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–The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, command line, linux, o'reilly, programming | Posted on 22-02-2012

The Linux Command Line:  A Complete Introduction
William E. Shotts Jr.
No Starch Press

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

The command line can be one of the most intimidating aspects of learning Linux, I know it was for me.  And while the command line gives you an awesome amount of power with using Linux, it also makes it entirely to easy to destroy and delete entire directories without trying.  It’s like what Uncle Ben said in Spider Man “with great power comes great responsibility.”  Learning the command line is one of those things that takes a good guide and clear instructions (and warnings on what not to do), and while I had friends who helped me walk through the process, it still seemed intimidating.  And after reading this book, I wish I had it when I started out.  William makes the command line less intimidating, provides clear instructions, and lets you know the pitfalls to watch out for.

The book is broken down into four major sections:
Learning the shell
Configuration and the environment
Common tasks and essential tools
Writing Shell Scripts

with easy to navigate chapters.  Some of the chapters include: file navigation, Vi and Vim, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more.

Where this book excels is that it is written with the novice in mind and presents the information clearly, with easy to read instructions, and plenty of examples so that you can see what its supposed to look like.  The best part of the examples, William truly presents them as what the reader will see when they first start out vs. using his own personalized environment (which some instructors have a tendency of doing.)  This means that the reader will instantly know where they are in the process.  Even more importantly he tries to eschew the technical jargon that can overwhelm a novice.  While at times he might go overboard with wordage in explaining things, it is still sure to help the novice answer many questions they might have while learning the command line.  

While the chapters may not cover a topic in depth, such as the one on Vi and Vim, they provide the reader with enough information to be comfortable with what they’re learning.  The section that I found most helpful, was the last section dealing with writing shell scripts.  William gives a solid foundation to learning this helpful tool, provides plenty of examples, and makes it seem easy to set up.  Even better, he gives a brief lesson on Regular Expressions, which will help with writing the scripts.

Even though this book is written for the novice user, I still found it a good refresher on what commands do what.  I would highly recommend this book for users just starting out in Linux and for those that need a refresher on how to navigate the command line.  I give the book 5 out of 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–HTML5: The Missing Manual

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, CSS3, HTML5, o'reilly, programming | Posted on 04-10-2011

A basic introduction to HTML5

HTML5:  The Missing Manual
Matthew MacDonald
O’Reilly

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

When I start looking at books on programming languages, such as HTML5, I look for a few different things.  1) Easy to read and understand language
2) Clear cut, easy to follow (and correct) examples of code
3) Good additional resources to look at
4) Layout and organization of chapters and subtopics flows well
5) And depending upon the language, an in-depth look at how it works.
While this book doesn’t offer an in-depth look at every aspect of HTML5 (it is meant for beginners) it does meet the first three criteria that I look for and mostly meets the clear organizational path.

This book doesn’t give an in-depth look at HTML5 because what Matthew is trying to do is provide a basic introduction to the various tools and components of HTML5 and how you might be able to use them in your day-to-day work.  And this is where the book excels.  Matthew breaks down the book into three broad themes (meet the new language, creating modern webpages, building web apps with desktop smarts) and further broken down into 12 chapters on each of these broader themes.  Plus he includes a great 4th section with appendices and other additional resources and real world examples of code in use.

In the first section Matthew does a great job of explaining how HTML5 came into being versus the continuation of XHTML and how W3C works to approve code.  This is important to understand in the context of this book as not every standard developed by the committee or shown in this book works with every browser at this time (there is at least one that only works with one browser thus far.)  Matthew does a good job of letting the reader know which standard will work with which browsers and when, if ever, the standard might be widely adapted.  He also does a good job of breaking down the various standards that have the most real world use in building webpages, such as the discussion on semantic tags in Chapter 2.  Matthew provides clear cut examples of code and explains how you might be able to use them.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program