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Daycounter Book Reviews

As a prolific reader of non-fiction engineering, technology, and business books, I find it hard to keep track of the books that I've read, and the lessons learned.  Also I have the tendency to forget that I've read a book, especially a bad one, and need a way of recording what I've read and what I haven't read.  Hopefully this list will be useful to others. 

I've rated each book with the following 3 ranks:

  • Buy It
  • Borrow It
  • Skip It



Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder , by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This is one of the most most imporant books I've read over the last decade.  This is a must read for any entrepreneur, investor, or person who wants to understand what is wrong with our institutions.  This reveals the secrets to wealth creation, and prosperity, and how to have a good life.  The book is philosophical, and so you have to apply the teachings to your own situation, but it lays the foundation. I'd recommend getting the audiobook, as it's easier to think about what's beeing said as you listen.  The gist is that there are 3 properties to systems that can be exploited - fragility: the property of things which degrade with chaos, anti-fragility: the property of things that improve with chaos, and robust: the property of things that are insensitive to chaos.  To incrase wealth look for optionality, things with big upside and little or no down side.  Many options are free and occur in nature, and so we overlook them. Exploit bar bell distributions, and ignore opportunities with mediocre returns.  For example, invest 90% in something very stable, and then invest another 10% in something very antifragile. Some examples of optionality that I've come up with are using contractors instead of employees, time sharing equipment by purchasing it with partners, using mentors, friendship and invitations to events, precious metals.  All of these things have huge upside if we chose to excersise the option, and very little if we don't.  Options can appreciate with time, and if they don't no harm done. This explains what is wrong with big institutions and why they are destined to fail.  Anyone who reads this book will arrange his children to be taught as apprentices rather than going to college.

(Read Feb, 2013)

Buy It
Contagious: Why Things Catch On , By Jonah Berger.

I was skeptical when I started the book given the author's backround in accademia, but this was very good and very useful book. He hand intersting storys and examples to illustrate his point. I especially liked the chapter on triggers. I like the comments that it is in our nature to share, and it gives us social currency to do so. This is a must have for any person who wants to be a viral marketer, or understand how virality works.

(Read May, 2013)

Buy It
Transforming Your Go-to-Market Strategy: The Three Disciplines of Channel Management, by V. Kasturi Rangan

This is essentially a useless textbook with no practical application, or real world entreprenurial application. Here's the gist. You can sell direct to the customer, to retailer, to a broker or to a distributor. Doesn't everyone already know that? He also doesnt' touch on MLM as a posibility. There are also some antedotes and case studies about giante companies like Del or GM. Whom is this book supposed to benefit? It useless for entreprenuers, and big companies have to much inertia to change their channels. The author is apparently a professor at Harvard, yet he doesn't state that he has any sort of real world experience marketing anything. I skimmed this because it was so boring. Heaven help this guy's poor students who have to read this crap, and sit through his lectures.

(Read Feb, 2013)

Skip It

BRAND is a four letter word: Positioning and The Real Art of Marketing, by Austin McGhie.

Style over substance. I skimmed it as, there wasn't much depth to the material, or anything very useful. Seemed like it was an ego book. (Hey look I'm such an expert, that I wrote a book.)

(Read Feb, 2013)

Skip It
Group Dynamics for Teams

by Daniel Levi.

Overly accedemic, and essentially a very boring text book. Because it is so dull, it likely that the reader will remember any of the good points made by the book. It's almost instantly forgettable as a book, which is a shame because it's such an important topic. Nearly everyone will have to deal with group dynamics in their life. Why not throw in some storys, interesting quotes, interesting history and study to spice it up.

(Read May, 2013)

Borrow It




Analog Filter Books

Analog and Digital Filter Design, Steve Winder, ISBN: 0-7506-7547-0. Is a good survey book, and high level overview. Not much math, or derivations. Good at telling you when to use the various topologies, and the design approach. I would have bought it but it was pricey.

Buy It

Design of Analog Filters, Rolf Schaumann, ISBN: 0-19-511877-4. Great book with good derivations, very practical, well written, easy to follow. I bought this.

Buy It
Active Filter Cookbook, Don Lancaser, ISBN: 0-7506-2986-X. Okay book, very concise, a bit out dated. Cheap.

Buy It

Digital Design Books

VHDL : Programming By Example , Douglas L. Perry, ISBN: 0-07-140070-2. Very good book. Good examples, and good explanations. After reading this book, I was able to quickly implement some VHDL designs. Worth buying as a reference book.

