Realm of Racket: Learn to Program, One Game at a Time – #Racket #game #programming #bookreview

Realm of Racket
Learn to Program, One Game at a Time!

Matthias Felleisen, David Van Horn, Conrad Barski, M.D., Forrest Bice, Rose DeMaio, Spencer Florence, Feng-Yun Mimi Lin, Scott Lindeman, Nicole Nussbaum, Eric Peterson, and Ryan Plessner
(No Starch Press – paperback, Kindle)

Formerly known as PLT Scheme, Racket is an offshoot of the Lisp/Scheme family of programming languages. (Lisp, which was first specified in 1958, is the second-oldest high-level programming language, behind FORTRAN).

The (numerous) authors of this 294-page book call Racket “a friendly mutation of Lisp” and tout it as “perfect for all, from those who want to launch their education in computer science to those looking to expand their knowledge and experience in programming.”

Lisp has a long learning curve, so the writers have taken special pains to try to make Racket (“a weird-looking programming language,” they concede) approachable and fun by using comics and games built from short code examples.

Their well-written book is aimed at college freshmen readers. But they emphasize “that doesn’t mean you should drop this book if you are a sophomore or an industry professional.” Nor if you are still in high school or simply like to tinker with programming languages for fun and challenge.

“Regardless of your programming background,” they state, “many of the topics in this book will be new to you, and much of what you’ve learned before will appear in a new light.”

Realm of Racket is structured so that you start out programming very simple games and gradually tackle games that are more complex, while learning about such topics as functions, recursion, lambda, lists, structures, loops, testing, and more.

If you are interested in developing special-purpose computer languages that require specific knowledge of specialized fields, Realm of Racket’s  final chapter briefly delves into the field of language engineering. It notes that Racket “makes it particularly easy to create new programming languages, including special-purpose languages.”

Not surprisingly, some people who program in Racket call themselves Racketeers. The open source language and its program development environment (PDE), DrRacket (“Doctor Racket”), can be downloaded from http://racket-lang.org. “Racket can run on Windows, Mac, and *nix* systems,” the authors note.

Realm of Racket can be a fun, challenging book for computer-savvy teens nearing the end of high school or in their first years of college to study computer science or gaming. Younger readers likely won’t stick with it unless they have some helpful, patient guidance from knowledgeable older siblings or adults. Wait until they’ve gotten reasonably good at another language, such as Python, Ruby, C#, or Java, first.

Si Dunn

Hadoop is hot! Three new how-to books for riding the Big Data elephant – #programming #bookreview

In the world of Big Data, Hadoop has become the hard-charging elephant in the room.

Its big-name users now span the alphabet and include such notables as Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, the New York Times, and Yahoo. Not bad for software named after a child’s toy elephant.

Computer systems that run Hadoop can store, process, and analyze large amounts of data that have been gathered up in many different formats from many different sources.

According to the Apache Software Foundation’s Hadoop website: “The Apache Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using simple programming models. It is designed to scale up from single servers to thousands of machines, each offering local computation and storage.”

The (well-trained) user defines the Big Data problem that Hadoop will tackle. Then the software handles all aspects of the job completion, including spreading out the problem in small pieces to many different computers, or nodes, in the distributed system for more efficient processing. Hadoop also handles individual node failures, and collects and combines the calculated results from each node.

But you don’t need a collection of hundreds or thousands of computers to run Hadoop. You can learn it, write programs, and do some testing and debugging on a single Linux machine, Windows PC or Mac. The Open Source software can be downloaded here. (Do some research first. You may have use web searches to find detailed installation instructions for your specific system.)

Hadoop is open-source software that is often described as “a Java-based framework for large-scale data processing.” It has a lengthy learning curve that includes getting familiar with Java, if you don’t already know it.

But if you are now ready and eager to take on Hadoop, Packt Publishing recently has unveiled three excellent how-to books that can help you begin and extend your mastery: Hadoop Beginner’s Guide, Hadoop MapReduce Cookbook, and Hadoop Real-World Solutions Cookbook.

Short reviews of each are presented below.

Hadoop Beginner’s Guide
Garry Turkington
(Packt Publishing – paperback, Kindle)

Garry Turkington’s new book is a detailed, well-structured introduction to Hadoop. It covers everything from the software’s three modes–local standalone mode, pseudo-distributed mode, and fully distributed mode–to running basic jobs, developing simple and advanced MapReduce programs, maintaining clusters of computers, and working with Hive, MySQL, and other tools.

“The developer focuses on expressing the transformation between source and result data sets, and the Hadoop framework manages all aspects of job execution, parallelization, and coordination,” the author writes.

