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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Fast Track to MDX
Publisher: Springer
Authors: Mark Whitehorn, Mosha Pasumansky, Robert Zare
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Fantastic book

One question that may be going through your mind as you read these reviews is "Should I buy this book or `MDX Solutions'?". I know that because that is what went through mine about three months ago as I read them.
In general, Fast Track is seen as the introductory book, Solutions as the expert's book. So I nearly skipped Fast Track and went directly to Solutions; I am so glad I didn't.
Fast Track is certainly the book to buy if you are new to MDX. It does a great job of introducing the language, it is excellently written by a set of true craftspeople - it is highly readable and, heaven help us, at times it is even amusing. This isn't like reading a text book, it is like sitting down with the guys who wrote it and having them tell you how MDX works.
Solutions is much less readable - we are talking about a typically stodgy reference book. But it does have a massive amount of information and that information is accurate and therefore highly useful.
So the easy answer is to buy both books, learn the basics from Fast Track and then use Solutions as a reference. And that is all I was initially going to write as my review. But I glanced back through Fast Track before I did so, looking back at it now as someone who now understands the language. And I was amazed at the amount of information that these guys cover. For example, MDX has about 150 functions in all, and Fast Track covers about 50 of them. Since they have carefully chosen the most commonly used ones, by the end of the book, you are familiar with most of the functions that you will ever need. And even better, you have enough background information to be able to understand the rest by reading the help system.
In addition they cover queries, expressions, calculated members, moving averages, distinct count, filters, colour coding, navigating the hierarchy, parent-child dimensions, member properties, security, the list goes on and on.
So, this is an introductory book in the sense that it assumes that you know nothing about MDX and introduces it gently. What is so subtle about the book is that it makes learning so easy, such fun, that you simply don't notice how much information these guys are pumping into your brain. Remember that Mosha Pasumansky invented MDX and he is one of the authors. He really does know what you really need in order to get started and up to speed.
So I still go with the notion that you need both books. Solutions is still a great reference book, but whatever else you do, start with Fast Track. In terms of useful information per unit cost, this is by far and away the best technical book I have ever read.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: CCNA INTRO Exam Certification Guide (CCNA Self-Study, 640-821, 640-801), First Edition
Publisher: Cisco Press
Authors: Wendell Odom
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Good content - Far too many errors

Although most of the subject matter in this book is excellent, I was extremely disappointed by the sheer number of typographical and factual errors in the book. Most seriously, a number of the multiple choice questions have incorrect answers, as do some of the questions on the CD. This could seriously confuse someone attempting to learn by doing the test questions. The CD based questions also contain subjects that are not covered in the exam (SANs and VoIP).
I also felt that the practical exercises were a last minute addition, as they are in the appendices when they really should be integrated with the relevant chapters (or those chapters should advise you to do the exercises). The errata for this book runs to around four pages, showing that it was compiled in a hurry with minimal proofreading to get it out at the same time as the new exams. I would have expected better from Cisco Press. Next time, I will probably buy Sybex instead.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Hacking Windows XP (ExtremeTech)
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Authors: Steve Sinchak
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Had a hard time getting it back from my son...

If you're the type of computer user who likes to tweak the machine to do things it normally doesn't do, you'll like Hacking Windows XP by Steve Sinchak (Wiley).

Chapter List:
Part 1 - Customizing Your System - Customizing the Look of the Startup; Customizing User Navigation; Hacking the Desktop; Customizing the Appearance of the Windows Interface; Hacking Windows Explorer; Exploring Other Windows Enhancements
Part 2 - Increasing Your System's Performance - Analyzing Your System; Speeding Up the System Boot; Making Your Computer Load Faster; Making Your Computer More Responsive; Speeding Up Your Computer
Part 3 - Securing Your System - Protecting Your Computer from Intruders; Fighting Spam, Spyware, and Viruses; Protecting Your Privacy

Appendix A: What's on the CD-ROM; Index; End-User License Agreement

I had no sooner opened the box that had this book in it, and my son immediately took off with it. Since he's the only one running XP in the house, I figured that was reasonable. In less than an hour, he had a whole new boot screen proclaiming his Windows XP OS to be the Doom 3 version with a video game wallpaper with no icons showing. He was also showing me how to set the priorities of certain tasks that were running with the Task Manager options. It's only taken me about three weeks to finally sneak it off his desk.

Sinchak uses a variety of built-in features and third-party software to give you the ability to change many of the features of your system. If you want to change your boot-up screen, you'll have step-by-step instructions on how to do so. If you want to customize the way your windows act on the desktop, that's here too. While the Part 1 tweaks are more for fun, Part 2 gets more serious and useful. He goes into a number of tweaks and settings that will allow you to wring out every last drop of performance from your system. If you're running the latest and greatest Ghz CPU, you may not need to do these things, but PCs that are two or three years old could benefit from these settings.

Good book, interesting material, and lots of fun to explore. I only wish my work laptop (that runs XP) wasn't so locked down... :-)

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Programming Perl (3rd Edition)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, Jon Orwant
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5

I think the real reason Larry Wall wrote this book was just to brag about his baby creation. 80-90% of this book is just Larry going on and on about how Perl is the greatest language ever because it loosely models human languages. The real content of this book is so watered down it's as if O'Reilly told Wall, "Sorry, 200 pages is too short, try to go for 1000 so we can sell the book for [price] rather than $30."
Larry should take a note from Dennis Ritchie(the creator of C) and his book "The C Programming Language". Ritchie DOESN'T go on and on about how he's the greatest genius in the world and how C is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Ritchie's book is 250 pages and documents EVERY TINY DETAIL of the C language. It takes Larry 1000 pages to do the same for Perl, a MUCH simpler language. That's just sad.