Buy It

Verilog HDL Synthesis, A Practical Primer, J. Bhasker, ISBN: 0-9650391-5-3. A bit too concise. A questionable buy.

Skip It
Advanced Digital Design with the Verilog HDL (2nd Edition) , Michael Ciletti, ISBN: 0-13-089161-4. Okay, but not great. Still looking for a good verilog book.

Skip It



Motor Control

Motor Control Electronics Handbook, Valentine, ISBN: 0-07-066810-8. Very good and extensive book. Has schematics, and is extensive with 700 pages. Worth buying.

Buy It

Stepping Motors: A Guide to Theory and Practice (Control Engineering) , ISBN 0- 85296-029-8. Decent little book. Explains some concepts that are sometimes difficult to understand. Not sure I'd buy.

Borrow It

Electric Motors and Drives: Fundamentals, Types and Applications , Huges, ISBN: 0-7506-1741-1. Not a lot of useful information. No circuits. Just high level overview. Don't buy.

Skip It


Power Supply and Transformer Design

Power Supply Cookbook, Second Edition (EDN Series for Design Engineers) , Marty Brown, ISBN: 0-7506-7329-X, Practical, and concise. Well worth the price. Buy it.

Buy It
Switching Power Supply Design, Abraham I. Pressman, ISBN: 0-07-052236-7 , Comprehensive and very well written. Covers all of the important topologies. Buy this!

Buy It
Switchmode Power Supply Handbook, Keith Billings, ISBN: 0-07-006719-8, Well written, good book, very practical and comprehensive. However, I like the Pressman book better. Buy this!

Buy It
Transformer and Inductor Design Handbook, Colonel Wm. T. McLyman, ISBN: 0-8247-5393-3. This is a very practical book, on the subject. It contains lots of practical advice on how to select your transformer, for various power supply topologies. It is very well written, and has very good illustrations. You can tell that this guy has actually designed transformers, and isn't just regurgitating other academic material. Buy this one if you can afford it - it's pricey.

Buy It

Handbook of Transformer Design and Applications , William M. Flanagan, ISBN:0-07-021291-0. Very disappointing. Not practical. Poorly written. Most people these days are designing switching mode power supplies, and this book doesn't say much about the subject. Don't buy.

Skip It

Handbook of Transformer Design and Applications, William M. Flanagan, ISBN:0-07-021291-0. Very disappointing. Not practical. Poorly written. Most people these days are designing switching mode power supplies, and this book doesn't say much about the subject. Don't buy.

Skip ItIt

RF and Antenna Books

RF Circuit Design , Chris Bowick. ISBN: 07506-7244-7. This is one of the best RF books out there on the subject.  It holds your hand through the complex process of using Smith charts, and S parameters. It gives a great explanation of how to create matching circuits. I just which that the book had been longer, and covered other topics in such great detail. If you are going to buy an RF book, buy this first.

Buy It
Build Your Own Low-Power Transmitters: Projects for the Electronics Experimenter , Graf and Sheets, ISBN: 0-7506-7244-7. Very good Book! Has lots of different lower frequency transmitters for AM, FM, and TV. Lots of working examples with actual component values, and very good circuit descriptions. Buy this one.

Buy It
Antenna Theory and Design, 2nd Edition, Warren Sutzman and Garry Thiele, ISBN 978-0471025900. Good book that doesn't get bogged down with excessive math. Well written and coherent. Covers good topics.

Buy It
Antennas , Kraus, ISB: 0-07-112240-0. This is the Antenna Bible. Buy this one!!

Buy It
Antenna Engineering Handbook, Richard Johnson, ISBN:0-07-032381-X. Decent as a handbook. Somewhat disjoint.

Borrow It

Foundations of Interconnect and Microstrip Design , Edwards and Steer, ISBN: 0-471-60701-0. This is a decent book. Has some accurate formulas for microstrip design. Has an emphasis on intra-chip connections. I'm not sure I'd buy.

Borrow It
RF Circuit Design: Theory & Applications (2nd Edition) , Reinhold Ludwig ISBN, 0-13095327-7. More of a text book. Good explenation of 2 port parameters. Lots of math., not much real circuit design.

Borrow It
Microwave and Rf Design of Wireless Systems , David Pozar. ISBN 978-0471322825 . Decent book. Discusses system level RF design, as well as lower level topics such as S-parameters, Friis Equation, etc.

