Computing Reviews
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  Best Reviews
  Also read: Notable Books & Articles  

In the past, Computing Reviews named an annual best review & the last one was published in 2002. In order to highlight the excellent contributions of our reviewers to the publication, we decided to bring the Best Review back this year!

Throughout the year, our dedicated category editors rate each review on several criteria, including technical accuracy, summarization of the thesis and content of the item being reviewed, timeliness, and how interesting the review is overall. In addition, the category editors recommend items for highlight during the year. We used these rankings and highlight nominations to help us narrow down the list of finalists. We also considered various site metrics, including how many times the review was read and whether it was recommended by readers. Once the nominees were narrowed down, we sent each category editor a list of the reviews in his or her area. We asked each category editor to choose the review that was the most interesting and influential—one that we could hold up as an example of a best review. We ended up with 18 finalist reviews, which were evaluated by a small committee of category editors and our editor in chief. One best review was chosen, and our committee noted the excellence of all of the finalist reviews. In addition to the best review, our committee chose one review as an honorable mention: Data-driven business decisions by Fernando Berzal.

The 18 nominees for best review follow, and we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed choosing them.

And now, for the winner...

The Best Review of 2012 is the review of The universal computer by George Hacken. According to one of the selection committee members, Hacken managed to transform a review of a pure theory of computation book to look like a review of a novel. He continued, "What could be a better representation of a Computing Reviews review than a review of a book about pure computing?"

Angela Condon
Managing Editor
Computing Reviews

   Overall Best Review


The universal computer: the road from Leibniz to Turing. Davis, Martin. A. K. Peters, Ltd., Natick, MA, 2011, 240 pp., ISBN 1466505192.
K.2 History of Computing
Review written by George Hacken

Davis states in the last chapter of this book that the "connection between logic and computation has been a principal theme of this book." I've always been "in violent agreement" with those who assert that connection, but now my agreement is a hundredfold more informed. Examples constructed by the author and explained in this narrative history made many ultra-technical things clearer to me than they had ever been, including concepts such as Cantor's transfinite arithmetic and diagonalization process, certain specifics of the Hilbert program, Gödel numbers, and Turing quintuples and machines. The subtitle's "road from Leibniz to Turing" is traced in the chapter titles: "Leibniz's Dream," "Boole Turns Logic into Algebra," "Frege: From Breakthrough to Despair," "Cantor: Detour through Infinity," "Hilbert to the Rescue," "Gödel Upsets the Applecart," "Turing Conceives of the All-Purpose Computer," "Making the First Universal Computers," and "Beyond Leibniz's Dream."

The brief epilogue should not be missed, nor the preface and introduction. Those I'll call the protagonists—Leibniz, Boole, Frege, Cantor, Hilbert, Gödel, and the climactic hero Turing—are known to one extent or another from other sources that are largely disconnected. The book's thread also includes a set of appropriately placed and mostly indispensable giants in their own right who comprise the context and also the—forgive me—glue-logic of the main narrative and its branches: Aristotle, Pascal, Huygens, Newton, Kant, Gauss, Babbage, Lovelace, Russell, Kronecker, Dedekind, Weierstrass, Peano, Brouwer, Post, Weyl, Poincaré, von Neumann, Eckert, and others. All but the most hardheaded code-jockeys among us share some part of Leibniz's dream... more

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Reviewer Profile

Sputnik, the very first artificial satellite, was launched from Kazakhstan almost a half-century ago. This unexpected event sent shockwaves through the US's math-science public education establishment. George Hacken was in high school, and was lucky enough to pass the exam for a Sputnik-inspired extracurricular IBM/Joe Berg Foundation course in discrete math (whose textbook was Kemeny, Snell, and Thomson's Finite mathematics). As must be true of many CR readers, he never got over it, that is, over logic and discrete math.

He majored in physics (AB and PhD) at Columbia, where he stayed on as a researcher until 1976, and enjoyed with fellow students and post-docs the reflected glory of his thesis sponsor's 1975 Nobel Prize. ...

Read more about George ...


  Best Reviews Nominees

Honorable Mention

Mathematics of Computing: Probability and Statistics (G)
Data-driven business decisions. Lloyd, Chris J. Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, NJ, 2011, 516 pp., ISBN 0470619600.
Review written by Fernando Berzal

Chris J. Lloyd, from the Melbourne Business School in Australia, stresses the important role of data in understanding business outcomes. In his book, you will not find a thorough treatment of machine learning and data mining techniques, nor will you find a conventional... more


Hardware (B)
Reconfigurable networks-on-chip. Chen, Sao; Lan, Ying; Tsai, Wen; and Hu, Yu. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2011, 216 pp., ISBN 1441993401.
Review written by Jun Liu

As the density of very large-scale integration (VLSI) increases, on-chip communications are required to accommodate the data exchange between heterogeneous functional elements on a single die. Traditional bus-based communication schemes cannot keep up with the ever... more


Computer Systems Organization (C)
A multidisciplinary introduction to information security. Mjølanes, Stig F. Chapman & Hall/CRC, Boca Raton, FL, 2011, 348 pp., ISBN 1420085905.
Review written by Patriciu Victor-Valeriu

Nowadays, the study of information security involves being aware of a broad range of domains, including mathematics, computer science, telecommunications, and social sciences. Information security focuses on how the information processed in computers and... more


Software: Programming Techniques (D.1)
Learn Java for Android development. Friesen, Jeff. Apress, Berkeley, CA, 2010, 656 pp., ISBN 1430231564.
Review written by A. Squassabia

My first impression of this book was irritation: the title implies a broad exposure to Android, but such exposure is in fact virtually absent from the index or the table of contents. The prefatory text pays lip service to the mobile platform, and the content ignores it almost ... more


