Two New Nature & Landscape Photography Books: Art & How-to – #nature #photography #bookreview

If you like nature and landscape photography and have the desire to give it a try, these two fine new books from Rocky Nook can both inspire and instruct. The books also could make good Christmas gifts for a budding nature or landscape photographer in your family.

Plateaus and Canyons: Impressions of the American Southwest
By Bruce Barnbaum
(Rocky Nook, paperback, list price $44.95)

In Plateaus and Canyons, veteran photographer Bruce Barnbaum presents 95 large-format color images from the rugged Colorado Plateau that is part of four Southwestern states.

Barnbaum is widely known as an artistic practitioner of black-and-white photography. But in this elegant collection, he has captured fine images that blend amazing colors and subtleties of light, both in deep canyons and on jagged, multi-level plateau surfaces that definitely are not flat.

Each photo is accompanied by a short essay by Barnbaum, discussing how he came across the opportunity to capture the image and why it attracted him.

For example, in a remote area known as Phillips Wash, “[t]he twisted branches of an old, fallen, silvered juniper caught my eye…[t]he nearly colorless wood against the soft tans and golds of the sandstone rocks created a wonderfully compelling array of forms.”

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Nature and Landscape Photography: 71 Tips from the Top
By Martin Borg
(Rocky Nook, paperback, list price $19.95; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

This book contains many very good landscape and nature images, as well. But the concise accompanying text focuses on how to use important photographic composition techniques in the field.

Some of these include seeking  elevated vantage points, using the “Golden Ratio” in compositions, properly staging water reflections, making longer exposures to capture the effect of wind moving tree leaves and grasses, and challenging the basic rules of composition – after you have learned them.

The book’s author, a Swedish photojournalist, views nature as “an endless source of fascinating images.” He adds: “Images of nature affect us deeply; they appeal to our roots.”

Si Dunn

Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010 with ‘Start Here!’ Book for Beginners – #programming #bookreview

Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010
By John Paul Mueller
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $27.99)

I like the “Start Here!” series from Microsoft Press. The books, in my view, provide a convenient, affordable and approachable way to develop some new skills in a hurry, without having to take classes.

There is nothing wrong with taking classes, of course. Most of us in America’s workforce (working or unemployed) need all of the new skills and education we can get. But if, like me, you’ve checked the prices of online classes lately and also looked at your checking account, you likely need some affordable alternatives.

If you are ready to tackle Microsoft Visual C# 2010,  you definitely can “Start Here!”, with John Paul Muller’s well-written new book.

Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010 has been “conceived and created for the complete novice–someone who has no programming experience at all.” And it uses a hands-on approach to learning. It is not recommended for experienced programmers seeking to pick up another language.

But if you are, indeed, a complete novice to computer programming, you probably should read another “Start Here!” book first: Fundamentals of Microsoft .NET Programming by Rod Stephens. Or, at least have that book handy to read in conjunction with Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010.

The “Fundamentals” book explains and illustrates many essential terms and concepts, such as routines, call stacks, and passing parameters. And sometimes, in Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010, you will be referred to some of the definitions and examples found in Fundamentals of Microsoft .NET Programming.

The software download section of Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010 may be a bit confusing for some beginners. Some of the screens and choices have changed somewhat and some have been combined since the book was published.

And while the author says “you don’t need a copy of SQL Server to work through the examples in this book,” the “Code Samples” discussion in the book’s introduction says otherwise.: “…your system should have Visual Studio 2010 and SQL Server 2008 installed.”

I left an SQL option box unchecked when setting up for my download, but I still received all of the SQL files. And, altogether, I spent a ridiculous 14 hours going through (and sometimes sleeping through) the download and installation process on a somewhat aging PC running Windows XP and a not-so-blazing wi-fi connection.

Your results will vary. So do not be in a hurry, even with a fast system. Set aside plenty of time to do things right once you start the process.

But at least all of the software tools used in this book are free. And once things are up and running, the author takes you right into the process of learning how to develop applications using C#.

