Just one geek's opinions and epiphanies

LEGO Technic Idea Books


As we grow up and get more mature some things become taboo and thought childish if to be partaken in as an adult, LEGO building being one of these activities. Let's be honest, every time you see a pile of LEGOs all you can really think about is digging in and seeing what you can build in the time available. Maybe a car, maybe a house, maybe the final battle of Mordor from Lord of the Rings? But alas, this is taboo.

In the fight against adulthood No Starch Press has come forward with a beacon of hope, a shining sword thrown directly into the heart of the beast that is adulthood, and sent it running, that sword? LEGO Technic Idea Books. A three part series that simply shows you more about LEGOs than you really ever thought about.

The three books are Simple Machines, Wheeled Wonders, and Fantastic Contraptions. They focus heavily on the Technic line of LEGOs but a lot of the stuff in all three books can be done without any Technics pieces at all.

Written by 42 year LEGO building veteran Yoshihito Isogawa, known for computer manuals he wrote while at Tokyo University of Science, and two time grand prize winner of Japan Manual Contest held by the Japan Technical Communicators Association.

If you are looking for long words, this is not a set of books for you. Comprised of hundreds of full color photos of LEGO pieces and how they fit together, and their purpose there is hardly a word past the intro of the books. This is pleasant as it means even your kids (yeah, they play with LEGOs too) can pick up the books and flip through them and learn a thing of two.

I was particularly impressed with the note to parents explaining that playing with LEGOs and praising the works of your children can be a strong relationship, and educational tool. I think it is great that they remembered that geeks have kids too!

I personally will find hours of enjoyment and success thanks to these books from No Starch Press, and I hope you will pick these up too and learn with me.

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Art of Assembly Language, 2nd Edition


I am always amazed at the books that No Starch Press suggests for us to review, and The Art of Assembly Language truly wasn't even on my radar. When it was suggested to me I couldn't resist the opportunity to break out of high level coding and dive into Assembly.

Wikipedia says of Assembly:

Assembly languages are a type of low-level languages for programming computersmicroprocessorsmicrocontrollers, and other (usually) integrated circuits.

Sweet! This book will teach me how to work with microprocessors and microcontrollers! That is what I thought, and I was close.

The Art of Assembly Language from No Starch Press covers the basics of all low level programming but has a pretty heavy slant toward intel based CPUs. With support for Linux, Mac and Windows, and even FreeBSD.

The book is big, heavy and full of knowledge. It covers the HLA (High Level Assembly) which is the best match of high level coding with low level code. The author, Randall Hyde, starts with the absolute basics explaining what each part of the controller (cpu) is and what it is meant for. He explains why things are setup the way they are and even how things have changed over the history of computing.

If you are asking yourself why you need to pick up this book, take this quick little survey:

  • Have you ever wondered how a computer actually works?
  • Do you ever dream in code?

If you answered yes to either of those then you probably want to go get this book right now.

The Art of Assembly really opened my eyes to what goes on in the underbelly of the computer, and I have a better understanding of why my code works now. Learning HLA has truly been an experience, and it is one I think the whole world of programmers should have.