Send in the Clouds: 2 New SharePoint 2010 Books from Microsoft Press – #bookreview

Microsoft Press recently has released two new books intended to help attract and train more users of  its SharePoint 2010 software and services. 

SharePoint is Microsoft’s suite of software tools designed to help “make it easier for people work together,” whether they are in the same office or scattered around the planet.

One of the new books focuses on SharePoint Foundation 2010, “the software that will get organizations started using SharePoint.” It is aimed at readers who “need to understand how to accomplish what they need to do.”

The other book is intended “primarily for IT professionals, IT architects, and IT decisions makers who want to understand the capabilities of SharePoint in the cloud….”

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 Inside Out
By Errin O’Connor, Penelope Coventry, Tony Lanphier, Jonathan Lightfoot,
Thomas Resing and Michael Doyle

(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $49.99; Kindle edition, list price $39.99)

Microsoft SharePoint is a suite of tools that enables an organization or business to “share, exchange, and distribute information to their employees, partners, shareholders, and customers.” The software “is designed around an easy-to-use web-based interface that is fully integrated with Microsoft Office,” the six authors say.

If you are completely new to SharePoint Foundation 2010, read two easier books first,  Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Plain & Simple and Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 Step-by-Step. Then tackle this “Inside Out” book.

This new “Inside Out” edition is intended “for readers who have some experience with SharePoint Foundation 2010 and are fairly comfortable finding their way around the product,” the authors emphasize.

SharePoint 2010 has been termed a significant improvement over earlier versions, and the “entry-level component,” SharePoint Foundation 2010, can be downloaded free from Microsoft.

The authors point out that “[y]ou don’t need to be a programmer (although it is helpful) to use the building blocks in SharePoint 2010. Even without using code, you can create highly customized business solutions in a matter of minutes.”

SharePoint Foundation 2010 “provides a robust collection of services that can be used to build powerful web solutions.” And: “It forms the basis for a number of other SharePoint products such as SharePoint Server 2010 and Office 365,which incorporates Microsoft’s SharePoint 2010 cloud-based solution, called SharePoint Online.”

Microsoft hopes, of course, that you will move up from “free” to “paying customer” once you begin to understand SharePoint’s many possibilities beyond Foundation.

The 760-page book is well-written, adequately illustrated, and follows a progression where “the early chapters concentrate on what you can achieve by using the browser; later chapters detail features from the perspective of the power-end user, administrator, and developer.”

The 16 chapters are:

  1. Introduction to Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010
  2. Administration for Business Users
  3. End-User Features and Experience
  4. Creating Sites and Workspaces by Using the Browser
  5. Designing Lists and Libraries
  6. Creating and Formatting Webpages
  7. Adding, Editing, Connecting, and Managing Web Parts on the Page
  8. Managing Site Content
  9. Working with External Content
  10. Using and Creating Workflows
  11. Integrating SharePoint with Microsoft Office 2010
  12. Taking Lists and Libraries Offline
  13. Managing Site Settings
  14. Creating, Managing, and Designing Sites by Using SharePoint Designer 2010
  15. Customizing the User Interface
  16. Developing SharePoint Solutions by Using Visual Studio 2010

The “Web Parts” in the Chapter 7 title refer to “a key component of any SharePoint installation.” A Web Part either receives input or displays content or sometimes does both. One example given is a module that displays weather information. A user can change the weather display’s city or ZIP code without affecting any other users visiting the site.

If you buy the paperback, you are also given a link where you can download a “fully searchable companion ebook” in PDF format, and the ebook periodically is updated.

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Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Deploying Cloud-Based Solutions
By Phillip Wicklund
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99)

“Of all the great benefits of SharePoint in the cloud…business agility may be the most compelling cloud driver yet,” writes Phillip Wicklund in his new book.

“Consider time-to-market. With SharePoint in the cloud, you can literally have a cloud-based collaboration site spun up and ready for use within an hour of reading this sentence.”

This book should be on your reading list if you are helping a company decide whether – and how – to migrate to the public cloud, or a private cloud, or a hybrid cloud, using SharePoint 2010.