His book is divided into 12 chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Getting to Know C# – Includes the Integrated Development Environment (IDE), creating and testing a Windows Forms application project, viewing its code, using Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), creating and testing a WPF project, and viewing the code produced.
  • Chapter 2: Developing a Web Project – Focuses on developing two web applications using C#. Also shows how to download and install tools used to develop web applications.
  • Chapter 3: Using Simple Data Manipulation Techniques – Introduces data manipulation and shows how to use Language Integrated Inquiry (LINQ) to manipulate data.
  • Chapter 4: Using Collections to Store Data – Shows how to create containers to store similar data together, and explains three different types of data storage.
  • Chapter 5: Working with XML – Shows how to use eXtensible Markup Language (XML) in tasks such as saving applications settings and working with web services.
  • Chapter 6: Accessing a Web Service – Shows how to access free web services using two techniques that C# provides: Representational State Transfer (REST) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).
  • Chapter 7: Using the Windows Presentation Foundation – Focuses on using WPF to “help you create applications with impressive interfaces and new features that aren’t available using older C# development techniques.”
  • Chapter 8: Working with Libraries – Programmers try to reuse code as much as possible, to speed up the development process. This chapter shows how to create and use a library as part of  an application.
  • Chapter 9: Creating Utility Applications – “…shows how to create applications that have a command-line interface so that you can work with them quickly and automate them in various ways.”
  • Chapter 10: Using LINQ in Web Applications – Shows how to use LINQ to ask an application to supply certain types of data.
  • Chapter 11: Working with Silverlight Applications – Silverlight “works with multiple browsers and on multiple platforms”  and “can transform your C# application into something that works everywhere.” This chapter focuses on understanding “the basics of Silverlight development using C#.”
  • Chapter 12: Debugging Applications – Shows how to apply tracing techniques learned in this book to the process of finding and fixing errors.

The code samples used in the learning exercises can be downloaded from a Microsoft site. And, once you work your way through the book, the author says you may want to move up to another book, Microsoft Visual C# Step by Step.

You also may be eager to take a C# class, online or on campus, where you can learn from an instructor and fellow students.

It all depends on your resources and how committed you are to programming in C# after you “Start Here!”

Si Dunn

Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Customizing My Site – #programming #sm #bookreview

Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Customizing My Site
By Michael Doyle
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $9.99; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

By computer-book standards, Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Customizing My Site seems a bit thin: just 95 pages. But it contains plenty of good information and deserves to catch some eyes in the expanding SharePoint community.

“The explosion of social networking has made the My Site component one of the key pieces in creating a cohesive SharePoint solution,” says the author, Michael Doyle, a veteran SharePoint specialist.

Doyle notes: “Straight out of the box, the My Site component is quite powerful, but it is far from easy to customize.”

His book is aimed primarily at SharePoint administrators and designers, but is also directed toward the wider SharePoint community, because: “…it takes a wide range of skills to customize the My Site Host (and personalization sites beneath), and almost anyone connected with My Sites would benefit from reading parts of this book to get a better idea of how it all fits together and what is possible.”

A few of the topics explored include: (1) Helping users share ideas, documents and personal information; (2) creating several My Site hosts to serve distinct audiences; (3) applying a company’s look and feel with themes; (4) determining a user content quota so you won’t overtax your database; and (5) editing profile properties to personalize the Twitter widget. 

Doyle’s book is divided into two major parts and 14 chapters. The first part focuses on setting up the My Site host and getting it running correctly. The second part is devoted to customizing “various parts of the functionality and social components.”

The chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: What’s New in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 My Sites?
  • Chapter 2: The User Profile Service
  • Chapter 3: Setting Up My Sites
  • Chapter 4: Multiple Farms and My Sites
  • Chapter 5: Customizing My Site Navigation
  • Chapter 6: Modifying the My Site Host
  • Chapter 7: Organizational Charts
  • Chapter 8: Tags and Notes
  • Chapter 9: Site Membership
  • Chapter 10: Colleagues
  • Chapter 11: Profile Properties
  • Chapter 12: People Search
  • Chapter 13: Outlook Integration
  • Chapter 14: Personal Sites

There are two key reasons for knowing how to modify and customize My Sites, the author notes. One is to “maintain the branded look and feel of your organization.” The other is “to make the My Site Host meet your business needs.”

