Getting .NET Results – 2 New Books from Microsoft – #programming #bookreview

Microsoft Press recently has released two new books for .NET programmers. One is for .NET newcomers, and the other definitely is not. That book has been written “to help existing Microsoft Visual Basic and Microsoft Visual C# developers understand collections in .NET.”

Here are short reviews of each book.

Easy Does It

Start Here! Fundamentals of Microsoft .NET Programming
By Rod Stephens
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $15.99)

This is a very good reference manual for anyone ready to take up .NET programming or ready to learn virtually any programming language.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the book starts out at the most basic of basic levels, defining different types of computers, just in case you don’t know a laptop from a mainframe. After that, it moves quickly into the world of programming.

You don’t need a computer, software, programming language tools or programming experience to learn from this book. Indeed, it mostly employs pseudo-code, illustrations and clear writing to explain each topic.

The idea here is to teach you “the basic concepts that drive all .NET-based languages” and to provide a reference book that you can refer back to when you are unsure about a particular term, concept, process or method.

For example, if you are now learning Microsoft Visual C# or Visual Basic, you might need to review the chapter on operators, to be sure you clearly understand what may happen if the wrong symbol is used and the correct order of precedence is not followed.

The 14 chapters of Fundamentals of Microsoft .NET Programming deal with subjects many programmers definitely should know:

  • Chapter 1, “Computer Hardware”
  • Chapter 2, “Multiprocessing”
  • Chapter 3, “Programming Environments”
  • Chapter 4, “Windows Program Components” – (Describes the visible pieces of a Windows program that a user sees and how to use them effectively as a programmer.)
  • Chapter 5, “Controls” – (Such as labels, text boxes, menus, sliders, scroll bars, etc.)
  • Chapter 6, “Variables”
  • Chapter 7, “Control Statements’” – (Using them to manage a program’s flow of execution.)
  • Chapter 8, “Operators”
  • Chapter 9, “Routines”
  • Chapter 10, “Object-Oriented Programming”
  • Chapter 11, “Development Techniques”
  • Chapter 12, “Globalization” – (Explains how to localize a program in Visual Studio so that it works in multiple places. Also looks at several localization issues.)
  • Chapter 13, “Data Storage”
  • Chapter 14, “.NET Libraries” – (Describes some of the most-useful libraries for writing .NET programs.)

You can read the 14 chapters in any order, jumping around “to suit your interests and needs,” the author adds.

That’s the hallmark of a good reference book.

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Taking Up Collections

Developer’s Guide to Collections in Microsoft .NET
By Calvin Janes
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $23.99)

“This book,” the author cautions, “is not a .NET primer for beginners; it’s intended for developers already conversant with .NET and comfortable with either the C# or Visual Basic .NET language.”

Developer’s Guide to Collections in Microsoft .NET is heavy on how-to code examples and exercises, and all sample projects can be downloaded from a web page specified in the text. Many of the code examples conveniently are shown both in C# and Visual Basic.

The book is divided into 11 chapters that are grouped into four parts:

  • Part 1, Collection Basics
  • Part II, .NET Built-in Collections
  • Part III, Using Collections
  • Part IV, Using Collections with UI Controls

There is also a nicely detailed, 14-page index.

“The book is arranged so that developers who are new to collections can get started quickly, and those who are already familiar with collections can treat the book as a useful reference,” the author says.

He has included a helpful table titled “Finding Your Best Starting Point in This Book.” For example, if you are not new to .NET and want to learn how to query your collections with the Language Integrated Query (LINQ), the table advises: “Read through Chapter 7 in Part III.” That’s the “Introduction to LINQ” chapter.

The author says he wanted to create “a one-stop shop for anyone struggling with collections: from beginners to experts who just need a reference or a few pointers here and there.”

