14 Dec 2007

Ubuntu 7.10

To put this review in context, my previous workstation was running Fedora Core 5, with Gnome, and I've been using Fedora since it was called RedHat 6. I prefer to get work done instead of reading man pages and configuration files; I know how to edit httpd.conf or /etc/hosts in vi, but I just don't enjoy it.

My new machine had modern hardware (Intel ICH5 chipset) that Fedora Core 7 choked on, and basically the just-released Ubuntu ended up being chosen as it was the first user-friendly distro I tried that would install. (CentOS also failed, as did the Fedora 8 pre-release; I didn't get to Suse as some web searching hinted it would fail.)

The quick summary: No regrets. Ubuntu is good. Better than Fedora. Better overall than Microsoft Windows. (Far better than OS/X, but Macs and I have never really got on - we just don't seem to understand each other.)

Install starts with a live CD boot, where you can play with the system. Then install. The install went smoothly. There were very few questions, which is a criticism - I had to spend a lot of time after the install completed realizing things were not installed and having to install them. On the other hand Synaptic Package Manager is easy to use, and I can generally have the software I need installed and running within 60 seconds. I had been very reluctant to switch from a familiar RPM distro like Fedora to a deb distro, but in fact I have not had to be aware of the differences so far.

Support, via Google, is excellent. "Ubuntu xxx" has almost always given me a helpful page telling me how to setup or troubleshoot xxx.

Lots of things Just Work. Printer just worked when I plugged it in. The samba network drive was found first time. Setting up an encrypted partition was easy, as was setting up special encrypted directories, again following Ubuntu-specific tutorials. Burning DVDs just worked. My USB thumb drive just worked. My scanner too. Sound too. Gigabit ethernet too.

Getting scim-anthy working required a bit of effort. See http://tlug.jp/ML/0710/msg00295.html and http://tlug.jp/ML/0710/msg00305.html. But it was roughly the same steps I had to go through on Fedora: I need to simultaneously use Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, etc. in an English environment, which is not a common need, so I can accept a little work. I am not even sure it can be done at all on Windows?

Webcam just worked. Google on "ubuntu webcam" took me to a page suggesting I use Camorama. I went to the package manager and that was installed within a minute. And it just worked first time. It took longer to find my scissors to get it out of the packaging that it did to plug it in, install the software I needed and get as far as taking a snapshot and emailing it to my Mum.

Two problems stand out. First multimedia (Fedora was terrible here too). I had to follow a tutorial to get most audio and movie formats to play. I then had to hunt and follow another one (the one that talks about mediaubuntu.org) before DVDs would play. There are two formats I still cannot get to work: VCD (and Google tells me no-one else is having much luck there) and Real Media. The latter is irritating as, despite there being video formats that are superior in all respects, some web sites still insist on only publishing in that format (e.g. the BBC, and MIT open lectures). I ended up having to install RealPlayer on Windows to be able to watch some things. (Real Media's own Real Player For Linux installed without complaint but crashes with a segmentation fault every time I run it.)

Second problem was the 19" 1440x900 wide-screen monitor. I installed using a spare 15" monitor, no problems, then when I was ready to switch to it to be my main system I plugged in this monitor. Seven hours later I finally cracked it: in the x11 conf file it has to be referred to as Monitor-VGA-1, the "-1" on the end being critical. Without that the configuration I thought I was adding was being ignored and then it was falling back on its clever auto-detecting, and (as it had no knowledge of this particular monitor model) it was choosing 800x600 or something.

One more thing. After installing I suggest you go to this obscure place: Systems|Preferences|Sessions, where you can disable a number of services you don't need. I disabled Evolution alarm notifier (I'd stripped out the default-installed Evolution, as I prefer to use Thunderbird), bluetooth manager, tracker and visual (a mysterious one but nothing has broken since I did that). Tracker is the key one you must disable - it will continuously index your entire home partition for some search program that as far as I can tell I have never used or needed. And according to some web searching it is unreliable and will sometimes use 100% CPU.

Other other minor comments. bash has intelligent tab completion, just like zsh, but while still being bash apparently. Nice. Firefox 2.0, and especially Thunderbird 2.0, run more slowly than the 1.5 versions I was using under Fedora Core 5, without a single useful feature to compensate that I've been able to notice so far. Gnome file manager was also a bit sluggish, but killing "Tracker" (see above) seems to have helped there. Having changed three things at the same time (hardware, distro, version) I am unable to say if the slower performance is due to the way ubuntu builds them compared to Fedora, or due to bloat caused by bigger version numbers, or due to my new, faster hardware.

