countdown boutiques-francophones Learn more vpcflyout Home All-New Kindle Explore the Vinyl LP Records Store sports Tools
Profile for William A. Huber > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by William A. Huber
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,457,465
Helpful Votes: 14

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
William A. Huber (Rosemont, PA USA)

Page: 1
Statistical Intervals: A Guide for Practitioners
Statistical Intervals: A Guide for Practitioners
by Gerald J. Hahn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 217.37
19 used & new from CDN$ 203.88

5.0 out of 5 stars An essential reference, June 9 2004
"Statistical Intervals" has for years been a valuable tool in my professional work, which focuses on environmental statistics. Hahn & Meeker's discussion of how to interpret various intervals--confidence, tolerance, prediction--first opened my eyes to the ubiquity and utility of these techniques. I since have found it worthwhile to have a working knowledge of them all; that would scarcely have been possible without having such a handy reference.
The tables are getting dog-eared and gray from use, especially A-12 (factors for computing Normal distribution one-sided tolerance bounds), in testimony to the frequency I refer to them. The book also contains extensive graphics for estimating intervals and for determining sample sizes: these typically obviate any need to refer to tables or do the computations. There are some neat formulas, clearly described, that one can easily implement in a spreadsheet. These all appear in other texts and journal articles, but having them all in one place, well organized, makes them particularly worthwhile.
This is, indeed, a reference: a statistical "cookbook" if you will (intended in a positive sense, not perjoratively!). This means you will find little theoretical justification for any of the material. For each technique expect to find a clear definition, lucid descriptions, discussions of how to use any supporting formulas, graphs, or tables, all followed by a clear worked example. Of course there's an extensive bibliography if your theoretical curiosity is piqued.
One common technique you will not find (although it is mentioned and references provided) is computing statistical intervals for linear regression analysis. This subject, however, is covered well in other books (such as Draper and Smith's Applied Regression Analysis), so the omission does no harm and helps keep the book to a manageable 400 pages or so.
There are some obscure applications you will not find, in part because they were only under development at the time this book was written. For instance, there is a specialized (but widely applied) theory of "k best of m" prediction limits that is used in groundwater monitoring. For such specialized applications you will have to go elsewhere (such as Robert Gibbons' book on "Statistical Methods for Groundwater Monitoring"). Nevertheless, Hahn and Meeker do a very good job of covering the most widely used applications of statistical intervals.
I do not recollect ever finding a mathematical error or even a typographical error. Over the years I have also checked, and completely verified, the entries in several of the key tables. All in all, this book is remarkably clean and error free.
(This review is based on the 1991 edition; I do not know whether there have been further editions.)

Excel 2003 Power Programming with VBA
Excel 2003 Power Programming with VBA
by John Walkenbach
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Buy a book to match your background and needs, Feb. 11 2004
Needing to finish my first Excel add-in, and frustrated by the incompleteness and obscurity of MS's help system, I picked up this book after reading warm recommendations from readers of earlier versions.
If you have never programmed Excel before, but have programmed a tiny bit in some other language, and do not have great ambitions for software development, this might be a fine text. It is quite readable and full of useful information. Walkenbach introduces VBA quickly, which is great, but so quickly he forgets to say what most of the language constructs do. His approach to teaching the Excel object model is to provide several fairly well written examples of little macros and utilities, each one with a clear English explanation. Unfortunately, if the technique you need does not appear in any of these examples, you are out of luck, because his explanations are neither extensive, detailed, nor thorough enough to impart a good understanding of what is going on. This, coupled with Excel's erratic behavior (mis-type a property name and watch your user form mysteriously disappear, for instance), makes it very difficult to become independently productive without spilling a lot of sweat and tears.
The book's strengths include the numerous and well-organized examples provided on the companion CD; the occasional sidebar that offers first-hand knowledge of bugs, inconsistencies, and strange design; fairly broad, if incomplete, coverage of the major aspects of Excel VBA programming; and very clear indications of differences among various Excel versions (97, 2000, 2003 mainly). Walkenbach is obviously an expert and has been so for a long time.
The weaknesses become apparent in contrasting this book with, say, Roman's text (O'Reilley). Where Walkenbach gives a macro to display all the icons associated with the several thousand Excel 'FaceId's, Roman publishes the complete table as an appendix. Where Walkenbach loosely skims over the properties of many key objects, such as ranges and charts, Roman takes the time to provide a terse but useful description of nearly every property, as well as a very illuminating diagram of the object hierarchy. Where Walkenbach completely omits to describe how VBA works, Roman actually offers a deeper explanation (showing how object references are arranged in memory, for instance, and describing exactly how a loop is executed). Boring stuff for some, maybe, but a huge time saver for those who appreciate that the details matter. For someone who either has a lot of programming experience, or who plans to develop more than toy utilities or one-off apps in Excel VBA, Roman's approach is much more useful than Walkenbach's.
If Walkenbach is appropriate for your background and ambitions, then you will probably agree it is a four- or five-star effort. Otherwise, you will likely be somewhat disappointed and, like me, will quickly find yourself looking for another book.

