#tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community – #bookreview

#tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community
By J.S. McDougall
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

Okay, you’ve finally ventured onto Twitter. Or, maybe you’ve been tweeting a while and now wonder what else you can do with 140 characters besides report that you have just brushed your teeth and are ready to seize the business day like a donut-chomping tiger shark.

#tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community offers useful suggestions that can help businesses, nonprofit organizations and social causes quickly gain more customers, donors and followers.

None of the 25 projects – such as Twitter BOGO (buy one, get one) — are rocket science. And some of them will not help your particular situation. But several of the Twitter projects likely will be immediately useful and easily adapted to your needs. And you will have fun and gain followers in the process of putting them to work – that is, if you don’t make the classic business Twitter mistake of trying to turn every tweet into a sales pitch.

 “Twitter is not a marketing channel—and you should never view it as such,” J.S. McDougall cautions.

“Twitter is a community. Folks join Twitter to meet new friends and to discuss their interests with a wide variety of people—most of whom they will never meet in the real world. No one will ever tell you that they joined Twitter to make themselves available to more advertisers. Advertising on Twitter—sending out one-way, uninteresting, very short commercials for your stuff—will annoy people and you will be blocked, reported, and unfollowed. All of that is hard to wash off,” the author warns.

McDougall says his book’s 25 “community-building projects” can help you “build an interested and engaged community for your business. The payoff that comes from having such a community around your business is increased sales, referrals, and opportunity for feedback and improvement. It is vital to understand the difference between your goal and your payoff.”

The book includes a Twitter-integrated QR code at the beginning of each chapter. If, while reading #tweetsmart, you happen across a project that you think might help or interest a friendly follower on Twitter, you can scan the code with your mobile device and tweet them a recommendation.

Friends helping friends…entertaining friends…informing friends…advising friends…connecting friends with other friends — these are all at the heart of how Twitter works best.

Definitely not: “Today only! 25% off SoopahSwoosh nuclear-powered toilets! Click the link, buy now & FLUSH!”

Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available soon in paperback. He also is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

iOS 5 Programming Cookbook: Solutions & Examples for iPhone, iPad, & iPod Apps – #bookreview

iOS 5 Programming Cookbook
By Vandad Nahavandipoor
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $49.99; Kindle edition, list price $39.99)

This huge and helpful “cookbook” does not ignore iOS novice programmers. But the author, a veteran software developer, expects readers to at least be “comfortable with the iOS development environment and know how to create an app for the iPhone or iPad.”

His well-structured new edition “presents useful ways to get things done” and promises that readers “will learn a lot more about the basics of iOS programming, and a lot more about UIKit, dictionaries, arrays, loops, and conditionals.”

He notes that “[a] lot has changed in iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch programming since the introduction of iOS 5. The whole runtime and the way we write Objective-C code has dramatically changed. ARC (Automatic Reference Counting) is now introduced into the LLVM Compiler, which in some ways gives us more flexibility and in other ways makes the runtime more fragile.”

Nahavandipoor’s 852-page book is loaded with code examples, screenshots, and other illustrations and is divided into 17 chapters and an index.

