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W Boudville (Terra, Sol 3)

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FL Studio Cookbook
FL Studio Cookbook
Price: CDN$ 18.14

4.0 out of 5 stars myri, Aug. 13 2014
The audio editing options in FL Studio are myriad. The book starts with detailed examples at the physical level, showing how to connect sundry hardware to your computer. The latter is taken to be a Dell laptop running Microsoft Windows. The external hardware includes a MIDI keyboard, headphones and monitors or speakers. While the MIDI keyboard might seem redundant, since the laptop has its own keyboard, in practice many audiophiles want this. Several MIDI keyboards provide a different and more intuitive physical user interface, with knobs, pads, sliders or touchscreens. Essentially, the tactile and often pure analog ways may let you more smoothly glide into your editing needs.

The many figures in the text show cases of instances like virtual instruments. FL Studio provides you, the composer, with a standard orchestra of instrumental sounds. But FL Studio goes beyond that. Options are furnished to experiment with novel audio effects. The plethora of parameters gives an effectively infinite space where you can tweak your recordings indefinitely. Which actually can be a danger of FL Studio. Part of your experience with it is developing an intuition of when to call halt and simply fix a final version.

The text also provide basic advice on composing the soundtrack. Like defining the drums and rhythm. This usually sets the basic feel of your song. After which you can insert the other instruments.

Naturally, the software also has a standard means of showing the sonograms and other music patterns. If you have used other recording programs, much of this will already be familiar.

Practical Maya Programming with Python
Practical Maya Programming with Python
Price: CDN$ 14.57

4.0 out of 5 stars avoid wysiwig, Aug. 9 2014
There is a very interesting and insightful comment made in the book about .ui files. These were first used in Maya for Qt Designer, which makes WYSIWIG [what you see is what you get] for constructing GUIs. This was in itself an IDE or GUI, where via various buttons and menus, you could visually make a given interface for your needs. Then by saving into a .ui file and bringing it into Python, you got your GUI. Wow! This approach has been followed in other graphical contexts. Notably in circuit and chip design. In the 80s, we went from a text file to define a circuit in SPICE to a WYSIWIG and far simpler, faster, less error prone method. A big boost in productivity. In general, you would indeed expect this in other fields.

But the book argues otherwise for Maya and Python. It says WYSISWIG generated code is 'poorly designed from a technical and aesthetic standpoint'. The code is bloated. Objects in it are auto-named, which might not be as semantically useful. And unnecessary attributes are inserted into the code. This makes sense, so far. The text goes on to suggest that using Python and Qt means you can drop a lot of boilerplate. The claim is that with enough experience on your part, you can manually write better, faster GUI code. So much so that the book recommends never to use Qt Designer for production code. Perhaps in part this is due to Python being a scripting language? So that the interpreter has less chance to optimise the source code, compared to a compiler.

Or maybe that the graphics in a GUI layout for Maya applications are often simpler than the cases of circuit and chip design. There, the complexity of the connections between circuit elements can be overwhelming. And today's circuits often have thousands of elements. While each is often only connected to a few others, the sheer number of parts precludes a manual writing of the connection topology. As a practical matter, chip designers all use WYSIWIG and rarely descend into editing the underlying autogenerated layout code.

For those readers with long experience in programming, there are perhaps ironically unintended echoes of an old debate from the dawn of computing, when compilers came about. Before then, you manually wrote assembler or even machine language. Yes, you had to and you did. But the first compilers indeed often generated assembler that was not as optimised as your handwritten efforts. Like the overly verbose syntax that Qt Designer makes. In time, of course, the compilers improved and became the default. So maybe the book's deprecation of Qt Designer is likewise.

