Monday, June 23, 2008

New Items on my Bookshelf

One of the defining characteristics of Information Technology, is that it is constantly shifting, and that you need to spend a lot of time just to keep up with the topics that you focus on. Not to mention the pet projects that you hope you'll eventually get around to but have already bought some books on for that magical moment when have time to actually read them.

And maybe I should wait to buy these books until I have that copious free time needed to properly digest their contents, but hey, what better motivation to move things along than a growing stack of books that you convince yourself have to be read before the end of the summer? A little pressure never hurt anyone, right?

On with the show - what did I recently add to my collection?

The Definitive ANTLR Reference - if you've ever dreamt of building domain-specific languages, ANTLR is the tool to get if you're not already knee-deep in LEX and YACC. Now why on earth would you need that? Well, if you're building business applications, this sort of embedded scripting languages can make a world of difference when it comes to customizing the workflow of your application.
Granted, if your focus is exclusively on MacOS X, you're better off making your application OSA-scriptable, so that your users can interact with your application via AppleScript. Or go one step further, and embed Automator actions. But if you're not that lucky, and you need cross-platform scripting, ANTLR and the visual grammar development environment ANTLRWorks will make your life a heck of a lot easier - producing code that is actually readable, rather than the undecipherable state machine mess that you get from YACC.

And now that we're talking about MacOS X (ooh, there was a smooth transition to the next book) - I just got my copy of Cocoa Programming for MacOS X by Aaron Hillegass. The just-released third edition was updated for MacOS X Tiger and Leopard, including coverage of XCode 3, Objective-C 2, Core Data, the garbage collector and Core Animation.
While I also have a copy of the Wrox-book Beginning MacOS X Programming, this will be the one that gets me going with Cocoa (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!) as the last Mac-specific development I did was using Think Pascal and the first 5 books of the original Inside Mac series, back in the day when Macs used Motorola 680x0 processors and we were happy to get System 7.

The last book I want to mention is The Art of SQL. Now I may live and breathe databases but you can never learn enough tricks of the trade. In this book, the author aims to teach people who are no longer novices how to write good SQL code from the start and most importantly, to have a view of SQL code that goes beyond individual SQL statements.
Remember the days when developers managed to fit entire accounting applications, including the data, onto a set of floppy disks or (gasp, we will never fill that up) 10 megabyte hard disks, running in 128 kilobyte RAM or less? With the way database sizes are exploding nowadays, you need to plan ahead and employ a different strategy - so I'm definitely looking forward to getting more in-depth than ever.

And just in case you're wondering: no, I don't always cuddle up on the sofa with a mug of hot cocoa and this type of book. Whenever I get a chance, I'll read books by Raymond E. Feist, Tad Williams, David Eddings, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickmann. Hmm, another stereotypical geek trait: fantasy and science fiction. Ah well, when the shoe fits :-)

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