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Tag Archives: computers-and-internet

Master Visual C++ 2 (1994): A Visit to the Old Folks’ Home

Nathan and Ori Gurewich, Master Visual C++ 2 (Sams, 1994)

[originally posted 19Feb2002]

A bunch of flying puzzle pieces hover over a CD on the book's cover.

Never underestimate the power of a puzzling cover.
photo credit:

Given the dominance of Microsoft in the programming market and the plethora of supposedly platform-specific C++ books on the market, it would seem a difficult task to come up with one definitive beginner’s text. Such is not the case, and Master Visual C++ 2 is without a doubt the definitive book for the VC++2 platform. The authors spend little time covering the basics of C++ (but enough to get someone who’s never read any general material on the subject up to speed) and devote most of the book’s thousand-plus pages to the Visual C++ platform itself. While the book does have its drawbacks, it does what it’s supposed to do, and it does it better than any other book I’ve encountered.

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Capsule Reviews (vault): July, 2014

Peter D. Hipson, What Every Visual C++ 2 Programmer Should Know (Sams, 1994)

[originally posted 19Feb2002]

A "just the facts, ma'am" cover with the red title on a green background.

Even more dated now than when I wrote this review.
photo credit: ebay

What Every Visual C++ 2 Programmer Should Know is the perfect compliment to Gurewich and Gurewich’s Master Visual C++ 2. Both put out by Sams in the same year. Coincidence? Probably not. Everything the Gurewich book lacks is covered here. The detail and amount of code examples is lacking in comparison, but given the topics covered, that’s an excusable oversight.

What Every Visual C++ 2 Programmer Should Know looks at the more advanced features of Microsoft’s primary development platform: programming with Unicode, OLE, ODBC, multithreading, etc. It’s more a reference book than a how-to manual, but the user who’s followed and mastered the Gurewichs’ book should already have enough coding under his belt to integrate the information presented here without much trouble. The two books, taken together, provide the best introduction to Visual C++ 2 on the market, and are highly recommended for those still programming in DOS/Win3.x/Win95. *** ½

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Capsule reviews (new), July 2014

Better late than never…

Homicide for Three (George Blair, 1948)

Audrey Long looks horrified in an artist's rendition on the movie poster.

photo credit:

Barely-feature-length mystery potboiler featuring a honeymooning couple (Warren Douglas and Audrey Long) who get caught up in a game of mistaken identity after being lent a hotel room when they arrived in New York at the wrong time. Hijinks ensue. There is nothing at all about it that would set it off from hundreds of its peers, but on the other hand, if you’re looking for a quick and easy mystery with some amusing moments and a decided lack of time investment, this will fill the bill as much as any of those others would; certainly worth a look if you happen upon it one one of the subscription streaming services, where it appears with some regularity. ** ½

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C++ Database Development (1992): CPPDDIY

Al Stevens, C++ Database Development (MIS Press, 1992)

[originally posted 1Feb2002]

The minimal cover is bordered in yellow and has the title and author's name.

It is possible that I have read this more times than any other computer book I have ever owned.
photo credit:

Two questions come to mind as to why anyone would be reading a ten-year-old book on database development in an outdated edition written to cater to an operating system that (almost) no longer exists in any meaningful way. (Or why they would be reading a review of such a book.) Those two questions are, first, is it still a valuable book for any reasons other than archival, and second, does it teach the reader anything that might still be applicable in a world whose technology is so far removed from that which was extant when the book was first published?

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Thinking in C++ (2000/2002): The Gold Standard

Bruce Eckel, Thinking in C++ vol. I (Prentice Hall, 2000)

An abstract pattern lies behind the title and author's names on the book cover.

Part One.
photo credit:

[originally posted 4Feb2002]

This is what so many other books about the process of programming C++ could have been. Eckel uses the most up-to-date C++ standards, the strictest programming techniques, and takes enough time to explain both the how and the why of the things that he’s talking about in enough detail that the user, while perhaps needing to read certain sections two or three times to really get the gist of them, should have a thorough understanding of the subject by the time the reader has finished the section. This leads to a complete absence of the usual “here’s what to do, don’t worry about why you’re doing it until we get to chapter X” found in most programming books. It also stresses programmers developing their own programming style, but imposes the strictures called for by the ANSI C++ standard. Sometimes too much freedom IS a bad thing, and that’s the case with the vast majority of books on C++ programming. Individuality is important, but clarity of code is important, too.

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Visual C++ 2 for Dummies (1995): You’d Make a Better Door Than a Window

Michael Hyman and Bob Arnson, Visual C++ 2 for Dummies (IDG, 1995)

[originally posted 24Jan2002]

[ed. note 2014: programming for Windows has gotten MUCH easier over the years with visual tools and frameworks. Remember that back in 1995, much of Windows programming was still completed by hand unless you could afford very expensive SDKs.]