With this fine work, he has met that goal. Its 624 pages are packed with good how-to collections information, clearly explained and illustrated, from how to implement arrays and synchronize data across threads to how to use simple data binding to display collections in Windows Forms®, Windows Silverlight® and Windows Presentation Foundation®.

Si Dunn

A gift for the programmer who has everything? The Art of Readable Code – #programming #bookreview

The Art of Readable Code: Simple and Practical Techniques for Writing Better Code
By Dustin Boswell and Trevor Foucher
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price, $27.99)

The software world is full of bad code.

Code that was badly written; code that has been reworked — badly — by dozens of undisciplined programmers; code written in haste to patch or hide a problem; code written without comments that can help you decipher what the previous programmer was thinking — or not thinking; code written by people like me, who didn’t know much at all about programming but had to produce some emergency code anyway, because the real programmers were away on vacation.

The Art of Readable Code could be a very useful book to give the programmer in your life — whether he or she is new to computer programming or an open-minded mid-career professional looking to make some improvements in how they work.

The book focuses on “basic principles and practical techniques” that programmers can apply each time they begin a new coding project or find themselves patching an old one.

The authors present what they call their “Fundamental Theorem of Readability.” In their view: “Code should be written to minimize the time it would take for someone else to understand it.”

For example, “smaller” may not always be better. A one-line expression may be more understandable to other programmers if it is broken into two lines of code.

The 190-page book illustrates its concepts with examples of code from several different programming languages, including C++, Python, JavaScript, and Java. The authors add: “We’ve avoided any advanced language features, so even if you don’t know all these languages, it should still be easy to follow along. (In our experience, the concepts of readability are mostly language-independent, anyhow.)”

The Art of Readable Code has 15 chapters and an appendix and is structured in four parts:

  • Part 1: Surface Level  Improvements – (Naming, commenting and aesthetics that can be applied to every line of code)
  • Part 2: Simplifying Loops and Logic – (Refining loops, logic, and variables so they are easier to understand)
  • Part 3: Reorganizing Your Code – (Higher-level ways to organize large blocks of code and go after problems at the function level)
  • Part 4: Selected Topics – (Applying “easy to understand” to software testing and to a larger data structure coding example)

The authors state: “It’s a valuable skill to be able to explain an idea ‘in plain English….The same skill should be used when ‘presenting’ code to your reader. We take the view that source code is the primary way to explain what a program is doing. So the code should be written ‘in plain English.’”

The book itself is smoothly written and nicely illustrated, not only with cartoons but with some very clear code examples that can be quickly applied.

Si Dunn

Mac Attack! Three new books for Macintosh users – #bookreview

No Starch Press and O’Reilly Media recently have released three new books aimed at Macintosh users.

One is for Mac newcomers. Another is for those who want to learn a lot more about the Mac OS X Lion operating system without having to read “tersely written” Apple help screens. And the third is for programmers who want “to build native Mac OS X applications with a sleek, developer-friendly  alternative to Objective-C….”

Taking it easy first…

Doing ‘Simple Projects’ with a Mac

My New Mac Lion Edition: Simple Projects to Get You Started
By Wallace Wang
(No Starch Press, paperback, list price $29.95 ; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

If you are computer newbie or switching over from Windows or other operating systems, here is a good book to help you put your new Mac to work in a hurry.

My New Mac Lion Edition shows how to do practical stuff such as connecting to the Web, playing and burning CDs and DVDs, pulling digital photos off your camera so you can edit and share them, and working with the Mac’s security features.

Given today’s risky Internet and office computing environment, it might have been better to describe the security features much earlier in the book, well before the working-online chapters. But as a practical guide to learning and using the Mac’s key features, this 472-page how-to guide is written well and has plenty of illustrations and clear lists of steps. It even describes several ways to eject a stuck CD or DVD.

