Technical Books I have read in 2016

I have always enjoyed reading books about Programming. From books that lead you to take your first tentative steps with a new language to ones that take you on a deep dive into the world of particular feature. I especially enjoy ones that discuss language agnostic programming concepts such as debugging, estimating etc. Books like Code Complete, The Pragmatic Programmers, The Mythical Man Month and Don’t Make Me Think.

To me technical books are such a bargain. For £20 – £30 you can gain knowledge and insight that can make you so much better at your job, such as taking different approaches to solving the daily problems that we as programmers face. Without a doubt there is a lot of published rubbish out there but fortunately in these days of reviews and questions on the numerous Stack Exchange sites it is a lot easier to avoid the charlatans and their ammo pouches stuffed with silver bullets. Although as you will see from my own list, one or two may still slip through the net!

Here are the programming related books I have read this year, listed in the order that they were read.

cplayersThe C# Player’s Guide (2nd Edition)

This is my favourite book that I have read whilst learning C#. Immediately accessible. The large format of the book along with the lucid and easy to grasp descriptions of Object Orientated topics make this my recommended book to anyone that is interested in learning C#.

Django By Example djangobe

Unfortunately this book is still on the “bought but not read” pile. It is no reflection on the book I have been focusing my attention on learning C# this year.

C# 6.0 and the .NET 4.6cnet46 Framework

At 1600+ pages this was certainly the biggest technical book I bought this year. For me it is too unwieldy to use on a day to day basis so, for the first time I have abandoned the printed version of a book and have spent the last 8 months using the e-book. Usually the ebook is open on one monitor whilst Visual Studio is open in the other. Not sure if it’s such a good book for beginners but as a reference I can see myself returning to it to look things up.

The Psychology of Computer Programming: Silver Anniversary Editionpcp

I have been wanting to read this book for several years and finally got round to it. It is by a very long way my favourite read this year and it is in the top 5 all time technical books I have ever read. Although 45 years old, the ideas discussed then are still very relevant today; How we don’t read existing code to see how others have solved problems, the critical importance of having code reviews, egoless programming, estimating and setting expectations around delivery times. I could go on and on. If you haven’t read it, order it today you will not regret it. It will make you a better programmer or manager!

learnciadLearn C# in One Day and learn it well

The worse book I read this year. I have already written what I think of it here.  Not much more to add so moving on to the final book…..

Working Effectively With Legacy Code wewlc

The final book for this year is another classic and I have high expectations for it. Currently I am a third of a way through but I will have finished it by the end of the year. At this point I think it should be called “Working Effectively with Legacy Object Oriented Code” because a lot of the ideas in the book code are centred around legacy Object Oriented code. I will update this once I get to the end of the book.


This year marks a slight change from previous year lists in that I haven’t read any Oracle database or Application Express books. There are two reasons for this. First I don’t think there have been any unmissable Oracle books published this year (I am interested in Real World SQL and PL/SQL that was published in September 2016 however I awaiting reviews or to actually have a look through it) –  and secondly most of my spare time has been spent learning C#.

I have taken something from each of these five books this year, yes even Learn C# in a day. I know that as a result of reading these books, I will start 2017 a better programmer.

An introduction to Web scraping using Python 3

In this article I will demonstrate how easy it is to perform basic text Web scraping using Python and just a few lines of code.

The example have been developed and tested using Python  3.5.2.

The first step is to see if you have the following third party libraries already installed; Requests and Beautiful Soup 4. So start idle and try typing the following command:

import requests

After you press return, if you see no error messages then requests is installed. If you see an error message that shows requests has not been found, you should install it using pip from the command line as shown below.

pip install requests

Repeat the process to see if you already have the Beautiful Soup library installed, fortunately you don’t have too much to type….

import bs4

Again if Python complains that it can’t find the library, use pip from the command line to install it.

pip install beautifulsoup4

With the libraries installed, here is a program that scrapes this site. It returns the titles from the blog posts that are shown on this page.