Overall, Ubuntu 7.10 is good, and is now my first choice of OS to install on a new machine.

1 Nov 2007

Casio Ex-word XD-SW6500

I am a patient man, but one thing that always drives me crazy is using a Japanese kanji dictionary: the radical index. There are two things I don't like about radicals. First that they are frequently illogical, irrational and inconsistent, and second that they are stupid. For some kanji the radical is actually a straight horizontal line hidden in the middle of the symbol. For others the radical is obviously the three strokes on the left but in fact you need to know those three strokes are shorthand for water which is under the five stroke radical index. Okay water is easy to recognize, but others are not. (See http://www.saiga-jp.com/kanji_dictionary.html for a search function that solves this latter problem, but it is still not enough to make me like radicals.)

Rant over, on to the review. I wanted an electronic pocket dictionary; I had seen friends using them and they no longer seemed to be gimmicks. There were three items on my wishlist: 1. Under 20,000 yen; 2. Able to write the kanji, instead of using radicals (see above); 3. including the Green Goddess dictionary (otherwise known as Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary: 新和英大辞典 第5版 ― 並装), which I have been told my numerous professional translators is the best.

I went for the Casio Ex-word XD-SW6500, which at 31,500 yen only satisfied one of my three criteria (NOTE: it is 29,800 yen at Amazon JP: カシオ計算機 電子辞書 Ex-word XD-SW6500 XD-SW6500 I should've checked first!!). But it was worth 15% points at Bic Camera, so really I was only 7000 yen over budget. The Green Goddess dictionary is only built-in on top-end models costing over 45,000 yen.

But what decided me on this model was that it can be easily expanded, either with SD card, or with a dictionary on CD and feed the data in over USB cable. So even though it did not come with the dictionary I wanted, I can add it later for 10,000 yen; I have not done so yet. (The downside there is that I can either buy an Ex-word CD version (EX-WORDデータプラス 研究社新和英大辞典), or a Windows CD version (13,500 yen: 研究社 新和英大辞典 第5版): if I want to use it on both Ex-word and PC I have to buy it twice! Also note that the Epwing CD is different from the logavista CD! The Epwing format seems to be more open and can be used on linux too, apparently; it is however a few thousand yen more expensive.)

The kanji handwriting recognition is good (though not available in all dictionaries which is a little annoying). Even if I'm confident I'll guess the pronunciation in my first 3 attempts, drawing it is still quicker than typing it in, and it has proven very accurate so far. It is also not fussy about stroke order, or how long you pause between strokes. And when it gets it wrong you tap the teisei button and get shown its other guesses.

I have some minor criticisms of the handwriting recognition. If I'm inputting say a three character word, and it was only the first character I wanted to draw and I know how to pronounce the last two characters I still have to draw the last two characters. Well I can type the last two characters in as hiragana but mixed kanji/hiragana words are not found. Another problem is when inputting say a two character word and it guesses the second character wrongly. When I tap teisei it shows the two character word with no way to choose an alternative for just the second character. So I have to delete the second character and draw it again, taking more care.

What else can I say? The user interface is easy to learn, but you will need to be able to read at least basic Japanese, and there is no English manual. The dictionaries seem reasonable so far. They boast 100 content items, most of which I have no interest in (this product is aimed at a Japanese person). The speech is another feature of no value to me (it speaks the English, not the Japanese); however there are phrase books for Spanish, German, French, Italian, Chinese and Korean and these also have speech, which I did find useful. It takes two AAA batteries, and they have not run out yet so I cannot comment on battery life except to say it seems fine so far. There is a backlight.

In summary, I think this product is expensive, but very useful.

P.S. If anyone has bought the Ex-word Green Goddess CD please let me know how you are getting on. How well does it integrate? Does it become the default wa-ei dictionary, or is it harder to access?

25 Jul 2007

Rapid German

This is a CD to teach German. I reviewed the Chinese one a few months ago, and naturally this is a very similar presentation, with the same 10 track titles: I would like...; To order; Have you ...?; To the airport; Numbers; days & times; Is there ...?; Directions; Where, when & what time?; Problems, problems!; and Do you speak English? In fact they have mostly the same phrases. Ordering a bottle of wine somehow seems more natural for German that it did for Chinese!

