Book Review — Head First HTML5 Progamming

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, HTML5, JavaScript, o'reilly, programming | Posted on 25-09-2013

Head First HTML5 Programming 
Eric Freeman and Elisabeth Robson 
O’Reilly

O’Reilly Publishing provided me access to an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

When I’m looking for a book to help me learn more about a specific programming language, the first place I look is O’Reilly.  And no, I don’t say that because they give me free copies of the books (which I do like).  Instead I look for them because they have series, like the Head First series, that are written for anyone to learn from.  You don’t have to be a master computer programmer to pick up the book and understand how a topic, like HTML5 programming, works.  And that’s one of the great things about the Head First series, is that it’s easy to understand, easy to follow, and lively illustrations make it fun to learn how a new concept works.

This particular book helps walk the reader through some of the new concepts of HTML5 and how it works with JavaScript to provide a more robust and powerful programming language.  Such examples include using the canvas, which allows a user/programmer to create images on the fly, such as repeating circles in a random pattern on a background (the example from the book actually.)  Or utilizing the geolocation API to help figure out data on your users…probably not the best topic to broach with these days, but still could be useful.  This book is not meant to be a complete reference on HTML5 or JavaScript, but a guide to getting started with using the concepts together.

Where this book excels is providing an easy to understand concept of utilizing the new features of HTML5 in conjunction with JavaScript.  The other highlight of the Head First series (and this book is no exception) is that it’s written in a clear easy to understand language, it’s written for the novice programmer–one that’s still learning how programming works and for someone that’s looking for an overview of the language.  In this book the authors give you a specific situation to walk through, such as a client that wants to be able to print customized tshirts, and gives you some exercises to walk through to begin understanding the processes that are needed.  Then, at the end of the chapter, they give you the answers and further explanation if one is needed.  By having a somewhat silly concept, I find that it often helps engage my brain into beginning to think about the specific code that I’ll need.  In addition, they also add in other learning concepts, such as using crossword puzzles or mazes.

The caveat of this book is that like every “Head First” title the illustrations won’t work for everyone.  I find it helps if you’re coming from a nontraditional background or from a more creative bent (left brain.) And even then sometimes the images and graphics can be overwhelming, which is a problem that I find sometimes in this book.  I found that the images, while helpful in the beginning, often start to become overwhelming as you get more and more into the problem being solved and make it a bit difficult at times to concentrate on following the step by step instructions.

Overall though this was an enjoyable book and one that I’ll keep around to help me better understand some of the concepts of HTML5, and even begin working with them to redesign my own webpage.  Even though it’s 600 pages long, it’s an easy read and helps build a good understanding of HTML5 programming.  I give the book 4 out 5 stars.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Book Review–Head First jQuery

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, JavaScript, JQuery, o'reilly, programming | Posted on 25-11-2011

Head First jQuery
Ryan Benedetti & Ronan Cranley
O’Reilly

O’Reilly Publishing provided me access to an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

A basic introduction to jQuery and scripting

jQuery is fast becoming one of the most useful and popular JavaScript frameworks being used and being developed for future markets with jQuery mobile (see book review/blog post here.)  One of the best features of jQuery, in my opinion, is that it allows you to learn and use a scripting language that doesn’t depend upon the browser develops to update their JavaScript libraries with each release of the browser—which often means that some of the selectors don’t work right with all of the browsers (IE in particular.)  Instead jQuery is file that lives on a server somewhere that the webpage calls upon, much like how PHP works.  It’s still a client side scripting language, but in some ways acts like a server side.  In this massive book (over 450 pages) and over 11 chapters the reader will learn how to download and setup jQuery and introduce the basics of jQuery. The later chapters briefly introduce AJAX, PHP, MySQL, JSON, and XML and how they work with jQuery to build a more interactive webpage. There also a couple of apendecies to help you get a test environment set up on your local computer.  One thing to note about this book is that you do need experience with webdesign and it does help to have some experience with scripting languages. 