To demonstrate how this is achieved with just a few lines of code, here is the program without comments:

import requests, bs4

def getTitlesFromMySite(url):

 res = requests.get(url)

 soup = bs4.BeautifulSoup(res.text, 'html.parser')
 elems ='.entry-title')
 return elems

titles = getTitlesFromMySite('')

for title in titles:

Now the same code but this time with each section commented…

# import requests (for downloading web pages) and beautiful soup (for parsing html) 
import requests, bs4

# create a function that allows a parameter containing a url to be passed into it
def getTitlesFromMySite(url):

# download the webpage and store it in res variable
res = requests.get(url)
# check for problems - if there are, raise_for_status() raises an exception
# and the program stops at this point

# running the downloaded webpage through Beautiful Soup returns a
# Beautiful Soup object which represents the HTML as a nested data structure.
soup = bs4.BeautifulSoup(res.text, 'html.parser')

# store in an array the items that match this css selector. 
# I will explain how I obtained this entry below
elems ='.entry-title')

return elems

# call the function and store the results in titles
titles = getTitlesFromMySite('')

# loop through the array printing out the title.
for title in titles:

Running the example returns the following expected output….

Learn C# in One Day and Learn It Well – Review

Contributing to an Open Source Project

A step by step guide to building a Raspberry Pi Hedgehog camera

Is there more than one reason to use PL/SQL WHERE CURRENT OF ?

Structured Basis Testing

Raspberry Pi connected to WiFi but no internet access

The auditing capabilities of Flashback Data Archive in Oracle 12c.

DBMS_UTILITY.FORMAT_ERROR_BACKTRACE and the perils of the RAISE statement

Using INSERT ALL with related tables

The best lesson I learnt from Steve McConnell

To summarise, the code imports two third party libraries, requests and Beautiful Soup 4, that perform the lions share of the work. In the example I use the requests library to download a web page as HTML and then pass it to Beautiful Soup along with a CSS selector to return the information I want from it.

Obtaining the CSS selector

The code example has the following line which extracts the part of the webpage, the blog post titles, that we are interested in:

elems ='.entry-title')

Using Firefox, I obtained the CSS Selector ‘.entry-title’ by:

  1. Navigate to the page of interest, in this case,
  2. Opened Firefox developer tools (Ctrl + Shift + I)
  3. Highlighted the first title (which at the time of writing was Learn C# in One Day and Learn it Well – Review) , right click and select Inspect Element
  4. In the console, I then right click and select Copy and then choose CSS Selector from the sub menu.

At the time of writing, I was unable to get the same CSS Selector using the native developer tools from Chrome. If you know of a way please let me know in the comments.


In this post I have walked through the steps to perform basic text Web scraping using Python 3.

Learn C# in One Day and Learn It Well – Review

I have been learning C# and the .NET framework for a while now and have been working my way through several books; The C# Programming Yellow Book, The C# Player’s Guide (2nd Edition) and C# 6.0 and the .NET 4.6 Framework All of these books have helped me to varying degrees to get comfortable in Object Oriented programming, the C# language and the .NET framework.

When learning a new programming language, I always look to improve my knowledge of the fundamentals, so seeing an introduction to C# book that was getting good reviews piqued my interest. That book was Learn C# in One Day and Learn It Well although I am very suspicious of Learn X in Y days\hours\minutes titles (see Peter Novig masterly description) I ordered a copy.









At 153 pages the book is slim and can be divided into two parts. Chapters 1 through 11 cover the various building blocks that make up a programming language such as variables, arrays, condition statements as well as briefly touching on Object Orientated concepts. The second half of the book, starting on page 128 brings together what you have learnt in a project by building a Payroll programme.

I think the book is self published, obviously not an issue in itself however I felt that it could have done with a review\editor to catch the typos and misaligned paragraphs but these are minor irritants. The real point of this post is, can you use this book to learn C# in a Day?

In my opinion no. The main problem with this book is how brief the topics are covered. Take for example Interfaces which are discussed on pages 107 – 109. The text compares Interfaces with Abstract classes, however no where in these two pages does it tell you what an interface actually is and why you would want to create one.

In summary I am not sure who the target audience for this book is. Perhaps someone that just needs to get some course work or module “working” For everyone else it is far to brief and does not go into enough detail especially explaining why you would want to use a feature of the language. If you are interested in learning C# my advice would be to put the £8 towards a better resource.