Alphascript

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A few new books

I’ve updated our books page a bit, adding the new books I know of at this point, adding links to authors sites and Google Books samples, etc. Please let me know what we’re missing.

A book I know nothing about, but from updating the books page I think I’ll get, is the OpenGL 4.0 Shading Language Cookbook. A reviewer on Gamasutra gives it strong praise, as do all the Amazon customer reviews.

One I’ve left off for now is Programming GPUs, which I expect is focused on computing with the GPU (no rendering), judging from the author’s background as a quant (his bio’s cute). I also left off a heckuva lot of books on using the Unity engine, to keep the list focused on direct programming vs. using higher-level SDKs.

Along the way I noticed a nice little blog called Video Game Math, by Fletcher Dunn and Ian Parberry, who recently released a second edition of their 3D Math Primer for Graphics and Game Development. Which is pretty good, by the way. My mini-review/endorsement: “With solid theory and references, along with practical advice borne from decades of experience, all presented in an informal and demystifying style, Dunn & Parberry provide an accessible and useful approach to the key mathematical operations needed in 3D computer graphics.” There’s an extensive Google Books sample of much of the first few chapters.

In the “old but awesome and free” category this time is Light And Color – A Golden Guide. Check it out before there’s some takedown notice sent out. Yes, it’s small, it’s colorful, and some bits are dated, but there are some pretty good analogies and explanations in there. No kidding. Lots more Golden Guides here (including, incredibly, this one).

I did find that there’s a new edition of “Real Time Rendering out, which was a surprise. The subtitle is the best: “Aalib, Aces of ANSI Art”. It’s even sold by Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. Happily, I couldn’t find it on Amazon, so maybe they’re scaling back on carrying these so-called books. This particular book is a paperback, and more expensive than the real thing (I like to think our’s is real – it’s the dash between “Real” and “Time” that keeps it real for me). Or I should say it’s more expensive unless you buy ours from these “double your intelligence or no money back” sellers. I believe this phenomenon is from computers tracking competitors’ prices and each one jacking up prices in response.

In case you missed my posts on Betascript Publishing, go here – short version is that they use a computer program to find related articles on Wikipedia, put on a cover (usually the most creative part of the process), and sell it. I’d be interested to know which book is better, their computer-generated one or my own Wikipedia-derived followup, GGGG:RTRtR (Game GPU Graphics Gems: Real-Time Rendering the Redux), reviewed by me here. I really should read my own book some day, there look to be some interesting Wikipedia articles in there.

Finally, I like the concept of book autopsies:

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I’ll get back to actual informational posts realsoonnow when I have some time, but I had to put this up immediately.

Amazon sent this one on to me, a book recommendation entitled Polygon Mesh: Unstructured Grid, 3D Computer Graphics, Solid Modeling, Convex Polygon, Rendering, Vertices, Computational Geometry. I am a bit sad there’s no cover image nor “Look Inside!” feature; it’s these little touches that no doubt would have convinced me to lay out $47 for such a fine-sounding volume, even though it’s only 88 pages long. The book Rasterisation: Vector Graphics, Raster Graphics, Pixel, Rendering, 3D Computer Graphics, Persistence of Vision, Ray Tracing by the same editor has a nice cover (though no “Look Inside!”), but at $62 is just a dollar too much for me.

The first of three editors for both books, Lambert M. Surhone, has 18,247 books that he’s worked on personally. Miriam T. Timpledon and Susan F. Marseken are also pretty productive, with 17,697 titles each. If they would only take a chance to break out and edit their own books, they could overtake Lambert in no time, I’m sure.

Welcome to Betascript Publishing. The idea is to grab (possibly) related Wikipedia pages, print them out, and put them in a book. More about this here. I don’t know who would buy such books, but I guess you need just 100 customers to net you perhaps $5000 or more. Peculiar. I expect with 18,247 titles, there are likely to be a hundred that sound like real books. The part that is sad to me is to see such books listed on foreign bookseller pages. I guess the good news is that the system works only once per customer, though I would guess the next step is to make 18,247 imprint names with 18,247 different editor names.

I thought the editors’ names were perhaps anagrams. Using the Internet Anagram Server, the first combination for each name is:

Lambert M. Surhone gives Blather Summoner

Miriam T. Timpledon gives Immolated Imprint

Susan F. Marseken gives Frankness Amuse

Probably just a coincidence. Anyway, I am frankly unamused by the idea of books automatically being produced, then automatically being recommended by Amazon, given that some people will undoubtedly pay for something they could get for nothing.

Now I just need an AI that will automatically buy these with robo-dollars and the cycle will be complete. Really, better yet would be to write a script that would automatically post a review for each one and note the content is free on Wikipedia. That would be the best automation of all.

Update: I wrote Amazon to complain. They reply (among other boilerplate sentences), “As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking.” They forgot the words “and pay us.” No one in their right mind seeks to pay for information they could get for free. It turns out Betascript is just one of three imprints under VDM Publishing – reading the Wikipedia article on VDM Publishing is fascinating, especially the discussion section. Amazon currently lists 38,909 Alphascript and 18,289 Betascript books, plus 321 books in German by Fastbook Publishing.

If you’re as disgusted by Amazon’s behavior as I am, I suggest two strategies: write and complain (and get a boilerplate response, but enough complaints might add up) by going here and clicking on Contact Us in the right column, and post 1-star reviews for any of these you run across, e.g., mine here – something to do while waiting for your code to compile.

Update: as of January 24th, 2011, Alphascript is up to 112,420 titles and Betascript has 230,460 titles. What a crock – shame on you, Amazon. Sadly, Miriam and Susan never caught up to Lambert: he has 230,535 titles to his name, while they each have only 69,395.

One more update: see my followup article here.

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