Friday, November 06, 2009

IT book reviews

That should ensure I get some more hits!

As you know I've been retraining, so I've assembled quite a few of those big scary IT books that, for some reason, are always a different squarer shape from normal books (i.e. the kind of leisure book that the workplace symbolically kills by making that joke about "bedtime reading").

Scott Lowe, Mastering VMware vSphere 4. Let's start with this, because it's the benchmark, unreservedly the best IT book I've ever read. It absolutely is possible to read this extremely wide-ranging and uncompromisingly technical book for the sheer pleasure of understanding what you never understood before. The massive chapter on storage is I think by Chad Sakacs, and is in a denser style, not quite so limpidly aware of its audience's needs but nevertheless hugely informative. This is Scott's first book. Dare I suggest, a very good example of how the discipline of blogging will actually produce better writers and readers?

Brian Casselman, Tim Reeser, Steve Kaplan, Citrix XenApp Platinum Edition for Windows: The Official Guide. The excellence of Scott Lowe's book also reflects the missionary zeal for VMware that is irresistibly blowing through the IT industry. XenApp's (i.e. Metaframe, Presentation Server - hey, no wonder everyone just calls it Citrix...) glory days belong to a different era - I mean don't get me wrong, it's still a crucial and expanding technology but it's lost that sexiness, somehow. Even Citrix seem to want to merge it into XenDesktop... And perhaps it's unfair, but XenApp really suffers because no-one has written a decent book about it. OK, this one's not bad. But for a techie reader it's deeply frustrating because so much of it is aimed at CIOs (would they really read it? it's hard to believe) and it keeps selling application delivery to you, which you don't need to be sold. It's a ragbag that looks like it was pasted together from other, older books. You SHOULD be suspicious of why there is no version number in the title... Even when it gets a bit more technical, in Part III, it doesn't really give you solid enough specifics. You can't learn XenApp from this. It focuses very selectively on the Platinum Edition add-ons (which is useful), but where's the comprehensive general guide on XenApp? The answer to that, I suppose, is in the product Administration and Installation Guides (all available online) - Citrix do have a great website - , but you can't really read the product documentation as books. Plus, "Official" guides are a downer. It means you're going to hear a lot about XenServer (Citrix's virtualization product) and nothing about VMware or HyperV. This isn't the real world.

Jared Hoover and Shawn Tooley, et al, The Real Citrix CCA Exam Preparation Kit: Prepare for XenApp 5.0. I wrote about this before. It IS possible to prepare for your CCA from this: I did it, but I knew XenApp pretty well. It's hastily thrown together, doesn't take the trouble to explain things comprehensively, and is pretty dull reading, if I'm honest. Yet I got sort of fond of it by the end.

Elias N. Khnaser, VCP VMware Certified Professional (Exam Cram VCP-310). The Exam Cram series books are cheap and cheerful, and I've used them before and liked them. We all want to certify on the cheap. But as technology certifications become increasingly complex, the paradigm format is less and less able to encompass the content. I seriously doubt you could pass VCP-310 with just this. Incidentally this qualification will shortly pass into history. However, so far as I know there are as yet no exam preparation guides for vSphere's VCP-410. No doubt there are a bunch of furiously scribbling authors working on that right now.

Tom Negrino and Dori Smith, Javascript & Ajax Visual Quickstart Guide. I haven't really studied this yet, - I mean I haven't got as far as writing any scripts - but it's very well written and looks like a very useful book. When you start to see gimmicky rollovers on this blog, you'll know I've got started...

Rui Maximo et al, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 Resource Kit. This is seriously hard going. It has a pretty formidable subject to discuss, but surely there has got to be a better way. Somewhere in this book is the information you need, but you have to already be an OCS Master to extract it (I'm exaggerating a bit). OK, so OCS isn't mainstream yet. For the moment, your best bet is the blogs. One day someone will write a great book on OCS. Like, maybe one that starts with - what is OCS? What is unified communications? What is SIP? This book kind of assumes you have a background in telecommunications AND IT, and several years of running Live Communications Server - which is one hell of a big ask.

Fed up with IT yet? Then why not read my Intercapillary Space piece on Robert Browning's Strafford. It has pictures!


At 6:48 am, Blogger Vincent said...

Your piece reminds me of the days I used to travel by Tube to the City, scribbling my notes for a master-work, the ultimate IT book: not a manual on some existing tool or methodology, but some tentative notes on a new methodology. My aim was to deal a death-blow to the execrable SSADM. The provisional title was Seer and System. The theme was imagination. A computer system (I was thinking of those huge unwieldy Government ones, having been on DoE & HMSO projects) could not succeed unless it had a Seer - someone who visualised the whole thing, like a film director. Instead of getting lost in SSADM and losing the point in the detail, the team under the Seer would move from Visualisation to Realisation. (There was obviously an analysis phase before Visualisation could start).

A project would be so dependent on continuity of its key members that I visualised the team as being stuck on a cruise ship in the Pacific till it was finished, with no one allowed to jump off. In practical terms, the way to achieve continuity (and othre goals) would be not to pay anyone till completion. Individuals would have to get bank loans in the meantime.

I'm glad I found a different literary outlet in the end.


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