Friday, 13 November 2009

Writing: Respect the Software Release Process

The November issue of ACCU's CVu magazine is out now. It contains my latest Professionalism in Programming column, "Respect the Software Release Process".

I felt a little Wordly when I designed the cover for this issue. Thanks to the postal strike in the UK, I got the printer's cover proof for the magazine after the full printed magazine landed on my doormat!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Book Review: iPhone Games Projects

Name: iPhone Games Projects
Author: Dave Mark PJ Cabera
Publisher: APress
Price: $39.99
Pages: 258
Reviewed by: Pete Goodliffe
Verdict: OK
This is the second book I've reviewed in this Apress iPhone series (the first being "iPhone Cool Projects"). The book has many of the characteristics of the first: it is full-colour throughout, contains clear writing, beautiful presentation, and relatively good copy editing. It hangs together about as well as the other book, too, which is "mostly".

It is a series of 8 distinct essays by different "expert" (a relative term on such a new platform) iPhone game developers. The tone and approach of each chapter is therefore different.

The collection of topics covered is OK, but doesn't spread over the entire broad spectrum of game topics: there are TWO essays on networking, TWO essays on optimisation, one on multi-platform development (interesting in an "iPhone" book), one on writing a design document, and a walkthough of a simple board game.

There are many more topics that might have been interesting chapters to have in this type of book: a 3D graphics primer, when/how to select a third party games engine, considerations for getting your game noticed in the app store, and more.

There are some recurring themes: a few authors suggest prefering C over Objective-C (for obvious reasons). There is some discussion of why C is "better" than C++ which is (to a C++ programmer) unbalanced, and misleading.

As ever, the source code to each project is available from the Apress website. The quality of some of the code is quite variable.

If you want to write an iPhone game this book might be an interesting read, but I wouldn't suggest that every iPhone game programmer HAS to buy it. Some sections of it have far more value than others. In fact, I think overall you'd get more milage from the "iPhone Cool Projects" book since it covers a broader range of topics. I'm left feeling that the two books rolled into one would probably have been a better product. And I'm still not convinced that the title is even gramatically correct.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Book Review: Pro Git

Name: Pro Git
Author: Scott Chacon
Publisher: APress
Price: $34.99
Pages: 265
Reviewed by: Pete Goodliffe
Verdict: Highly Recommended
It's not often I start a book review with glowing praise. This time, I will: if you use the git ( version control system, or are thinking of using git in the future, get this book. It's excellent.

Pro Git available online from (or git clone the book's source from This means that you can read it for free before considering a purchase. Indeed, that's where I started. However, I highly recommend the dead tree version. Apress' production quality is excellent and the paper copy is defintely a valuable thing to have.

The book is an excellent introduction to using git; it's perfect for newbies, and a good reference for existing users. It starts from first priniciples. That is, it describes what git is, and what a distributed version control system is. It briefly introduces version control in general, but that is really prerequiste information.

The text is well paced, and very clearly written. The examples are well chosen and the coverage of git's facilities is broad.

The author starts with installing/configuring git and outlines the basic git principles. He covers basic operations (check in, clone, viewing logs, tagging). Then he moves onto git's crowning glory: branching and merging. This potentially tricky topic is covered very well.

The book also covers running a git server, sensible workflows to tame distributed collaboration, useful/advanced git facilities (stashing, amending history, binary searches, subtree merging, client- and server-side hooks), and using git with other version control systems. In particular, there is good coverage of using git as a more advanced subversion client.

The final chapter is particularly useful: a great overview of git internals. This sounds relatively pointless when you've covered most git usage already. However, this is a great chapter - the author explains what's going on under the covers in such a way that you gain a much better insight into how all the high-level git operations work.