The way it works is there is a native German-speaking woman and a native English-speaking man. The English comes first then the German. As the track titles above suggest the 10 lessons cover useful phrase book stuff, at the most basic level. All the time there is a music track playing - easy to listen to. I do not know if the music helps memorizing the sentences but it does make the CD easy to have on in the background while working or doing other things. There is a handy 20 page booklet with the CD, which shows all the phrases on the CD, as well as describing the theory behind the learning method.

I did 'O' level German at school, which seemed to be all about learning the 16 words for "the". Thankfully not a mention of that here: ein/eine/einen/zum/zu/der/das/die/etc. are all introduced in context without being pointed out. After my German exam (I passed by the way) all I could speak in German was gutentag and "der das die die, dem dem den den", which does not get you very far. Listening to this CD course, in every school lesson, would have made a lot more sense. And we could have played cards while doing it. (Sadly the only class we actually got away with playing cards in was sociology.)

As I noted in the Rapid Chinese review, if we are looking for downsides the CDs are maybe a bit pricey, and are quite passive: no quizzes or chances for active usage of the language. But that is fine, it would not be easy to have on in the background if it was like that. Just do not expect this can be your only tool to learn the language. If you are looking for another beginner-level course I can recommend the BBC's German Steps, which is web-based and free.

Overall I like these EarWorms CDs and they will be my first choice when I want to learn the basics of a new language.

See http://earwormslearning.com for the other languages they do. At the time of writing Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Russian, with Portuguese and Arabic coming soon.

Rapid German: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

30 Mar 2007

Many Lives, Many Masters

Brian Weiss is a psychiatrist who started treating a young woman with a number of fears. He was having trouble finding the causes of those fears, and eventually resorted to hypnosis. Even though he uncovered some potential causes from when she was three years old, her symptoms did not improve. So in the next session he told her, "Go back to the time from which your symptoms arise." She started describing a scene from 1863 B.C.

The book describes many of her past lives, as well as words from "spirit masters" when she is between lives. The author tries to be scientific but comes to strongly believe in reincarnation due to the experience described in this book. The patient was not just cured of her fears, but became beautiful and radiant due to this therapy.

Very interesting and definitely worth reading, and if you can do so with an open mind, all the better. It is an easy read. The descriptions of "how it all works" are consistent with the three books by Robert Monroe (also, highly recommend: I will review those soon), which in my mind gives it further credibility.

Amazon UK
Amazon JP (English)
Amazon JP (Japanese translation: 前世療法—米国精神科医が体験した輪廻転生の神秘)

26 Mar 2007


I recently made a serious attempt to learn Chinese, quite intensively, and ChinesePod.com was the main method I settled on. They release a 10 minute podcast each day: there are various levels but you can expect least one new newbie lesson each week, and there are over 160 archived lessons you can access.

The site is subscription-based, though the podcasts themselves are free (in fact, they are under an open source license). The first level of subscription gives you a PDF transcript. Not too expensive ($5 to $9/month), but, still, I think there is little value in it.

The premium subscription is more expensive ($20-$30/month) but much better value. It adds expansion sentences (each with audio, hanzi, and pinyin/English on mouseover - wonderfully helpful), and exercises (very nicely done, in Flash: drags words into the blanks, match up Chinese and English, choose correct Chinese translation of an English word, etc.).

There is higher level of subscription, which is an 8-week course ($400) with daily phone calls with an instructor. I have not tried it.

Every lesson has its own discussion board (open to non-members as well) and the staff are very good at answering questions. In fact you can find some real gems of explanation and vocabulary on the discussion boards.

The downside of the premium subscription is that it is only good value if you are studying intensively: in other words if you will be able to do a lesson each day. Conversely, that can be good, as it inspires you to study intensively: trying to squeeze as much into the month certainly helped me.

There is a 7-day free course, during which you can try out all content on the site. As mentioned above: save it for a 7-day period when you will be able to give it some focus.

Overall, highly recommended for anyone serious about learning Chinese:

I have a few specific criticisms, which is really just feedback for ChinesePod.com, but I thought it makes sense to put it here too.

* In every example sentence with a surname the person is either Wang or Li. This is missing an opportunity to introduce other surnames. (Surely not everyone in China is called Wang or Li??)

* No guidance on which lessons to do. After doing the 7-day free course I chose the newbie business lesson subset, which I imagine is very common, but it immediately uses words that have not been introduced.

* Old lessons are not as good as recent lessons. It seems they have experimented with the style over the 160 newbie lessons, and made many improvements. (The lesson level is more consistent - easy - in the newer lessons).
But the old lessons are still up there. I personally think their effort would be better directed in re-making the early lessons than in putting up a new lesson each day. Which is probably unacceptable to the marketing department. So in that case I think early lessons should be removed if they are not up to standard.