One of the first things that stands out about this book (and the Head First series in general) is the bright, colorful, and plentiful images used to help illustrate concepts and how jQuery works.  They also provide illustrations on how to walk through the specific problem at hand, which is often nice to see in a visual format…even if it is just notes on a pad of paper.  The other highlight of the Head First series (and this book is no exception) is that it’s written in a clear easy to understand language, it’s written for the novice programmer–one that’s still learning how programming works and for someone that’s looking for an overview of the language.  In this book the authors give you a specific situation–a client wants work done on their website– walk you through how to solve the problem step by step, and with illustrations to help you solve the problem.  This method can be a very helpful way to introduce aspects of jQuery as it walks through problems that you might encounter when building/developing your website and ways that jQuery can over come that problem. 

But like every “Head First” title the illustrations won’t work for everyone.  I find it helps if you’re coming from a nontraditional background or from a more creative bent (left brain.) And even then sometimes the images and graphics can be overwhelming, which is a problem that I find sometimes in this book.  I found that thT images, while helpful in the beginning, often start to become overwhelming as you get more and more into the problem being solved and make it a bit difficult at times to concentrate on following the step by step instructions. 

Overall this is a fairly good introduction book and easy to read if you’re coming from a nontraditional programming background (and are left brain) then this might just be the book for you to learn more about scripting languages.  If you’re more right brain then you might want to look for a more traditional book on jQuery, such as “Learning jQuery, Third Edition” from Pact.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Book Review–jQuery Mobile

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, JavaScript, JQuery, o'reilly, Plugin | Posted on 16-07-2011

jQuery Mobile
by Jon Reid
O’Reilly 2011

O’Reilly Publishing provided me access to an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Mobile technology is developing at a rapid pace.  Where once people accessed content via mobile webpages they now want to access content via mobile appls.  And for designers this poses a major problem.  How do you design an app that works on all platforms?  Do you pick one and hope for the best? Or do you design for them all?  Thankfully a new option is being developed.  jQuery Mobile, based upon the popular jQuery library, is a package currently being developed that will work on all platforms with no extra programming knowledge needed.  And I for one am really impressed with how easy and simple it is to develop with the current package of jQuery Mobile.  It’s clear that the programmers have put a lot of thought into making it as easy as possible to use, especially since it comes with a CSS style sheet and icons built into the package.

This jQuery Mobile guide may seem short at a 130 pages, but packs a lot of useful content.  The jQuery Mobile package is currently in beta 1 (the book covers alpha 4) and is based upon HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.  Jon states in the introduction this book works best if you’re already have basic familiarity with mobile browsers, the jQuery library, and basic designing for mobile webpages.  Jon provides copious screen shots and sections of code so that the reader can easily see how the package works and how to design their own apps based upon the jQuery package.  The book talks you through the basics of beginning with the package to building a working application that utilizes the Twitter API to design a working jQuery Twitter client that incorporates multiple pages and UI components.  My only real complaint about the book is that there’s no index.  But if you’re using the ebook version of the book it’s easy enough to search and find what you need.

Basically if this your first dive into designing and developing with jQuery you may want to supplement the book with a jQuery guide (great documentation on the web or using something like “jQuery: Novice to Ninja” or “Learning jQuery 1.3“–a bit older but still good content.)  The book dives right into working with the code which is a great way to learn, especially since the author provides lots of examples of how to build the code and what it looks like on the mobile platform.  The book is written in an easy to understand format and that as long as you have some knowledge of how jQuery works you’ll have no trouble following along. 

I’m impressed with how well this short book is written.  It’s easy to use and easy to follow along.  My one note of concern (as some other reviewers have noted as well) is that the book is based upon the Alpha 4 release and we’re now into the Beta 1 release of the program.  That being said I would still recommend this book as a way to get a good idea of what can be done with package.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

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