The 56 chapters are grouped into seven parts:

  • Part 1: Basic Training – Everything from using the mouse to opening apps.
  • Part 2: Wrangling Files and Folders – Finding files, storing files, sharing files.
  • Part 3: Making Life Easier – Shortcut commands, controls, updating software, saving and retrieving contact information, using appointment calendar, and typing in foreign languages.
  • Part 4: Playing Music and Movies - Playing audio CDs, ripping and burning audio CDs, playing a DVD, listening to online programs and free college lectures, and editing videos with iMovie.
  • Part 5: The Digital Shutterbug – Transferring, editing and displaying digital photographs.
  • Part 6: Surfing and Sharing on the Internet – Numerous things web and email, plus instant messaging with iChat.
  • Part 7: Maintaining Your Mac – Energy conservation, ejecting stuck CDs/DVDs, password protecting  your Mac, encrypting your data, and configuring your firewall.

The author, Wallace Wang, has written several best-selling computer books. He’s also an ongoing career as a standup comic.

More IS Better: What to Do with 50+ Programs and 250 New Features

Mac OS X Lion: The Missing Manual
By David Pogue
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $34.99)

David Pogue created the popular Missing Manual series, and the New York Times technology columnist definitely knows how to put together a good how-to book.

His 909-page Mac OS X Lion: The Missing Manual is exactly what you need to become (over time and with diligent effort, of course) a Mac power user. It’s also what you need if you’d rather settle for being a well-informed user who likes having a handy source  for looking up information about a Mac feature or program.

In this book, you begin well beneath the “Hello, World!” level by learning to say “oh-ess-ten,” not “oh-ess-ex.” Once you master that, you get to move into “The New Lion Landscape,” where you are informed that “Apple’s overarching design philosophy in creating Mac OS X was: ‘Make it more like an iPad.’”

Then, you quickly learn how to use “Full Screen Mode, Safari” and “Full Screen Apps, Mission Control.” And, by the way, you are still officially in Chapter 0 at this point (that’s “zero,” not “oh”).

Pogue’s book is smoothly written. (You don’t, after all, just luck into writing for the Times.) It has a good array of screenshots and other illustrations. And it offers plenty of tips and notes amid the instructional paragraphs.

The book’s six parts (with seven chapters each) are focused as follows:

  • Part 1: The Mac OS X Desktop – “[C]overs everything you see on the screen when you turn on a Mac OS X computer….”
  • Part 2: Programs in Mac OS X - Describes “how to launch them, switch among them, swap data between them, use them to create and open files, and control them using the AppleScript and Automator automation tools.”
  • Part 3: The Components of Mac OS X - “[A]n item-by-item discussion of the individual software nuggets that make up this operating system–the 29 panels of System Preferences and the 50-some programs in your Applications and Utilities folders.”
  • Part 4: The Technologies of Mac OS X – “Networking, file sharing, and screen sharing…” plus “fonts, printing, graphics, handwriting recognition…sound, speech, movies…” and even some looks at how to use “Mac OS X’s Unix underpinnings.”
  • Part 5: Mac OS X Online – “[C]overs all of the Internet features of Mac OS X.” Everything from email to chatting to working in the cloud, and even “connecting to, and controlling, your Mac from across the wires — FTP, SSH, VPN, and so on.”
  • Part 6: Appendixes – These include a Windows-to-Mac dictionary (for Windows refugees), information on installing Mac OS X, troubleshooting information, and “a thorough master list of all the keyboard shortcuts and trackpad/mouse gestures in Lion.”

If you’re serious about using your Mac and weary of opening endless not-so-helpful help screens, you should seriously consider owning this book.

A Programmer’s Guide to MacRuby

MacRuby: The Definitive Guide
By Matt Aimonetti
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

“MacRuby,” the author says, “is Apple’s implementation of the Ruby programming language on top of the Objective-C technology stack.”

His book is a straightforward, no-nonsense guide intended to show developers how “to write native applications for the Cocoa environment using the popular Ruby syntax as well as the well-known and robust Objective-C and C libraries.”