In some business settings, Wicklund notes, “SharePoint can be tough to deploy and maintain, primarily because significant expertise and experience is required to do so successfully. Many companies can’t afford or (for other reasons) are unable to recruit the necessary talent. Because of this, taking SharePoint to the cloud is especially appealing to them. When in the cloud, they can essentially outsource that costly, time-consuming administrative overhead.”

Part of Wicklund’s book is devoted to introducing – and, no surprise, touting — Office 365.

A Microsoft website describes that company’s new Office 365 service as “familiar Microsoft Office collaboration and productivity tools delivered through the cloud. Everyone can work together easily with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. It includes business-class security and is backed by Microsoft.”

SharePoint Online, of course, is one of the services available through Office 365.

But, while costs go down when you migrate to the cloud, so do your levels of control and flexibility.

Yet, as this book notes, there are at least two types of cloud: public and private (where you can hold onto more control). And it is possible, using SharePoint 2010, to work in both clouds.

“By creating your own private cloud,” the author says, “you benefit from all the automation, scalability, reliability, and self-healing that any great cloud ought to provide.”

Wicklund’s book is divided into three major parts and 11 chapters.

Part 1 is “Introducing SharePoint in the Cloud.” The chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: Introducing Microsoft SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 2: Office 365 Feature Overview
  • Chapter 3: Planning for SharePoint Online

Part 2 is “Deploying SharePoint in the Public Cloud.” Its chapters are:

  • Chapter 4: Administering SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 5: Identity Management and Authentication
  • Chapter 6: Migrating to SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 7: Introduction to Customizing and Developing in SharePoint Online

Part 3 is “Deploying SharePoint in the Private Cloud.” The chapters are:

  • Chapter 8: Introduction to Creating a Private Cloud
  • Chapter 9: Introducing Multitenancy in SharePoint 2010
  • Chapter 10: Configuring Tenant-Aware Service Applications
  • Chapter 11: Configuring Tenant-Aware Site Collections

The term “multitenancy” in Chapter 9 is definined first in terms of an apartment complex where individuals live in private spaces but share the complex’s resources. In SharePoint, the term relates to “data isolation, delegated aministration, and delegated configuration.” You can “‘host’ multiple department or customer sites, for example, within the same infrastructure and farm, whereby you can guarantee autonomy and isolation among those ‘tenants’ of your SharePoint farm,” Wicklund writes.

“Each department has its own set of site collections that they can centrally manage and administrate.”

The 448-page book has one appendix titled “Server, Online SharePoint, and Online Dedicated Compared.” It has a well-detailed index. And the code samples can be downloaded from a Microsoft site.

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SharePoint is not a product that fits conveniently into one big how-to manual. If you are thinking of adding SharePoint to your business, or expanding how you use it, be prepared to consider getting several books, these two included.

Si Dunn

Making Embedded Systems (for things that blink & go ‘Beep!’ in the night) – #programming #bookreview

Making Embedded Systems
By Elecia White
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

Elecia White loves embedded systems. “The first time a motor turned on because I told it to, I was hooked,” she writes in her new book, Making Embedded Systems. “I quickly moved away from pure software and into a field where I can touch the world.”

In that world, she has “worked on DNA scanners, inertial measurement units for airplanes and race cars, toys for preschoolers, a gunshot location system for catching criminals, and assorted medical and consumer devices.”

It is a world where “embedded systems don’t have operating systems. The software runs on the bare metal. When the software says ‘turn that light on,’ it says it to the processor without an intermediary.”

So this is not a book about embedded operating systems. Just embedded systems. And the intended audience is intermediate and experienced programmers seeking new challenges.

The author’s basic definition of an embedded system is “a computerized system that is purpose-built for its application.”

She says she wrote her book (and it is well-written, by the way) “almost as a story, to be read from cover to cover. The information is technical (extremely so in spots), but the presentation is casual.”

So she hopes readers will not treat Making Embedded Systems as “a technical manual where you can skip into the middle and read only what you want.” With that approach, “you’ll miss a lot of information…[and] You’ll also miss the jokes, which is what I really would feel bad about.”

