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We at Computing Reviews feel it is important to highlight the excellent contributions of our reviewers to the publication, and are happy to bring you the 20th annual best review.

Read more about our selection process.
  Best Review of 2015

About Marlin Thomas

Marlin Thomas directs the Samuel Rudin Academic Resource Center at Iona College, New Rochelle, NY, where he also teaches as an adjunct in the Department of Computer Science. His research interests include the history of computer science, the ethical implications of information technology, and programming languages. In addition, he is the author of several plays that have been produced in New York City.

Read more about Marlin...

Alan Turing: the enigma
Hodges A., Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2014. 768 pp. ISBN 978-0-691164-72-4.
K.2 History of Computing
Review written by Marlin Thomas

Rereading and reviewing a biography more than 30 years after its first publication subjects the work to the added scrutiny of evaluating it on its own terms and in relation to all that has happened since its first appearance. Not many books can withstand that double scrutiny; this book, however, does. Its division into logical and physical sections, its balancing of intellectual and personal history, its comfortable yet scholarly voice, and its attentiveness to social and historical context are as fresh, engaging, and insightful as they were three decades ago. The biography has not been rendered obsolete by the passage of time; rather, the passage of time reveals how strong of a work it is. The newly written foreword, a model of both breadth and concision, enhances the stature of the work and serves as a summary as well.

The book’s structure is chronological, but each data point on the time line is an occasion for analysis, historical perspective, intellectual portraiture, and biographical detail. For example, the first chapter situates the Turing family socially between landed gentry and the commercial class, and records Turing’s early interest in science. The accumulation and depth of evidence that is brought to bear on that interest, such as reproducing in full a note that includes an organic compound formula, comes close to moving from the thorough to the ... more

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  Best Reviews Nominees of 2015

Honorable Mention

Data Encryption (E.3)
Introduction to modern cryptography (2nd ed.)
Katz J., Lindell Y., Chapman & Hall/CRC, Boca Raton, FL, 2014. 603 pp. ISBN 978-1-466570-26-9.
Review written by Alasdair McAndrew

In contrast to many introductory cryptography texts, this one concentrates on the theory of cryptography: what is in fact meant by security? How can security be measured? What are the conditions under which a cryptosystem (or hash function, or any other cryptographic primitive) can be said...


Honorable Mention

Complexity Measures and Classes (F.1.3)
Computational complexity via finite types
Asperti A. ACM Transactions on Computational Logic 16(3): 1-25, 2015.
Review written by Jacques Carette

Undergraduate-level computer science can feel disjointed at times: for example, at that level, one feels that operating systems and programming languages are entirely separate subdisciplines, whose practitioners have apparently never spoken to one another. The same feeling repeats itself...

Types and Design Styles (B.7.1)
Programming the quantum future
Valiron B., Ross N., Selinger P., Alexander D., Smith J. Communications of the ACM 58(8): 52-61, 2015.
Review written by Hector Antonio Villa-Martinez

In a digital computer, the basic unit of information is the bit, or binary digit. A bit can only take one of two values: zero or one. On the other hand, in a quantum computer, the basic unit of information is the quantum bit, or qubit. And unlike the classical bit, the value of a qubit ...


Computer-Communication Networks (C.2.0)
The book of PF (3rd ed.): a no-nonsense guide to the OpenBSD firewall
Hansteen P., No Starch Press, San Francisco, CA, 2014. 248 pp. ISBN 978-1-593275-89-1.
Review written by G. K. Jenkins

PF is a packet filter developed originally on the OpenBSD operating system, and now also available on NetBSD, FreeBSD, and FreeBSD derivatives such as DragonFly BSD. It can be used to control access to your network, mitigate spam attacks, redirect traffic, and manage failover provisioning...


Management (D.2.9)
Building great software engineering teams: recruiting, hiring, and managing your team from startup to success
Tyler J., Apress, New York, NY, 2015. 168 pp. ISBN 978-1-484211-34-2.
Review written by Fernando Berzal

It is commonly accepted in the software engineering field that “the best programmers are up to 28 times better than the worst programmers, according to ‘individual differences’ research. Given that their pay is never commensurate, they are the biggest bargains in the ...


