Manga Guide to Cryptography
October 9th, 2018
The Manga Guide to Cryptography by Masaaki Mitani, Shinichi Sato, Idero Hinoki is a rather improbable book. Can you really teach crypto, a notably math heavy subject, through a graphic novel? The answer is: sorta.
Lego Power Functions Idea Books
October 6th, 2018
If you have a kid who loves Legos, or are a Lego nut who just loves Legos (or both, like me), then you know about the Technic line, a set of kits with motors and gears for building crazy contraptions. My son and I both love them.
ScratchJr Coding Cards
October 6th, 2018
If you haven't used it before, Scratch is a programming environment for teaching kids. It's a real programming system with loops and conditionals, but it uses visual blocks rather than textual syntax, making it *far* easier for kids to learn. Recently the Scratch team created Scratch Jr, a simpler version for younger kids that runs on tablets like the iPad. One of the problems with Scratch and Scratch Jr is that once you have completed the in-app tutorials you are left to your imagination to come up with new things to build. Some kids need a bit more guidance. That's where No Starch Press' ScratchJr Coding Cards come in.
Fluke, by Christopher Moore
August 6th, 2018
I just finished reading Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore. I’m a fan of Christopher Moore. I really love his mixture of humor and the fantastic. I consider him a modern day Douglas Adams. Lamb is an amazing book that I encourage everyone to read. But Fluke? Well, Fluke fell short. While it was mostly enjoyable it had some major flaws that sort of ruined it for me. Needless to say. Spoilers are coming.
Lego Technic Guide v2
November 15th, 2016
Master Builder, Paweł “Sariel” Kmiec, has written several Lego books, but this one has to be my favorite. I reviewed the first edition of the Lego Technic Builder's Guide nearly four years ago, and I can say I'm very happy with the new second edition update. It keeps everything that made the first edition good: a comprehensive look at Technic Lego pieces while secretly giving you a course in mechanical engineering. The second edition not only adds more models and diagrams, but also four new chapters on wheels, planetary gearing, 3D printing, and the RC system. Speaking of which, why did Lego discontinue that? I'd love an RC Lego car.
Geeky Lego Crafts
October 5th, 2016
Finally No Starch Press has made the LEGO book I've been waiting for. Geeky Lego Crafts: 21 Fun and Quirky Projects by David Scarfe is the perfect LEGO book for kids and adults. This nicely hardbound book covers a bunch of silly crafts from the decorative: ghosts, ducks, and Tetris kitchen magnets, to amusingly useful: floppy disk coasters, a key shaped key chain rack, and a flame shaped toast holder, among other quirky items. The photos are nice and the instructions are very clear.
Tiny Lego Wonders
July 15th, 2016
No Starch Press just sent me a new book in their ongoing Lego series called Tiny Lego Wonders: Build 40 Surprisingly Realistic Mini-Models. This book covers building tiny but highly detailed models of vehicles. Their design is clever and the finished models are adorable. Most importantly this isn't just a photobook. Each model comes with complete building instructions.
The Manga Guide to Physiology
January 11th, 2016
When I first picked up this book I thought it was for kids; similar to No Starch Press’ other comic science series: Survive! Inside the Human Body. I was completely wrong. This is real physiology at the high school to early college level. I’ve learned quite a bit by reading through the book, and I’m a 40 year old engineer who reads constantly.
ThreeJS Cookbook Review
February 28th, 2015
Among the too many things I’ve done recently, I was a tech reviewer for a new WebGL book from Packt author Jos Dirksen called the Three.js Cookbook.
Beautiful Lego 2: Dark
December 13th, 2014
The follow up to last year’s Beautiful Lego, Mike Doyle brings us back for more of the best Lego models from around the world. This time the theme is Dark. As the book explains it: “destructive objects, like warships and mecha, and dangerous and creepy animals… dark fantasies of dragons and zombies and spooks” I like the concept of a theme as it helps focus the book. The theme of Dark was stretched a bit to include banks and cigarettes, and vocaloids (mechanical japanese pop-stars), but it’s still 300+ gorgeous pages of the world’s best Lego art. Beautiful Lego 2 is filled to the brim with Zerg like insect hordes, a lot of Krakens, and some of the cutest mechs you’ve ever seen.