He declares his work “neither a Ruby book nor a Cocoa book,” but states that “it should provide you with enough information to understand the MacRuby environment and create rich applications for the OS X platform.”

MacRuby: The Definitive Guide is segmented into two major parts. Part 1 (“MacRuby Overview”) introduces MacRuby, including what it is, how it’s installed, how it works, what you can do with it, and how it relates to what you already probably know. Part 2 (titled “MacRuby in Practice”)  “covers concrete examples of applications you might want to develop in MacRuby.”

Using short, concise code examples, Matt Aimonetti helps the reader dive straight into MacRuby, beginning at the classic “Hello, World!” entry point, with a little twist.

In just 35 lines of code, you learn how to build a graphical user interface (GUI) application that displays the words “MacRuby: The Definitive Guide” in a window with a button. The window shows “Hello World!” within a box, and your computer speaks “Hello, world!” when you click on the button.

The first eight chapters focus on topics such as: introduction, fundamentals, foundation, application kit, Xcode, core data, and getting deeper into the process of “developing complex apps.”

The topics of the final five chapters are: (1) creating an Address Book example; (2) creating an application that “uses the user’s geographical location and a location web service”; (3) using MacRuby in Objective-C projects; (4) using Objective-C code in MacRuby apps; and (5) using Ruby third-party libraries. 

Before reading this book and tackling the code, the author recommends having some programming experience and basic familiarity with object-oriented programming. You also should get a basic overview of the Ruby language by visiting its main website.

Si Dunn 

Droid X2: The Missing Manual – #droid #bookreview

Droid X2: The Missing Manual
By Preston Gralla
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

Got, getting or giving a Droid X2 smartphone?

Consider adding this useful how-to manual to the mix. Droid X2: The Missing Manual bills itself as “The book that should have been in the box.” But it’s likely much bigger than the phone’s box.

The 399-page manual, written by veteran technology writer Preston Gralla, is nicely structured, well-illustrated and chock full of information on using the Droid X2′s many features. The book is organized into six parts.

 Part 1 covers “Android Basics.” It gives a guided tour of features and shows how to make calls, do text messages, manage contacts, use Caller ID, make conference calls, and handle other tasks.

Part 2 focuses on “Camera, Pix, Music, and Video” and how you can use a Droid X2 to take photographs, play and manage music, and record, edit and view videos.

Part 3, “Maps, Apps, and Calendar,” shows “how to navigate using a GPS, to find any location in the world with maps, to find your own location on a map, to get weather and news, to use a great calendar app, and to synchronize that calendar with your Google calendar, or even an Outlook calendar,” Gralla writes.

Part 4, “Android Online,” discusses “everything you need to know about the Droid X2′s remarkable online talents.” This includes getting online over Verizon’s network or a wi-fi hotspot, using your Droid X2 as a portable G3 hotspot, checking email, surfing the Internet and downloading and using apps.

Part 5 covers “Advanced Topics,” including syncing and transferring files between a Droid X2 and a Mac or a PC, using your voice to control your Droid, and using your Droid at your workplace. Part 5 also includes a nice listing of Droid X2 settings.

Part 6, “Appendixes,” has three “reference chapters” showing how to activate a Droid X2, which accessories are available, and how to troubleshoot various issues.

This “Missing Manual” includes a link to a website where you can keep up with updates and changes to the Droid X2, plus corrections to the book.

Meanwhile, a “Missing CD” web page link provided in the book gives clickable links to the websites that are mentioned in the text.

Many new users of the Droid X2 likely will find this book helpful. So will experienced users who have mostly focused on voice calls and text messages and now want to master some of their smartphone’s other features. 

Si Dunn

Programming Concurrency on the JVM – #java #programming #bookreview

Programming Concurrency on the JVM: Mastering Synchronization, STM, and Actors
By Venkat Subramaniam
(Pragmatic Bookshelf, paperback, list price $35.00)

“Faster!”