Java EE 7 Performance Tuning and Optimization
Java EE 7 Performance Tuning and Optimization
Price: CDN$ 16.49

4.0 out of 5 stars r, Aug. 1 2014
The first chapter is an overview of what types of performance problems you might be having on your servers. Some of the examples cited may [sadly] be all to familiar to readers. Like the CPU running at 90% with only a few users, or the memory being 70% with no users. Or your transactions seem slow, even with few transactions. The promise of the book can be summarised in that chapter, when it lists these examples. Much of the chapter has nothing to do with java per se, but with issues that could arise with any choice of operating system and language on your servers. The advice is thus broad based.

The second chapter runs through the main java enterprise packages. At a high level; with only a few code snippets. But it is chapter 3 where you are strongly urged to use a test harness. You need to be able to test and measure your system. Get some metrics before doing any tuning. Otherwise and especially with a complex data center having many machines, tuning can degenerate into incomplete and unoptimised changes. The fourth chapter takes this further, by discussing a profiler. You should of course be familiar with the concept from other languages and machines. Now under java 6, there is the JVM Tool Interface, which you should learn.

And Oracle has built out a dashboard - Oracle Java Mission Control. Under the nice GUI it presents, it collects massive low level information about system performance. The niftiest feature to me was the thread profiling. Almost certainly, your system/s will run concurrent threads. How to keep them all as evenly loaded as possible is your task. The profiler is indispensible.

Learning ArcGIS Geodatabases
Learning ArcGIS Geodatabases
Price: CDN$ 9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars f, July 30 2014
Esri, the mapping company, often sponsors hackathons, at least in Los Angeles, but I am sure elsewhere too. They confer prizes on those hackers who can use their ArcGIS database. As you can see in this book, it differs from a general purpose SQL database, or a noSQL database, for that matter. The focus on location is Esri's raison d'etre. One incentive for reading the text is to get up to speed on ArcGIS, prior to a hackathon. A competitive advantage when you often only have 2.5 days of coding.

Naturally, the book can be used by someone who has a more general need for indulging in Esri's data. Think perhaps if you have a mobile application where you want to show a mapping on the phone screen.

The book is somewhat on the light side. Geared primarily to newcomers. It starts with showing how to populate an instance of ArcGIS with your own data. We see how to integrate existing CAD databases. Or to use Esri's native format for shape files, where the shape refers to what is now known sometimes as a geocoded area. How to succinctly define the perimeter of an area. Clearly a fundamental operation in any geodatabase.

The discussion is not entirely on Esri. One chapter delves into using Microsoft SQL Server to run a geodatabase. While mentioning en passant that Oracle also offers a similar functionality.

Later chapters take you into issues of optimising your geodatabase [what a mouthful!]. Worth paying attention to when performance by your users will be critical to market acceptance. However, the book eschews any complex coding. Which does make it an easy and quick read.

Mockito Cookbook
Mockito Cookbook
Price: CDN$ 14.57

4.0 out of 5 stars def, July 26 2014
This review is from: Mockito Cookbook (Kindle Edition)
One nice thing about Mockito is that its name actually makes [some] sense, instead of the random whimsical nomenclature adopted by many other packages. Mockito also addresses a real need to test your software. It offers a systematic approach, instead of the common ad hoc approaches devised earlier.

Like having easy test stubs that simulate method calls with hardwired expected correct results, in lieu of the method actually doing what it is meant to do.

Loose coupling is the hallmark of Mockito. That a deliberate minimal connection between the test code and the production code leads to easier testing. Otherwise when you change the production code, a concomitant change in the test code is needed. Which of course slows things down. As well, since any code is liable to bugs, updating test code can certainly put bugs into them. So if the buggy test harness says the production code is wrong, when it is the latter that is actually correct, this leads to circular debugging.

The code snippets in the book are for Java. Heavy use is made of JUnit. Sensible, since it was explicitly for unit testing.

Mockit also offers partial mocks. [Great terminology!] For the real word case when you have some new code base, written to solid techniques. But it integrates with a legacy code base or third pary libraries of uncertain calibre. I imagine partial mocks will be the most useful section of the book to some readers in this pickle.

Much of Mockito can be understood as you writing tests that define what should happen, and not how. The latter is the duty of production code. In this sense, Mockito simply recaps what has long been known in large software projects, and certainly this predates the very existence of Java.

