she says, and demands constant flexibility.

“Our goal is to be flexible enough to meet the product goals while dealing with the resource constraints and other challenges inherent to embedded systems.”

Si Dunn

Two New Nature & Landscape Photography Books: Art & How-to – #nature #photography #bookreview

If you like nature and landscape photography and have the desire to give it a try, these two fine new books from Rocky Nook can both inspire and instruct. The books also could make good Christmas gifts for a budding nature or landscape photographer in your family.

Plateaus and Canyons: Impressions of the American Southwest
By Bruce Barnbaum
(Rocky Nook, paperback, list price $44.95)

In Plateaus and Canyons, veteran photographer Bruce Barnbaum presents 95 large-format color images from the rugged Colorado Plateau that is part of four Southwestern states.

Barnbaum is widely known as an artistic practitioner of black-and-white photography. But in this elegant collection, he has captured fine images that blend amazing colors and subtleties of light, both in deep canyons and on jagged, multi-level plateau surfaces that definitely are not flat.

Each photo is accompanied by a short essay by Barnbaum, discussing how he came across the opportunity to capture the image and why it attracted him.

For example, in a remote area known as Phillips Wash, “[t]he twisted branches of an old, fallen, silvered juniper caught my eye…[t]he nearly colorless wood against the soft tans and golds of the sandstone rocks created a wonderfully compelling array of forms.”

 #

Nature and Landscape Photography: 71 Tips from the Top
By Martin Borg
(Rocky Nook, paperback, list price $19.95; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

This book contains many very good landscape and nature images, as well. But the concise accompanying text focuses on how to use important photographic composition techniques in the field.

Some of these include seeking  elevated vantage points, using the “Golden Ratio” in compositions, properly staging water reflections, making longer exposures to capture the effect of wind moving tree leaves and grasses, and challenging the basic rules of composition – after you have learned them.

The book’s author, a Swedish photojournalist, views nature as “an endless source of fascinating images.” He adds: “Images of nature affect us deeply; they appeal to our roots.”

Si Dunn

A Bug Hunter’s Diary: A Guided Tour through the Wilds of Software Security – #programming #bookreview

A Bug Hunter’s Diary: A Guided Tour through the Wilds of Software Security
By Tobias Klein
(No Starch Press, paperback, list price $39.95; Kindle edition, list price $31.95)

If your passion or desire is to find and kill software bugs and fight hackers, you should check out this well-written how-to book.

Tobias Klein, an information security specialist, has tracked down many difficult bugs and identified security vulnerabilities in some of the world’s best-known software, including Apple’s iOS, the Mac OS X kernel, web browsers, and the VLC media player, among others.

Using a diary approach, plus code examples and illustrations, Klein describes a bug he has just discovered in a software package. Then he illustrates how it creates a security vulnerability that a hacker could exploit, and he describes how to fix or at least reduce its risks.

Chapters 2 through 8 each focus on separate bugs, and Klein includes a list of “lessons learned” for programmers who want to avoid creating similar problems.

Klein’s well-illustrated book is organized as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Bug Hunting – (a brief overview.)
  • Chapter 2: Back to the ‘90s - (shows how he discovered a bug and vulnerability in a Tivo movie file that allowed him to crash a VLC media player and gain control of the instruction pointer.)
  • Chapter 3: Escape from the WWW Zone – (illustrates how and where he found a bug in the Solaris kernel and the “exciting challenge” of demonstrating how it could be exploited for arbitrary code execution.)
  • Chapter 4: Null Pointer FTW – (describes “a really beautiful bug” that opened a vulnerability into “the FFmpeg multimedia library that is used by many popular software projects, including Google Chrome, VLC media player, MPlayer, and Xine to name just a few.”)
  • Chapter 5: Browse and You’re Owned – (discusses how he found an exploitable bug in an ActiveX control for Internet Explorer.)
  • Chapter 6: One Kernel to Rule Them All – (focuses on how he decided to search for bugs in some third-party Microsoft Windows drivers and found one in an antivirus software package.)
  • Chapter 7: A Bug Older than 4.4BSD – (how he found an exploitable bug in the XNU kernel OS X.)
  • Chapter 8: The Ringtone Massacre – (how he found an exploitable bug in an early version of the iPhone’s MobileSafari browser that enabled him to modify ringtone files and access the program counter.)
  • Appendix A: Hints for Hunting – (“…some vulnerability classes, exploitation techniques, and common issues that can lead to bugs.”)
  • Appendix B: Debugging – (about debuggers and the debugging process.)
  • Appendix C: Mitigation – (discusses mitigation techniques.)