Embedded system compilers typically support only C or C++ (and often just a subset of that language), she notes. And: “There is a growing popularity for Java, but the memory management inherent to the language works only on a large system.”

Meanwhile, debugging an embedded system often can be challenging, because it’s not always easy to tell if a problem lies in the software or in the associated hardware.

Elecia White’s 310-page book is divided into 10 chapters, with illustrations, code examples and a good index:

  1. Introduction(Discusses embedded systems and how their development differs from traditional software development.)
  2. Creating a System Architecture(How to create – and document – a system architecture.)
  3. Getting Your Hands on the Hardware(Dealing with hardware/software integration and board bring-up.)
  4. Outputs, Inputs, and Timers(The simple act of making an LED blink is more complicated than you might think.)
  5. Managing the Flow of Activity(How to set up your machine, how to use [or not use] interrupts, and how to make a state machine.)
  6. Communicating with Peripherals(“Different serial communications forms rule embedded systems.…” But: “Networking, bit-bang, and parallel buses are not to be discounted.”)
  7. Updating Code(Options for replacing the program running in a processor.)
  8. Doing More with Less(How to reduce RAM consumption, code space, and processor cycles.)
  9. Math(“Most embedded systems need to do some form of analysis.” Make your system faster by “[u]nderstanding how mathematical operations and floating points work [and don’t work]….”)
  10. Reducing Power Consumption(Your system may run on batteries. Better system architecture and reducing processor cycles can help cut power drain.)

Making Embedded Systems also includes helpful information on how to read a schematic diagram, why it’s best to run tests on three of the same prototype devices, not just one, and what interviewers look for when meeting with applicants for embedded systems jobs.

An embedded system, the author says, often is viewed as a jigsaw puzzle that only fits together one way. But she challenges readers to see the puzzle as also having “a time dimension that varies over its whole life: conception, prototyping, board bring-up, debugging, testing, release, maintenance, and repeat.”

Embedded system design presents many challenges, she says, and demands constant flexibility.

“Our goal is to be flexible enough to meet the product goals while dealing with the resource constraints and other challenges inherent to embedded systems.”

Si Dunn

The Twitter Book (2nd Edition) – What newcomers & veteran tweeters need to know #sm #bookreview #TwitterBook

 

The Twitter Book (2nd Edition)
By Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $15.99)

It’s easy to spot a business that’s starting to use Twitter for the first time. They think “tweets” are a great and inexpensive way to push out information and reach potential customers worldwide. So, over and over, they tweet how great their new product or service is, and they include a link where you can get more information, place an order and add cash to their bank account.

But a funny thing happens on their way to easy fortune and fame: Most Twitter users shun them; many actually block them; and some get snarky and snarl about their lame tweets.

Twitter, the authors point out in their newly updated book, is mostly about sharing information, being helpful to others, and generally being interesting and entertaining.

Yes, there are ways to sell stuff using Twitter. But one of the quickest ways to failure on this widely popular social media outlet is to just barge in and try to be an electronic door-to-door sales person.

The recently published second edition of The Twitter Book is fun reading and nicely illustrated. And it is a good guide for learning how to use Twitter without the “common gaffs and pitfalls” that many newcomers commit.

Many experienced Twitter users likely will find helpful tips and techniques in this book, as well.

If you are thinking about trying to put Twitter to work in your business, the two authors offer some sage advice: Listen first. For a long time.

“People already on Twitter will expect your corporate account[s] to engage with them,” they write, “so before you start tweeting away, spend a few weeks or so understanding the ways people talk about you. Get a sense for the rhythms of conversation on Twitter, and think about how you’ll hold conversations.”

That listen-first and “rhythms of conversation” advice applies to all other new users of Twitter, as well.

And it wouldn’t hurt if some long-time Twitter-istas paid more attention to what others are saying and less attention to tweeting their every thought (or half-thought).

One more benefit of The Twitter Book:  It can introduce you to some of the third-party services and tools now available, such as TweetGrid, Monitter, Seesmic, and TweetDeck., which provide more “features and flexibility” than the standard Twitter web interface offers.

Si Dunn

 

 

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