O'Reilly Book Reviewer

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review: Practical Packet Analysis using wireshark to solve real-world network problems by Chris Sanders (No Starch Press, Inc)

Unlike other books on networking that I have read, this book assumes nothing about the reader. Any general IT professional should be able to pick this book up and pick up the concepts right away. The author starts with very basic concepts and builds slowly and steadily over the subsequent chapters. I learned how to sniff packets and analyze them which has become my new favorite hobby. Chapters 1 and 2 start with basic networking concepts, protocols, layouts, etc. Chapter 3 explains how to get started with Wireshark, the tool of choice for this book. Chapter 4 explains how to analyze the packets that were captured. Chapter 5 delves deeper into advanced Wireshark features. The rest of the book goes deeper into explaining lower and upper level protocols, real-world scenarios, slow networks, and security.

Recently I had a crisis at work. A group of hackers had attacked the corporate network and as a result everything was shutdown for security reasons. As the network was gradually opened up for business, our business partners were not able to call some of our web services. That was a puzzling thing as other web services were reachable. As a lead for the application development team I had no idea how to debug this except to set up a SWAT team meeting with the infrastructure and networking team. I was the weakest link in the room as I had no idea what the terms and terminologies meant. Needless to say, I was embarassed. The one thing that was spoken about frequently in those meetings was Wireshark. I couldn't find a good book on Wireshark at that time so the moment this book came out, I decided to review it. I am really impressed by this book. Not that I am waiting for a crisis at work, but the next time I would definitely be well-prepared thanks to this book.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: Building and Testing with Gradle by Tim Berglund and Matthew McCullough

My first reaction when I heard of Gradle was a sarcastic "Yay! Yet another build tool that will frustrate me when I use it on my enterprise projects". However, as I read through this book, I found a new promise to liberate me from the complex world of Maven. The authors have done a fantastic job of explaining how Gradle provides the flexibility of Ant, dependency management style of Ivy, the intelligent defaults of Maven, the speed and hashing of Git, and the meta-programming power of Groovy.

Highlights of this book:

- Easy to follow, lots of examples. I was able to run most of the examples without any hassle.

- You don't have to know Groovy to understand this book

- The last chapter covers how to do enterprise level multi-project builds. That was really helpful.

- No clutter or unnecessary information that you can find elsewhere. Nice, small book of 110 pages.

- I was able to complete this book in about 3 hours and I am a slow reader!

I had the pleasure of attending the No Fluff Just Stuff conference in 2011 and boy, was I impressed! Both the authors are very well respected in this field. If you have been living in the complex world of Maven where you are afraid to touch something because it might break something else, then this book is of you. If your enterprise is going to continue to use Maven, it does not in any way mean that you cannot unleash the power of Gradle. This book will teach you how to do that. As an added bonus, this book has been reviewed by Ken Sipe, the CTO of Gradleware, someone I know and respect!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review: Mastering the Nikon D7000 by Darrell Young

Nikon D7000 is Nikon's best DSLR camera ever and I have no words to express that in any language (and I know five!). Just saying that you own one is enough to elevate your status in the Nikon community. However, pictures speak louder than words and your elevated status would be short-lived if you take sucky pictures because you didn't understand the features that make this camera awesome. This book by Darrell Young is just the one you need to squeeze the juice out of your Nikon D7K. That is after you have woken up from reading the bland user manual that shipped with the camera.

The author has neatly put "My Recommendations" at the end of each major section and "My Conclusions" at the end of each chapter. This would help in refreshing your memory periodically since you wouldn't have to read the whole book over again. This book cleared my understanding of things I didn't follow in the user manual. Example, "Auto Gain" when shooting with "Multiple Exposure". Thoughout the book valuable tips are given plus the author has provided supplemental material (thus reducing clutter in the book) on his website (firmware upgrade, video editing software, understanding depth of field, aperture, and shutter speed, etc).

This book will help you get the "oohs" and "aahs" from your family, neighbors, friends (including facebook friends), and curious strangers. Master this book and become an instant celebrity like I did!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: Virtualization - A Manager's Guide by Dan Kusnetzky

Unless you have taken a sabbatical for the last couple of years, virtualization buzz words have become commonly talked about topics in IT organizations including infrastructure and application development. In fact, even business contacts have started taking notice of virtualization and are frequently questioning the IT department on what initiatives are being taken on that aspect. This concise book puts all flavors of virtualization together neatly organized in to different chapters.

The first chapter gives an overview of the entire stack of virtualization - Access, Application, Processing, Network, and Storage along with the broader aspect of Security and Management across each layer. Chapter two explains Access virtualization with a nice flow of what it is, when is it the right choice, providers, and a few examples. This flow is maintained in the remaining chapters covering the other types of virtualization mentioned above.

Overall, I found this book to be very concise as a pocket guide covering virtualization broadly. Indeed, it is targetted at managers since it is at a high-level. If you are a techie looking for depth, you are better off looking elsewhere.