He calls this capability “possibly the most important aspect of Hadoop. The platform takes responsibility for every aspect of executing the processing across the data. After the user defines the key criteria for the job, everything else becomes the responsibility of the system.”

The 374-page book is written well and provides numerous code samples and illustrations. But it  has one drawback for some beginners who want to install and  use Hadoop.  Turkington offers step-by-step instructions for how to perform a Linux installation, specifically Ubuntu. However, he refers Windows and Mac users to an Apache site where there is insufficient how-to information. Web searches become necessary to find more installation details.

Hadoop MapReduce Cookbook
Srinath Perera and Thilina Gunarathne
(Packt Publishing – paperback, Kindle)

MapReduce “jobs” are an essential part of  how Hadoop is able to crunch huge chunks of Big Data.  The Hadoop MapReduce Cookbook offers “recipes for analyzing large and complex data sets with Hadoop MapReduce.”

MapReduce is a well-known programming model for processing large sets of data. Typically, MapReduce is used within clusters of computers that are configured to perform distributed computing.

In the “Map” portion of the process, a problem is split into many subtasks that are then assigned by a master computer to individual computers known as nodes. (Nodes also can have sub-nodes). During the “Reduce” part of the task, the master computer gathers up the processed data from the nodes, combines it and outputs a response to the problem that was posed to be solved. (MapReduce libraries are now available for many different computer languages, including Hadoop.)

“Hadoop is the most widely known and widely used implementation of the MapReduce paradigm,” the two authors note.

Their 284-page book initially shows how to run Hadoop in local mode, which “does not start any servers but does all the work within the same JVM [Java Virtual Machine]” on a standalone computer. Then, as you gain more experience with MapReduce and the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), they guide you into using Hadoop in more complex, distributed-computing environments.

Echoing the Hadoop Beginner’s Guide, the authors explain how to install Hadoop on Linux machines only.

Hadoop Real-World Solutions Cookbook
Jonathan R. Owens, Jon Lentz and Brian Femiano
(Packt Publishing – paperback, Kindle)

The Hadoop Real-World Solutions Cookbook assumes you already have some experience with Hadoop. So it jumps straight into helping “developers become more comfortable with, and proficient at solving problems in, the Hadoop space.”

Its goal is to “teach readers how to build solutions using tools such as Apache Hive, Pig, MapReduce, Mahout, Giraph, HDFS, Accumulo, Redis, and Ganglia.”

The 299-page book is packed with code examples and short explanations that help solve specific types of problems. A few randomly selected problem headings:

  • “Using Apache Pig to filter bot traffic from web server logs.”
  • “Using the distributed cache in MapReduce.”
  • “Trim Outliers from the Audioscrobbler dataset using Pig and datafu.” 
  • “Designing a row key to store geographic events in Accumulo.”
  • “Enabling MapReduce jobs to skip bad records.”

The authors use a simple but effective strategy for presenting problems and solutions. First, the problem is clearly described. Then, under a “Getting Ready” heading, they spell out what you need to  solve the problem. That is followed by a “How to do it…” heading where each step is presented and supported by code examples. Then, paragraphs beneath a “How it works…” heading sum up and explain how the problem was solved. Finally, a “There’s more…” heading highlights more explanations and links to additional details.

If you are a Hadoop beginner, consider the first two books reviewed above. If you have some Hadoop experience, you likely can find some useful tips in book number three

Si Dunn

Core Data, 2nd Edition – Updated for OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6 – #programming #bookreview

Core Data, 2nd Edition
Data Storage and Management for iOS, OS X, and iCloud
Marcus S. Zarra
(Pragmatic Bookshelf – paperback)

“If you plan on writing an application that saves data to disk, then you should take a very long look at Core Data,” urges Marcus S. Zarra, in the new second edition of his Core Data how-to book.

“Core Data,” according to the Mac Developer Library, “provides an infrastructure for change management and for saving objects to and retrieving them from storage.”  It is Apple’s recommended way to persist data. And it is “used daily by millions of customers in a wide variety of applications.”

The new edition of Zarra’s book updates its Core Data development example to an iPhone recipe application (from a desktop recipe application in the first edition). The second edition includes coverage of OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6 and examines changes to multithreading. The author also has added chapters to explore NSFetchedResultsController and iCloud.

If the structure of some of the book’s code examples appear puzzling, pay special attention to Appendix 2. There, Zarra discusses some of the typographical choices necessary to keep lines of code set to fewer than 80 characters wide. And he shows some macros that he uses in his code to speed up development work.