  • Chapter 1: The Basics - An overview of  Objective-C.
  • Chapter 2: Implementing Controllers and Views – “Describes various approaches to constructing your iOS application’s user interface…”
  • Chapter 3: Constructing and Using Table Views – Shows how to use table views “to create professional-looking iOS applications.”
  • Chapter 4: Storyboards – The process of storyboarding can help you “define the connections between different screens in your app.” And, with storyboarding, “you don’t have to know anything about iOS programming to get a simple app running.”
  • Chapter 5: Concurrency – Focuses on Grand Central Dispatch, “Apple’s preferred way of achieving concurrency in iOS.” Also looks at timers, threads, and operations.
  • Chapter 6: Core Location and Maps – Describes “how you should use Map Kit and Core Location APIs to develop location-aware iOS applications.”
  • Chapter 7: Implementing Gesture Recognizers – Shows “how to use all available gesture recognizers in the iOS SDK, with working examples tested on iOS 5 on different devices such as the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPad.”
  • Chapter 8: Networking, JSON, XML, and Twitter – Includes downloading data from a URL and parsing XML files. The pros and cons of synchronous and asynchronous connections. Caching files in memory and on disk to minimize an iOS device’s bandwidth consumption.
  • Chapter 9: Audio and Video – Focuses on “the AV Foundation and Media Player frameworks that are available on the iOS SDK.”
  • Chapter 10: Address Book – Structured to help Objective-C developers get a handle on the Address Book framework and how to retrieve contacts, groups, and their information. “The Address Book framework is composed entirely of C APIs.” So, “many Objective-C developers find it difficult to use this framework….”
  • Chapter 11: Camera and the Photo Library – Shows how to “determine the availability of front- and back-facing cameras on an iOS device.” Also looks at accessing the Photo Library “using the Assets Library framework…available in iOS 4 and later” and editing videos on an iOS device.
  • Chapter 12: Multitasking – Explains and presents examples that show “how to create multitasking-aware aplications that run beautifully on iOS 4 and above.”
  • Chapter 13: Core Data – Using Core Data to “maintain persistent storage for your iOS applications….”
  • Chapter 14: Dates, Calendars, and Events – Shows how to use “the event Kit and Event Kit UI frameworks, which are available on iOS 4 and later, in order to manage calendars and events on an iOS device.”
  • Chapter 15: Graphics and Animations – Introduces the reader to the Core Graphics framework and shows how to work with images and text and graphics context.
  • Chapter 16: Core Motion – Introduces the Core Motion framework and shows how to access the accelerometer and gyroscope on an iOS device. (Not all devices have those capabilities.)
  • Chapter 17: iCloud – “Shows how to use the iCloud service, which ties devices together and allows them to share data…as the user moves from one device to another.”

More than 100 new recipes have been added to this updated second edition of Nahavandipoor’s book. He also provides extensive references and links to other materials, including some Apple documents that he believes “every professional iOS developer should read.”

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle.

The Little Book on CoffeeScript – #programming #in #coffeescript #javascript #bookreview

The Little Book on CoffeeScript
By Alex MacCaw (with Jeremy Ashkenas)
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $8.99; Kindle edition, list price $7.99)

“CoffeeScript (http://coffeescript.org) is a little language that complies down to JavaScript,” says this book’s author. “The syntax is inspired by Ruby and Python, and implements many features from those two languages. This book is designed to help you learn CoffeeScript, understand best practices, and start building awesome client-side applications.”

In just 45 pages, MacCaw does a good job of meeting those goals. It is important, he says, to note that “while CoffeeScript’s syntax is often identical with JavaScript’s, it’s not a superset, and therefore some JavaScript keywords, such as function and var, aren’t permitted, and will throw syntax errors. If you’re writing a CoffeeScript file, it needs to be pure CoffeeScript; you can’t intermingle the two languages.”

He explains that “CoffeeScript uses a straight source-to-source compiler, the idea being that every CoffeeScript statement results in an equivalent JavaScript statement.” So, to program in CoffeeScript, you need to also know JavaScript, so you can debug runtime errors.

Along with showing CoffeeScript’s syntax differences from JavaScript, the book describes CoffeeScript’s features and compares CoffeeScript’s idioms with their JavaScript counterparts.

It also shows how to: (1)  compile CoffeeScript files in static sites, using the Cake build system; (2) structure and deploy CoffeeScript client-side application, using CommonJS modules; and (3) effectively use CoffeeScript’s “ability to fix some of JavaScript’s warts.”

 The book has six chapters, and all are illustrated with code samples:

  • 1. CoffeeScript Syntax
  • 2. CoffeeScript Classes
  • 3. CoffeeScript Idioms
  • 4. Compiling CoffeeScript
  • 5. The Good Parts - Describes what CoffeeScript can’t fix about JavaScript and, more importantly, what it can.
  • 6. The Little Conclusion – Discusses “the philosophy behind the changes that CoffeeScript makes to JavaScript”…CoffeeScript aims “to express core JavaScript concepts in as simple and minimal a syntax as we can find for them.”

Alex MacCaw is a Ruby/JavaScript developer and entrepreneur and author of JavaScript Web Applications. Jeremy Ashkenas is the developer of CoffeeScript.

If you are ready to learn CoffeeScript, this nicely focused little book can help you get up to speed quickly on best practices.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle.

Understanding PaaS – Get your head in the cloud – #bookreview #cloud #programming

Understanding PaaS
By Michael P. McGrath
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $11.99; Kindle edition, list price $8.99)

Ready to get your head in the cloud? Understanding PaaS is a well-written and straightforward guide to understanding one of  the three primary areas of cloud computing: Platform as a Service (PaaS).

