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W Boudville (Terra, Sol 3)

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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.

Price: CDN$ 14.84

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$ 56.21
10 used & new from CDN$ 54.76

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.

Python for Finance
Python for Finance
Price: CDN$ 14.57

3.0 out of 5 stars s, June 8 2014
This book might not serve well anyone seriously trying to get into the finance world by programming applications in Python. On a more optimistic note, the book might be better directed at an undergraduate who has read about topics like Black Scholes pricing of options. And who wants to quickly code some simple test programs. The back of the book says it is useful for practitioners. Nonsense. Practitioners in finance already have scads of far more complex programs for modelling.

Each chapter of the book basically is a simple rendition of code for the chapter topic. Somewhat superficial. As another reviewer perhaps accurately observed, it is as though the author just went through Wikipedia and dragged out several finance topics and the starting equations. And then coded those into chapters.

One good aspect is that the text describes how to use two standard Python modules, NumPy and SciPy. For numerical scientific and financial contexts. If you do end up using this book, you should absolutely learn how to use the routines in those modules. First, the modules have been extensively debugged and are being freely maintained. Second, you add more value for yourself by starting there rather than wasting your time recoding their routines. Though granted, an exception could be where you explicitly want to recode some of their routines as a learning experience for yourself.

Scratch 2.0 Beginner's Guide 
Second Edition
Scratch 2.0 Beginner's Guide Second Edition
Price: CDN$ 16.49

4.0 out of 5 stars g, June 8 2014
For primary school children, there is a software language called Alice that teaches the basics of programming, with an emphasis on object oriented concepts. While nice, Alice's problem is that it maxes out. What if you have students who want to go to more sophisticated aspects? Or who do not need all the immediate graphics gratification? This Scratch version 2 is a good upgrade to Alice. While the book explains that it is an upgrade to the version 1s, I would place it in a broader perspective of programming pedagogy.

One topic that it covers is the difference between bit mapped and vector graphics. A fundamental distinction in computer graphics. The text shows how bit maps eventually lead to pixellation effects when you drill down. Whereas vector graphics are equation based and always give smooth curves. The tradeoff being that vector graphics involve more computation.

Sprites are also a concept explained in detail. The editing palette window is easy for students to quickly grasp and work with. The learning curve for the Scratch user interface has been well thought out to be as intuitive as possible.

Given the attraction of games to many computer users, the book gives several examples. One is the Pong game from the late 70s video arcades. Now redone with current hardware. It integrates concepts from earlier sections of the book.

Other games are walked through. With graphical displays of "source" code that hopefully the students will catch onto rapidly. Including decision tree logic. This introduces the concept of conditional statements, which is probably the most single key idea in programming. The book attempts to relate this to real world events, to let the student assimilate the concept easily.

A nice version 2.

HP Vertica Essentials
HP Vertica Essentials
Price: CDN$ 14.39

4.0 out of 5 stars colu, June 7 2014
For decades HP has been doing seminal work in computing. It is nice to see them at the top of their game with this offering in Massively Parallel Processing [MPP]. As the text explains, the rise of Big Data requires the ability to distribute the workload across many machines. Vertica's key differentiating feature, at least to me, is its use of column storage, instead of row storage as in most databases.

The accessing of entire rows in traditional database processing can be extremely inefficient if the SQL query only needs to operate on a few columns. The unused column data that is retrieved is a total waste. Vertica uses the concept of projections. So a query that explicitly accesses only a few fields [columns], which is typical of many queries, leads to far more efficient and faster processing.

The book also has explanations of ancillary Vertica management operations. Like doing full and incremental backups. Or uploading a massive amount of data. As you might expect, HP has done a competent job in fleshing out these features.

Using this book does require some background in the theory of relational databases. One side benefit about learning Vertica is that you can now look at traditional databases like MySql, Oracle 11g and SQL Server in a deeper level of understanding.

Implementing Cloud Storage with OpenStack Swift
Implementing Cloud Storage with OpenStack Swift
Price: CDN$ 14.39

4.0 out of 5 stars o, June 6 2014
Cloud storage is one of these new ideas that has gained incredible traction. Take the startups Box, DropBox and GitHub as the best known examples. Maybe you have an idea for another startup that will use cloud storage. Now the book explains how using Swift,

It gives an objective explanation of the pros and cons of going with cloud storage. Simply put, there are 3 main factors, reliability, cost and performance. Cloud storage can do the first 2 well, but can deeply lag on performance. If you think about it, the latter should not be a surprise. Physically putting the data in the cloud means migrating it from your data center or your company's desktops and laptops. Ultimately, the speed of light acts as the restriction. Compounded by necessary delays imposed by electronics. So the book cautions you to be aware of this limitation ab initio. It advises cogently that you should not use the cloud for high performance computing, especially for high throughput transactions. For these, you need your disks as close to the main CPUs as possible.

The text describes how Swift can give an origin server that feeds into a Content Delivery Network [CDN]. The latter is now an entire subindustry in its own right. If you have ambitions tending there, Swift and the text can aid you.

Useful too is how the text shows compatibility with Amazon S3. Amazon Web Services have a huge presence in the web services and cloud space. Chances are that you might already have commitments to using S3. Integration can then be a huge issue.

Learning Objective-C by Developing iPhone Games
Learning Objective-C by Developing iPhone Games
by Amy M. Booker
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 57.04
8 used & new from CDN$ 54.14

4.0 out of 5 stars st, June 6 2014
Hmm, as I write this I just heard that Apple has introduced another language as the preferred one going forward for developing for the iPhone. Objective C will be deprecated ! Not through any deficiency of this book. The authors do a good job explaining nicely the virtues and ease of coding in Objective C via the IDE of Xcode.

So there is a meta question to be decided by you. Do you want to commit your resources to this language or transition to the new one. At least if you decide to stick with Objective C, try this book as a useful supporting explanatory text.

It takes you through the frameworks and APIs furnished by Apple. Along with a detailed introduction to the concepts of object oriented programming. For the readers new to OO, the emphasis here is on graphical code that uses OO. Which may be easier than working through more abstract OO examples, where you are dealing with non-graphical data structures.

The book shows how to make a program from parts that access each other via interfaces. The structure hiding of classes and the deliberate restriction of access to a class's members via the interface is a crucial idea in all OO coding, regardless of language.

Of necessity, the text's game examples are toy snippets. No space to do any extended coding. But if you are imaginative, these are still great starting points for your ideas.

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