Book Review: Getting Started with the Internet of Things


I rarely write up book reviews except in extreme cases.  I admit that I am a harsh critic; rarely do I find a book worthy of praise, and when I do my reviews tend towards being large volumes in and of themselves.  This is a good thing – writing a book is a massive undertaking and I have a great amount of respect for anyone who undertakes the task.  Which is why I find it so frustrating when I find a book that is just plain bad.  I just can’t understand why someone would put themselves through the tedium and all of the work involved with writing and publishing a mediocre (or worse) book.

I really, really wanted to like this book.  It’s been talked up for months now, and while I don’t usually fall for hype, I admit to having high expectations for Getting Started with the Internet of Things from the folks at Make:Projects.

The book is described as an introductory tome, so I was expecting entry-level information.  Having just gotten started with Arduino and reading through Robert Faludi’s excellent  Building Wireless Sensor Networks book hardly makes me an expert on the subject.

In a nutshell, what bothers me the most about this book is its utter lack of content.  It’s a tiny book, both in stature (5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″) and in length (176 pages, including index).  The book walks the reader through a couple of simple examples, reading from a “sensor” (a rotary potentiometer), updating an “actuator” (an LED), and writing to a Pachube data feed.  There’s just no meat on this particular bird, and at a whopping MSRP of $24.99 USD, that’s one pricy bit ‘o fowl.

This book represents a massive squandered opportunity on the part of the author, Dr. Cuno Pfster, who frankly should be ashamed about the quality of this work.

What would I have liked to see in this book?  Honestly, my initial response would be “Anything”.  However, here are some suggestions:

Use the ^%#^ Hardware you Selected.

The book examples are based upon the NetDuino Plus, the microcontroller equivalent of the US M-53 thermonuclear bomb (9 megaton yield, the baseline definition for “massive overkill”).  This board is based upon a 32-bit Atmel 48Mhz microcontroller with 128K of code storage, and the only component of the board actually used is the onboard ethernet port.  Really?  The best you could come up with was a potentiometer and a couple of blinking LEDs?

Use the ^%#^ Service you Selected.

Pachube (apparently pronounced “patch bay”) is an awesome service.  I use it for several of my projects.  It provides a lot of capabilities, yet the books that I have read merely scratch the surface.  It would have been nice if they could have delved into the service a bit more, showing off some of the social and potential environmental impact that the project can have.

Describe your Core Concept!

The book doesn’t even attempt to describe what “the Internet of Things” means.  No information regarding motivating factors – why would someone want to do this?  How about some example projects or ideas?  What should be internet-enabled?  What benefit would it provide?

In Summary

To summarize – don’t buy this book.  There are other materials available which are much more useful, well-written, and informative.  In my opinion, it’s a huge waste of time.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Getting Started with the Internet of Things”

  1. Interesting point of view, it would seem there isn’t much mainstream on the internet of things, and working professionally in this area for the last 3 we’ve learnt a lot on the subject, like how to keep things online indefinitely, some stuff hasn’t been touched for over 2 years, and is working solidly 😀

    We are to busy building things, and helping our community connect their stuff to smartenergygroups.com that perhaps this becomes our book?

    Anyway, it’s a fascinating area of tech, and one that has amazing possibilities in the future.

    Sam,
    @samotage

    1. My main complaint with the book is that it was marketed as a platform-independent book, when in reality (and for all practical purposes) it is very much Windows specific. Less important, but still valid in my view, the selected hardware and microcontroller is far more expensive and complex then it need be. I fear that this may scare folks away and prevent them from experimenting. Just my opinion, but hey, it’s my blog .

    2. Oh, and I’d DEFINITELY like to see a book from you guys – information about real world, practical experience in this area is hard to find. I’d certainly buy a copy!

  2. There is beauty in Arduino and AVR in terms of simplicity, which is the ultimate constraint – which drives creativity to do stuff. IMHO those .net interpretations try and do things that should be done elsewhere.

    We find arduino is Awesome for what it does, acting as arms and legs. For an onsite brain we use lua running on openwrt, then we go to th web whe we are ruby.

    Maybe in the future a book? But right now, we are building an interesting community of smart peeps making and sharing stuff,

    Sam,
    @samotage

    Sam.

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