Category: book

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Babelfish

Babelfish

Fun! I read the trilogy in five volumes (yeah, I read that joke somewhere) a lot of time ago, even before the movie. So, before 2005. But this long I am looking forward to watch it, and finally I did. It was very fun to remember the book story, to recognize the character names, to remember the story of our planet as a computer (yep, it is).

Well, before some other comments, let me just say that Zooey Deschanel is extremely cute in this movie.

Getting back to the movie, also nice to remember the origin of “babelfish”. It is a shame that the current babelfish (.com) lost all connection to the story of its name. Search for old babelfish, from Altavista, to remember the interface, and the babelfish reference.

No, I will not talk much about the 42, or the Ultimate Question about the Universe and Everything. Just that if you want a proper answer, never forget to prepare your question with caution.

And finally, what can I say? Just like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, DON’T PANIC!

Don't Panic!

Don’t Panic!

Artificial Intelligence for Games errata

This year I am teaching Artificial Intelligence for Games. I grabbed some book PDFs from the Internet (yes, sorry, it would be impossible to buy all the books to choose one, and libraries around doesn’t have books in this thematic) and I chose a pair of books to buy. One of them is this Artificial Intelligence for Games, by Ian Millington and John Funge.

The book is quite complete, the language very accessible, full of code, lots of insights about that developing AI for games means. I really like the book, and I will continue to use in future years if they let me continue teaching this course.

Unfortunately the book is full of small typos and problems. There is an official errata available but it is very incomplete. I started writing my own errata (I’m not repeating the items in the official errata, just adding new errors I find) with some fixes, and some insights on some interpretation problems. I warned Ian Millington about my errata, and he will, hopefully, go through my errata items and decide if they should be included in the official errata. While Ian doesn’t have the time for that, I am sharing my own errata page. Note that I am not professional on this area and I might have misunderstood something…

Packt Publishing needs to learn typography

Packt Publishing

I own some books from Packt Publishing and they are not bad. Of course, each book is different from each other, and some are better than the others. But that is normal that a publishing company that is trying to gain space in the market with serious competitors (like O’Reilly, Apress or Manning) needs to publish a lot, making it more difficult to publish good quality books.

But after having a few of them, my main complain is not regarding the book contents, but the book design. It seems that Packt responsible people does not know typography nor marketing.

Regarding marketing: try to make your books similar. Not only the cover, that you are already doing, but the inside too. They are not very different, but they are different enough to be a pain to read some of them, while other are pleasant to read.

Regarding typography: accordingly with the table of contents of the books I am able to understand there is a chapter level and, inside each chapter, a section and subsection level. But unfortunately, when reading the book, the titles for sections and subsections are similar. If they have some difference, it should be one millimeter or so. That makes reading the book very difficult. The reader never knows if the subject is continuing or changing. You do not need to add numbers to the section and subsection titles, if you do not like them. But change the style! Make one of the titles underlined, or italic, or gray, or something!

Oh, and finally, try to convince authors to make a good index. If your book is in a programming language, or a library, and examples use a specific keyword or function, please add it to the index, and point to the page where it is explained. That’s how users want to consult the index, not looking for the name of the example application.

Book Review: Modern Perl

I bought the Modern Perl book by chromatic. The title is inspiring. There is a lot of people writing Perl code as they were writing years ago. Although Perl still support those syntax and lack of strictness, there is a new trend on Perl code, and actual and future Perl developers should start learning it.

The index of the book is inspiring as well. For one, it starts the chapter on object orientation with Moose and not with the old and crappy Perl OO system (in fact, I started learning Moose, and think there are too much Moose modules, too much documentation, too much of everything, that makes it impossible to find anything you would like). It could talk about Mouse or Moo, it does not matter, as only the basics are explained, and as far as I know, these three frameworks share the basic syntax and behavior.

Also, the book as a good aspect when you look to it in graphical terms. It is quite easy to notice it is typeset with LaTeX and that is nice. And it is typeset with LaTeX using a set of Perl tools to convert from the POD (Perl documentation format) to LaTeX. Unfortunately the bibliographic entry on the book writes LaTeX in ASCII form, but it should render the correct logo for it (there is a command for that, you know?).

The typesetting engine also changed the defaults from LaTeX. And, sorry for the language, they did shit. It is impossible to read a book where you cannot differentiate easily whats a chapter title, a section title or a subsection title. I almost feel tempted to measure the title lines and check how may millimeters there are of difference. More, the examples (and the full book, in fact) have the letters quite small, making it difficult to read.

Enough for the format, now for the contents. After reading the old Learning Book and Programming Book written by Larry, Schwartz and Christiansen, the new versions with Tom Phoenix, and most recent books with brian d foy, I should say chromatic is in the bottom regarding read easiness and sense of humor. Yes, older books had much more sense of humor than current ones.

The book is not for beginners. There are examples that are not complete. They have some text placed along with the example to explain it, but sometimes the most important piece to the beginning programmer is just missing. As an example, chromatic tries to explain that using $_ inside functions are bad, because you can’t use those functions safely on a for loop. He shows the for loop, shows the call for a function, but doesn’t show the function body. I think newbies will be kind of lost.

This said, I should congratulate chromatic and Onyx Neon for the courage and work publishing this book. Nevertheless, I think it needs some more work (both typographical and content related) and that a second edition is required as soon as possible.

Calibre developer shows lack of interest

A friend lent me a Kindle DX. I installed Calibre to perform some simple conversion from .epub format to .mobi format. My first experiment was with the Open Dictionary for Portuguese (DicionĂ¡rio-Aberto). This dictionary takes 5MB on ePub format. Let me remember you that ePub is a zipped format. It, after unzip, takes 25 MB. The dictionary is pure text.