The other two primary areas, described briefly in this 37-page book, are Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

PaaS fits in the middle of the cloud-computing stack, between SaaS on top and IaaS at the bottom.

“SaaS simply refers to software that is provided on-demand for use,” notes the author, Michael P. McGrath, a founding member of Red Hat’s OpenShift and currently its “Principal Cloud Architect.” He also is operations manager for all of Red Hat’s PaaS offerings. “There’s no magic to it [SaaS],” he adds. For example:  “Anyone who has used web mail of any kind has been using SaaS.”

Meanwhile: “Proper IaaS provides a mechanism for people to replace all of their data center hardware needs.” The infrastructure services that can be obtained from the cloud include: host provisioning, load balancing, public and private network connectivity, firewalls, and storage.

“Additionally, all of the dependencies for these services also are provided” by IaaS providers, the author points out.

“PaaS providers offer a platform for others to use,” he adds. “What is being provided is part operating system and part middleware. A proper PaaS provider  takes care of everything needed to run some specific language or technology stack.” And: “PaaS today focuses almost entirely on web solutions. The components an end user interacts with are all web-based and because of this, most PaaS providers excel when it comes to large numbers of short lived process requests.”

McGrath’s book is divided into six short chapters:

1. What is Cloud Computing? – Describes the three levels and shows how to set up a virtual machine via Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). 

2. Why PaaS? – “PaaS provides a carefree environment for developers to work….By utilizing PaaS, developers simply pick the languages and features they want, match those requirements with a provider that has them, and start coding.” Discusses common features, costs and maintenance.

3. What to Expect – “PaaS makes it so easy to run code remotely that options are now available to do all development in the cloud.” Discusses why “a pre-built application may not automatically work when uploaded to PaaS.” Looks at tools, providers, development workflow and automated testing.

4. Examples – Provide code for creating a sample application using Red Hat’s OpenShift platform.

5. Architecture – Focuses on the “three primary concerns when dealing with networking in the cloud”: connectivity, bandwidth and latency.

6. Summary – McGrath says PaaS offers many solutions and now is “an exciting time for cloud providers. Go out, try some, and see how they can make IT easier and once again, enjoyable.”

If you are curious about cloud computing or ready now to try some development in the cloud, add this well-focused little book to your reading list and reference library.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle.

Web Development Recipes – To make life easier for you & your users – #programming #bookreview #in

Web Development Recipes
By Brian P. Hogan, Chris Warren, Mike Weber, Chris Johnson, and Aaron Godin
(Pragmatic Bookshelf, paperback, list price $35.00)

“It’s no longer enough,” this book’s authors state, “to know how to wrangle HTML, CSS, and a bit of JavaScript. Today’s web developer needs to know how to write testable code, build interactive interfaces, integrate with other services, and sometimes even do some server configuration, or at least a little bit of backend work.”

Their handy, helpful new work offers more than 40 “practical recipes that range from clever CSS tricks that will make your clients happy to server-side configurations that will make life easier for you and your users. You’ll find a mix of tried-and-true techniques and cutting-edge solutions, all aimed at helping you truly discover the best tools for the job.”

Web Development Recipes is organized as seven chapters and two appendices:

  • Chapter 1: Eye-Candy Recipes – Covers a few ways to use cascading style sheets (CSS) and other techniques to improve the appearance of web pages.
  • Chapter 2: User Interface Recipes – Focuses on techniques to make better user interfaces, including JavaScript frameworks like Knockout and Backbone. Also shows “how to make better templates for sending HTML emails.”
  • Chapter 3:  Data Recipes – Explores ways to work with user data. Shows how to create a simple contact form and gives “a peek” at using CouchDB’s CouchApp to build a database-driven application.
  • Chapter 4: Mobile Recipes – Shows ways to work with mobile computing platforms. Focuses on jQuery Mobile, handling multitouch events and helps you “dig a little deeper into how to determine how and when to serve a mobile version of a page to your visitors.”
  •  Chapter 5: Workflow Recipes – Focuses on improving your processes, including using Sass to “make your life easier when managing large style sheets.” Also introduces CoffeeScript, “a new dialect for writing JavaScript that produces clean, compliant results.”
  • Chapter 6: Testing Recipes – Using automated tests to help you build “bullet-proof” websites. Also, “how to start testing the JavaScript code you write.”
  • Chapter 7: Hosting and Deployment Recipes – Building a virtual machine to be used as a testing environment, so you can test before moving to a real production environment. Also covers setting up secure sites, doing redirects properly, and automating website deployments “so you won’t accidentally forget to upload a file.”
  •  Appendix A1:  Installing Ruby - Several of the web development recipes require having the Ruby programming language installed on your computer.
  • Appendix A2: Bibliography – Lists six works for further reference.  