* Flash cards. Each word has three forms: hanzi, pinyin, English. Flash cards really need to show the other two when you turn it over; currently they are not useful. I believe this will be addressed at end-March.

* The pop-up showing pinyin and English is wonderful. But it misses some words, which is very frustrating. Again, I have heard they are working on it.

* There is no listening comprehension in the exercises. I.e. listen to a sentence and choose the word you think you heard. A surprising omission as they already have both the content and the technical skills.

Rapid Chinese

This is a CD, to teach Chinese. It is marketed as a revolutionary new method, but let us skip lightly over the hyperbole: it is a native Chinese woman speaker, with an English-speaking man, and there is a music track in the background. The 10 lessons are phrase book stuff, aimed at tourists; grammar is not introduced explicitly, just through example sentences. The music is nothing special but is easy to listen to.

I liked this CD, and have listened to it a lot. I think what I like best is that it is easy to have on while I am working: sometimes I listen actively, but most of the time it is just playing and does not distract me. Whether it is directly entering my subconscious or not I do not know. But I am as happy as if I had the radio on. Another thing that appeals is that I have sometimes played this CD while eating dinner with my family, and my children have picked up some phrases.

My opinion is that anyone learning Chinese should invest the effort in learning pinyin but unfortunately the pronunciation guide that comes with the CD instead uses its own English-like guide. To get pinyin and hanzi they have a PDF online that you can download. That PDF is riddled with errors: it was mostly wrong tones that I noticed. I intend to pass my list of errors on to them, and hopefully they will fix them quickly.

What else didn't I like? It is a little bit pricey. Also I do not think you will learn to speak the language using just this CD, as there are no quizzes or opportunities to speak. That is fine, it is outside the scope they are aiming at, but you should regard it as a support for a main course rather than self-contained. A guide to pronunciation would have been helpful, e.g. things like "qing" is pronounced like "ching" but with your tongue touching the back of your bottom teeth; for sh, zh, ch and r curl your tongue back until it almost touches the top of your mouth (try it - it is amazing how Chinese you suddenly sound!). This wouldn't fit the style of the CD but would be a nice addition to the PDF file.

Compared to ChinesePod.com the language taught on this CD is quite polite. I am not able to judge if the phrases are natural or not. I would love to hear from someone who is able to judge that.

They do other languages (see http://earwormslearning.com) and I intend to try the German CD soon. When volume 2 for Chinese comes out I will likely try that too. Immodestly, I hope and assume the Japanese CDs will be too easy for me, so I have not tried them. You can hear short samples of each on the earworms web site.

Rapid Chinese: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

Rapid German: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

Rapid Japanese, Vol 1: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

Rapid Japanese, Vol 2: Amazon UK, Amazon JP

25 Mar 2007

Winnie The Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner

In Japan Pooh is popular: even grown women will own Pooh key rings, bags, underwear, and so on. And many of those items get proudly displayed in public! Disney made Pooh popular, but these book are the original stories, and one of the lovely things about being a parent is being given the chance to read them. They are popular with my children, so I have had plenty of chances.

As a side note the Disney movie is also good. It is gentle, funny and the kind of thing you can show to your children without having to worry. There is just one scary scene (where rabbit is lost) for a young child. The animated TV series, and the Tigger movie, are only loosely based on the books and suffer for it. They are watchable enough, just not as good enough as either the original Disney movie or the books.

In the books the personalities of the main characters are more distinct and better developed than in the movie. Eeyore in particular is wonderfully funny. A few times my children have been almost asleep, as I have read them these books, and I have woken them up again by giggling at Eeyore's manic depression. "Daddy, why are you crying?"

(Note: I have the paperback editions, but it seems only hardcover versions are being published at the moment.)

Winnie the Pooh: Complete Collection of Stories and Poems (both books, hardcover): UK JP
Winnie-The-Pooh (hardcover): UK JP
The House At Pooh Corner (hardcover): UK JP
The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (DVD): UK JP

12 Feb 2007

Howl's Moving Castle

I was bought this book as a present, from someone knowing I like fantasy, and my first impression was that it was intended for younger readers. But I read it anyway and was pleased I did. It may indeed be for younger readers - I do not know - but the characters are likeable, the setting is interesting and the plot is just complex enough.

Yet I think what I liked best was simply the atmosphere: at the end of a hard day it is the perfect book for escaping with. Recommended.

