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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Final Fantasy X-2 Official Strategy Guide
Publisher: Brady Games
Authors: Dan Birlew
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5

I cannot believe some of the high ratings people have given this book. This is by far the worst guide I have ever read. There are so many things wrong with it I can't even imagine how anyone would see it as worthy praise. I can't even see how Dan Birlew would allow this to go into print with his name on it.
First of all, there are several instances where it does not give important information. As any one of the other bad reviews will tell you, there is an amazing item in the game that can only be found by talking to some guy in Kilika in every single chapter . . . and the book doesn't tell you this until the last chapter. A little late, don't you think? But that mistake has already been pointed out, so I don't want to beat it to death. However, there are several other important oversights.
Take the "Blue Bullet" skills, for instance. The book lists all the skills and the enemies from which you can get them, but it doesn't tell you HOW to get them. For example, it does not tell you that a Malboro only uses "bad breath" after its health has been affected ten times. Also, it does not tell you that support skills like "mighty guard" and "white wind" can only be learned when the enemy is confused. I wasted so much time trying to get these enemies to use their skills on me and finally had to resort to online guides.
Also, the book says that the only way to get the Mascot dressphere is by getting all 15 "episode completes" in chapter 5, but it doesn't specifically say how to get these "episode completes." The first time I went through the game I only sold 9 out of 10 of Tobli's tickets because the guide said the only reward for selling all ten was an item. Not until later did I learn that 9 out of 10 wasn't good enough for an episode complete. The second time through the game I skipped some annoyingly long CommSphere scenes in chapter 4. The book said that this prevented 100% completion, but it did not say that it prevented episode completion. 3rd time through I skipped animations that I had already seen twice . . . that's not allowed either, apparently. You'd think the book would tell you if you had to sit and watch the whole scene.
But wait; there's more. There is a dungeon in the chocobo ranch that the guide never explains how to open. It does say that at the end of it you can get an important item, but that's all it says. Never is anything mentioned about how to get through this difficult dungeon or how to open it. Along the same lines there is a dungeon in Bevelle with normal enemies that are tougher than the final boss. All the book says about this dungeon is, "characters should be at level 99 with over 9000HP." One would think that specific strategies might come in handy for such difficult enemies. After all this is suppose to be "STRATEGY" guide.
But even if the book isn't giving me all the information, at least the info it is giving me is correct, right? Wrong. Almost on ever page there is some sort of misprint in text or organization or maps, and these are not little mistakes. They are huge and are immediately obvious to anyone who plays the game. For instance, there is an enemy called a Node that will give you a very important item if you defeat it. The book says it has 30,000 HP so I figure I'd give it a shot. An hour later the enemy is still alive after pummeling it with my strongest spells, so I Scan it. Turns out it has 300,000 HP not 30,000. What a difference one zero can make.
And as long as we're pointing out the mistake in calling this a "strategy guide," I'd like to call into question the strategies that it does list. Quite often, the strategies are overly complicated or require levels that characters haven't yet reached. Spending time leveling up characters is not strategy; it is merely a substitution for strategy. Heck, I don't need a book to tell me that being level 99 is better than level 30.
In conclusion, this book is NOT a strategy guide because it either does not list any strategy or the strategy it does list is questionable. This book is NOT even a walkthrough because it skips important steps. It is obvious that no one at Brady Games actually tried to use this guide. If they had they would have realized that this book is nothing more than a waste of 347 pages and a waste of 16 dollars. I do not advice anyone to buy this guide! If you are reading this review you obviously have the internet, so use an online guide. These guides are copious and constantly updated by input from the users. Perhaps if everyone starts using these online guides the competition would hold the official guides to higher standards.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Inside Network Perimeter Security: The Definitive Guide to Firewalls, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Routers, and Intrusion Detection Systems
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Stephen Northcutt, Lenny Zeltser, Scott Winters, Karen Fredrick, Ronald W. Ritchey
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Fairly decent but can be thinned out a bit

This book is no doubt an excellent resource for security professionals, all chapters give very good info on Perimeter security. Good for those preparing for SANS GCFW Certification.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Introducing Microsoft .Net, Third Edition
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: David S. Platt
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Good introductory information

As a programmer, I get a lot of books, esp. when looking at new technologies, like .NET. From my viewpoint, right on the bleeding edge, this book is a bit too simplistic. If you have been working with .NET since the PDC beta, this is probably not the book for you either.
Now, before you step away, let's put this in context. Mr. Platt has not written a book for those of us who have been on the bleeding edge of this technology for the past year (well, almost). This book, instead, is written to give a good overview of .NET for those who are just starting out.
Who is this book for? This book is aimed for anyone who wants a 20,000 foot view of the .NET Framework. While there are code samples, this is not designed to be a tutorial as much as an overview.
Overall, I would recommend this book as a nice overview. As much of the information in the book is overview, most of this one, unlike the MSDN books recently released, will still be applicable in a few weeks. Looking at the MSPress site lately, even Microsoft is embarassed at the MSDN books, as even an ISBN number will not pull up the books.
Unfortunately, even some of the info in this book may change before the gold release of .NET. One good sign, is the fact that the author points out which sections are likely to change. This type of honesty is unusual in the seemingly cutthroat business of computer book publishing.
Summary: This book is definitely a beginner's book. If you are already developing .NET applications (playing with .NET), you will not find a great deal of new information. If you are looking for a developer's book, pass on as well. If you would like to know more about what .NET is, however, this is a good choice.
My Rating: I feel this book is a 4 in context with the audience it is aimed for. For developers, I would subtract a star. For those already working in .NET, I would take off two. For those who have really worked through .NET, I would say 1 star is about all of the value you will get out of it.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Artificial Intelligence (3rd Edition)
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Authors: Winston
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Very useful and well written; an industry perspective:

Suppose you are, like me, a software engineer who never actually studied CS beyond junior level undergraduate 'data structures'... and now you have to work on something involving complicated pattern matching... this is how to do it: buy this book and Sipser's on the Theory of Computation. After digesting them (which is easy if you're as good with logical mathematics as the typical software engineer), you should be able to read current literature in either field, and will have a deep, fundamental understanding of how to best solve whatever problem you're working on. That's what worked for me, anyway. An excellent book, as is Sipser's.