Along with Ruby, there are a few other prerequisites:

  • HTML5 and jQuery
  • Working with command-line prompts in a shell on a Windows, OS X or Linux machine.
  • QEDServer (can be downloaded from the book’s website).
  • A virtual machine (either set up with help from the book or downloaded already configured from a website link in the book).

The source code for the book’s projects also can be downloaded from the book’s website.

In many of the recipes, the authors assume that you have “a little experience with writing client-side code with JavaScript and jQuery.” But if you don’t, they contend you can still learn a lot by reading the recipes and studying the source code they’ve provided.

Each recipe is presented in a straightforward problem, ingredients and solution format, with clear explanations, code examples, illustrations, tips and links to more information.

If you are doing web development work or wanting to move into that arena, Web Development Recipes could be a very good book to keep handy.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle.

SharePoint 2010 for Project Management, 2nd Edition – #bookreview

SharePoint 2010 for Project Management, 2nd Edition
By Dux Raymond Sy
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $44.99; Kindle edition, list price $34.99)

Project management now provides the top use of Microsoft SharePoint 2010, and this updated edition quickly jumps straight into using SharePoint to create and run a Project Management Information System (PMIS). 

The book is written and structured for those “not interested in the nitty-gritty technical details of SharePoint,” the author says. His work “is focused on helping you leverage SharePoint for project management regardless of what industry you are in.”

And he emphasizes: “If you are interested in using SharePoint to deploy a corporate portal, create an ecommerce website, or develop a proprietary SharePoint application, this is not the book for you.”

In organizations large and small and even for individual users, “[t]he main purpose of SharePoint is to empower users with document management and team collaboration tools,” the author notes.  He points out that “SharePoint does not refer to a specific product or technology. Using the phrase ‘Microsoft SharePoint’ is like using the phrase ‘Microsoft Office.” It refers to several aspects of collaborative solutions.”

 This new edition is aimed at project managers, project team members, program managers, IT/IS directors and SharePoint consultants.

The 209-page book has nine chapters:

  • 1. Project Kickoff
  • 2. Setting Up the PMIS
  • 3. Adding PMIS Components
  • 4. Adding Stakeholders to the PMIS
  • 5. Supporting Team Collaboration
  • 6. Project Tracking
  • 7. Project Reporting
  • 8. Integrating PM Tools
  • 9. Project Closing

SharePoint 2010 for Project Management, 2nd Edition is well-written and tightly focused, with how-to instructions and illustrations on nearly every page.  It also provides a case study so readers can practice applying PMIS skills in SharePoint.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle.

Tap, Move, Shake: Turning Your Game Ideas into iPhone & iPad Apps – #bookreview

Tap, Move, Shake: Turning Your Game Ideas into iPhone & iPad Apps
By Todd Moore
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $29.99; Kindle edition, list price $23.99)

If you have some game ideas and a little coding experience, this well-focused and well-written book can show you how to get started as a developer of iPhone and iPad game apps.

The author notes: “Most games are typically controlled using a directional pad, analog joysticks, and various buttons. The iPhone and iPad give us a new form of input—Multi-touch. We can track up to 5 individual touches on the iPhone and iPod touch screens and up to 11 individual touches on the iPad. This opens up a whole new genre of games that previously did not exist. This is why [in this book] you are going to learn right from the start how to handle multiple touches on the screen.”

Moore’s 254-page book, which includes a foreword by Steve Wozniak, is organized as follows:

  • Preface – “Whether you are racking up points hitting a ball with a paddle or fragging your friends in a 3-D immersive world, the overall game elements are the same.”
  • Introduction to XCode – How to register at the App Store as an Apple Developer. (Also see App Store chapter at end of book.) How to get the iOS Dev Center program and download the latest version of XCode. How to build a simple game while you learn various aspects of XCode.
  • Hello Pong – How to create a Pong-like air hockey game called “Paddles” as you “learn how to implement multi-touch controls, animation, collision detection, and scoring.”
  • Graphics – How to create graphics and use them in your game.
  • Physics – How to “improve the paddle controls and create a realistic puck animation” for the “Paddles” game.
  • Sounds – How to “create realistic sounds for your game.”
  • Computer AI – Shows “how to create a computer player that can play a decent game of air hockey” and includes adding a title screen for the “Paddles” game, “so the player can choose to play against the computer or play the two player mode that has already been implemented.”
  • App Store – The author walks you “through the process of submitting your application to the App Store.” He also discusses the necessity to take “a lot of different screenshots, making sure to show the unique parts of your game.” The idea ultimately is to “help the customer make a buy decision” for your app.

