Computing Reviews
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  Best Reviews
  Also read: Notable Books & Articles  

Last year, Computing Reviews revived an old tradition by naming a best review, something that hadn't been done since 2002. We want to continue to highlight the excellent contributions of our reviewers to the publication, and have decided to keep the tradition going.

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 22 finalist reviews, which were evaluated by a small committee of category editors and our editor in chief. One best review and one honorable mention were chosen, and our committee noted the excellence of all of the finalist reviews.

The Best Review of 2013 is Maxine Cohen's review of the book Recoding gender. According to one of the selection committee members, Cohen provides "an interesting point of view on this important, and often overlooked, insight into the social history of computing."

The honorable mention is for Bernard Kuc's review of the book Inside solid state drives. The 22 nominees for best review follow, and we hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as we enjoyed choosing them.

Angela Condon
Managing Editor
Computing Reviews

   Overall Best Review


Recoding gender: women's changing participation in computing. Abbate, Janet. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012, 264 pp., ISBN 0262018063.
K.7 The Computing Profession
Review written by Maxine Cohen

This is a well-researched look at the history of women in computing from the beginning of digital computing (around the time of the Second World War) until the more modern age (the late 20th century). It looks at this history from both the American and British perspectives.

The book consists of five chapters: "Breaking Codes and Finding Trajectories: Women at the Dawn of the Digital Age"; "Seeking the Perfect Programmer: Gender and Skill in Early Data Processing"; "Software Crisis or Identity Crisis? Gender, Labor, and Programming Methods"; "Female Entrepreneurs: Reimagining Software as a Business"; and "Gender in Academic Computing: Alternative Career Paths and Norms." The research included a series of 52 oral histories from women conducted in 2001 and 2002. It is archived as part of the IEEE Global History Network ( There are also 60 pages of notes and an 18-page bibliography.

Having such a well-researched academic volume might give one the expectation that the material would be dry and boring. This is not the case at all. The book is filled with tidbits of history and fascinating reading. I found it interesting how, in the early decades of computing, women made up the majority of programmers. The precision required for the work seemed like a "natural" match for women. As the field redefined itself more in the direction of software engineering, the population of women dwindled and has never caught back up. An... more

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Reviewer Profile

Dr. Cohen joined Nova Southeastern University full time in February of 1996. Courses taught include Human-Computer Interaction, Multimedia Systems, The Internet, and Data Base Systems. Previously, she was an adjunct professor while working full time at IBM Boca Raton in the User Centered Design department. Her responsibilites included usability testing and design for mobile products, including speech, pen and personal digital assistants. Before moving to Florida, she worked at IBM in Endicott, New York in the Human Factors department. Before joining IBM, she worked in the CS department...

Read more about Maxine...


  Best Reviews Nominees

Honorable Mention

Hardware (B)
Inside solid state drives (SSDs). Micheloni, Rino; Marelli, Alessia; and Eshghi, Kam. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, Dordrecht, the Netherlands, 2013, 399 pp., ISBN 9400751451.
Review written by Bernard Kuc

Few areas in computing hardware have seen a surge in advancement comparable to what the field of solid state drives (SSDs) is currently experiencing. Until recently, disk storage enjoyed only small incremental improvements while processing power grew exponentially. The arrival of mass market... more


General (A)
Nine algorithms that changed the future: the ingenious ideas that drive today’s computers. MacCormick, John. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2012, 248 pp., ISBN 0691147140.
Review written by Edgar Chavez

Since the latter part of the 20th century, computers have penetrated our daily lives to the extent that without them, a modern industrialized society is practically inconceivable, as is much of the rest of daily life. But computer science, being a young science, has not gotten to the point... more


Computer Systems Organization (C)
Next generation wireless LANs: 802.11n and 802.11ac (2nd ed.). Perahia, Eldad; and Stacey, Robert. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2013, 480 pp., ISBN 1107016762.
Review written by Klaus Galensa

The terms wireless local area network (WLAN) and Wi-Fi are synonyms for the successful IEEE 802.11 family of standards. Many people do not realize how this standard has developed over the past 15 years. The original 802.11 standard allowed only gross data rates... more