Given the existence of a book called C++ for Dummies and the existence of a separate book called Visual C++2 for Dummies, and given the reader of this review knows what Visual C++ 2 is, what would you expect from those two books? Doesn’t it seem like C++ for Dummies would cover the language, and Visual C++2 for Dummies would cover Visual C++2, the changes from the ANSI C++ standard and (more importantly) how to use Visual C++2 to program in Windows?

Perish the thought.

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C++ for Dummies (1994): Let’s Start

Stephen R. Davis, C++ for Dummies (IDG, 1994)

[originally posted 24Jan2002]

C++ for Dummies has the same layout as every other For Dummies book.

Yellow and black, the universal colors of For Dummies books, school buses, and the Dennis Kucinich campaign.
photo credit: Amazon

One of the main problems (from my perspective) with the vast majority of C++ books on the market is that they’re written for C programmers who want to migrate. What’s a person to do who knows very little about C and wants to learn C++? The obvious answer is that he gets on an insanely steep learning curve, unless he wants to go back and learn C before tackling the plethora of C++ how-to- books on the market.

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Object-Oriented Graphics Programming in C++ (1994): Dated Before You Were Out of High School

Roger T. Stevens, Object-Oriented Graphics Programming in C++ (AP Professional, 1994)

[originally posted 12Feb2002]

photo credit:

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us (and my copy is long gone).

Whatever other faults this book may have, most of it is (quite thankfully) out of date. Remember the days when 640x480x16.7 million colors was something only the high-end computers could manage? Well, that’s when this was written. Also, raytracing as a way to display graphics seems to have gone the way of the great auk for most programmers, largely due to speed concerns. (This is unfortunate, because raytracing produces some of the highest-quality graphics you’re likely to find on a computer screen; I have a suspicion that if someone were to sit down and really work with newer implementations of C++ and today’s high-powered graphics cards, raytracing could be done with enough speed to allow it to rival newer methods of graphic representation.)

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Accessible EPUB3 (2012): Soundtracks for the Blind

Matt Garrish, Accessible EPUB3 (O’Reilly Media/Tools of Change, 2012)

As always with O'Reilly books, an animal sits on the cover, staring at the audience.

What’s gnu in epub3? (Sorry…)
photo credit:

Garrish tells us at the end of Accessible EPUB3 that is is, in fact, a teaser for the full-length EPUB3 Best Practices. That’s the wrong place to put that information; it should have been in the beginning, and masking it until the end revised my rating of this book down by a non-trivial amount. Since (presumably) you are reading this review, you won’t have to worry about that, so take that into account as we go along. I was kind of amused that O’Reilly Media decided to release this and HTML5 for Publishers in the same whack of free material, since the two books are basically opposites; in fact, one of the big features the latter highlights, canvas, is specifically targeted in Accessible EPUB3. “Although a potentially interesting element to use in ebooks, at this time the canvas element remains largely a black hole to assistive technologies.” Reading the two of them in tandem is probably a good idea, assuming you care about accessibility issues (and if you’re publishing ebooks, you probably should). Oh, that reminds me: take note of the use of the word Accessible in the title. When I grabbed this, I was thinking of it as “we’re going to take this ridiculously complex specification and lay it out for you in layman’s terms”, when in fact it is used in the Microsoft Control Panel sense of “here’s a high-level overview of making your ebooks readable by folks who will not be approaching them from the normal way (e.g., the blind)”. And a high-level overview it is, though unlike HTML5 for Publishers, there’s enough meat on Accessible EPUB3‘s bones to make it worth your while. You will, once again, find yourself delving into more detailed work to make a full go of it (and preferably a different one than the full-length of this, since anyone who uses the phrase “best practices” in a non-ironic sense does not deserve one penny of your money), but this is at least a halfway decent starting point. Just be aware that it is not the full monty. **

SQL for Smarties 4/E (2011): Celko’s English Muffin

Joe Celko, SQL for Smarties 4/E (Morgan Kaufmann, 2011)

A large batch of orange blocks adorns the book cover.

When most people would find your subject dry, go for the abstract cover.
photo credit:

Full disclosure: a copy of this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

It had been a very long time since I had updated the Duration column on my spreadsheet, but I figured if any book warranted doing so, it would be SQL for Smarties. I knew it had taken me a long, long time to get through it (it sat on my desk at work for quite a while and I had no time there to get to it), but even I didn’t know how long specifically. As of this writing, it is the third-longest I have ever taken to read a book—from first page to last, 1,062 days. (#2 is a book that had gone back to the library for three years before I took it out again; #1 is a book that got lost for four years before I stumbled upon it in a box and finished it up within the week.) That is one heckuva lot of time for a book, but then SQL for Smarties is not normally the kind of book one reads from beginning to end anyway, so take all that with a grain of salt.

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