Todd Moore founded TMSOFT “to create unique smartphone applications and games.” He is one of the few developers who have had “two apps in iTunes’ Top 20 Paid Downloads.”

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Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer and a former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.

Google+: The Missing Manual – #bookreview

Google+: The Missing Manual
By Kevin Purdy
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $14.99; Kindle edition, list price $11.99)

 I believe too much social media can rot the brain and waste many good hours of our lives. So, after I opened a Google+ account (mostly out of curiosity) a few weeks ago, I promptly let it sit unused.

I wasn’t sure what I could do with Google+ and how it might benefit me. Furthermore,  I felt that I was too busy to dig around on it, learn by blunder, and have to open a bunch of help screens and blog postings to try to find more information.

Most of all, I didn’t want to click or check the wrong box and start inviting hundreds of email contacts to join me on Google+. Particularly since there was absolutely nothing about me to see except one photo and a few bare words of “profile.”

Google+: The Missing Manual promises to deliver “the important stuff you need to know.” So I recently got a copy of it and gave Google+ another try.

Kevin Purdy’s book, I am pleased to say, is well-organized for beginners and is proving easy to follow as I gradually enlarge my Google+ beachhead.

I am still trying to figure out how to add Google+ efficiently and effectively to my online social life, as well as my writing and editing business. At this point, I still like Twitter much better. But that fact, likely, is because I have been using it for several years and have devoted a lot of time and effort to writing tweets, sharing links, retweeting information and following interesting people.

Kevin Purdy’s book now is helping me make some choices before I click on some of the Google+ setup links and go crashing off into the digital weeds.

Here is how it’s structured:

  • Chapter 1: Getting Started
  • Chapter 2: Managing Contacts with Circles
  • Chapter 3: Streams, Sharing, and Privacy
  • Chapter 4: Notifications
  • Chapter 5: Sharing Photos and Videos
  • Chapter 6: Hanging Out
  • Chapter 7: Searching and Sparks
  • Chapter 8: Google+ Mobile
  • Chapter 9: Playing Games

With the book’s help, I have ventured forth and tried a few things that I might otherwise have avoided or misunderstood. And I now have more features listed to try out during my next opportunities to spend time with Google+.

I am, frankly, still pondering if — or how deeply — I want to invest my social media time in Google+. But Purdy makes the compelling case that “Google+ is more than just a way to connect with friends, family, and acquaintances online. It’s a smarter way of sharing online that’s tied into all the other Google services you might already use”–such as Gmail and Google Docs.

And: “What Google+ really does differently…is give you nearly total control over who can see each thing you put on Google+, and what kinds things you see and from whom.”

I rate this book a well-written keeper (1) for anyone trying to get started on Google+ and (2) for anyone who, like me, has jumped into it and is now trying to figure it out, feature by feature, during busy days.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.

Microsoft Manual of Style (4th Ed.) – Improve your technical communications – #bookreview

Microsoft Manual of Style
Microsoft Corp.
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $29.99; Kindle edition, list price $23.99)

Good writers know they need more help than they can find in a dictionary and a thesaurus. So they often have collections of reference books that include such works as the Chicago Manual of Style, the MLA Handbook and the Associated Press Stylebook.

Consider adding one more specialized stylebook to your collection, particularly if you: (1) you write about, or teach, computer technology; (2) if you are a technical writer assigned to create product manuals for software or hardware; or (3) if you work as an editor of technical articles and technical books.

Microsoft Press recently has released the 4th edition of its Microsoft Manual of Style. This updated edition “includes guidelines for wired and global audience, cloud computing, publication on devices, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and the natural user interface (NUI).”

The Microsoft Manual of Style is a well-structured and useful guide that can help you improve the clarity, accuracy and style consistency of your technology writing and editing.

The book also offers useful guidelines for global English syntax and machine translation syntax. And its glossary defines more than one thousand terms and acronyms.

These are, of course, times of very rapid change for technology and its terminology. So this latest printed edition of the style manual is, “by necessity, a snapshot” and “by nature a work in progress,” its editors concede.