Software: Programming Languages (D.3)
Modern Fortran: style and usage. Clerman, Norman S.; and Spector, Walter. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2011, 352 pp., ISBN 052173052X.
Review written by David B. Henderson

For me, the word "Fortran" brings back nostalgic memories of coding sheets, late nights, and really bad coffee. Things have changed a lot in 40 years, and so has Fortran. No longer uppercase only and a fixed layout, modern Fortran code doesn't look very different from any... more


Data (E)
RC4 stream cipher and its variants. Paul, Goutam; and Maitra, Subhamoy. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, FL, 2011, 311 pp., ISBN 1439831351.
Review written by S.V. Nagaraj

Cryptography is a hot topic these days due to its use in securing communications. Ciphers used in cryptography are generally classified as block ciphers and stream ciphers. Block ciphers operate on blocks of data, while stream ciphers operate on bits of plaintext. Stream ciphers... more


Theory of Computation (F)
The nature of computation. Moore, Cristopher; and Mertens, Stephan. Oxford University Press, Inc., New York, NY, 2011, 1032 pp., ISBN 0199233217.
Review written by Hector Zenil

If there were an encyclopedia of computational complexity, this would be the first--and perhaps only necessary--volume. The book contains more than 900 pages and covers a large number of deeply related subjects ranging from discrete mathematics to quantum... more


Mathematics of Computing: Numerical Analysis (G)
Low rank approximation: algorithms, implementation, applications. Markovsky, Ivan. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2011, 266 pp., ISBN 1447122267.
Review written by Corrado Mencar

Low rank approximation (LRA), a general approach for discovering linear models of data, applies to a wide range of problems in many disciplines, including computer science (CS) and engineering. It is therefore an instructive approach to teach in undergraduate courses... more


Information Systems: Database Management (H)
Dark Web: exploring and data mining the dark side of the Web. Chen, Hsinchun. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, London, UK, 2012, 477 pp., ISBN 146141556X.
Review written by P. Navrat

Chen's monograph is a very detailed (yet understandable), up-to-date account of research into one very specific area of the Web. The term "dark Web" refers to Web content generated and used by international terrorist groups. It includes not only Web sites, but also... more


Information Systems: Information Storage and Retrieval (H)
Mining the social Web: analyzing data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. Russell, Matthew A. O'Reilly Media, Inc., Sebastopol, CA, 2011, 360 pp., ISBN 9781449388348.
Review written by M. Bielikova

The social Web enhances the traditional Web of content with social relations that link people together. As people's activities and interactions on the Web increase, it becomes more interesting to analyze their social relationships together with the content they provide. At the same... more


Information Interfaces and Presentation (H.5)
It's our research: getting stakeholder buy-in for user experience research projects. Sharon, Tomer. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., San Francisco, CA, 2012, 288 pp., ISBN 0123851300.
Review written by S.L. Fowler

It's a rare book that makes me nearly miss my subway stop. I often read technical material on my commute from the Staten Island Ferry to my office on 39th Street, and I usually find myself yawning as I plod through another tiresome report. Not with this book, though! More than once... more


Artificial Intelligence (I.2)
Foundations of machine learning. Mohri, Mehryar; Rostamizadeh, Afshin; and Talwalkar, Ameet. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012, 480 pp., ISBN 026201825X.
Review written by L. State

Although machine learning is one of the newer major scientific domains, a tremendous number of papers have already been published, reporting progress in both theoretical research and practical developments. We have also seen a series of outstanding books... more


Computer Graphics (I.3)
Face geometry and appearance modeling: concepts and applications. Liu, Zicheng; and Zhang, Zhengyou. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2011, 320 pp., ISBN 0521898412.
Review written by Alyx Macfadyen

Liu and Zhang present a comprehensive and systematic survey of techniques for computational vision systems. Human vision systems are complex enough, but face image processing is particularly challenging because creating believable and engaging systems still... more


Simulation and Modeling (I.6)
On the mathematics of modelling, metamodelling, ontologies and modelling languages. Henderson-Sellers, Brian. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2012, 115 pp., ISBN 3642298249.
Review written by Anthony J. Duben

Although this book is slim (only slightly more than 100 pages), it is not lightweight. It is a thoroughly researched and insightful essay on the mathematical bases of modeling and ontologies. Taking a critical approach, the author emphasizes the role of modeling languages... more


Document and Text Processing (I.7)
HTML5 mastery: semantics, standards, and styling. Bradford, Anselm; and Haine, Paul. Friends of ED, New York, NY, 2011, 316 pp., ISBN 1430238615.
Review written by Herman Fischer

The title hits the subject of this book right on the mark. Most reviews start with some dry stuff about the technology, subject, and success of authors in communicating, but here is a book that helped me with the sociology and philosophy of Hypertext Markup Language 5... more


Computer Applications (J)
Algorithms in structural molecular biology. Donald, Bruce R. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2011, 464 pp., ISBN 0262015595.
Review written by Shrisha Rao

It is hardly news to any scientifically literate person--especially in the computing sciences--that there is a lot of interest in the use of computers for molecular biology. The successful sequencing of the human genome during the previous decade, largely due to the... more


Computing Milieux (K)
Applied information security: a hands-on approach. Basin, David; Schaller, Patrick; and Schläpeer, Michael. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2011, 216 pp., ISBN 3642244734.
Review written by Jeffrey Putnam

Information security failures usually get lots of attention. Some organization or Web site gets attacked, and hundreds of thousands of passwords or a spreadsheet full of sensitive user information gets released. Or the information falls into the hands of people with fewer... more


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