That’s the word pressuring many programmers today as modern multicore hardware makes it possible to perform numerous actions simultaneously.

“A concurrent program may download multiple files while performing computations and updating the database,” notes the author of this well-written introduction to programming concurrency on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

So speed increasingly is of the essence, but so is improving how well (and quickly) applications respond to users. 

In Programming Concurrency on the JVM, the focus is on introducing Java programmers to “three separate concurrency solutions—the modern Java JDK [Java Development Kit] concurrency model, the Software Transactional Model (STM), and the actor-based concurrency model.” And the goal is to help programmers learn the advantages and disadvantages of each and make the right choices for their applications.

The author states that “[t]here are three ways to avoid problems when writing concurrent programs:

  • Synchronize properly.
  • Don’t share state.
  • Don’t mutate state.”

He explains that “[i]f we use the modern JDK currency API [application programming interface], we’ll have to put in significant effort to synchronize properly. STM makes synchronization implicit and greatly reduces the changes of error. The actor-based model, on the other hand, helps us avoid shared state. Avoiding mutable state is the secret weapon to winning concurrency battles.”

Programming Concurrency on the JVM is adequately illustrated and divided into five parts: Strategies for Concurrency, Modern Java/JDK Concurrency, Software Transactional Memory, Actor-Based Concurrency, and an epilogue focusing on making the right choices.

The book, the author stresses, is not for Java newcomers. It is for “experienced Java programmers who are interested in learning how to manage and make use of concurrency on the JVM, using languages such as Java Clojure, Groovy, JRuby, and Scala.”

Most of the code examples are in Java, but he includes some examples in Clojure, Groovy, JRuby, and Scala, as well. And he has made extra effort “to keep the syntactical nuances and the language-specific idioms to a minimum.”

He adds: “Programming concurrency is hard, yet the benefits it provides make all the troubles worthwhile.”

Si Dunn

Head First HTML5 Programming – #javascript #html5 #programming #bookreview

Head First HTML5 Programming: Building Web Apps with JavaScript
By Eric Freeman and Elisabeth Robson
(O’Reilly, list price $49.99, paperback)

This is not your father’s turgid programming textbook.

Indeed, even if you are not interested whatsoever in messing around with JavaScript and learning how to be an HTML5 programmer, you may still enjoy reading this book and studying how it is put together.

Head First HTML5 Programming is a fun and entertaining mixture of graphics, text and coding examples. But, more than that, this “multi-sensory learning experience” has been put together “[u]sing the latest research in cognitive science and learning theory….”

How often have you heard someone say a computer programming book is “fun and entertaining”?

Yes, Head First HTML5 Programming is still a how-to book, and it is one that focuses on creating web apps using JavaScript — not exactly a fertile field for comedy.

But the book promises “to start by going from zero to HTML5 in 3.8 pages (flat)” — and delivers. By the third page, you begin using a whimsical “HTML5-O-Matic” to update standard HTML to HTML5. And by the bottom of the fourth page, you are “officially certified to upgrade any HTML to HTML5.”  (It takes just three steps and a bonus round to get there, by the way.)

Even the book’s table of contents is zany, amusing and informative, with funny graphics and snarky summaries of what you will find in each chapter and appendix. 

And don’t be intimidated by this book’s physical size. It has 574 pages, but it presents information in small, manageable chunks, surrounded by eye-pleasing white space and lots of illustrations that will make you grin or chuckle even as you learn something new.

By the way, you don’t have to know JavaScript to use this book. The first few chapters provide  an excellent and palatable JavaScript overview.

However, if you think you are serious about becoming an HTML5 programmer but don’t yet have any experience in  HTML markup and CSS  (cascading style sheets), the two writers recommend that you tackle one other book first: Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML (list price, $39.99 paperback. There is also a Kindle edition.)  