Tobias Klein is the author of two previous information security books that were published in Germany. Because hackers use many of the same tools as those seeking to keep them out, there is an important limit on how much detail Klein is able to impart in this book.

As he notes in a disclaimer: “The goal of this book is to teach readers how to identify, protect against, and mitigate software security vulnerabilities. Understanding the techniques used to find and exploit vulnerabilities is necessary to thoroughly grasp the underlying problems and appropriate mitigation techniques. Since 2007, it is no longer legal to create or distribute “hacking tools” in Germany, my home country. Therefore, to comply with the law, no full working exploit code is provided in this book. The examples simply show the steps used to gain control of the execution flow (the instruction pointer or program counter control) of a vulnerable program.”

Si Dunn

Getting .NET Results – 2 New Books from Microsoft – #programming #bookreview

Microsoft Press recently has released two new books for .NET programmers. One is for .NET newcomers, and the other definitely is not. That book has been written “to help existing Microsoft Visual Basic and Microsoft Visual C# developers understand collections in .NET.”

Here are short reviews of each book.

Easy Does It

Start Here! Fundamentals of Microsoft .NET Programming
By Rod Stephens
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $15.99)

This is a very good reference manual for anyone ready to take up .NET programming or ready to learn virtually any programming language.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the book starts out at the most basic of basic levels, defining different types of computers, just in case you don’t know a laptop from a mainframe. After that, it moves quickly into the world of programming.

You don’t need a computer, software, programming language tools or programming experience to learn from this book. Indeed, it mostly employs pseudo-code, illustrations and clear writing to explain each topic.

The idea here is to teach you “the basic concepts that drive all .NET-based languages” and to provide a reference book that you can refer back to when you are unsure about a particular term, concept, process or method.

For example, if you are now learning Microsoft Visual C# or Visual Basic, you might need to review the chapter on operators, to be sure you clearly understand what may happen if the wrong symbol is used and the correct order of precedence is not followed.

The 14 chapters of Fundamentals of Microsoft .NET Programming deal with subjects many programmers definitely should know:

  • Chapter 1, “Computer Hardware”
  • Chapter 2, “Multiprocessing”
  • Chapter 3, “Programming Environments”
  • Chapter 4, “Windows Program Components” – (Describes the visible pieces of a Windows program that a user sees and how to use them effectively as a programmer.)
  • Chapter 5, “Controls” – (Such as labels, text boxes, menus, sliders, scroll bars, etc.)
  • Chapter 6, “Variables”
  • Chapter 7, “Control Statements’” – (Using them to manage a program’s flow of execution.)
  • Chapter 8, “Operators”
  • Chapter 9, “Routines”
  • Chapter 10, “Object-Oriented Programming”
  • Chapter 11, “Development Techniques”
  • Chapter 12, “Globalization” – (Explains how to localize a program in Visual Studio so that it works in multiple places. Also looks at several localization issues.)
  • Chapter 13, “Data Storage”
  • Chapter 14, “.NET Libraries” – (Describes some of the most-useful libraries for writing .NET programs.)

You can read the 14 chapters in any order, jumping around “to suit your interests and needs,” the author adds.

That’s the hallmark of a good reference book.