Software: Software Engineering (D.2)
The essence of software engineering: applying the SEMAT kernel. Jacobson, Ivar; Ng, Pan; McMahon, Paul E.; Spence, Ian; and Lidman, Svante. Addison-Wesley Professional, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2013, 352 pp., ISBN 0321885953.
Review written by Janusz Zalewski

This is a difficult book to review. First, the title implies that it covers "the essence of software engineering," which I consider an exaggeration. The content is definitely related to the discipline, but in a different sense. It has more relevance to software development and project management... more


Software: Programming Languages (D.3)
Data structures and algorithms in Python. Goodrich, Michael T.; Tamassia, Roberto; and Goldwasser, Michael. Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, NJ, 2013, 748 pp., ISBN 1118290275.
Review written by Edgar Chavez

Designed for use in introductory- or intermediate-level courses in data structures and algorithms, this book has modest prerequisites: familiarity with high school mathematics and an acquaintance with some procedural or object-oriented programming language, by which the authors mean having... more


Software: Operating Systems (D.4)
The official Ubuntu Server book (3rd ed.). Rankin, Kyle; and Hill, Benjamin Mako. Prentice Hall Press, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2013, 600 pp., ISBN 0133017532.
Review written by Graham Jenkins

If you want to build a new Linux workstation, there is a fair chance that you would install an Ubuntu distribution or one of its variants such as Xubuntu. But to build a server, you would use a Red Hat distribution or a derivative like CentOS, wouldn't you? The Kickstart mechanism available... more


Data (E)
Interference cancellation using space-time processing and precoding design. Li, Feng. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated., New York, NY, 2012, 108 pp., ISBN 3642307116.
Review written by Klaus Galensa

Cellular communication networks are interference limited rather than noise limited. Interference differs from noise in that it is caused by other devices, such as other mobile devices using the same network. Whereas noise can be overcome by increasing transmission power, interference would be... more


Theory of Computation (F)
Lambda calculus with types. Barendregt, Henk; Dekkers, Wil; and Statman, Richard. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2013, 854 pp., ISBN 0521766141.
Review written by Sara Kalvala

A popular program on BBC Radio here in the UK is Desert Island Discs, where well-known personalities talk about their lives while choosing eight music tracks they consider significant. They also are asked to decide which book they would take with them to this island... more


Mathematics of Computing: Numerical Analysis (G.1)
Approximation theory and approximation practice. Trefethen, Lloyd N. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia, PA, 2012, 318 pp., ISBN 1611972396.
Review written by Kai Diethelm

Many of the numerical algorithms used in today's scientific computing are built on results from classical approximation theory. However, in spite of its significance, activities in this area have suffered a noticeable decline since the late 1990s. The fact that numerous new textbooks in approximation theory... more


Mathematics of Computing: Discrete Mathematics (G.2)
Analysis of friendship network and its role in explaining obesity. Marathe, Achla; Pan, Zhengzheng; and Apolloni, Andrea. ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology 4, 3 (June 2013), 1-21.
Review written by Hamid Noori

Obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, is a preventable disease that results from changes in dietary and physical activity patterns, which in turn can be a consequence of environmental and societal changes. Moreover, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 500 million adults... more


Database Management (H.2)
Understanding high-dimensional spaces. Skillicorn, David B. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2012, 117 pp., ISBN 3642333974.
Review written by Harry Strange

When analyzing data, looking at an item in isolation reveals very little of interest. It is only when the item is viewed in context and in relation to other items that patterns emerge and understanding is possible. This principle is at the heart of data analysis and represents the foundation of... more


Information Storage and Retrieval (H.3)
A semantic Web primer (3rd ed.). Antoniou, Grigoris; Groth, Paul; Van Harmelen, Frank; and Hoekstra, Rinke. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012, 296 pp., ISBN 0262018284.
Review written by Denilson Barbosa

The semantic web is one of the largest recent endeavors in computing science. It promises a much better future where computer agents can help humans harness the knowledge and resources available online. Some argue that this is yet another doomed effort to realize... more