60sec Review: Rust Language
September 17th, 2014
Lately I've been digging into Rust, a new programming language sponsored by Mozilla. They recently rewrote their docs and announced a roadmap to 1.0 by the end of the year, so now is a good time to take a look at it. I went through the new Language Guide last night then wrote a small ray tracer to test it out.
60s Book Review: TinkerCad
August 4th, 2014
TinkerCad is a free web based CAD program. It runs entirely in the browser using WebGL, so you’ll probably want to use it with Chrome (I think Safari may work in Yosemite+). TinkerCad is meant for novice CAD users. So novice that you can know absolutely nothing about CAD and be able to make something after five minutes of their built in learning quests (tutorials). Then you an save your creation to their cloud or download it for 3D printing.
60 Sec Book Review: Physics of the Impossible
August 2nd, 2014
Michio Kaku, the science popularizer and theoretical physicist, is always a wonderful speaker. I’ve greatly enjoyed his TED talks. In _Physics of the Impossible_ he takes on the many improbable technologies of science fiction to determine if they are in fact impossible. Surprisingly, few truly are. He divides technologies into three levels of impossible: likely today or in the next 20 years with existing science (ex: replicators), likely in the next hundred or so without violating any known laws of physics (shockingly, time travel is in this bunch), and the truly impossible without some new laws of physics. There are very few things in the last category. It’s an easy read and lots of fun.
Lego Is Art: Beautiful Lego
November 27th, 2013
No Starch Press is on a roll with its series of Lego themed books. While most of them are about model ideas or construction techniques, Beautiful Lego is different. This is a Lego art book. In classic coffee table style it is filled with gorgeous photos to thrill the reader. Beautiful Lego does not seek to discuss 'can Lego be art', but takes it as fact. These are works by artists, just artists using the medium of Lego instead of paint or clay, and the results speak for themselves. Stunning.
Review: Practical Computer Vision
February 5th, 2013
The idea of computer vision has always fascinated me. The ability to get from a plain image to an understanding of it's contents seems magical. Though I understand a bit of the underlying math, to build my own computer vision system would take years of study. Fortunately, this book and an open source library come to the rescue.
The Unofficial Lego Technic Builder's Guide
December 19th, 2012
Most book publishers don't really have a 'brand'. You buy a book because of the title or the author. No one cares who Stephen King's publisher is. However, every now and then a publisher comes along who simply makes cool books. A publisher who's books I will buy regardless of the title or author. No Starch Press is one such publisher.
Book Review: Arduino Cookbook
September 22nd, 2012
Book Review: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
August 22nd, 2012
As regular readers know I have recently jumped into Arduino and hardware hacking full-time. One of the things which fascinates me is the idea of monitoring our environment. I mean not only the global environment but also our own local spaces. Sensors and computation are incredibly cheap. Network access is almost ubiquitous. This means we can easily monitor our world and learn interesting things by analyzing simple data points over time.
Book Report: World of Ptavvs
December 6th, 2011
Book Report: Princess of Mars
November 20th, 2011
I've always meant to go back and read some of the really old scifi that people have always talked about but I've never read. Now is finally that time. As a fan of mainly 50s through 70s (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Niven), I've rarely read anything earlier than the late forties. (Jules Verne being a notable exception.) My goal is not so much to read the novels for pure enjoyment, but to determine if they really are worth of their place in history? Were they really that good? Did scifi get better? Has it gotten worse again? In that spirt, lets the the time machine to 1917.
Book Report: Hackers & Painters by Paul Grahm
November 6th, 2011
I'm home all by myself this weekend (the missus took the baby to CA to visit family for a few days) so I am at long last catching up on some reading. Today's book is