Mathematics From the Birth of Numbers
Mathematics From the Birth of Numbers
by Jan Gullberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 55.74
41 used & new from CDN$ 6.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Broad coverage of high school topics, Dec 29 2003
This book is a wonderful supplement to the standard high school curriculum, beginning with algebra and extending through Euclidean geometry, analytic geometry, to differential and integral calculus, and including brief introductions to other "back of the book" topics like probability, determinants, and so on. It is full of hard-to-find details left behind by most texts, such as explicit solutions to third- and fourth- degree polynomials in one variable. It's fun to browse this book in search of such tidbits to fill in your mathematical knowledge.
"Mathematics..." is written at a level just right for someone who has progressed as far as calculus or college engineering math but no further. It is also nice that the myriad (albeit brief) historical references help connect the material with its initial development. Unfortunately, the lack of any contextual information (brief biographies would be welcome) make these references rather dry and unrevealing: authors, dates, and titles of publications is frequently all we get.
I have to agree, too, with the Willingboro reviewer: although this text covers a wide variety of traditional high school and early college topics, at the same time it clearly exhausts its author's knowledge of the subject and therefore cannot provide a foundation for proceeding further. It is akin to a travelogue that directs the reader along completed, well-worn paths, visiting all the conventional landmarks, without pointing out the existence of other paths, other points of interest, or taking the readers to lookout points and vistas suggesting territory remaining to be explored.
Almost all the topics covered are ancient, rarely extending beyond what was known by the middle of the 19th century. (A chapter on fractals is the only exception.) Many important and modern subjects are barely mentioned and certainly not developed beyond the limited introduction available in most high school texts: graph theory, number theory, complex analysis, algebraic geometry, functional analysis, group theory, Galois theory, differential geometry, category theory, ..., the list can go on and on. (For example, topology--a vast subject--gets less than three pages, whereas eight pages are devoted to illustrating the routine mechanics of solving euclidean triangles using trigonometry.) This is a shame, because the wealth of topics nevertheless discussed by this book provides an amazing foundation for introducing these modern ideas and pointing out their deeper implications and ramifications. As a result, mathematics comes out looking like a kind of beautiful fossil rather than an organic, evolving creature.

