Top critical review
Robotics and Other Rambling Microcontroller Nonsense
on March 6, 2014
I just finished a review of "Programming Robot Controllers" by the same author and my comments for this book are very similar for "123...". The book is twice as large as its older twin (8 1/2"x 11" for "123..." as compared to 6"x 8" for "Programming...") and thus suffers twice as much from the same problems as "Programming...". When it comes to a "how to" book for programming micro-controllers, this book falls far short. "123" is supposed to be the follow-up to "Programming...". However, Predko starts in at some of the basics. The first thing that strikes you is the rambling verbiage that goes on-and-on-and-on to the extent that, when it comes time for understanding the nuts-and-bolts, they get lost in the unnecessary commentary.
After trying to get into the meat of this book, I had to give up. I compared the layout of both books, supposedly quasi-technical how-to books - and supposedly a text for high-school students - that is supposed to make the link between the datasheet and the practical, to another kind of technical how-to book. I used my MS Access how-to books as a comparison.
The first thing that strikes you is the lack of word-smithing that wasn't done by the author and the editors. Having rambled on-and-on in "Programming...", Predko does it twice as much in "123..." The rambling detracts from the nuts and bolts of the subject to the extent that you miss the meat-and-potatoes with all of the extra verbiage. The number of pages could very easily be reduced by a third with some good, tight, technical writing.
The use of 2 columns on the 8 1/2"x 11" page, along with the small 10 pitch print, and the lack of lots of white space between the lines makes it very difficult to read. I compare this to my MS Access book which is in 11 or 12 pitch with an equivalent half-line spacing between lines. It's the white-space between lines makes the print readable.
Concurrent with trying to read this book, I followed some YouTube videos and other webpages so as to understand PICs. In introducing some of the basic concepts of PICs, I got more out of watching Elia R's introductory videos than from the comparable chapters in this book. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fQH3gf4WOw. If you are trying to follow along with the software steps, screen shots in black-and-white are unreadable. Compare this with the AllAboutEE videos on some of the PIC experiments http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T44LmTw6MtU
This book is not a novel. It's supposed to be a how-to book with the objective of being able to understand and program PICs by the end of the read. It should also be a handy-dandy reference book when you get into doing other projects. For that, a good index at the back of the book should be a great help. While the index is a bit better, it is still minimalist,
To really understand PIC concepts, programming and the flow of data, you need good examples of the written software. While "Programming..." had a DVD which included the software examples, "123..." doesn't. Instead, the programming examples suffer from those 2-column pages making it very difficult to read and understand. Photographs in black and white are very poor and, in some cases, a bit out of focus.
"123 PIC Microcontroller Experiments for the Evil Genius" is supposed to have been written with the idea of using it as a textbook for high-school students. It falls far short, even as a textbook for an old geyser like me. Predko's editors didn't do him any favours by releasing this book without a major rewrite to make it more readable and understandable. If both books were given a good rewrite, you might have a decent text book