January 25, 2009

Book Review: RESTful .NET by Jon Flanders

As Jon Flanders explains early on in his enjoyable book, Representational State Transfer (REST) is a set of guidelines on how to architect your web applications. Because it is tightly aligned with HTTP, architectures that follow the principles of REST are able to hook into a number of benefits that come built into the technologies that surround the web.

Flanders delves into REST briefly, but he does it well enough that you understand its value even if you haven't consumed the groundbreaking book RESTful Web Services.

The transition to programming REST using .NET is just as nicely handled. Windows Communication Foundation is a sprawling technology precisely because it is a model that covers a wide variety of programming paradigms (it supports a multitude of protocols like messaging, HTTP, SOAP, etc).

There is a quick tutorial on implementing HTTP services using WCF - which serves to remind us that WCF isn't only tightly coupled to SOAP. The rest of the book is divided up into chapters that zero in on specific implementation using WCF: Read-only services, Read/Write services, RESTful services and Feeds. Flanders also covers both server side implementation and client-side consumption of the services. There is coverage of Ajax and Silverlight clients and a short chapter on using WCF Workflow to deliver the REST services.

The value of the book is that it zeroes in on the essentials and provides very lean tutorials

RESTful .NET's biggest strength is that it is concise, clear and lean. To that point, you need the basics of HTTP, SOAP, WCF, XML, C# and (briefly) ASP in place to fully appreciate the book. The most valuable chapter for me was the one in which Flanders covers programming feeds. But there is enough diversity in terms of types of constructs implemented, that you'll find something of value here.

Highly recommended if you are a Windows Web programmer and have a growing interest in REST.

January 06, 2009

Book Review: The Manga Guide to Statistics

Shin Takahashi’s The Manga Guide to Statistics A Manga Guide to Statistics contains – as advertized – both Manga and Statistics. What exactly is Manga? It’s a style of drawing that was birthed and refined in eponymous Japanese comics. Its characterized by a heightened display of emotions (think: plenty of emanata), hip characters and dramatic framing. But above all, Manga characters look cute – often achieved by drawing large eyes that dominate a face and denoting the nose and mouth with minimal lines.

There is plenty of cute in Takahashi’s book – courtesy of crackerjack illustrator Iroha Inoue.

The Manga Guide to Statistics has a loose plot that drives exploration of the subject of Statistics. Rui is a schoolgirl, prone to flights of romantic fancy and subject to bouts of panic around Statistics. One fine day her father brings a colleague home – the dashing Mr. Igarashi (characterized by bright eyes and wispy, long hair). Igarashi gives Rui an informal introduction to Statistics. And in an effort to win Igarashi’s heart, Rui pesters her father to arrange for lessons for her.

This her surprised father does dutifully. Only Rui’s instructor is the geeky Mamoru Yamamoto. This setback only spurs Rui on to really focus on mastering the subject. Tremendous lessons ensue that introduce Rui to concepts like Frequency Distribution, Mean, Median, Standard Deviation, Estimation Theory, Cross Tabulatiions, Normalization, Standard Scores, Probability, Corelation and Hypothesis. Will Rui learn Statistics and win the love of Mr. Igarashi? Can Mamoru keep up with Rui and help her complete her mission? Hey, is Mamoru really that bad looking?

The Manga Guide to Statistics has lovely, crackling illustrations. Inoue keeps the reader engaged with panels that burst with energy, drama queen depictions of mood and spanking fashion and style. Often a lot of text and numbers enter the comic because the nature of the subject demands it. But overall, you don’t lose the accessibility of a comic book.

In what I thought was a stroke of genius, Takahashi shows us how to apply the concepts in the book using Microsoft Excel. This makes a lot of sense because Excel is either widely accessible or functionally mirrored by other software (such as say: Google Docs).

The inherent accessibility of its comic book format makes The Manga Guide to Statistics an able introduction to Statistics as well as a handy reference for those who want to revisit the subject.