Whether you know HTML, CSS and JavaScript or not, however, you should plan on doing the book’s exercises. Cutting “class” is not an option with this book. “Some of (the exercises) are to help with memory, some are for understanding, and some will help you apply what you’ve learned,” the writers point out.

They add: “Most reference books don’t have retention and recall as a goal, but this book is about learning, so you’ll see some of the same concepts come up more than once.”

The software and hardware requirements for writing HTML5 and JavaScript code are minimal: “[Y]ou need a text editor, a browser, and, sometimes, a web server (it can be locally hosted on your personal desktop).”

They recommend that you use more than one browser while learning HTML5 and JavaScript. And, to use some HTML5 features and JavaScript APIs, you will have to “serve files from a real web server rather than loading a file….” But they explain how to do this.

Head First HTML5 Programming advertises that it will promises to help “load HTML5 and JavaScript straight into your brain,” and it seems to start doing that right after you open its pages — as long as you keep an open mind about using a programming book that is actually enjoyable and fun to read while it instructs.

Si Dunn

Microsoft OneNote 2010 Plain & Simple – #bookreview #training

Microsoft OneNote® 2010 Plain & Simple
By Peter Weverka
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $24.99 ;  Kindle  $9.99)

Employee training is one of the first things cut during an economic downturn. And in today’s long-depressed employment market, you are expected to learn many different software packages on your own, at your own expense, before you apply for a job.

The Microsoft Plain & Simple book series represents a good and affordable way to learn how to use Windows 7, Microsoft Office and several individual Office products, including PowerPoint, Word and Excel.

This new addition to the series, Microsoft OneNote® 2010 Plain & Simple, helps you jump right into using OneNote 2010 with little explanation and virtually no “computerese.”

Unfortunately, if you’ve never seen or used OneNote, you aren’t given a clear, concise statement of exactly what the program does, until page 16: “The purpose of OneNote is to make it easier for you to record, store, organize, and find notes.”

A feature called “the ribbon” also is mentioned several times before it finally is specifically defined on page 6: “The ribbon is the assortment of tabs, buttons, and commands that appear along the top of the OneNote screen.”

These minor flaws aside, Microsoft OneNote® 2010 Plain & Simple does a fine job of showing new users how to dive right into using the program and mastering its features. The book is richly illustrated with screens, clearly numbered steps, and tips boxes, plus “Try This!” exercises, “Caution!” statements and “See Also” suggestions.

Peter Weverka’s writing generally is clear and concise, and the book is divided into 20 chapters featuring small chunks of specific how-to information. The 241-page book also has a nicely detailed 15-page index.

OneNote 2010 has some screen changes and several new features that users of older versions may wish to learn, and this book can help.

“Unlike its predecessors, OneNote 2010 offer a Styles gallery for quickly formatting text and gives you the ability to create links between [OneNote] notebooks, sections, and pages so you can jump from place to place quickly,” the author notes.

“You can also dock OneNote to the side of the screen, which makes it easier to take notes from a Word document or web page.”

A new Page Versions command lets you summon older versions of a OneNote page. And the “Mini Translator” feature can translate a foreign word or phrase into English, and vice versa.

The Translation Options box displays all of the available To and From language pairs. If the language you need is not listed, a “Try This!” tip guides you to OneNote’s Research Task Pane, where you can find and add other languages.

“OneNote,” the author adds, works hand in glove with two other Microsoft Office 2010 applications: Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Outlook 2010.”

For example, you can use Word 2010 to open a OneNote 2010 page, and “[a]ll formats except styles transfer to the Word page.” The OneNote page also can be saved as a Word document.

Meanwhile, you can create Outlook 2010 tasks in OneNote without having to open Outlook. “And you can get information about a meeting directly from Outlook as well,” Weverka points out.

“Outlook offers the OneNote button for copying data from Outlook to OneNote. After you select an email message, meeting, contact, or task in Outlook, you can click the OneNote button to copy the item to OneNote.” In the process, you also get “a link that you can click to return to Outlook when you need to.”

