books

Soft Skills by John Sonmez

Soft Skills (Jon Sonmez)

Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual by Jon Sonmez is a great set of advises about every aspect of programmer’s career and life. Take a look at the book content:

  1. Career
  2. Marketing yourself
  3. Learning
  4. Productivity
  5. Financial
  6. Fitness
  7. Spirit

This book is not a source of truth for everything, but it may give you useful ideas for some particular aspects of your career and life. John is explaining that programmer’s career is not only about coding. I especially like the fact that this book is not only about the work/career oriented things, but it puts work and life together. John explains the importance of living a healthy life (exercise and diet), and how this will help you with your career. He also showcases how to manage your finances throughout your career, and the importance of thinking “long term”.

For more, check reviews on Amazon and GoodReads.

Enjoy!

Have you read this book? What do you think? Share your opinions in comments!


Basecamp books: Getting Real, Rework and Remote

Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web ApplicationRework (David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried)Remote: Office Not Required (David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried)

Recently I read 3 books written by founders of Basecamp (formerly 37 Signals): David Heinemeier Hansson (creator of Ruby on Rails framework) and Jason Fried:

Getting Real was written almost 10 years ago, and it talks about the same things as most recent Remote. So you can skip it. However Rework, and Remote are definitely worth to read. They present the new(?) approach for work, and productivity.

Rework focuses on pragmatic ways to improve your (and your company) productivity.

Remote presents how remote working can be applied in your company. All Basecamp employees are remote workers. My key takeaways:

  • working remotely helps to better manage interruptions (nobody is going to step by with “quick question”)
  • you can manage your hours more flexibly: workout in the middle of the day? no problem
  • you live pretty much everywhere, and save up a lot of time on daily commute

Of course authors present ideas that works for them, and may not necessary work for you. However, I am sure you will appreciate more than one of their advises.

This is one of my favorites quotes from Remote:

remote - quote

As a teaser you can watch Jason Fried’s Ted talk: Why work doesn’t happen at work. I also recommend David’s talk: Unlearn Your MBA (from Stanford University).

Both Rework, and Remote goes to my favorite books list.


Agile Principles, Patterns, and Practices in C#

Agile Principles, Patterns, and Practices in C# (Robert Martin)

Agile Principles, Patterns, and Practices in C# by Uncle Bob is the best book about modern Software Development I have ever read.

First section (chapters 1-6) is an Overview of Agile, Extreme Programming (XP), and TDD. Very good introduction to modern software development. Chapter 6. shows all these techniques by example, by creating “The Bowling Game” application.

Section 2. is dedicated to SOLID principles, and UML diagrams. Former is described very succinctly, while latter is non-detailed overview of the most important parts with advises how to treat UML diagrams: not as documentation, but rather as a tool for explaining and expressing our thoughts to others (e.g. during the meetings on white board).

Section 3. and 4. is an overview (with examples and very good explanations) of design patterns, and case study of sample Payroll System application. In the case study, authors shows how to use TDD, UML, SOLID principles, and design patterns in the development process.

I really enjoyed this book. Even I knew most of the topics (UML, SOLID, design patterns), this book helped my to systematize my knowledge, and ensure that TDD is NOT dead.

I think this book should be required book for Software Engineering course at every college.

I strongly recommend this book. It is going to my favorite books list.


The Mythical Man-Month

The Mythical Man-Month cover

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering is a classic book about software engineering, and project management. It was written 40 years ago, and most part of it is obsolete, but at the same time some parts are still valid.

Very interesting observation made by the author is that Software project management is not much different than project management in other disciplines, because it is all about the people, their skills, communication, scheduling, and time estimation.

Because this book was written 40 years ago (based on the project accomplished 50 year ago!), most chapters describe Software Development based on waterfall methodology (the best way of making software at that time). Additionally, 40 years ago most of software was written in Assembler. Author mentions High-Level languages as possible future of Software Development. Besides that, I recommend this book. It shows that instead of 50 years past, we still have very similar problems (communication, error-prone software, estimation issues etc.), and we still struggle with finding “The Silver Bullet”.

I recommend to read last 4 chapters first:

  • 16 – No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accident
  • 17 – “No Silver Bullet” Refired
  • 18 – Propositions of The Mythical Man-Month: True or False?
  • 19 – The Mythical Man-Month after 20 Years

This will give you an overview of “no longer valid” facts. Then start reading from the beginning, keeping in mind what is no longer true.

Chapters 1 and 2 are good introduction to this book, but (especially chapter 2) currently obsolete. Chapter 4 (Aristocracy, Democracy, and System Design) is still actual. Chapter 7 (Why Did the Tower of Babel Fail?) is about communication in Software Projects, and IMO still worth your attention.

In general I would recommend this book as a history lesson. Not necessary as a must-read book for programmers.


Programming Pearls

Programming Pearls

Just as natural pearls grow from grains of sand that have irritated oysters, these programming pearls have grown from real problems that have irritated real programmers.

I just finished reading Jon Bentley’s book: Programming Pearls. I read this book after Scott Hanselman’s and Jeff Atwood’s recommendations.

The problems analyzed in this book are still actual. However, I think that today programmers face slightly different challenges. Most of the problems described in this book are already solved in the libraries, or not often existing anymore (e.g., pretty printing on the console). I read the 2nd edition published in 1999, and most of problems require update to nowadays environments. For example: variable naming suggest the need to save the memory. E.g., l, u, x.

int binarysearch1(DataType t)
{	int l, u, m;
	l = 0;
	u = n-1;
	for (;;) {
		if (l > u)
			return -1;
		m = (l + u) / 2;
		if (x[m] < t)
			l = m+1;
		else if (x[m] == t)
			return m;
		else /* x[m] > t */
			u = m-1;
	}
}

In the interview (“Epilog to second edition”), the author argues that programming style he used should not be used in large software projects. Let’s take this excuse.

Book overview

Part I is a set of useful, general advises how to tackle programming problems. One caveat: nowadays we use unit testing instead of assertions and “scaffolding” (described in chapter 5). However, it might be useful in some environments with some particular circumstances.

Part II is about performance. Chapter 6 describe different optimization techniques. Although the tips are useful, today we are doing optimization on higher levels. I wonder if at least 1% of today programmers would be able to improve program performance, by rewriting assembly code. Anyway, this chapter shows that performance improvements can be done on different levels: algorithms, data structures, system architecture, underlying software, and even hardware. I like chapter 9, where author presents some very sophisticated tricks.

Part III (Columns 11-15) is about algorithms. Although it shows interesting analysis and fundamental algorithms (for sorting, and searching), I would rather recommend some solid algorithms book (e.g. Introduction to Algorithms by Cormen et al).

Summary

Programming Pearls shows which parts of software development changed, during last 15 years, but some parts of this book still remain valid. Moreover, this book is a good history lesson showing by example the advancement in software and hardware.

This book has many references to Steve McConnell’s Code Complete, and The Mythical Man-Month. These books are on my to-read list for some time, and I will definitely read them in the near future.