Mastering CryENGINE
Mastering CryENGINE
Price: CDN$ 16.49

4.0 out of 5 stars com, July 23 2014
Look, the breathless blurb on the cover about writing 'AAA quality games' is rhetoric. But the book does give much technical details about what is possible under CryEngine. The first chapter is revealing. It goes right into how you must deploy a Version Control System [VCS]. Every professional project does this. If you are starting out in game programming, perhaps you wonder why, if you haven't used such before. But to even ask why is inexperience. The text suggests 3 major ones - Perforce, Subversion and git. The latter is the newest. It has gotten much use lately amongst startups in the US and overseas. And if you use git, you might also look into github. The book cautions that for nontechnical people, git can be a little awkward at first.

The first chapter also goes into the related and necessary topic of defining your workflow. The point is that for a typical commercial project, it's not a once off thing where you just cobble together some files and that's it. In practice, you have to iterate a process into a workflow. So get this set up at the start.

As for CryEngine itself, a major idea is to use Action Map. A way to abstract away from the low level details. To understand and document your game logic. Mostly for your group and not for outsiders. Unless you are, say, outsourcing some of the coding or building of graphical content. Arguably, in such circumstances, having a top level way to describe the entire game to outsiders becomes even more important, when those outsiders are not colocated with your group.

Sandbox is another key facet of CryEngine. A 3d level editor that the book warns is hard to learn. It has much that you can customise, which is part of the problem, so to speak. Getting awareness of all that can be done in it takes careful reading of the relevant section of the book. And maybe not even that.

You are also encouraged by the text to use a state machine structure for your game. For complex games, this can make it manageable. It imposes the highest level structure and logic.

Prezi HOTSHOT
Prezi HOTSHOT
Price: CDN$ 14.57

4.0 out of 5 stars di, June 25 2014
This review is from: Prezi HOTSHOT (Kindle Edition)
The tone (spirit) of this book differs markedly from that of other technical books I commonly get. The author uses a very informal means of introducing the topic. Which is appropriate because Prezi is a very distinctive way of visually presenting material, where the latter can be text or graphics. In general, as you can see from the book, the material will have many instances of both.

Prezi is shown as an infinite canvas. But you are advised to start by just focusing on 3 top level tasks - define the goal, message and audience. In itself, without recourse to using any computer package, thinking this way can be a great help when you start out and want to write down a talk that you will later give. Of course, this is not new to Prezi. Similar advice was available decades ago, when you might have had to do all this by hand, having no computer in sight.

In a way, this is the power of Prezi. It takes you back to essentials. The computer is just a secondary tool. But using Prezi arrays the top level ideas and the lower level topics into a spatial arrangement on the canvas that is quick to grasp.

A key aspect of Prezi is what they call frames. Where you can group the topics on the canvas into clusters. And then move these around, treating all the topics enclosed in a frame as one entity. This is a natural top down decomposition. Then when enough frames have been defined, you can make a path through these frames. The path is the presentation order.

Scattered throughout the narrative are good pieces of advice for presentations. Like 'avoid large blocks of text'. Use images if possible, to engage the audience. And if you use drawings, keep them simple.

Learning Anime Studio
Learning Anime Studio
Price: CDN$ 14.57

4.0 out of 5 stars for, June 20 2014
Don't take the 'anime' in the title too literally. It is not restricted to the anime style of cartoons from Japan. Rather, Anime Studio is a simple framework within which to draw most any style of cartoons. The book can be used as a guide for the rank beginner in the basics. From writing down a first draft, which the text warns you is likely to be terrible, to making a storyboard. And these days, to providing audio sound track if your characters will speak.

So it has to be noted that the cartoons here are typically not destined for celluloid, as in the 20th century. But more often meant for display in a web page. A major attraction is that the book shows how you as a beginner can affordably put together a professional looking composition.

Anime Studio is stuffed with many easily learnt tools accessed via a rich GUI. Drawing of figures has been made as simple as perhaps possible.

