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Jolt Awards

12th Annual Jolt and Productivity Awards

Effective Java
by Joshua Bloch
(Addison-Wesley, 2001)

One of the best things about developing in Java is that you don't have to worry about low-level details like memory allocation and deallocation, threads and string concatenation. Unfortunately, this can also be one of the worst things about developing in Java. Joshua Bloch's book offers an antidote to the guilt that comes from working in high-level languages without knowing what's happening behind the scenes: It lays out exactly what the Java Virtual Machine can and can't be expected to do.

The book consists of 57 sections, each of which offers advice for achieving Java happiness (for example, "Item 8: Always override hashCode when you override equals."). The content is divided judiciously, so that the items stand more or less independently, yet are usefully grouped into thematic chapters. The book is packed with hard-won lessons. The first chapter, "Creating and Destroying Objects," will resonate with C++ programmers who want to understand in fine detail how Java handles the construction and destruction of objects, and lays out common memory-related pitfalls. The proper use of threads is explained masterfully in a chapter made of a list of six pithy items.

Joshua Bloch, author of Effective Java

Juicing up a potentially dry subject, Effective Java unveils the strategy behind the design of the Java standard libraries. Making good use of his experience as Java platform libraries architect at Sun Microsystems, Bloch tells of the Java creators' successes and mistakes in designing extensible APIs. He points out more than one case where a less-than-optimal choice was frozen into the supported libraries since removing it would violate upward compatibility. Understanding the root of these "mistakes" means that we don't have to learn about them the hard way.

—John Reitano

Agile Software Development
by Alistair Cockburn
(Addison-Wesley, 2001)

Every revolution needs a manifesto—and an apologia. In the current rebellion against heavyweight, formal methodologies, Kent Beck's Extreme Programming Explained (Addison-Wesley, 1999) was the manifesto, and Alistair Cockburn's Agile Software Development the apologia. While XP fired the imagination of developers, Cockburn's book suggests that software development is driven by communication and cooperation, that every company has a methodology whether they know it or not, and that it behooves a company to adapt its methodology to the needs of its business and the strengths of its employees. This hardly sounds like a revolution at all—just common sense.

—Larry O'Brien

Software Craftsmanship
by Pete McBreen
(Addison-Wesley, 2001)

While the concept of software engineering, now some 30 years old, is valid for massive, multiyear projects, Pete McBreen postulates that it's not applicable to the way most software is made today: by small teams wielding tools that ameliorate the mechanical problems of yesteryear. The first part of McBreen's paean to the apprentice-journeyman-craftsman educational model focuses on replacing the engineering metaphor; a series of interesting anecdotes about the artistry, intuition and conviction behind many famous engineering triumphs provides compelling support for his view. McBreen goes on to describe how to empower masterful programmers—who should have roughly 15 years of experience building and maintaining applications—to take ownership of their work, mentor their juniors and collaborate effectively.

—Alexandra Weber Morales

Under Pressure and On Time
by Ed Sullivan
(Microsoft Press, 2001)

It's not often that you get an unvarnished look inside the workings of a successful development shop. And yet that's exactly what Ed Sullivan delivers in Under Pressure and On Time, a book with sound guiding principles for software project management. Sullivan was the development center director at Compuware's NuMega Lab, the team that brought us BoundsChecker, among other products. In Under Pressure and On Time, Sullivan covers everything from hiring and organizing the team members to recommendations on requirements elicitation, tools selection, development and release. His writing is thoughtful and concise, but his insightful anecdotes from his NuMega experiences are what make this book both useful and fun.

—Robert Del Rossi

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