September 04, 2008
Apress eBooks

Buy a book from Apress (such as the superb Definitive Guide to Django) and you can get the PDF version for a fiver, so you can keep a copy on your laptop when you are on the road.

What a great idea. I don't want only the PDF - I much prefer to read the dead tree edition. But you can't carry dozens of chunky tech books around with you, so I want the PDF too. Clearly I shouldn't have to pay full whack twice, but the fiver that Apress is asking seems fair.

I wish O'Reilly did this.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
March 25, 2008
Book Lamp

Automated book recommendation.

Can it recommend a book that's not at all like The Da Vinci Code?

BTW, have you spotted The Shakespeare Secret? How blatantly fucking cynical can you get?

Via rebecca's pocket.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
February 11, 2008
New site...

It's been a busy weekend, but it's mostly done now. We did UK, World, The Guardian, The Observer and Audio this time, along with a few bits and pieces. The biggies.

Next up for re-launch, Sport. And given the storm-in-a-teacup over the removal of the football link from the front page, and you imagine what it'll be like when the entire sport site changes?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
December 05, 2007

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.

The girls and I saw Tales from Earthsea a couple of weeks ago. I was worried that it would be rubbish; there's always that concern when your favourite literature is transferred to another medium. I was relieved to find that it wasn't terrible. It wasn't great, mind you - I'm not sure why they cut 'n' shut two of the books together or why they transferred just about everything to dry land. And why were all the characters so bloody white? But they did seem to get the feel of the piece about right.

It's got me re-reading what will always be the Earthsea trilogy in my heart, though there's actually now five novels and a book and a bit of short stories. Sheer poetry.

Its not that usual for me to like this kind of stuff. Now, this is a big admission for a nerd to make, but with a few exceptions I hate the whole fantasy genre. It tends to be derivative, cliché ridden, populated with 2 dimensional characters, and horribly predictable. Most of it could have been written by a half smart computer program.

The exceptions? Earthsea, The Lord of the Rings, Gormenghast, and His Dark Materials. Oh, and I didn't mind a spot of Midkemia in my youth, not if I didn't want anything to exercise the mind too hard.

Talking of His Dark Materials, I'll be trying to get to The Golden Compass this weekend if I can too. I'll let you know.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
October 05, 2006
Python in a Nutshell

I picked up the 2nd edition of Python in a Nutshell by Alex Martelli, Python's very own Umberto Eco. (I donated my 1st edition to my Padawan, Dan.) As expected, there's not that much changed - a few new string methods there, a new module or two there.

But one thing I was hoping for was some ElementTree coverage. The 2nd edition only covers Python 2.4 rather than 2.5, and ElementTree wasn't yet part of the standard library at that point, but ElementTree has been a hugely popular library for a while, so it's a pity it wasn't included. It's my XML API of choice, and chatting to Simon and others at last night's Python booze-up, I'm far from alone. (Tim prefers 4suite, though. To each his own, I suppose.)

Still, all in all, a must-have book. I'm not sure I'd say an upgrade is essential, though, if you have the 1st edition.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
March 10, 2005
Read, goddamnit

Mexican police are being forced to read books: Mexican officers brought to book. What a fantastic idea. There are a few books I'd like to force some of my cow orkers to read...

To name but a few.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
January 11, 2005
Richard Morgan

Apparently, Richard Morgan has weighed into the Waterstones blog sacking affair. Aside from being cool, it's also a bit of a coincidence, 'cos I'm just reading his latest paperback, Market Forces. His first novel, Altered Carbon, was absolutely stellar. His second, Broken Angels, was a crushing disappointment. Thus far, Market Forces is looking somewhere in the middle...

Hmmm. Perhaps it's not that much of a co-incidence after all. Market Forces only came out in paperback this weekend. I'm I just being cynical in wondering if Morgan's letter to Waterstones might be a well aimed publicity stunt. After all, the nerd demographic is well represented in blogging circles, and it has to be his main target audience...

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
August 16, 2004
That's a relief!

We don't have boycott Penguin after all - they've backed down. Phew - that would have been nasty.

I had a nice little shopping trip on Saturday - £40 of Waterstones book tokens left over from my birthday. The branches near me are pretty crap, so I took a trip up to the lovely Piccadilly branch. All three volumes of Simon Schama's History of Britain, and Marcus du Sautoy's The Music of the Primes. That'll keep me busy.

There are a couple of techie things on my wishlist, but I had to promise not to spend the tokens on anything work related.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
July 30, 2004
A *painful* boycott...

OK, so we are boycotting The Odeon, Caterpillar, and Nestlé, none of which is too painful. But if I have to boycott Penguin, too, that's going to hurt.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
March 22, 2004
Sci Fi sub-genres

Elfy-Welfies, War Bores, Decadent Vamps and Licensed Crap. Interesting read - very true too. Sturgeon's Law is, unfortunately, out of date now - far more than 90% of science fiction is crud these days.

I have to say, I think that there are other sub-genres - Hard Sci Fi (I'm a big Greg Egan fan) is one. Then you have cyberpunk, Space Opera and whatever the genre Richard Morgan, Alastair Reynolds and Neal Asher are working in is called. Sci Fi Noir, perhaps? Anyway, I digress - and loads more that I can't be bothered to enumerate.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)
September 25, 2003
The Indy goes tabloid

The Indy, the paper that I take by choice, is launching a tabloid edition. Tabloid in format, that is, not in content.

I'll give this a go, 'cos it might be more convenient on the tube than the broadsheet edition. That said, I've become pretty adept at broadsheet-origami over the years, (or perhaps I'm just become inured to poking people,) and I wouldn't want anyone mistaking it for a copy of The Mail.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
October 07, 2002
Tips for Pragmatic Programmers

I have The Pragmatic Programmer, naturally, but I didn't realise that the Quick Reference Guide was on-line.

