As a trove of interesting things, this book is fantastic. Huang has accomplished much and done many very interesting things with electronics, manufactAs a trove of interesting things, this book is fantastic. Huang has accomplished much and done many very interesting things with electronics, manufacturing, and exploring the practical and legal boundaries of reverse engineering.
I was energized by Huang's enthusiasm for discovery and fearless adventuring. I learned a lot of interesting things (such as: SD cards include powerful systems-on-chip that manage all reads and writes to and from the card's flash memory - every SD card is a computer in its own right). I also gained an entirely new perspective on China's technical culture.
As a book, it's a mess. It is essentially an edited series of blog posts, and it shows. If I were this book's editor, I would attempt to rearrange it into more of a story: start the first chapter with an intrigue (perhaps the Kingston SD cards with the mysterious markings) and then developed the rest of the book in more-or-less a chronological order. I believe it would work very well - Andrew Huang's complete arc from childhood - staring in wonder at an Apple II schematic, to early commercial success (Chumby), to adventures in Chinese manufacturing, to the Novena laptop and life as a free-agent of sorts.
If you suspect you might enjoy this book, you will. Huang's writing is very accessible, even when the material turns very specific.
I cannot recommend it to general audiences as a "popular science" title for hardware engineering - it just isn't that well put together.
Edit two weeks later:
There is another topic Huang brought up in Hardware Hacker which I've thought about quite a bit since I finished the book: Moore's law is failing - has been failing for a while. Chips are no longer doubling transistor density every year. We no longer have to upgrade a PC every two years to stay current. Huang talks about the idea of an "heirloom laptop" - a computer you could pass down to your children. That sounds oxymoronic, but only because we're so used to the relentless upgrade cycle.
If hardware stops moving at such a breakneck speed, that gives the hobbyist a chance to tinker and perfect. It gives us reason to write more efficient software and to take quality more seriously. I've been thinking a lot about this lately and I've decided I like this idea a lot. I like to tinker and customize. I like the idea of old, cheap hardware being useful (this is starting to become true - $50 on Ebay can net you a very useful computer, especially if you're okay with running a lightweight Linux distribution). I think a hardware plateau may bring us a new golden age of hobby computing for both hardware and software....more
This book was exactly what I was hoping it would be: a completely system-agnostic guide to the general principles of writing software for embedded sysThis book was exactly what I was hoping it would be: a completely system-agnostic guide to the general principles of writing software for embedded systems. There is no book (yet) for the microcontroller I'm targeting for my hobby project. Just online documentation.
Being system-agnostic presents an enormous challenge for this book because every topic must be covered in broad strokes and generalities. Ultimately, it's a little frustrating to read because everything's a tease. I'm sure it was doubly frustrating to write!
I appreciate that this book exists. I was the target audience. ...more
I was big into Perl over a decade ago, but wanted to get back up to speed quickly. This was exactly what I needed: a dense collection of modern Perl 5I was big into Perl over a decade ago, but wanted to get back up to speed quickly. This was exactly what I needed: a dense collection of modern Perl 5 practices.
It took me several months to get through Modern Perl, reading and absorbing just a little bit every day. Each page has an average of two new concepts and the book is littered with code examples. As one should always do when reading book about programming, I ran many of the examples and made up some of my own when I needed to better understand a concept.
I'm now exactly at the level I want to be at with Perl: I can write utility programs without reference (manipulating and parsing text, typically) and I understand more advanced Perl idioms when I see them.
Modern Perl works great as a reference. I have several pages of my copy bookmarked for quick access.
Some material from earlier in the book depends on material at the end of the book and vice-versa. There are cross-references, but you can do what I did and just read it straight through. You'll leave with enough knowledge to read (and critique!) just about any Perl code you find in the wild. ...more
You can read this out loud to your young child (feel free to simply skip the "damn it" and "what the hell!?" exclamations the protagonist regularly blYou can read this out loud to your young child (feel free to simply skip the "damn it" and "what the hell!?" exclamations the protagonist regularly blurts out - the dialog actually sounds more natural and flows better without them). It has all of the right elements for a fun children's adventure. Serious things happen, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. There is a love interest, but it's all very innocent.
