Monthly Archives: January 2011

Canvas Pocket Reference By David Flanagan

The Canvas Pocket Reference is a short read, aimed at introducing the canvas DOM element, and the way that it can be used. Additionally it provides a reference to the APIs, useful for people actually using canvas in anger.

HTML canvas is a powerful tool, bringing a rich drawing API to browsers. There is a strong argument for why this is a limited tool, with it’s lack of scalability, but it is nonetheless useful.  It is possible to perform many of the simple transformations and drawing tools required for graphing charting and simple image manipulation.

The tutorial provides enough information to get started, whetting the appetite, and the details provide a decent reference. These combined with Dive into HTML5, the Mozilla Developer Centre and a little bit of googling, are all that you will need to get into the world of canvas.

[this book was reviewed as a part of the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program]

The Myths of Innovation By Scott Berkun

The Myths of Innovation is a great fun book for helping get yourself started or continue innovating. As the title suggests, it dispels many of the myths around innovation, giving the readers insight into some of the hard work that went into the breakthroughs that we know and love. While we can often love the superhuman stories and magical breakthroughs, these stories can make people seem superhuman.  The Myths of Innovation presents often unknown details which highlight the background work into well known breakthroughs, bringing the amazing into the realms of what might be possible by normal people.

By doing this, the author helps us to realise that we can all be “innovative”, or more importantly that with hard work we call all find problems that need solving, come up with ideas in the problem space and produce solutions that solve real problems.

On top of well written and interesting content, Scott has included copious references and helps the reader do further research into topics that are of particular interest.

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in innovation or creatively solving problems, particularly if you have financial motivation for doing so.

[this book was reviewed as a part of the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program]

Learning the iOS 4 SDK for JavaScript Programmers by Danny Goodman

Learning the iOS 4 SDK for JavaScript Programmers: Create Native Apps with Objective-C and Xcode is a good getting started book for the right audience. I sit on the border of being in that audience, but did still manage to learn lots, and enjoy doing so.

In the JavaScript world there is a continuum from copy and paste HTML types passing by library ciders (experts in something like Jquery but not much else) on through to the people who live and breath Crockfords JavaScript: The Good Parts. The guys on the left know a couple of bits of JavaScript but struggle to get beyond a for loop. The guys on the right will argue about prototypal and classical inheritance and the merits and weaknesses of dynamically typed languages. Learning the iOS 4 SDK for JavaScript Programmers is clearly aimed at the 80% in the middle of the list(with a tendency towards the non-hardcore). The hardcore JavaScript programmers will almost certainly get frustrated with some of the imprecise statements and comparisons. While the analogies help non-experts understand Objective C, they don’t always get the true prototypal functional nature of JavaScript described right.

I picked this up as a way of getting into iPad development. Using it as a followup from the last book I read — App Savvy. When getting the book I knew I wasn’t in the exact target audience having spent many years doing java before recently moving to more full time JavaScript. I’m also on the right hand (almost) expert/heavy nerd JavaScript guy and have a bit of an understanding of how it works as a language, and so found the book a little off the mark. That said, I definitely learnt heaps and found it a helpful read. The fact that I didn’t have to go through the full details of C syntax and the author leveraged my JavaScript knowledge to explain was a definite plus. Overall I’d definitely recommend the book to the 80% in the middle and cautiously recommend it to the right hard core JavaScript programmers.

App Savvy By Ken Yarmosh

App Savvy is a great book if you’ve got an idea for an iOS app or want to move into the space. It has a good introduction to the topics that you should be thinking about, presenting a strategy for how to produce a successful app.

I’ve recently received an iPad and can see some opportunity for Ephox on the platform. App Savvy has helped me frame my thinking around what this might look like, and how to go about producing a successful app. While the book suggests acting while reading, I’ve been using it as my background reading first. If I start moving forward with an app I expect to reread parts of the book. I’ve definitely been making copious use of the iBook highlight and bookmark functions as I’ve been reading.

One of the only drawbacks in what I’ve seen is that there is a little too much jumping around to different chapters as the author gets the mix of content flow and timelines right. I’m not sure if it was avoidable, but I did find it a little bit awkward at times.

Overall this is a good book, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking at putting together an iOS app.

A Thought On Dynamic Languages

Reading http://www.codecommit.com/blog/ruby/monads-are-not-metaphors got me thinking on a tangent not related to the article. The examples start in ruby then move to Scala. Daniel points out the difference between some of the scala and ruby code which led me to the following thoughts.

Duck type code encourages reading the source of methods to see the type requirements of params. This is  a good thing.

For this to work well methods need to be short and well written, another good thing. While this doesn’t negate the value of STRONG types, it does make the case for dynamic languages better.

The Art of Community – Jono Bacon

The Art of Community provides good coverage of community, helping readers to think about building a community and the tasks and work involved in doing so.

For me this book comes at a good time as I step into a new role at Ephox, leading our JavaScript and TinyMCE work, looking at getting involved with the TinyMCE community and thinking about how Ephox can best get involved with enterprise and the greater community.

Jono writes well making the book a good read, presenting his experience and thoughts very clearly and coherently.  The book makes good use of examples and is definitely readable. It struck me as useful in my early stages of thinking about community (myself being earlier in thinking than the community I’m getting into), and had information and examples pertinent to much bigger communities as well. I’ve highlighted and bookmarked many  pages in iBooks for my future reference, as I expect that the topics will come up in future communities that aim a part of. Many other parts matched and confirmed my experiences and conversations that I’ve had with different people about community in the past. In particular the comments around programmers and mailing lists rang true.

Overall I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the topic.  The Art of Community provides good information and food for thought around building communities.

O’Reilly Blogger Review Program

I’ve recently signed up for the O’Reilly Blogger Review Program at
http://oreilly.com/bloggers/. It’s pretty much an ideal setup for me since I end up having book reviews as most of my posts here anyway.

I’ll be putting posts in an O’Reilly Blogger Review category to try and make it obvious which ones they are. I’m obliged to be honest and real in my reviews which matches my style. I plan to be selective in my books to review so don’t be surprised if the reviews are positive. That’s more a comment on what I like to read and say than me being influenced by free books.