They emphasize how examples in the book “are labeled as ‘Microsoft Style’ and ‘Not Microsoft Style’ rather than as ‘Correct’ and ‘Incorrect.’ We don’t want to presume to say that the Microsoft way is the only correct way. It’s simply the guidance that we follow in our workplace. In sharing it with others, we hope that the decisions we have made for our content professionals will help you in your own efforts to promote consistency, clarity, and accuracy.”

They have tried to include “as many relevant neologisms as possible” – new words and phrases or new meanings for old terms, recently pushed to the fore by new technology. For example, “[g]esture guidelines for the natural user interface (NUI) introduce what have been non-technical words such as flick, pinch, and tap into the realm of technical documentation.”

A minor ding: the book’s index and usage guides both seem slightly incomplete. For example, in the Introduction, the editors state: “In the world of cloud computing, we now include terabyte (TB), petabyte (PB), and on up to yottabyte (YB), or 1024.” Yet, only terabyte and TB show up in the index and usage guide. PB and YB seem to be missing in action in both areas.

Also, the book spends two pages (16 and 17) explaining (beneath a “Parallelism” heading) how parallelism is used in Microsoft instructional manuals. “Parallelism is ensuring that elements of sentences that are similar in purpose are also similar in structure.” Yet, “parallelism” is not in the index. The term “parallel structure” appears in its place, instead.

These small glitches are not deal breakers. They simply highlight what was stated earlier, that a stylebook is a work always in progress. (Perhaps the fixes will be added in edition five?)

This 4th edition of the Microsoft Manual of Style is rich with information, examples, guidance and definitions. If you write or edit computer-related technology materials, you need it on your reference shelf.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.

Make: Electronics -Learning by doing & messing things up – A fun how-to book #bookreview

Make: Electronics
By Charles Platt
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $27.99)

Okay, big confession time. I learned electronics back in the day when vacuum tubes were still state of the art, and ham radio hobbyists happily tinkered with World War II surplus aircraft radios, tank transmitters and telegraph keys that had thigh clamps so radio operators could communicate with HQ while bouncing around in Jeeps.

Electronics is still one of my hobbies. But I haven’t kept good pace with advancing technologies, and I don’t tackle as many do-it-yourself projects as I used to. I have a large cache of small electronics components stashed in plastic crates in a shed. And those crates seldom have been opened in recent years.

This book has changed that. Make: Electronics by Charles Platt has gotten me excited again about wiring up simple projects. It is not a new book. It was published in 2009. But it is still up to date in the teaching of electronics fundamentals. 

Platt’s book approaches electronics the same way I learned it, by burning things out, messing things up and then studying some of the theory, learning how to read schematic diagrams, and learning how be more careful and thoughtful as circuits are wired up. Of course, in my day, some mis-wired electronic projects literally caught on fire, and more than one exploded.

Platt’s how-to experiments, fortunately, use low voltages and low currents, typically 9-volt batteries or a few double-A batteries. The projects can be constructed on small breadboards or perforated boards or even built “dead-bug style,” where the leads of the components simply are soldered together without any other kind of support.

His well-organized and well-written book keeps its promise to be “a hands-on primer for the new electronics enthusiast.” But it can teach some new tricks to some old electronics hounds, as well.

Make: Electronics begins with a small shopping list. You will need a few inexpensive components and tools to get started. Then it moves into some very basic and classic experiments, such as touching a 9-volt battery to your tongue, making a battery with a lemon, using resistors to reduce the voltage in a circuit, applying too much voltage to an LED and burning it out, and shorting a small battery to feel its heat.

Some fundamental theories of electricity and electronics are introduced. Proper soldering is illustrated. And then, as more theory is examined and explained, the book’s experiments move into progressively more complex projects, such as amplifiers. By the end of the book, the reader is tinkering with basic robotics and microcontrollers.

Platt provides numerous helpful resources and references for further examination, as well.

The only disappointment for me is that radio-frequency projects are limited to the construction of a basic crystal radio. But the author deftly covers a lot of ground in his book, and even simple RF circuits admittedly are better handled by those who have mastered the fundamentals first. 

Bottom line, this book has some circuits I am eager to wire up, because I am in the mood to learn again. Plus, I already have a boatload of parts and tools in storage, just waiting to be used. 

With luck and attention to detail, maybe nothing I build this time will blow up.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer, and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.