I.M. Wright’s “Hard Code” 2nd Ed

Author:  Eric Brechner
Publisher: Microsoft Press, 2nd Ed, 2011
ISBN: 978-0735661707
Aimed at: Software developers and managers
Rating: 4
Pros: A sometimes entertaining insight into the world of Microsoft
Cons: Tends to be repetitive; necessarily cliquey
Reviewed by: Sue Gee

This book originated as a collection of the author's in-house columns at Microsoft. Does it work?

How do you turn a collection of rants and blogs into a book about best practice?

In this case the answer is take the material, almost as it originally appeared, and organize it into a chapter structure by topic and date of origination.

The rants were published initially on a Microsoft webzine intended for in-house consumption by developers and managers. Brechner only agreed to do it under a pseudonym - and so I. M. Wright's Hard Code first saw the light of day in June 2001. It continues to this day and can be found on MSDN blogs.

This edition has an additional 42 blogs covering the period since publication of the first edition up to May 2011 and the new material is spread evenly among the book's ten sections. The author's approach and tone hasn't changed so the comment that appears in our review of the first edition still stands:

His style is entertaining and comedic, without being too over the top, and the chances are that on a number of occasions you’ll disagree vehemently with what he’s saying: I certainly did. But that’s actually a considerable part of the value of the book, as it challenges you, the reader, to think about what you’re doing and how you might improve it.


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Although this is a Microsoft-centric book, there is much that every developer will appreciate in it. The title is perhaps misleading. This is not a book that presents any code. Rather it is about the practice and process of software development. about issues of personal career, being a member of a team and managing people and. project software and management.

You can form a good impression of what to expect by a glance to at section headings and some of the latest blog titles:

  • Project Mismanagement
    • Right on schedule
    • Coordinated agility
  • Process Improvement, Sans Magic
    • Am I bugging you? Bug reports
    • Cycle time - The soothsayer of productivity
  • Inefficiency Eradicated
    • De-optimization
  • Cross Disciplines
    • Test don't get no respect
  • Software Quality - More than a Dream
    • Crash dummies: Resilience
    • Nailing the nominals
  • Software Design If We Have Time
    • My experiment worked! (Prototyping)
  • Adventures in Career Development
    • The new guy
    • Making the big time
  • Personal Bug Fixing
    • I messed up
    • You're no bargain either
  • Being a Manager and Yet Not Evil Incarnate
    • Hire's remorse
    • Spontaneous combustion of rancid management
  • Microsoft, You Gotta Love It
    • NIHililism and other innovation

To quote again from our earlier review:

If you’re the sort of developer, or manager, that is passionate about your work, then you’ll find this book interesting and thought provoking.

Of course, if you read the original edition and have been following the blog ever since then there's nothing extra other than the convenience of having a total of ninety one rants gathered together.



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Alan Turing's Electronic Brain

Author: B. Jack Copeland
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 592
ISBN: 978-0199609154
Audience: Historians of computing
Rating: 4.5
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead

Alan Turing didn't have an electronic brain, but he did try to build one.



Teach Yourself Java in 24 Hours

Author: Rogers Cadenhead
Publisher: Sams, 2010
Pages: 432
ISBN: 978-0672335754
Aimed at: Complete beginners
Rating: 3
Pros: A reasonable introduction for those prepared to work at it
Cons: Desire to be comprehensive presents difficulties
Reviewed by: Alex Armstrong

Java in 24 hours - well only if those 24  [ ... ]


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