Language Classifications (D.3.2)
Ruby on Rails tutorial: learn web development with Rails (3rd ed.)
Hartl M., Addison-Wesley Professional, Old Tappan, NJ, 2015. 744 pp. ISBN 978-0-134077-70-3.
Review written by Raghvinder Sangwan

David Heinemeier Hansson released Ruby on Rails in 2004. Known as Rails, it is a model-view-controller (MVC) framework for developing web applications using standards such as JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and Extensible Markup Language (XML) for data transfer; Hypertext Markup Language...


Systems Programs and Utilities (D.4.9)
The GNU make book
Graham-Cumming J., No Starch Press, San Francisco, CA, 2015. 256 pp. ISBN 978-1-593276-49-2.
Review written by Edgar R. Chavez

The Unix make utility was designed to automate the building of executable files from source code files. It is especially useful in projects where changes are made to different source code files and in projects that need to build or maintain different versions of an executable ...


Approximation (G.1.2)
Digital Fourier analysis: advanced techniques
Kido K., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2014. 178 pp. ISBN 978-1-493911-26-4.
Review written by George Hacken

If there was ever a “gift that keeps on giving” to the most esoteric of mathematico-physical theories or to the most pragmatic of engineering practice, it is Fourier analysis. (On my bucket list is someday to discover, in principle from Georg Cantor’s original papers...


Probability and Statistics (G.3)
Willful ignorance: the mismeasure of uncertainty
Weisberg H., Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, NJ, 2014. 452 pp. ISBN 978-0-470890-44-8.
Review written by H. Van Dyke Parunak

No empirical assertion is absolutely certain, and scientific progress has always required assessing the degree of uncertainty associated with a claimed result. To most researchers trained in the last 50 years, this assessment takes the form of attaining a significance level (the probability...


Systems and Information Theory (H.1.1)
Model emergent dynamics in complex systems
Roberts A., SIAM, Philadelphia, PA, 2014. 760 pp. ISBN 978-1-611973-55-6.
Review written by H. Van Dyke Parunak

The beginning of the 20th century saw several revolutions in physics, including quantum theory with its strange dualism of waves and particles, relativity with its invocation of nonintuitive geometries, and the intractability of conventional mathematics for dealing with nonlinear system...


Content Analysis and Indexing (H.3.1)
Improving the user experience through practical data analytics: gain meaningful insight and increase your bottom line
Fritz M., Berger P., Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., San Francisco, CA, 2015. 396 pp. ISBN 978-0-128006-35-1.
Review written by David G. Hill

Usability (UX) researchers who want to apply classical statistics to their everyday decision making will benefit from reading this how-to guide. UX researchers learn how to make data-based decisions, such as for moderated usability studies, unmoderated usability studies, and surveys....


User Interfaces (H.5.2)
Ways of knowing in HCI
Olson J., Kellogg W., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2014. 472 pp. ISBN 978-1-493903-77-1.
Review written by M Sasikumar

The title aroused my curiosity, so I took this book for review expecting to find different types of knowledge and their representation in the context of human-computer interaction (HCI). The book was not about this “knowing.” Nonetheless, I was fascinated by what the book...


Algorithms (I.1.2)
The (weighted) metric dimension of graphs: hard and easy cases
Epstein L., Levin A., Woeginger G. Algorithmica 72(4): 1130-1171, 2015.
Review written by Lalit Saxena

Metric dimension (MD) optimization algorithms require computation in such areas as network verification, mastermind games, metric and digital geometry, image digitization, robot navigation, drug discovery, and combinatorics problems. The authors tend to simplify these polynomial-time ...