#

Taking Up Collections

Developer’s Guide to Collections in Microsoft .NET
By Calvin Janes
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $23.99)

“This book,” the author cautions, “is not a .NET primer for beginners; it’s intended for developers already conversant with .NET and comfortable with either the C# or Visual Basic .NET language.”

Developer’s Guide to Collections in Microsoft .NET is heavy on how-to code examples and exercises, and all sample projects can be downloaded from a web page specified in the text. Many of the code examples conveniently are shown both in C# and Visual Basic.

The book is divided into 11 chapters that are grouped into four parts:

  • Part 1, Collection Basics
  • Part II, .NET Built-in Collections
  • Part III, Using Collections
  • Part IV, Using Collections with UI Controls

There is also a nicely detailed, 14-page index.

“The book is arranged so that developers who are new to collections can get started quickly, and those who are already familiar with collections can treat the book as a useful reference,” the author says.

He has included a helpful table titled “Finding Your Best Starting Point in This Book.” For example, if you are not new to .NET and want to learn how to query your collections with the Language Integrated Query (LINQ), the table advises: “Read through Chapter 7 in Part III.” That’s the “Introduction to LINQ” chapter.

The author says he wanted to create “a one-stop shop for anyone struggling with collections: from beginners to experts who just need a reference or a few pointers here and there.”

With this fine work, he has met that goal. Its 624 pages are packed with good how-to collections information, clearly explained and illustrated, from how to implement arrays and synchronize data across threads to how to use simple data binding to display collections in Windows Forms®, Windows Silverlight® and Windows Presentation Foundation®.

Si Dunn

A gift for the programmer who has everything? The Art of Readable Code – #programming #bookreview

The Art of Readable Code: Simple and Practical Techniques for Writing Better Code
By Dustin Boswell and Trevor Foucher
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price, $27.99)

The software world is full of bad code.

Code that was badly written; code that has been reworked — badly — by dozens of undisciplined programmers; code written in haste to patch or hide a problem; code written without comments that can help you decipher what the previous programmer was thinking — or not thinking; code written by people like me, who didn’t know much at all about programming but had to produce some emergency code anyway, because the real programmers were away on vacation.

The Art of Readable Code could be a very useful book to give the programmer in your life — whether he or she is new to computer programming or an open-minded mid-career professional looking to make some improvements in how they work.

The book focuses on “basic principles and practical techniques” that programmers can apply each time they begin a new coding project or find themselves patching an old one.

The authors present what they call their “Fundamental Theorem of Readability.” In their view: “Code should be written to minimize the time it would take for someone else to understand it.”

For example, “smaller” may not always be better. A one-line expression may be more understandable to other programmers if it is broken into two lines of code.

The 190-page book illustrates its concepts with examples of code from several different programming languages, including C++, Python, JavaScript, and Java. The authors add: “We’ve avoided any advanced language features, so even if you don’t know all these languages, it should still be easy to follow along. (In our experience, the concepts of readability are mostly language-independent, anyhow.)”

The Art of Readable Code has 15 chapters and an appendix and is structured in four parts:

  • Part 1: Surface Level  Improvements – (Naming, commenting and aesthetics that can be applied to every line of code)
  • Part 2: Simplifying Loops and Logic – (Refining loops, logic, and variables so they are easier to understand)
  • Part 3: Reorganizing Your Code – (Higher-level ways to organize large blocks of code and go after problems at the function level)
  • Part 4: Selected Topics – (Applying “easy to understand” to software testing and to a larger data structure coding example)

The authors state: “It’s a valuable skill to be able to explain an idea ‘in plain English….The same skill should be used when ‘presenting’ code to your reader. We take the view that source code is the primary way to explain what a program is doing. So the code should be written ‘in plain English.’”

The book itself is smoothly written and nicely illustrated, not only with cartoons but with some very clear code examples that can be quickly applied.

Si Dunn