Small starting glitches aside, this new addition to the “Plain & Simple” series solidly lives up to its billing as an “easy, colorful, SEE-HOW guide to OneNote,” a software tool you may need to learn for your next job or your present job or for boosting your productivity in your self-employment.

Si Dunn

MCPD Exam Ref 70-519 – for Microsoft.NET Framework 4 – #bookreview #Microsoft #software #MCPD

MCPD Exam Ref 70-519: Designing and Developing Web Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 4
By Tony Northrup
(Microsoft Press, list price $39.99, paperback)

Definitely consider this book if you are gearing up to get a Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) certification in designing and developing web applications using Microsoft .NET Framework 4.

“The 70-591 certification exam tests your knowledge of designing and developing web applications,” the author notes.

He is a Microsoft consultant and author of more than 25 books on Windows and web development, networking, and security.

His 271-page exam reference guide has six chapters:

  1. Designing the Application Architecture
  2. Designing the User Experience
  3. Designing Data Strategies and Structures
  4. Designing Security Architecture and Implementation
  5. Preparing for and Investigating Application Issues
  6. Designing a Deployment Strategy

The exam reference guide also has a solid, well-detailed, 12-page index.

“This book covers every exam objective,” the author notes, “but it does not necessarily cover every exam question. Microsoft regularly adds new questions to the exam, making it impossible for this (or any) book to provide every answer. Instead, this book is designed to supplement your relevant independent study and real-world experience.”

It also is not all-inclusive. Tony Northrup recommends augmenting exam preparations “by using a combination of available study materials and courses. For example, you might use the Exam Ref and another study guide for your ‘at home’ preparation and take a Microsoft Official Curriculum course for classroom experience.”

The approach employed in this exam reference is high-level, and it assumes that the reader already has some web development experience. “[B]oth the exam and the book are so high-level that there is very little coding involved. In fact, most of the code samples this book provides simply illustrate higher-level concepts,” Northrup points out.

Microsoft states that “[s]uccessful candidates generally have three or more years of real-world experience.”

Exam Ref 70-519 is well-written and adequately illustrated. And the text is divided into many small, manageable chunks, with exam tips, objective summaries, objective review questions and their answers, and links to additional information.

Those who purchase Exam Ref 70-519 also receive a 15% exam discount coupon from Microsoft, positioned at the back of the book.

Si Dunn

Revolution in the Valley: How the Mac Was Made (2nd Revised Edition) – #bookreview #macintosh

Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made
By Andy Hertzfeld
(O’Reilly Media, list price $24.99, paperback)

My wife swears by her Mac. I, however, just swear at it when I am forced to use it.

I have been using anything-but-Apple computers since the early 1980s, starting with a Sinclair ZX80 and moving up through a ragged assortment of Trash-80s, Osbornes,  Kaypros, PC-XTs, PC-ATs, and PCs that run Windows 7.

During a short semi-career in specialized hardware and software development, I tested programs that ran exclusively on machines running Windows. So I have that bias.

Nonetheless, Andy Hertzfeld’s book, Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made, is fascinating and entertaining reading, even for those of us who have avoided Apple computers and sometimes still bristle at the smug, superior attitudes exhibited by many Macintosh users. (Don’t tell my wife I said that.)

Hertzfeld was one of the main authors of the Macintosh system software, including the User Interface Toolbox and many of the Mac’s original desk accessories. He later joined Google and is one of the primary creators of Google +.

Originally published in 2004, Revolution in the Valley recently has been brought back into print again by O’Reilly Media as a second revised edition.

The book is drawn mainly from Hertzfeld’s adventures, misadventures, reflections and perspectives. But it is not All Hertzfeld All the Time. Refreshingly, it also includes stories written by “other key original Mac team members”—Steve Capps, Donn Denman, Bruce Horn and Susan Kare.