If you come from a background in graphics, especially with Photoshop, then many concepts will be familiar. Including the idea of layers. Anime Studio fully supports layers, with specialised tools like Transform Layer and Follow Path. Great time savers, and that is really what layering is all about.

But the most important aspect of Anime Studio might be bone animation. So instead of a character being a raw set of pixels, it is a set of graphics with an underlying skeleton. By manipulating its bones, you can rapidly and intuitively animate the character. Looks easy to use.

Twilio Cookbook Second Edition
Twilio Cookbook Second Edition
by Roger Stringer
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 61.93
10 used & new from CDN$ 58.75

4.0 out of 5 stars make simple IVR system, June 15 2014
Very neat that the book immediately commences with a non-trivial real world application of two factor authentication. Stringer shows the reader that a useful technique for verifying a user can be easily done with your website ringing her phone. The most important context is for purchasing, when actual money is meant to change hands. The source code is only a few pages and you should probably read it carefully to see how Twilio's libraries enable the entire operation. The point is that the example will present the user with a form on the browser where she types in a username and phone number, presumably of a cellphone though it could also be a nearby landline. The browser is assumed to be showing on her laptop or desktop. The example makes a one time password which is then sent as a text message to the phone. She reads it and then types it into the browser.

The second example of the first chapter is showing how to record a phone call. Where the recorded message can then be sent to an email address you designate. As with the first example, this leads to a foray into the Twilio Helper Library for PHP.

Later chapters give other examples of course. But Stringer made good and I am sure very deliberate choices in the opening chapter to grab your attention. The early examples will be a propos to many sysadmins and developers of commercial websites. Overall, you can use this book to make a rudimentary but practical IVR [Interactive Voice Response] system. Essentially free in terms of software running on generic hardware. Whereas if you bought a commercial IVR hardware package, the cost can easily run into thousands of dollars. Granted, the vendors of those will affirm that their systems offer more options. True. But if you only need the basics, this book and Twilio might suffice.

OUYA Game Development by Example
OUYA Game Development by Example
Price: CDN$ 14.39

4.0 out of 5 stars simpl, June 9 2014
At first I thought Ouya [I'm not going to capitalise it all] was a software engine; not being a hardcore gameboy. But it is hardware! Wow! So used to reviewing books on software that this makes a refreshing change. What the text suggests is that getting the Ouya gives you a leg up in developing games of professional quality. A hardware IDE. On top of this sits the Unity3D engine and the book takes you into coding with C#.

The first chapter is really more important than in some other books, because it orients you in the Ouya environment. Where the store that you can browse for games does not list prices! Quickly the book explains that for a game to make it into the store, it needs at least one free element. Like free play credits.

There is an immediate dynamic tension here. You after all are likely reading the book to want to code successful games. That people will pay money to play. So really seeing the game store with no prices is not exactly encouraging.

Now for the game store, the book cautions that "the games are often smaller and less expensive... because of the abundant indie presence". What this translates to is that a typical game is simply not as impressive. The book does not come right out and say this, but reading between the lines, that is what you get. The indie developers [and you aspire to be one of them] just don't have the financial wherewithal to underwrite a sophisticated and complex game.

The book is somewhat pitched towards a new programmer. Because in part it introduces object oriented programming as a new concept. And I am not really sure why they chose C# instead of java or C++. But that's not a big deal. If indeed you don't know any of those languages, learning C# will certainly help you if you have to migrate to the others.

The game development environment explicated later in the book looks simple enough. Like using the IDE to pick a shader and then having the means via a GUI to vary the shininess and specular colour. Very easy and intuitive. Plus, learning Unity's classes greatly speeds up the coding of your game.

The text takes you all the way through to submitting a game to the Ouya store. What it does not discuss is the top level decision about whether you want to deal with Ouya in the first place. Professionally, Ouya is likely not where the money is; not where the big time is. Just be aware of that, once you parse thru all the book.

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