Deduction and Theorem Proving (I.2.3)
Decision making under uncertainty: theory and application
Kochenderfer M., Amato C., Chowdhary G., How J., Reynolds H., Thornton J., Torres-Carrasquillo P., Üre N., Vian J., The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2015. 352 pp. ISBN 978-0-262029-25-4.
Review written by R. M. Malyankar

The roots of decision theory and decision making under uncertainty can be traced to Blaise Pascal, if not earlier. Modern studies in the domain date to the 1920s and 1930s, generally in the context of economics or the nascent field of operations research. The last several decades have ...


Three-Dimensional Graphics and Realism (I.3.7)
Learning Blender: a hands-on guide to creating 3D animated characters
Villar O., Addison-Wesley Professional, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2014. 352 pp. ISBN 978-0-133886-17-7.
Review written by Burkhard Englert

Creating 3D animated characters is a difficult task that can greatly benefit from proper software support. Blender is such a 3D animation software system. There are currently many other such systems available, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. Blender’s main strengths ...


Models (I.5.1)
Cognitive computing and big data analytics
Hurwitz J., Kaufman M., Bowles A., Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, NJ, 2015. 288 pp. ISBN 978-1-118896-62-4.
Review written by H. Van Dyke Parunak

The claim that a system is “cognitive” can mean one of two very different things. For a half-century, the artificial intelligence (AI) research community has used the term to refer to approaches that mimic human mechanisms in reasoning. In this historic sense of the term...


Model Development (I.6.5)
Modeling and simulation of computer networks and systems: methodologies and applications
Obaidat M., Zarai F., Nicopolitidis P., Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., Waltham, MA, 2015. 964 pp. ISBN 978-0-128008-87-4.
Review written by Jeffrey Putnam

Modeling and simulation are often crucial steps in understanding systems. By modeling a system before it is built, we can often get clues about problems, inefficiencies, and weaknesses. Even when the models are flawed, they can provide hints about how best to approach problems. And some...


Document Capture (I.7.5)
Unsupervised document structure analysis of digital scientific articles
Klampfl S., Granitzer M., Jack K., Kern R. International Journal on Digital Libraries 14(3-4): 83-99, 2014.
Review written by Jill Gemmill

A fully automated approach to analyze PDF scientific articles and parse them into correctly ordered sections and extra metadata is described in this paper. The result is the text, in correct order, from the body of the work, along with a table of contents drawn from titles and subtitles...


Physical Sciences and Engineering (J.2)
Bayesian probability theory: applications in the physical sciences
von der Linden W., Dose V., von Toussaint U., Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2014. 672 pp. ISBN 978-1-107035-90-4.
Review written by George Hacken

I did not know enough, a half century ago, to decide between being a frequentist or being a Bayesian at the time an application of Bayes’ theorem forced itself into my physics thesis. Of course, “as everyone knows,” that theorem is agnostic with respect to those two ...


Computer and Information Science Education (K.3.2)
Foundation mathematics for computer science: a visual approach
Vince J., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2015. 334 pp. ISBN 978-3-319214-36-8.
Review written by Naga Narayanaswamy

This book offers a fantastic exposition of mathematical concepts, including “number systems, algebra, logic, trigonometry, coordinate systems, determinants, vectors, matrices, geometric matrix transforms, [and] differential and integral calculus.” A fascinating visual method...


Software Management (K.6.3)
15 fundamentals for higher performance in software development: includes discussions on CMMI, lean Six Sigma, agile and SEMAT’s essence framework
McMahon P., PEM Systems, 2014. 336 pp. ISBN 978-0-990450-83-2.
Review written by Srini Ramaswamy

Readers will find a good bridge between real-world practice and theoretical guidelines and measures for software process improvements for practicing professionals in this book. It begins by highlighting that collectively we fall short of achieving sustainable performance improvements in...


Personal Computing (K.8.0)
Games-to-teach or games-to-learn: unlocking the power of digital game-based learning through performance
Chee Y., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2015. 190 pp. .
Review written by J. M. Artz

Albert Einstein is credited with the following assertion about education: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” There are several variations on this theme attributed to other pundits, and it reflects a view of education that used...


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