by David A. Brannan
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 19.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Good and enjoyable for a wide range of readers, May 6 2003
This review is from: Geometry (Paperback)
A quarter century ago I noticed that some of the graduate physics students in my university were carrying around copies of Scientific American. Armed with that clue, I dug out every article on the newly discovered fundamental particles. Within the space of a week of fairly easy reading I was able to acquire a good sense of what this subject was all about. These articles explained the basic stuff our professors assumed we must know (but most of us surely didn't).
Brannan, Esplen, and Gray's Geometry accomplish for math what those Scientific American articles did for physics: speaking at a level accessible to anyone with a good high school education, they bring the interested reader up to speed in affine, projective, hyperbolic, inversive, and spherical geometry. They provide the simple explanations, diagrams, and computational details you are assumed to know-but probably don't-when you take advanced courses in topology, differential geometry, algebraic geometry, Lie groups, and more. I wish I had had a book like this when I learned those subjects.
Individual chapters of about 50 pages focus on distinct geometries. Each one is written to be studied in the course of five evenings: a week or two of work apiece. Although they build sequentially, just about any of them can be read after mastering the basic ideas of projective geometry (chapter 3) and inversive geometry (chapter 5). This makes the latter part of the book relatively accessible even to the less-committed reader and an effective handbook for someone looking for just an overview and basic formulas.
The approach is surprisingly sophisticated. The authors do not shy away from introducing and using a little bit of group theory, even at the outset. (Scientific American, even in its heyday, never dared do that.) They present all geometries from a relatively modern point of view, as the study of the invariants of a transitive group of transformations on a set. Many explanations and proofs are based on exploiting properties of these transformations. This brings a welcome current of rigor and elegance to a somewhat static subject long relegated to out of date or sloppy authors (with the exception of a few standouts, such as Lang & Murrow's "Geometry").
One nice aspect is the authors' evident awareness of and appreciation for the history of mathematics. Marginal notes begin at Plato and wind up with Felix Klein's Erlangen program some 2300 years later. Although the text does not necessarily follow the historical development of geometry, its references to that development provide a nice context for the ideas. This is an approach that would improve the exposition of many math texts at all levels.
The authors are British and evidently write for students with slightly different backgrounds than American undergraduates. Obvious prerequisites are a mastery of algebra and a good high school course in Euclidean geometry. Synopses of the limited amounts of group theory and linear algebra needed appear in two brief appendices. However, readers had better be intuitively comfortable with matrix operations, including diagonalization and finding eigenspaces, because matrices and complex numbers are used throughout the book for performing computations and developing proofs. A knowledge of calculus is not needed. Indeed, calculus is not used in the first two-thirds of the book, appearing only briefly to derive a distance formula for hyperbolic geometry (a differential equation for the exponential map is derived and solved). During the last third of the book (the chapters on hyperbolic and spherical geometry), some basic familiarity with trigonometric functions and hyperbolic functions is assumed (cosh, sinh, tanh, and their inverses). Definitions of these functions are not routinely provided, but algebraic identities appear in marginal notes where they are needed.
Now for the quibbles. The book has lots of diagrams, but not enough of them. The problems are usually trivial, tending to ask for basic calculations to reinforce points in the text. The text itself does not go very deeply into any one geometry, being generally content with a few illustrative theorems. An opportunity exists here to create a set of gradually more challenging problems that would engage smarter or more sophisticated readers, as well as show the casual reader where the theories are headed.
This book is the work of three authors and it shows, to ill effect, in Chapter 6 ("non-euclidean geometry"). Until then, the text is remarkably clean and free of typographical and notational errors. This chapter contains some glaring errors. For example, a function s(z) is defined at the beginning of a proof on page 296, but the proof confusingly proceeds to refer to "s(0,c)", "s(a,b)", and so on.
The written-by-committee syndrome appears in subtler ways. There are few direct cross-references among the chapters on inversive, hyperbolic, and spherical geometry, despite the ample opportunities presented by the material. Techniques used in one chapter that would apply without change to similar situations in another are abandoned and replaced with entirely different techniques. Within the aberrant Chapter 6, some complex derivations could be replaced by much simpler proofs based on material earlier in the chapter.
The last chapter attempts to unify the preceding ones by exhibiting various geometries as sub-geometries of others. It would have been better to make the connections evident as the material was being developed. It is disappointing, too, that nothing in this book really hints at the truly interesting developments in geometry: differentiable manifolds, Lie groups, Cartan connections, complex variable theory, quaternion actions, and much more. Indeed, any possible hint seems willfully suppressed: the matrix groups in evidence, such as SL(2, R), SU(1,1, C), PSL(3, R), O(3), and so on, are always given unconventional names, for instance. Even where a connection is screaming out, it is not made: the function abstractly named "g" on pages 296-97 is the exponential map of differential geometry, for instance.
Despite these limitations, Brannan et al. is a good and enjoyable book for anyone from high school through first-year graduate level in mathematics.

