O'Reilly Book Reviewer

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review: The Little Book on CoffeeScript by Alex MacCaw

Whether you love it or hate it, JavaScript is back with a louder than ever bang, thanks largely to HTML5. However, frameworks like JQuery provide concise syntax that eliminates the need to write buggy and verbose code. So why CoffeeScript? Curiosity led me to pick up this "little book". It turns out that CoffeeScript is a language that compiles down to JavaScript with a syntax inspired by Ruby and Python. In a little book of 6 chapters and 48 pages, Alex MacCaw cuts to the chase and explains the nuts and bolts of CoffeeScript neatly.

In the first chapter, the author goes over the CoffeeScript syntax, variables, scope, functions, looping, flow control, etc - the usual, gentle, "hello world" type introduction. Things start getting interesting from chapter 2 as the book dives into CoffeeScript classes and goes into a little bit more detail into OO related topics pertaining to CoffeeScript. Chapter 3 covers CoffeeScript idioms like iterating over arrays, using Maps, select filtering, and other operations related to arrays. This chapter also covers how to use external libraries (like JQuery) which is extremely useful.

Chapter 4 introduces the Cake (yummy!) build system to compile CoffeeScript. This is the best chapter in my opinion as it contains detailed information on how to maintain your code and not let it burgeon into sphagetti. I was delightfully surprised to see a section on deployment with Heroku. Chapter 5 guides you into avoiding pitfalls using CoffeeScript. This is really good to know as it will avoid hours of debugging later. Chapter 6 provides a conclusion about the intent and philosophy of CoffeeScript emphasizing that "It's Just JavaScript". The book invokes your curiosity to try out other compile-to-JavaScript languages on your own. The book will not make you an expert in CoffeeScript but does a great job of laying down a strong foundation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: Beginning PhoneGap by Thomas Myer (John Wiley & Sons, Inc)

There are two times PhoneGap made big waves in the mobile developer community. The first time was when the first PhoneGap code was authored at the San Francisco iPhoneDevCamp in August 2008. The second time was at the Adobe MAX in October 2011 when Adobe announced that it had bought Nitobi, the maker of PhoneGap. PhoneGap is an amazing technology that lets you unleash mobile applications to 7 platforms using the same code base. It makes the "write once, deploy anywhere" aspiration come true. Beginning PhoneGap by Thomas Myer is an excellent book to get started with PhoneGap.

This book is targetted for anyone with an intermediate knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that is looking to develop mobile applications quickly using PhoneGap. Step-by-Step the author explain using PhoneGap to develop applications for the 3 major platforms - iOS, Android, and Blackberry, with an honorable mention of the other platforms like Symbian and WebOS. The first three chapters are devoted to learning the basics of setting up PhoneGap on your machine. From chapter 4 through chapter 14, the author dives straight into the PhoneGap API with Events, Network and Notifications, Accelerometer, Compass, Geolocation, Media, Camera, Storage, Files, Contacts, and Capture. Each chapter introduces the topic, provides sample codes to try out, then explains clearly what the code does. The last chapter contains information on how to design and build an app from scratch using the Capture, Geolocation, Storage, and Files API.

There is very little fluff and lots of useful and to-the-point stuff. I finished reading the first five chapters in less than an hour. I was able to finish the rest of the book over the weekend. The author has provided lots of screenshots and sample code to make it easy to learn. Buy this book and make your PhoneGap foundation strong. I strongly believe PhoneGap has a promising future and this book is the first step to lead you there.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: Software Change Management: Case Studies and Practical Advice by Donald Reifer

Unlike other books on Software Change Management, Donald Reifer brings a fresh new perspective dedicated to the fearless few and brave agents of change. Introducing or changing software processes is not for the faint of heart but Donald bring his decades of mastery in this field into a dozen chapters with 10 real-life scenarios. The nice thing about this book is that it explains how to introduce change by using sensible and politically sound tactics. Indeed some change agents fail miserably because even though their intent was good, their expressions might come across as combative and without senior management buy-in. This book teaches not just "what" to do but also "how" to do it and what to "watch out" for.

This book is targeted for Project Managers, CIOs, Senior management, and anyone desiring to be a lean practitioner in the IT industry. Overall, the author has done an excellent job writing this book unlike other books on this topic that are quite dry.