Despite this book’s thinness, it is well-written and represents a lot of hard-earned experience with the process of customizing the My Site Host. And the book’s code samples can be downloaded from a Microsoft site.

If you work with SharePoint 2010 My Site, consider adding this book to your bookshelf or to your Kindle as a how-to reference guide.

Si Dunn

A Bug Hunter’s Diary: A Guided Tour through the Wilds of Software Security – #programming #bookreview

A Bug Hunter’s Diary: A Guided Tour through the Wilds of Software Security
By Tobias Klein
(No Starch Press, paperback, list price $39.95; Kindle edition, list price $31.95)

If your passion or desire is to find and kill software bugs and fight hackers, you should check out this well-written how-to book.

Tobias Klein, an information security specialist, has tracked down many difficult bugs and identified security vulnerabilities in some of the world’s best-known software, including Apple’s iOS, the Mac OS X kernel, web browsers, and the VLC media player, among others.

Using a diary approach, plus code examples and illustrations, Klein describes a bug he has just discovered in a software package. Then he illustrates how it creates a security vulnerability that a hacker could exploit, and he describes how to fix or at least reduce its risks.

Chapters 2 through 8 each focus on separate bugs, and Klein includes a list of “lessons learned” for programmers who want to avoid creating similar problems.

Klein’s well-illustrated book is organized as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Bug Hunting – (a brief overview.)
  • Chapter 2: Back to the ‘90s – (shows how he discovered a bug and vulnerability in a Tivo movie file that allowed him to crash a VLC media player and gain control of the instruction pointer.)
  • Chapter 3: Escape from the WWW Zone – (illustrates how and where he found a bug in the Solaris kernel and the “exciting challenge” of demonstrating how it could be exploited for arbitrary code execution.)
  • Chapter 4: Null Pointer FTW – (describes “a really beautiful bug” that opened a vulnerability into “the FFmpeg multimedia library that is used by many popular software projects, including Google Chrome, VLC media player, MPlayer, and Xine to name just a few.”)
  • Chapter 5: Browse and You’re Owned – (discusses how he found an exploitable bug in an ActiveX control for Internet Explorer.)
  • Chapter 6: One Kernel to Rule Them All – (focuses on how he decided to search for bugs in some third-party Microsoft Windows drivers and found one in an antivirus software package.)
  • Chapter 7: A Bug Older than 4.4BSD – (how he found an exploitable bug in the XNU kernel OS X.)
  • Chapter 8: The Ringtone Massacre – (how he found an exploitable bug in an early version of the iPhone’s MobileSafari browser that enabled him to modify ringtone files and access the program counter.)
  • Appendix A: Hints for Hunting – (“…some vulnerability classes, exploitation techniques, and common issues that can lead to bugs.”)
  • Appendix B: Debugging – (about debuggers and the debugging process.)
  • Appendix C: Mitigation – (discusses mitigation techniques.)

Tobias Klein is the author of two previous information security books that were published in Germany. Because hackers use many of the same tools as those seeking to keep them out, there is an important limit on how much detail Klein is able to impart in this book.

As he notes in a disclaimer: “The goal of this book is to teach readers how to identify, protect against, and mitigate software security vulnerabilities. Understanding the techniques used to find and exploit vulnerabilities is necessary to thoroughly grasp the underlying problems and appropriate mitigation techniques. Since 2007, it is no longer legal to create or distribute “hacking tools” in Germany, my home country. Therefore, to comply with the law, no full working exploit code is provided in this book. The examples simply show the steps used to gain control of the execution flow (the instruction pointer or program counter control) of a vulnerable program.”

Si Dunn