Information Interfaces and Presentation (H.5)
Analyzing user-generated YouTube videos to understand touchscreen use by people with motor impairments. Anthony, Lisa; Kim, Yoojin; and Findlater, Leah. [in CHI 2013. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, (Paris, France, April 27, 2013), ACM, New York, NY, 2013, 1223-1232.]
Review written by Ganapathy Mani

People with disabilities face considerable challenges when using touchscreens. The authors of this paper investigate how well touchscreen devices work out of the box, evaluating the extent to which they affect interaction and how disabled users adapt to improve usability. They assembled a... more


Artificial Intelligence (I.2)
Quantum models of cognition and decision. Busemeyer, Jerome R.; and Bruza, Peter D. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2012, 424 pp., ISBN 110701199X.
Review written by H. Van Dyke Parunak

Quantum theory arose in the late 19th and early 20th century as a result of experimental results that were paradoxical in light of classical physics. Classical models predicted that a hot body (such as a star) should emit infinite energy, contrary to observation, and... more


Computer Graphics (I.3)
Understanding visualization: a formal approach using category theory and semiotics. Vickers, Paul; Faith, Joe; and Rossiter, Nick. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics 19, 6 (June 2013), 1048-1061.
Review written by H. I. Kilov

The authors of this paper present a simple, elegant top- level business model of visualization using a combination of basic concepts from semiotics and category theory. The model may be used as a framework for understanding visualization and reasoning about it. Category theory (often together with... more


Image Processing (I.4)
Digital image forensics: there is more to a picture than meets the eye. Sencar, Husrev Taha; and Memon, Nasir. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2013, 378 pp., ISBN 1461407567.
Review written by Harry Strange

Society as a whole has developed a dependence upon digital media, however there is often more to it than meets the eye. Marcel Proust once wrote: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." The ubiquity of digital cameras in modern-day life has provided... more


Simulation and Modeling (I.6)
Ontology, epistemology, and teleology for modeling and simulation: philosophical foundations for intelligent M&S applications. Tolk, Andreas, (Ed). Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2013, 392 pp., ISBN 3642311393.
Review written by Anthony J. Duben

Modeling and simulation are commonplace in the scientific investigation of laboratory experiments and natural phenomena, economic systems, and engineering projects. They are used to explain what is being observed and to make predictions about future measurements and observations. Often, they are the only means... more


Document and Text Processing (I.7)
Stylin' with CSS: a designer's guide (3rd ed.). Wyke-Smith, Charles. New Riders Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2012, 320 pp., ISBN 0321858476.
Review written by Yousri El Fattah

The standard for cascading style sheets (CSS) was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to give both website developers and users more control over how pages are displayed. A web page is a document on the World Wide Web, and a style sheet is a file or form that defines the layout of... more


Computer Applications (J)
Infobiotics: information in biotic systems. Manca, Vincenzo. Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2013, 402 pp., ISBN 3642362222.
Review written by Sara Kalvala

In my experience, experimental biologists are developing an increasing ease with computational tools in their research. In a recent meeting I attended on microbiology and infection, most of the talks had some component of bioinformatic analysis. However, with the exception of bioinformatics software, it seems... more


Computing Milieux (K)
Recoding gender: women's changing participation in computing. Abbate, Janet. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012, 264 pp., ISBN 0262018063.
Review written by B. B. Owens

Today, women hold less than 20 percent of the positions in computer science and programming. The detailed research for this book chronicles the shifting role gender has played in this field. In addition to her meticulous references, the author interviewed 52 women during the ten years she spent working... more


History of Computing (K.2)
The universal machine: from the dawn of computing to digital consciousness. Watson, Ian. Copernicus Books, New York, NY, 2012, 367 pp., ISBN 364228101X.
Review written by Mario Antoine Aoun

This interesting popular science book sheds light on important works and key figures in the world of computing. It starts with the early work of Charles Babbage, progresses to recent achievements in the fields of computer science (CS) and information technology (IT), and ends with a glimpse of future... more


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