Note: this review is quite definitely not of the movie (reviewed elsewhere). I will just say that, if you have only seen the movie, the book is very, very different.

I see there is a semi-followup called Castle in the Air. I have not read it but people say it will appeal to those who liked Howl's Moving Castle, so I may get it soon.

Amazon UK: Howl's Moving Castle and Castle In The Air
Amazon JP: Howl's Moving Castle and Castle In The Air

11 Feb 2007

Celestine Prophecy Series

I first read James Redfield's Celestine Prophecy seven or so years ago and immediately liked it. The writing and plot are unsophisticated but that is part of the appeal, and it makes it easy to recommend to friends who are not into reading.

Set in Peru, and on the surface an adventure story about catholic church control, he deals with mysterious energy, being able to see the aura, relationships between family members, following intuitions, voluntarily giving people energy, and people going invisible. I am not sure I believe everything he writes, but I try to give it a fair chance.

But no-one has yet to come up to me and said: "Dude! You're looking so transparent today."

Maybe I am simply doing something wrong.

It was not until last year that I bought the next two books in the series: The Tenth Insight and The Secret of Shambhala. Both have the same easy-to-read adventure story style, and again both deal with interesting topics. If you enjoyed the first book you will probably enjoy these later two books. And if you hated the first book, you will hate them.

The Tenth talks about moving into alternative dimensions, souls, reincarnation and is perhaps the easiest introduction to this difficult topic you will find. He may turn out to be wrong, but his theories seem internally consistent.

It is set in a forest valley in the U.S. and the story is about a new energy source, the conquering of the Native Indians in the 19th century, and a group of seven souls coming together. The enemy this time is not the church wanting to control but big business wanting to control.

The Secret of Shambhala is set in Tibet and is really expanding on the Eight Insight rather than being the Eleventh Insight. Definitely worth reading. The enemy the narrator is on the run from this time is the Chinese military.

I've also read The Celestine Prophecy: An Experiential Guide. It is okay. I did not enjoy it as much as reading the adventure books, but it is still worth a read.

Amazon JP Links:
Celestine Prophecy
Tenth Insight
The Secret of Shambhala
Experiential Guide

Amazon UK Links:
Celestine Prophecy
Tenth Insight
The Secret of Shambhala
Experiential Guide

12 Jan 2007

James Blunt * Back To Bedlam

I first heard James Blunt's You're Beautiful in the autumn of 2005: I was listening to a bunch of tracks while working on a project for a radio station client. Within a few seconds I had stopped working and was just listening. That is very rare for me: music is usually just something for the background.

Such wonderfully wistful lyrics, with a voice that matches so perfectly. This is a song about an emotion that most - if not all - of us feel at some time, but that is so hard to capture in words. The desire for beauty and then the swings between despair (at not knowing how to grasp it) and wild unfounded optimism ("but I don't worry about that, 'cos I've got a plan."). He has the courage not to give us the Hollywood ending but instead the one that fits.

I asked for the album as a Christmas present, a long three month wait. Once I finally got it I was delighted that the other songs are of the same quality. This was not just my most listened to album in 2006, but it was most listened to album in every single month of 2006: I still have not tired of it.

There is not a single bad track, but I will still pick out some favourites, in addition to You're Beautiful: Goodbye My Lover, Cry and No Bravery. If you have not heard all of those, and did not find You're Beautiful too repellant, please give them a listen.

Speaking of repellant, it seems in the U.K. at least that opinion is sharply divided, partly due to the high voice he uses on some songs, and partly due to the large amount of air play and commercial success he has received. On the other side of the divided opinion are the nine million people who bought this album.

Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Blunt

Buy from Amazon UK here or from Amazon JP, either U.S. Import or Special Edition for Japanese market (2 extra tracks).

11 Jan 2007

Head Rush Ajax

I have heard good things about O'Reilly's Head First series, and have an interest in advanced learning techniques myself. This was my first Head First book so I cracked it open with high expectations.

I liked the style, an entertaining, easy read. The humour is more zany than funny, but that is fine. I am hopeful the Head First series will have a big impact on instructional computer books and magazines. Annotated source code alone is 10 years overdue.

However I found the repetition irritating: I got the concept the first time and did not need to be told it again and again. To be fair, as someone who can read an 800 page computer tomb cover to cover and not get bored, perhaps I am not in the target market.