Via Sanjay.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
September 20, 2002
Text Processing in Python

The first four chapters of David Mertz's Text Processing in Python are online.

Fascinating stuff - I shall certainly be picking this up when it comes out - whenever that might be.

Only today, I was asked for a good RE tutorial, and I was able to recommend chapter 3.

I'm working through Mastering Regular Expressions, 2nd Ed at the moment. It's making my head hurt, but I'm learning a lot.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
August 30, 2002
Python roundup

A number of interesting Python bits and bobs.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 24, 2002
Mastering Regular Expressions, 2nd Ed

Mastering Regular Expressions, 2nd Ed, is out. The author explains What's New with Regular Expressions.

Python and Java coverage much expanded, apparently.

Update August 30th: Order placed with Computer Manuals.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
July 15, 2002
Bitter Java

Bitter Java is available for free download.

I have heard good things about this book, so I'm looking forward to having a look.

I prefer dead-tree books, though, so if it is good, I'll almost certainly buy it. I have before.

Update 23rd July: It is good, and I did buy it.

Two main threads to my feelings. First, it is a great book for learning about patterns, if you are a J3EE developer, because it is so practical and hands-on.

Secondly, I get a bad feeling about my current project, because we have fallen into so many of the traps written about in this book. (We are not pooling connections, and our caching will leak memory.) Still, at least I know how to fix it!

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 28, 2002
Open source web application servers.

Open-source servers today discusses a number of interesting web app platforms.

I use Apache and Tomcat at work. Java is my company's platform of choice, and we are doing a lot of servlet stuff. Seems to work beautifully. Small footprint too - WebSphere is a monster.

JBoss and Enhydra I will look at further - I'm just reading up on J2EE now. (Java for the Web with Servlets, JSP, and EJB. Good. A big book, but that's 'cos it covers a lot.)

I have mentioned Zope before.

(Via Daily Python URL)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 12, 2002
Software installation with Ant

A good introduction to Ant at O'Reilly onJava.

(Via Babu)

Java Tools For Extreme Programming finally turned up, after going to the wrong address at first. I'm not far into it yet - I'll write more when I am. Just going from the introduction, though, Ant looks wicked powerful. The source control (including VSS) and web application integration make it a must-learn.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
May 27, 2002
PC Pro

PC Pro is probably the best mainstream PC magazine available in the UK at the moment. But it almost never mentions non-Windows or non-commercial software.

When it comes to practical information about the Windows platform, running it, configuring it, and the purchase of hardware and software for it, I think that its content is considerably better than that of its closest rival, PCW.

But I have to say, in some ways, it's beginning to irritate me. It seems to totally ignore the Linux platform, and OS software in general. In terms of development environments, its pretty much Microsoft all the way, with a smattering of Delphi. Even Java is left out in the cold.

Just for a change, though Dick Pountain's column mentions Python. I was very glad to see this, despite its inaccuracies. A change on the horizon?

Dick refers to Python as a typeless language. It isn't. It's a dynamically typed language, but it's also a strongly typed language. The distinction is real, although of course the terminology is somewhat subjective. The terms that I have used are common in the Python community at least. Dive into Python explains the distinction very well here.

Also, Dick had no way of knowing this, but Python is probably going to grow a boolean type in the near future.

I referred to PC Pro as a mainstream magazine. Some of the more, uh, specialist magazines are excellent. DDJ is very good, and I recently came across Software Development. Both worth a look. If you are a total nerd, that is.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
May 02, 2002
Jython Essentials

I picked up Jython Essentials on my way home last night, more or less on a whim. I don't actually use Jython, but a juxtaposition of my language of choice, my favourite technical publisher, and my workaday language was impossible to resist.

Its a good book, and I learned a lot about Jython. It's even cooler than I thought. You can subclass Java classes in Jython, or vise versa. A Java class subclassed in Jython can then be re-subclassed in Java again. It's just all too cool to be true!

Type conversions between the two languages is pretty much automatic, though you can get fine control if you want it. You can embed Jython in a Java app if it needs scripting. You can compile a Jython app into a single Java class or jar, either a small one requiring the jython.jar to run, or a big standalone one. And the interactive prompt is a brilliant way to explore the behavior of Java existing classes, and to smoke test your own. It's a one stop shop for all your Java scripting needs.

It also got me thinking again about why I prefer Python to Java so much. The things which irritate me the most are these:

  • Boiler plate code. This is the code which you end up writing again and again and again. Looping through the containers, for example, requires so much code. Now I don't object to verboseness as such - where it adds value. But where it just adds characters, it's irritating. Python's

    for line in list:


    syntax is perfectly comprehensible, and concise.

    And don't get me started on Enumerations...

  • Integration of data structures into the language. You can't override the the built in operators for classes, which leads to very verbose code.

  • Hand holding. If Java tells me one more time that a local variable 'may not have been initialised', when I know damn well it will have been, I swear I'll scream.

Having said all that, Java has its pluses - interfaces are really cool, and JavaDoc is a wonderful tool.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
April 29, 2002
Java Tools For Extreme Programming

(Book review at Slashdot.)

This looks interesting. I've not practiced Extreme Programming (XP) myself, but I'd like to work up the courage to have a go.

Actually, I'm not in a position to make this decision. If my team don't practice XP, then I can't.

For more about XP, see the Extreme Programming Roadmap at the original Wiki Wiki Web. This is also home to the Portland Pattern Repository. Be warned - you can lose days here!

But even without XP, this looks useful. It has sections on Ant,JUnit, Cactus and HttpUnit, all of which would be useful even outside the context of an XP project.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)