Whether you are just starting out with Core Data or now an old hand at working with it, you likely can learn new things from this well-written how-to guide. Its author is widely regarded as one of the world’s most experienced Core Data application developers.

Si Dunn

Learning Cocoa with Objective-C – An excellent how-to guide from two experts – #programming #bookreview

Learning Cocoa with Objective-C, 3rd Edition
Paris Buttfield-Addison and Jon Manning
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

 In some surveys, Objective-C is now the third most popular programming language, up from fifth place in 2011.

O’Reilly recently has published the awaited third edition of Learning Cocoa with Objective-C, with coverage of Xcode 4.2 and iOS 6.

The book’s two authors definitely know the Cocoa framework. They have been developing for it since the Mac first supported it. And their experience and expertise shine forth in this well-written, smoothly organized how-to guide.

They have, they note, “seen the ecosystem of Cocoa and Objective-C development evolve from a small programmer’s niche to one of the most important an d influential development environments in the world.”

Their 339-page, 20-chapter book assumes that you have some programming experience and at least know how to use an OS X and iOS device. Otherwise, it is a solid choice for learning Cocoa with Objective-C from the ground up. It offers clear descriptions and practical exercises, plus numerous code samples, screenshots and other illustrations.

Paris Buttfield-Addison’s and Jon Manning’s bottom-line goal, successfully met here, is to “give you the knowledge, confidence, and appreciation for iOS and OS X development with Cocoa, Cocoa Touch, and Objective-C.”

Si Dunn

Master Your Mac – Useful how-to projects for intermediate users – #bookreview

Master Your Mac
Matt Cone
(No Starch Press, paperbackKindle)

This well-written how-to book will please many new Mac users, as well as many who have been using Macs for years.

But, to fully benefit from this excellent new guide, you must be willing to go beneath the Mac’s easy-to-use OS X surface and work at the command line.

In other words, if you are happy sticking to a regular routine of basics, such as email, Facebook, Twitter , documents and iTunes,  you probably don’t need this book very much.

However, if you are curious about what lies beneath “the obvious applications and documented uses of OS X,” you will find plenty to like in the 400 pages.

The author is offering “a workbook full of advanced projects that push the limits of OS X. You’ll get started with scripting and automation, configure new shortcuts, secure your Mac against invisible threats, and learn how to repair your hard drive.”

 One of the key strengths of this book is its organization. First you are shown how to create “an immediate solution to a real problem.” Then you are given explanations and examples on how to go “above and beyond the project.” For example, “[w]hen you learn AppleScript in Chapter 12…you’ll create your very own script, but you’ll also learn how to incorporate other data structures and interface elements to build a much more advanced script.”

Also, you can tackle the book’s seven parts and 38 chapters in any order that fits your interests and needs. Curious about how to encrypt your hard disk and backups? See Chapter 32. Need to attach multiple monitors to your machine? See Chapter 9. Want to use your Mac as a web server or FTP server? See Chapter 24. Need to create a Bluetooth proximity monitor that automatically locks your screen when you step away from your keyboard? See Chapter 13.

Matt Cone is a well-known and experienced Apple specialist who has been using Macs for more than 20 years. He also is a very good technical writer. His new book is heavily illustrated with steps, screen shots, code samples, and other images. If you are a Macintosh user who wants to get more than just the usual basics from OS X ( including Mountain Lion), Master Your Mac can be your handy go-to guide.

Si Dunn

Adobe Edge Animate: The Missing Manual – #bookreview

Adobe Edge Animate: The Missing Manual
Chris Grover
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Chris Grover’s well-written and updated new book shows you how to build animated HTML 5 graphics for the iPhone, the iPad, and the Web, using familiar Adobe features. By the sixth page of the first chapter, you are using the software to begin creating your first animation.

The previous edition of this book, covering Adobe Edge Animate Preview 7, was released just two months ago, shortly before Adobe released the 1.0 commercial version of its Edge Animate product. This new edition has been updated and expanded to cover the commercial version.

Prior to the 1.0 release, seven Preview versions of Adobe Edge Animate had been issued as free downloads, and user feedback was gathered so the product could be enhanced and expanded.

Here is what I reported about this book’s Preview 7 edition in an  October, 2012, review:

First, this book can help you get started with the 1.0 commercial version of Adobe Edge Animate. Second, O’Reilly will soon bring out an Adobe Edge Animate “Missing Manual” that covers the new commercial release. And, third, sources at O’Reilly tell me that readers who purchase this Preview 7 edition of Chris Grover’s book will get access to “the e-book version of Adobe Edge Animate the 1.0 version and all of its updates.”