The content was good, the examples realistic enough but still short enough to see the ajax. But I have complaints, brace yourselves: there were technical inaccuracies, i18n was spelt U.S.A., spelling errors in the hand-written text and the book is fluffy. By fluffy I mean this is a 400 page book that has less than 100 pages of content in typical computer book terms, not that you can cuddle up to it in bed while sucking your thumb.

Technical inaccuracies? My big complaint here is GET vs. POST. The author advocates GET and spends many pages trying to justify this. The reasoning seems to be that POST is more complex, but as we discover you make the data the same way and it is just one more line to add. His key argument is "POST is only slightly more secure". That argument in itself is lame: no security is perfect and your aim is just to avoid being low-hanging fruit so that the hackers will go elsewhere. Every little helps.

Another argument was the browser decides the GET limit and "IE allows 2000 characters for GET, which should be enough". But servers can set a limit as well. For instance a few years back I used a web server which had a GET limit of 255 characters.

Worse of all he missed some key security arguments in favour of POST. How about log files? All the GET data gets written to the log files, POST data does not. So your user's name and address are ending up in the log file. This is then getting automatically analyzed and posted on a web site that marketing use. And they will throw those reports around not realizing there is user data embedded in them. (Well, marketing will throw them around even if they have been told the report contains customer credit card numbers, but let's not go there...)

And GET makes a wider range of security attacks possible. For one example of what I am talking about see PHP Architect's ( http://www.phparch.com ) security column in Volume 5 Issue 5 (aka May 2006). Incidentally I highly recommend that magazine and suggest you get a year's worth of back issues if only to read Security Corner. This book is aimed at people who are not expected to be reading heavy articles on how to hack web sites. So, instead of the dangerously misleading: "POST is only slightly more secure, why bother?", this book should be advising: "Always use POST unless you know exactly what you are doing."

Internationalization? Not a mention and some examples are poorly designed in this respect (e.g. hard-coded comparisons with button label text). But much worse is that the sample code simply does not work for anything but ascii. I set my HTML, PHP and database to all use UTF-8, but German umlauts failed to arrive properly, as did Japanese text. After some study it seems you should use encodeURIComponent() instead of escape(). See http://blog.openboxsoftware.com/2006/04/javascript-escape-vs-encodeuricomponent/

In summary this book taught me most of what I needed to know about Ajax, but the technical accuracy is not up to O'Reilly's usual standards. And use POST.

Buy this book at Amazon Japan, or at Amazon UK.

10 Jan 2007

German Daily Phrases & Culture 2007 Calendar

Rip off a page each day and learn a new phrase. I was given one of these for 2006 and found it an enjoyable way to study. My skill at German improved slightly during 2006, and though this was not my only study tool I think the quick, regular practise it encourages is good.

The level is variable, from the most basic phrases to proverbs and obscure vocabulary. Assuming the format is the same as 2006, weekends are done as a single page, and some pages do not have a phrase but instead a bio of someone famous born on that day. The Amazon data lists it as 640 pages. Printing is only on one side of the paper, so I imagine the correct figure is 320 pages.

At 5000 yen on Amazon Japan it is more expensive than I realized. The Amazon UK price of £9.99 (i.e. around 2000 yen) seems more what I would expect, and at that price I think it is a good buy.

See if it is any cheaper yet at Amazon Japan, or buy it at Amazon UK here.

5 Jan 2007

ActionScript 3.0 Cookbook

The ActionScript Cookbook (covering ActionScript 1) has been an essential aid for my Flash development: usually the first book I reach for when I have a question. This new book is thinner, and the reason it is thinner is that "Part III Applications" is not there. That section showed seven complete applications that brought everything together. It was a useful read, a chance to see code in context. However I have not looked at those sections much since the first read. I guess O'Reilly thought the same and that it would be okay to drop them.

At the current time this is the only ActionScript 3 book I have read, and I have not done any serious coding in ActionScript 3, so I cannot say how useful it is when troubleshooting. But it is well written, seems to cover all the important topics, and left me itching to get started on some AS3 coding. It pointed out differences between AS2 and AS3, but I think it will still be readable by someone with no experience of earlier versions of Actionscript.

The first three recipes are specific to using Adobe's FlexBuilder 2. There are no instructions on setting up the free compiler on linux for instance. There is also no coverage of open source libraries (for instance asunit has had an AS3 version for at least six months before this book was published). For that matter unit testing gets no coverage at all.

But those are minor complaints. Overall this is just what you would expect from O'Reilly: a good solid book that every AS3 programmer will want to have to hand.

Buy from Amazon UK here, or Amazon JP here.