I remember really enjoying as a teenager, considering it lite fare between my more "serious" science fiction reads.
It's interesting to return to it as an adult. It's even more interesting to read it aloud to somebody with a shorter attention span when you become acutely aware of lulls in the story.
There were only two glaring flaws that became apparent in reading it aloud: First, the over-long periods of the main character's introspection and internal monologue that dominated the book's first quarter. And second, Brook's repetitive use of certain words and short phrases ("stanchion" and "dais" get almost painfully repeated).
It is indeed a short, fun read. But it's certainly not poetry. ...more
Books on C programming often contain a sentence which reads something like, "see your compiler's manual for more." That always sounded like a good ideBooks on C programming often contain a sentence which reads something like, "see your compiler's manual for more." That always sounded like a good idea, but I could never be bothered to read the actual manual when answers to my immediate questions were always available online.
Unfortunately, that always left me with gaps in my understanding - gaps that weren't specific questions per se, but information I didn't know that I didn't know.
I've always wanted to fill in the gaps, so I took a chance on a cheap used copy of this book. I'm happily surprised at how glad I am that I did. I really enjoyed this book a lot. It's short and chock-full of examples and exercises.
Read this with a computer at hand. Do the exercises. I'm amazed at how much ground Gough covers and how concise he manages to be. Thanks to this book I've finally:
* Learned how to compile for debugging and used GDB to debug a program
* Generated core dumps and used them to see where a program crashed
* Examined the output of the preprocessor and assembler
* Compiled for various levels of optimization and compared them
* Created a C library and used it
* Profiled and viewed line-by-line execution coverage of programs
* Viewed the symbol table of an executable
* Attached GDB to a running process (with an infinite loop) from another session and took control of it
As a casual user of C, I had never done any of these things before.
I won't remember how to do everything, but I will remember that I can. I can get the book out again when I need it. Because the examples are so short, I think this will make an excellent go-to reference.
A few things didn't work as written and I suspect that's because my "Revised and Updated" edition was written for GCC v3.3.1 and I'm running 4.8.2, but I simply ignored those things and continued on. They had no effect on my ability to learn the concept....more
It's a short book with a large number of quotes and extensive notes. What that means is that Wired to Create is a nice little review of a large amountIt's a short book with a large number of quotes and extensive notes. What that means is that Wired to Create is a nice little review of a large amount of material about our current understanding of creativity.
There isn't a lot of original material here, and that's okay. But I do feel it falls short of being the inspirational source it might have been.
I want one or more of these things from a non-fiction book:
1. Tell a good story (reads like fiction, but isn't)
2. Teach me something I didn't already know
3. Challenge me to have a different perspective about something I thought I knew
4. Inspire me to try something (or inspire me to learn more about a subject)
This book had a little bit of each of these things, but less than I would have liked.
Much of the material simply confirmed what I already knew. That's not always a bad thing. Here's a quote from the chapter on "Passion":
"It should come as little surprise that when we feel that our work is both emotionally interesting and personally meaningful, accomplishing a task is significantly less mentally taxing."
I've always known that to be very true for me. I've heard it expressed before and I've applied that knowledge to make my work more bearable on several occasions. Nevertheless, the reminder came at a good time for me.
On the other hand, it was difficult to come up with a way to apply the facts from many of the chapters or even to extract any sort of "a ha!" moments from them. Perhaps I've just read too many other writings on creativity (and learning and brain plasticity) recently for there to be enough novel material in Wired to Create.
Another irritating bit, and perhaps more of a complaint to the publisher than the authors: there are little pull-quotes peppered all over the book. I'm sure they were intended to make the book even more skimmable than it already is. They make sense in a magazine, especially when quoting from an interview. I found them to be irritating breaks in the flow of reading. It was strange to re-read the same sentence twice on the page.
It was strange to re-read the same sentence twice on the page.
I would still recommend it to anyone looking for a quick survey of the current science because it's short and concise. ...more