Packt Publishing Sale

My friends at Packt Publishing have just published their 2000th title! (Wow, and I haven’t got all of them to my wife’s delight.) To celebrate they are running a pretty awesome sale from the 18th through the 26th. They are running an unlimited Buy One-Get One Free sale. I’ve already started compiling a list… Go check it out at and stock up on spring reading material.

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Book Review – Algorithms in a Nutshell

I’ve recently been reading Algorithms in a Nutshell by George T. Heineman, Gary Pollice, Stanley Selkow. As usual, the disclaimer is that I received a copy of the book for free in return for the review. This book is dense. It was tough for me to get through. That’s not really a negative, it’s an admission that for all of my education in learning programming languages and writing programs, I’ve never taken the time to learn the Computer Science behind the craft of programming.

That said, this is not a book for getting an introduction into algorithms. This is a book for reference when you know what you’re doing and you want to confirm how this algorithmic pattern or that pattern will impact the program and the speed of computation. The book is well written and there is tonnes of example code throughout the book to explain what the authors are saying about each type of algorithm. There are also a tonne of algorithm types in the book to demonstrate the principles. The epilogue alone is worth the price of the book when you read it. I might have placed it at the front as a prologue to explain what I was reading first. However, as I said, I don’t have the same background and I certainly would have benefited from an introductory level book on the topic before attacking this one.

However, when time and tide avail me, I will certainly read something more introductory first and then I will return, with more knowledge in hand, to this book to see what else I can extract from it and see how it can make me a better programmer. If you are already a programmer dealing with these types of algorithms on a daily basis, then you should have this book at your side.

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Posted in Education, Reviews, Uncategorized

Stretching the limits

Well, this has certainly been a busy week for me. I’ve been working on the intranet site. I’m cleaning up the smaller pages before deploying them. I’ve also started the framework for the new version of the Hot Calls program. I’m going to use Entity Framework 5 and ODP.NET this time around. I can’t really use EF in the logic portion, but I should still be ok. I’m trying to work out whether I can stack multiple queries in the same method so I don’t have to have 11, but can shrink it down to 5.

Also started working with PowerShell to create a shell program which would allow me to help a co-worker with a batch extraction of SP2007 lists to be upgraded to work in SP2013. That’s going to be interesting because I haven’t worked that much in PowerShell, but with my Linux background, I should eventually grab on pretty well.

I took the first half of the A+ exam yesterday and passed it, so I have to finish stuff off for the second half and take it. That keeps me fairly on pace for class and means I’m going to make most of my goals for this period. YAY!!!

Well, that’s the quiet life of a programmer for now. Back to the books and the work for me!

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Posted in Programming

Goals for 2014

Ok, I am going to do this post, along side everyone else who does it at some point around the new year. If you’ve been reading this, you know I do a lot of book reviews. Well, I need to change that a little bit. I need to start writing more about how I’m getting from point A to point B in my career as a professional programmer. At the same time, I have to do what all programmers should do and work on my skills to increase my abilities and my value as a programmer overall. So, with that in mind, I’m setting out a list of goals for 2014 and expecting that I will blog more about it as I go along.

1. Continue my degree course. I’ve been in school so long these days, I’ve become convinced I won’t get out of school. Well, all kidding aside, I’m around midway through my first term at Western Governor’s. I enjoy it and I’m seeing good progress, so I need to get moving faster in my mind. 

2. Learn a new programming language. I’ve heard it said many many times that if you want to get better as a programmer, learn a new language and  preferably something outside your comfort zone. Well, I need to learn two languages for the degree above: Java and Perl. So somewhere in there, I should start getting a jump on things and work my way into this.

3. Rebuild my current codebases. This is a punt as this is already planned for this year. I’m almost done with one site’s re-write and soon I’m going to do the other re-write and then re-do the major project. Really, I’m doing this because I know what I wrote works, but it’s not the cleanest or most efficient way of doing things, so I want to get better and if getting better means doing full re-writes, then so be it.

4. Write more websites. I have a list of sites I could be building or should have built by now, so it’s time to start scratching them off the list and getting stuff done. Take a couple of those sites and use them as portfolio pieces where I can show off, because I already know the customer needs on them and in those cases the customer doesn’t really worry about web presence, so it’s really a playground for me.

5. Blog once a week. Most days, I don’t know if anyone actually ever reads this, but if I want people to read it, I need to write more often. So I’m going to commit to at least one post a week so I can start writing enough to get attention and hopefully keep an audience. It’s my fault that this blog seems to languish at times, so I am the only one who can fix it.

Well, that’s a lot for one programmer this year, so it’s time to get cracking. See you soon!

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Posted in Education, Programming

New Packt Publishing Offer

As  many of you readers are aware, I do book reviews and occasionally help promote sales for publishers. Well, Packt Publishing is back with a new offer.

They are running every eBook or Video in their collection for $5 each! That’s a great deal in my opinion. They have a lot of high quality titles on various topics and they have great customer service to boot! Here are their details on it: The $5 eBook Bonanza is here! Treat yourself to the eBook or Video of your choice for just $5 and get as many as you like until January 3rd 2014. To get you started, we’ve put together the Top 20 titles of 2013 for you to pick up here. But don’t forget, you can get ANY eBook or Video for $5 in this offer

The link to get the discount is here!

$5 ebook Bonanza1 template 1

Posted in Programming, Uncategorized

Book Review – LEGO Space: Building the Future

I’ve recently read LEGO Space: Building the Future by Tim Goddard and Peter Reid. As usual, the disclaimer is that I received a copy of the book for free in return for the review. As a parent and grandparent, I have some experience with LEGOs. Being honest, the spacecraft were my favourite as a kid as well, so for me this was a great, light, no-brainer. For that, this book was perfect! The story line is great for kids who want to have fun with an easy to grab good v. evil story while learning a few cool things about the history of the space race at the beginning.

Really, the main focus of the book is the great eye candy of various ships, monsters, and backgrounds built by some incredible LEGO artists. There are instructions in the book for making 8 of the pieces you see in the book from robots to ships and even a work station. The directions are straight forward and look easy to complete. The story line is fairly predictable and there are tonnes of details about all of the various ships which I’m guessing will be out on shelves soon. For parents and grandparents, this is a fun way to get the kids to read and leave the video assault behind for a bit. Reading this with them encourages us to challenge their imaginations to keep the story lines going while creating not only these ships but also look at what they could do to modify the ships to make them better.

Overall, this is a fun book. It took me a little over an hour to read and it was great for heading into the office on the bus!

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Book Review – Learning R

I’ve recently been reading Learning R by Richard Cotton. As usual, the disclaimer is that I received a copy of the book for free in return for the review. I have never worked with R before, but I work with a lot of data queries and data analysis in my day job. Mr. Cotton’s book is fantastic from the ability to get the foundations and figure out how to write different things in R. His tone is easy going and conversational; so I was able to follow along on something that seemed foreign in relation to what I do. The book is broken down, at the beginning, into various pieces, strings, numbers, etc. I like this approach to it because it gave me the ability to focus on each piece of the puzzle and see how I could access data and gather information from that data.

My only negative is there seemed little information on using R with databases such as Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, etc. For many of us in a corporate environment, we’re going to be going in and out of those types of data sources so often that I would have appreciated a more in depth coverage there. However, I do feel like the book was excellent for getting your feet wet in something which seems, to me, a potentially very powerful tool. I believe it was the author’s approach to the subject that made the language as accessible as it turned out to be.

Overall, I would suggest, if you work with a lot of data and have to return information on that data, to give this book a read and you will likely find another tool for your toolbox and will feel like you have good knowledge of it out of the gate.

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