Developer's Reading List, March 13, 2012 The best books to recently roll of the presses cover malware analysis, test automation, C#, and programming your home.
This delightful book by Dr. Dobb's blogger Mike Riley contains 10 projects you can complete in your home. They include handy things like a Web-enabled light switch, a package delivery detector, curtain open/close automation, an Android phone-driven door lock, and the like. All the projects result in some kind of electrical or mechanical activity of value in the house. The style of the book is the same clear, informal tone Riley uses in his blog. And it's directed at the do-it-yourself crowd within the developer community (there's a bit of code in every project). Each project comes with complete directions, starting with basic explanations, and accompanied by photographs that show the projects at various stages of completion.
The hardware side of the projects rely on X10 controllers (which communicate via your house’s electrical wiring), Arduinos, or Android phones and tablets. The software component generally involves a short amount of code written in Java (for Android-resident software), Python, or the specific languages for the various devices. The code is clean and easy to follow.
My only complaint about the book is the Pragmatic Bookshelf's book-production values. Normally, I can abide their odd choice of fonts, the coarse paper, and the unwillingness to invest in proper illustrations. But on this book, because so much of the content is visual, these aspects significantly detract from the final product. Nonetheless, I found the book fun and at times a powerful nerd-stim agent, in the same way that Heathkit projects were to the generation before me—something useful you could assemble, build, and run in a day and impress your friends and family—with a dash of programming thrown in. Happily recommended! — A. Binstock