The conversion from ePub to Mobi took about 45 minutes. That’s not a problem. But took more than 1.9 Gigabytes of disk space. Yes, you are reading the unities correctly. I found this value kind of absurd and though that, although not a relevant thing to fix right now, it would be interesting to investigate why it takes so much disk. By the way, the final Mobi file is around 15MB.

I’ve opened a ticket on Calibre, marked it a wishlist: find out why Calibre takes so much disk space performing a simple format conversion. I did not ask for it to be fixed. I did not complain. Just said it took that disk space, and added a pointer to the file that I used.

I was expecting the developer to be intrigued about this. But unfortunately he shown to be stupid. Sorry, I know this is a hard word, but it is the only explanation I have to this answer:

How much space it takes is how much space it takes. I have no interest in optimizing disk space usage.

Note that I wasn’t expecting a fix right away. An answer stating the there is a to-do list with more important things, would be OK. But closing the ticket with a wont fix made me delete the application from the disk. Would prefer to develop my own conversion tool than to know I would be using this guy software.

Book Depository Discount

Book Depository Discount

Book Depository Discount

So, the crisis is hitting book depository. A marvelous discount of 0.2%. Could be worse. Fail!!

Amazon is needing a calendar…

Status of my order at amazon, screen shotted 14 September.

Status of my order at amazon, screen shotted 14 September.

I think the image caption is enough to explain this Amazon (.co.uk) fail. Books ordered on last Friday. They should be dispatched soon, probably on 13th September. It is just a shame today is 14th September, and they are still estimated for.. yesterday.

Wish Lists

I wonder if web site wish lists work. That is, we define a wish list, but is this list private or public? Are we just listing the things we want to buy, or are we expecting that someone show their gratitude for anything, and buy us one of the items in the list?

As soon as we make one wish list private, then it is just for us to track what we want to buy. If we make it public, that means we want to show other what we would like to have. In that case, at least on a small amount, we are expecting to receive any of the items on the wish list for gratitude.

I know of some people that got home and had a package with items from their wish lists. But I do not think there are so many lucky guys.

For me, I was lucky enough for a group of friends to visit my wish list and buy some items to thank me for some work. That was great.

And yes, although I would love any item someone might offer me, my list is mostly to keep track of books (and media) that people suggest me, and that I would like to see in detail later and, probably, buy.

And no, although you might think I would post here my wish list URL, I think that would not be nice đŸ˜›

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categories book

Scripting Intelligence – Apress

Scripting Intelligence

Scripting Intelligence

I bought this book during YAPC::EU::2010, in Pisa. At that moment I just opened the book a little, and found the index interesting. It was a book being auctioned, and therefore my investment was not only thinking in the book contents and their usefulness, but also in the help to the conference organizers.

I was surprised the book was written with examples in Ruby. Just surprised because I was in a Perl conference, and when I opened the book, it seemed like Perl. But I am happy with other programming languages, and Ruby is an interesting language.

My problem arrived when I started reading the Natural Language Processing section on the book. I’ve read a couple of paragraphs and get annoyed. The author claims that works since 1980 in Natural Language Processing, but the book contents on this subject are quite basic and not well explained.

Would like to point three aspects that annoyed me. Two of them are related to Natural Language Processing, one other just about how examples are written in a powerful programming language like Ruby:

  1. The section on stemming seems like black magic. It shows an example of an word, and the respective stemmed word. But it doesn’t explain how to perform that task. Just points to a module that implements that task. I am against this kind of book. It is crucial that the author explains the basics on how the algorithms are implemented. Otherwise the reader will not learn a thing.
  2. On the segmentation algorithm, to show that some special words can make this task difficult mentions the human names prefixes, like Mr., Dr., etc. Then, they use an array of these human name prefixes for the algorithm to work. Not a problem, that is a common approach. But not to mention that we are talking about abbreviations, and not just human name prefixes, shows a lot of ignorance. No, I can understand that the author knows that. But to get an example, and develop code just for that example, without generalizing it, seems a bad idea.
  3. Finally, I do not understand why the author needs to declare an array with the digits from 0 to 9 no match floating point numbers in a string. Doesn’t Ruby as regular expressions, or the usual isDigit method? Or, at least, methods to construct lists by comprehension instead of listing all digits?

Self Publishing in Europe

lulu

lulu - the most well known self-publishing company

bubok

bubok@pt, the only Portuguese-based self publishing company

I have been publishing some books lately. First, a scientific journal about computer linguistics applied to the Iberian languages. It has two editions per year, and as the PDF version is free, the paper version does not sell well. But some people like to have it, and therefore I created the books in lulu, where readers can buy it. Unfortunately lulu is from United States and to ship a single book to Portugal, cheapest delivery method, is worth about eight euros. More recently, together with some friends, we decided to publish a book with the best jokes from a Portuguese jokes site. As it is a small book (pocket book), we wanted to have it as cheaper as possible. As delivery is costly with lulu, we searched for self-publishing initiatives in Europe, and I found bubok. It is a Spanish company with a Portuguese website. While the books are printed here in the Iberian Peninsula, in Spain, to ship a book to Portugal costs seven euros. As you can see, the difference is not relevant. Also, lulu has discounts for small quantities (five copies) while bubok only have discounts for fifteen copies or more. But, what annoys me is that a trip of thousands of kilometers have almost the same cost than a trip of some hundred kilometers. I really can’t get it. I need to find a viable alternative…