Understanding Wood: A Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology
Understanding Wood: A Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology
by R. Bruce Hoadley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 42.33
41 used & new from CDN$ 32.22

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential material for beginners and experts, Dec 6 2001
This book takes you from qualitative to quantitative understanding by means of accurate, readable explanations and a minimum of fuss. For instance, after explaining why a house settles, Hoadley shows us clearly how to estimate how much it will settle and what a knowledgeable builder could do about it.
Or take this simple woodworking situation: you are building a towel rack from two side pieces of white pine drilled to accept a maple dowel. Exactly how much wider should the hole be than the dowel so that expansion and contraction due to moisture changes in the bathroom won't split the sides?
A little time spent with this book will give you the ability to answer questions like these, quickly, exactly, and with authority. No more guessing about the effects of moisture, temperature, finish, and loads on wood: just look up the data in the clear and handy tables and graphs Hoadley provides and do the simple calculations (it's multiplication and division, folks, with nothing harder than an occasional exponent).
Almost every chapter contains revelations for the newcomer to woodworking. Early on we learn not only that wood changes size with moisture, but by how much (according to species), in which directions, how this affects its shape, and what are the common and best techniques to compensate for or design for these changes when building anything with wood. Later we learn how to relate these moisture changes to humidity--there's a clear and handy chart, as well as an easily memorized rule of thumb--and how to build and calibrate a simple shop hygrometer. In another chapter Hoadley applies this information to a discussion culminating in valuable information on sanding and finishing wood.
The many applications to an understanding of all things wooden make this book stand out for the casual reader, while the detailed, systematic explanations of the whys and hows make it ongoingly useful for anyone who crafts quality things from wood. It is the ideal supplement to an entire library on the how-to's of woodworking, because with the information given here, you will be equipped to make intelligent choices of how to select, cut, assemble, and finish a project of any size and complexity.
The only nit I have to pick has to do with the presentation of mathematical formulas: it's miserable. For instance, in one place the expression "D/O" stands for a single quantity rather than a value "D" divided by a value "O". Potentially confusing, yes; but what compensates for it is the clear descriptions and examples in the text: these are so good, you can totally ignore the formulas and not miss a thing.
Overall, Hoadley's long, thoughtful experience with all aspects of wood, from the engineering through the creative, shine through consistently. That's why I give this one five stars and I'm buying more copies for friends.

Getting to Know ArcView GIS for Version 3.1
Getting to Know ArcView GIS for Version 3.1
by ESRI Press
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from CDN$ 1.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful for class or self-study, Nov. 30 2001
I have repeatedly used this book as the first text in an ArcView-based university course on GIS. The book uses realistic problems and settings to illustrate, step-by-step, how ArcView can be used to solve the problems and perform the needed analyses. In so doing, it serves as a good introduction to vector data analysis.
The detailed illustrations and sample software (a CD with a version of ArcView restricted to the data on the CD) enable anybody to follow through this book and work at their leisure. The text is somewhere at a junior high school level in terms of what it assumes, but it is in no way patronizing or simplistic: even graduate students have found it useful.
Sometimes follow-on analyses are suggested or sketched, but no problems are given. This is a pity, because students need additional problems to reinforce what they have just learned. Once you work through all the steps that are shown, there's nothing much else left to do.
In a few cases, the suggested analytical method is deficient. For example, in an early chapter students are shown how to site a soccer field within an open space--but the solution they derive is incorrect because the features are not projected! Other than these few deficiencies, the book is accurate and free of mistakes.
This book covers only the basic capabilities of ArcView, although at the end it briefly describes raster analysis (Spatial Analyst) and network analysis (Network Analyst).
The good design, attention to detail, and experience with GIS as well as with the software let this book rise above many others of its genre.