The new edition of Adobe Edge Animate: The Missing Manual has ten chapters organized into five parts, even though page xiv of the paperback version states that the book is “divided into three parts.” (It then lists four parts, instead of  five, or three).  The new part in this edition is titled “Publishing Animate Compositions” and focuses on “Publishing Responsive Web Pages” that will look good “in web browsers of all shapes and sizes….” Here are the new edition’s parts and chapters:

Part One:Working with the Stage

  • Chapter 1: Introducing Adobe Edge Animate
  • Chapter 2: Creating and Animating Art
  • Chapter 3: Adding and Formatting Text

Part Two: Animation with Edge Animate

  • Chapter 4: Learning Timeline and Transition Techniques
  • Chapter 5: Triggering Actions
  • Chapter 6: Working Smart with Symbols

Part Three: Edge Animate with HTML 5 and JavaScript

  • Chapter 7: Working with Basic HTML and CSS
  • Chapter 8: Controlling Your Animations with JavaScript and jQuery
  • Chapter 9: Helpful JavaScript Tricks

Part Four: Publishing Your Composition

  • Chapter 10: Publishing Responsive Web Pages

Part Five: Appendixes

  • Appendix A: Installation and Help
  • Appendix B: Menu by Menu

Where keystrokes are appropriate, Chris Grover lists both and does not make you have to translate between systems, as some how-to manuals do.

“Animate works almost precisely the same in its Macintosh and Windows versions,” he assures. “Every button in every dialog box is exactly the same; the software response to ever command is identical. In this book, the illustrations have been given even-handed treatment, rotating between the two operating systems where Animate is at home (Windows 7 and Mac OS X).”

Si Dunn

For more information: (O’Reilly, paperback, Kindle)

Programming C# 5.0 – Excellent how-to guide for experienced developers ready to learn C# – #bookreview

Programming C# 5.0
Ian Griffiths
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Ian Griffiths’ new book is for “experienced developers,” not for beginners hoping to learn the basics of programming while also learning C#. The focus is “Building Windows 8, Web, and Desktop Applications for the .NET 4.5 Framework.”

Earlier editions in the Programming C# series have “explained some basic concepts such as classes, polymorphism, and collections,” Griffiths notes. But C# also keeps growing in power and size, which means the page counts of its how-to manuals must keep growing, too, to cover “everything.”

The paperback version of Programming C# 5.0 weighs in at 861 pages and more than three pounds. So Griffiths’ choice to sharpen the book’s focus is a smart one. Beginners can learn the basics of programming in other books and other ways before digging into this edition. And experienced developers will find that the author’s explanations and code examples now have space to go “into rather more detail” than would have been possible if chapters explaining the basics of programming had been packed in, as well.

If you have done some programming and know a class from an array, this book can be your well-structured guide to learning C#. The “basics” are gone, but you still are shown how to create a “Hello World” program—primarily so you can see how new C# projects are created in Visual Studio, Microsoft’s development environment.

C# has been around since 2000 and “can be used for many kinds of applications, including websites, desktop applications, games, phone apps, and command-line utilities,” Griffiths says.

“The most significant new feature in C# 5.0,” he emphasizes, “is support for asynchronous programming.” He notes that “.NET has always offered asynchronous APIs (i.e., ones that do not wait for the operation they perform to finish before returning). Asynchrony is particularly important with input/output(I/O) operations, which can take a long time and often don’t require any active involvement from the CPU except at the start and end of an operation. Simple, synchronous APIs that do not return until the operation completes can be inefficient. They tie up a thread while waiting, which can cause suboptimal performance in servers, and they’re also unhelpful in client-side code, where they can make a user interface unresponsive.”

In the past, however, “the more efficient and flexible asynchronous APIs” have been “considerably harder to use than their synchronous counterparts. But now,” Griffiths points out, “if an asynchronous API conforms to a certain pattern, you can write C# code that looks almost as simple as the synchronous alternative would.”

If you are an experienced programmer hoping to add C# to your language skills, Ian Griffiths’ new book covers much of what you need to know, including how to use XAML (pronounced “zammel”) “to create  applications of the [touch-screen] style introduced by Windows 8” but also applications for desktop computers and Windows Phone.

Yes, Microsoft created C#, but there are other ways to run it, too, Griffiths adds.

“The open source Mono project (http://www.mono-project.com/) provides tools for building C# applications that run on Linux, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android.”

Si Dunn

For more information:  paperback – Kindle