Fluent Visual Basic
Author: Rebecca M. Riordan
Publisher: Sams
Pages: 880
ISBN: 978-0672335808
Aimed at: Beginners
Rating: 1
Pros: Covers a lot of material; some good explanations
Cons: Gimmicky design hinders understanding; conversion from C# shows
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot

Another approach to teaching you how to code using Visual Basic.  Can an old fashioned approach to a modern subject work?

Whoever had the idea for this form of presentation was clearly trying to creating a genre like the Head First, Dummies or Idiots guides. In this case the result is not a great success. The first problem, and for many readers it is going to be a very big problem, is the use of brown ink on a yellow printed paper - an attempt to make the book look old. It might look old but it makes it very difficult to read. Add to this the use of a script font and it is even more difficult to read. When the script font is used for program listings you immediately know that this book is a triumph of design over knowledge. It is very sad.

 

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The contents of the book are also very variable. For a beginner it starts off by explaining concepts which are quite unnecessary and could be left for later or for another book. When we do get to an exposition of the language the pace is too rushed and not really understanding of the problems that beginners have. The strange language used to introduce the ideas - nouns, transitive verbs and so on - might reinforce the style of the book but they do nothing for understanding.

What is more surprising is that, for a beginner's book, it attempts to cover a lot of material. As well as the basics of the language, it also covers the framework, object oriented design theory and WPF.

There are also places where it is obvious that the author hasn't quite finished converting the code and diagrams from the C# version of the book. While this might be ok for an advanced book it is just going to confuse the beginner - as if there weren't enough things to confuse the beginner in this book.

There are some parts of the book that, if you can ignore the presentation, are good. Some of the detailed explanations of how some of the short examples work break down what is happening into easy-to-understand concept. It all suggests that with more time expended on the text to remove the errors, a complete restructuring to remove the complicated topics unsuitable for the beginner and a makeover to turn it into a more normal book then it might be worth something.

As it is the book is simply a triumph of marketing and design over common sense. Don't bother buying a copy unless you like mock olden style and difficult to read text.

 

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Hidden Markov Models for Time Series

Author: Walter Zucchini & Iain L. MacDonald
Publisher: CRC Press, 2009
Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-1584885733
Aimed at: Statisticians interested in time series
Rating: 4
Pros: Practical approach
Cons: Assumes prior knowledge, R tucked away in appendix
Reviewed by: Mike James

The subtitle of this book "An Intr [ ... ]



Civic Apps Competition Handbook

Author: Kate Eyler-Werve and Virginia Carlson
Publisher: O'Reilly
Pages: 78
ISBN: 978-1449322649
Audience: Organizers of App contests
Rating: 4
Reviewer: Sue Gee

The idea of the Civic App Competition isn't new but it has not yet gone global - although this slim book may act as a catalyst.


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