Programming Pearls (2nd Edition)
Programming Pearls (2nd Edition)
by Jon Bentley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 44.57
29 used & new from CDN$ 29.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic that will always be readable, Nov. 30 2001
This book is timeless because it discusses recurring problem situations with elegance, clarity, and insight. The book is about thinking and problem-solving more than it is about the particular circumstances it discusses.
For instance, the very first chapter ("Cracking the Oyster") would seem to be about the problem of sorting on disk: surely an archaic concern in these days of 1+GB RAM and 100 GB online media on PCs. But that would entirely miss the point, which Bentley clearly summarizes for us in the "principles" section of this chapter:
* "Defining the problem was 90 percent of this battle..."
* Select an appropriate data structure
* Consider multiple-pass algorithms
* A simple design: "a designer knows he has arrived at perfection not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away." -- St. Exupery
This advice might look like a string of old, worn-out chestnuts as set forth above. But within the context of the specific problem, we can see how the design challenges and solutions follow each other, through several iterations, culminating in a pretty solution, nicely illustrating the principles, and suggesting their relevance to other problems, too.
A thoughtful programmer, no matter whether her domain is machine language or OODBMSes, will come away from any chapter in this book full of new ideas and inspiration.
Problems (good ones) after each section encourage the kind of rumination that is necessary to derive the most from this book. Every few years I take it (and its companion, "More Programming Perals") off the shelf and dip into it again, and always come away enlightened.

Introduction to Geodesy: The History and Concepts of Modern Geodesy
Introduction to Geodesy: The History and Concepts of Modern Geodesy
by James R. Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 135.87
23 used & new from CDN$ 68.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Good background for people interested in GIS and cartography, Nov. 30 2001
I bought this book to fill in knowledge gaps, not to learn geodesy as an expert. It answered lots of questions I had had about measurements, how surveys are performed, geodetic systems (datums and so on), the WGS, and the use of gravity. The details are all there, within about 100 pages in the middle of the book. Not bad at all.
This subject by its nature requires a mathematical treatment, so although the book does not go deeply into the math, it's sometimes heavy reading. Many of the illustrations deserve careful study, too. It's not light bedtime reading. I carried this book around for several days during and after a large GIS conference and periodically dipped into it. It works well in small doses.

Exploring Spatial Analysis in GIS
Exploring Spatial Analysis in GIS
by Yue-Hong Chou
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 7.53

2.0 out of 5 stars Not for beginners or experts, Aug. 23 2000
This book is unique in covering a wide range of spatial analysis methods: single layer operations, multiple layer operations, point pattern analysis, network analysis, "spatial modelling," surface analysis, grid analysis, and decision making.
As an overview for those who know some parts of spatial analysis and want a sense of the gaps in their knowledge, this book is good to skim through. Others will be better off looking elsewhere, because the material is of inconsistent quality and of varying difficulty, and none of it goes very deeply into the subject.
Some of the sections include dubious examples. The material on multiple and logistic regression, for example, presents a poor technique for selecting significant independent variables and for constructing a linear model. The author even points out elsewhere that the model should be re-estimated after removing insignificant terms, but he does not do that in his examples.
The book tends to introduce mathematical formulas within introductory material, but the formulas obscure the exposition, except for the expert reader, who will already be too advanced for this book anyway. See the section on spatial autocorrelation for an example.
The discussions vary. Where they succeed, the beginner can learn a lot in just a few pages. But where they fail--and it's sometimes hard to tell the difference--they fail very badly. For example, the section on kriging is so opaque and incomplete that nobody new to the subject could possibly understand what it is about. The unusual and ugly mathematical typesetting does not help.
The book is crudely made, with low-resolution copies of small diagrams, little text per page (thereby expanding the page count), and black-and-white or grayscale figures throughout. The diagrams are often not helpful or clear.
It is very difficult to write about this subject. The audience is so varied and the material covers such a wide range that it is hard to be consistently appealing to many readers. This book is a noble but ultimately severely flawed effort; a good introductory book on spatial analysis remains to be written.

Page: 1