Borrow It
Antenna Handbook , Y. T. Lo, S. W. Lee. ISBN 978-0442015923. Great book if you like doing 3D integrals. Nearly pure math without descriptive text. Has some good tables of theoretical antenna properties. It would be better with some real world examples

Skip It
Microstrip Antenna Design Handbook (Artech House Antennas and Propagation Library), Garg, Bhartia ISBN:0-89006-513-6. This is an incomprehensible, disjoint, dump of integral equations. Might be good for someone who already was an expert in the field. A fairly useless book from a design point of view. Don't buy.

Skip It
Microstrip Antennas: The Analysis and Design of Microstrip Antennas and Arrays, Pozar and Schambert, ISBN: 0-7803-1078-0. This is just a dump of journal articles.

Practical RF Handbook, Hickman, ISBN: 0750653698. Terrible, useless book. Nothing but vague block diagrams and vague descriptions.

Skip It
RF Design Guide Systems, Circuits and Equations, Vizmuller, ISBN 0-89006-754-6. Terrible, vague book, no useful circuits

Skip It
Practical Rf Design Manual, Doug Memaw, ISBN: 1-891237-00-4. Okay book, but not great. Some useful circuits. A little math.

Skip It


Science and Physics

Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization , Adrian Bejan, ISBN: 978-0385534611

This is an interesting and controversial book. People seem to either love or hate it. On the negative side, the author is clearly trying pat himself on the back, and to position himself as someone who should be lauded as a great mind of science. The book is highly redundant as well. By the end of the first chapter we get it that trees promote flow, but he keeps hitting us over the head with this idea, and re-explaining it. He's also a bit preachy with his views of atheism. My biggest critisism were the drawings and figures. They reminded me of the aweful and confusing drawings physics teachers would make on the black board. Even his picture of throwing a stick into the water to be fetched by a dog, or the picture of a carrot were confusing, or even the picture of a log in the water made no sense. For heavens sake, if he wants to get aclaim for a new theory he should hire a graphic illustrator to do the drawings, and they should be in 3D perspective, not 2-D with cross sections.

On the plus side it truly changes the way you thing about the world, or at a minimum gives you another way of thinking about it.

The constructural law as stated in the book is this: "For a finite size flow system to persist in time (to live), its configuration must evolve in such a way that provides easier accesss to the currents that flow through it."

He claims that since this is a law, it is more than being descriptive it is also predictive, and that it applies across many disciplins from biology, to thermodynamics and sociology.

Turns out that for point to surface flow systems, a tree structure is most efficient. Thus river deltas, lava flows, organizations, networks, lungs, blood vessles and of course trees all look like trees.

Flow systems that are surface to surface look like a tree with roots.

Interesting facts: Dogs will fetch a stick in a lake such that they maximize running and minimize swimming. Large animals are more efficient at carrying mass, and also schools of fish and flocks of birds are more efficient. Heat sinks should have a tree structure. Animals flap or stride at the rate of M to the 1/6th power, where M is their mass. Tree's are water pumps that transmit water to the atmosfer. Forests are optimally configured to maximize water flow. Evolution uses the constuctural law as a optimisation criterion. The golden ratio is appealing because our vision is has a similar aspect ration, and this increase the flow of information. Penne past will self organize and orient itself upright to allow steam to flow through it. Ice bergs and logs orient perpendicular to the wind to maximize momentum transfer from wind to see. Black markets are developed because normal channels of flow are blocked. Most languages follow Zipf's law, where the the second ranked word is half as common as the first, and the third is 1/3 as frequent as the first.

I've given it some thought, and come up with some of my own thoughts on the subject namely:

Seem like there should be a corollary as follows: If you come across a tree structure, something is or was flowing.

In any system ask what is flowing, what is the optimal flow pattern, and if an inefficiency is found then exploit it.

Ebay and Amazon are both tree with root structions. Orders and money flow one way, and product the other way. Both buyers and sellers are more efficient being part of the hierachy rather than going at it alone.

Borrow it


Mechanical Engineering

Dudley's Handbook of Practical Gear Design and Manufacture, Second Edition  by Stephen P. Radzevich (Apr 2, 2012)

This is the best comprehensive book of gear design, I've found.  Well written and cohesive.  Most other books on the subject, are fractured, and look like they were written by different people. This is the one to get for designing gears.

Buy It

Software and Programming Books

Developing USB PC Peripherals , Wooi Ming Tan, ISBN:0-929392-64-7. Very out of date. Deals with win 98 only. Is mainly just a dump of some sample code. Is very short - only about 80 pages.

Skip It

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