Their stories recount the chaotically creative and frequently high-pressured race to design and deliver “an easy-to-use, low-cost, consumer-oriented computer…featuring a revolutionary graphical user interface (GUI).”

Hertzfeld and his co-contributors focus on “the development of the original Macintosh computer, from its inception in the summer of 1979, through its triumphant introduction in January 1984, until May 31, 1985, when Steve Jobs was forced off the Macintosh team.

Revolution in the Valley is divided into five parts and follows a somewhat chronological path. However, it makes frequent and refreshing use of short anecdotes that are easy and enjoyable to read, no matter what your computer bias might be. It also has a nice assortment of photographs, drawings, screenshots and other illustrations from the development period.

Speaking (again) of smug attitudes, one amusing incident in the book involves the Macintosh team’s April 1981 encounter at a computer show with Adam Osborne, creator of the Osborne 1, “a low-cost, one-piece, portable computer complete with a suite of bundled applications.”

According to Hertzfeld: “As Macintosh elitists, we were suitably grossed out by the character-based CP/M applications, which seemed especially clumsy on the tiny, scrolling screen.” When Osborne realized he was talking to the Macintosh development team, he told them his Osborne 1 would outsell the Apple II “by a factor of 10” and added that they should “tell Steve Jobs that the Osborne 1 is going to outsell the Apple II and the Macintosh combined!”

When Steve Jobs heard what Adam Osborne had said, he called the founder of the Osborne Computer Company and left two messages. The first message was simple and basic, that Osborne was “an asshole.” Jobs’ second message was: “Tell him the Macintosh is so good that he’s probably going to buy a few for his children even though it put his company out of business.”

And the rest, of course, is computer history.

Revolution in the Valley has drawn strong praise from Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs in 1976.

“It’s chilling to recall how this cast of young and inexperienced people who cared more than anything about doing great things created what is perhaps the key technology of our lives,” he notes in the book’s foreword. “ Their own words and images take me back to those rare days when the rules of innovation were guided by internal rewards, and not by money.”

Si Dunn

Effective Time Management, Using Microsoft Outlook – #bookreview

Effective Time Management: Using Microsoft Outlook to Organize Your
Work and Personal Life
By Lothar Seiwert and Holger Woeltje
(Microsoft Press, list price $29.99, paperback; digital list price $23.99, Kindle)

To be honest, I never have liked Microsoft Outlook.

My first frustrating and confusing experiences with Outlook several years ago left me convinced that I had absolutely no reason to quit using paper desktop calendars and separate email programs.

But after reading Effective Time Management: Using Microsoft Outlook to Organize Your Work and Personal Life, I have decided to put Outlook back on my PC. I am now giving it another chance to help me exert some semblance of control over the events, meetings and messages in my days and nights.

The book’s authors, Lothar Seiwert and Holger Woeltje, are “two highly experienced time management experts from Germany, the largest national economy in Europe.”

Effective Time Management is nicely organized and well written. It also has an adequate number of screen shots, tips and step-by-step lists to help you get a handle on Outlook, even if you are, like me, a newcomer to its latest version.

Their 248-page book is divided into seven chapters. And, while the focus is on using Outlook 2010 to help you improve your time management skills, the authors helpfully include how-to steps for Outlook 2003 and 2007, as well.

The chapters are:

  1. How Not to Drown in the Email Flood
  2. How to Work More Effectively with Tasks and Priorities
  3. How to Gain More Time for What’s Essential with an Effective Week Planner
  4. How to Make Your Daily Planning Work in Real Life
  5. How to Schedule Meetings So They Are Convenient, Effective, and Fun
  6. How to use OneNote for Writing Goals, Jotting Down Ideas, and Keeping Notes
  7. How to Truly Benefit from This Book

The book’s one appendix is a list of recommended readings that deal with time management and keeping your productivity energy level high. And the 14-page index is well-detailed.

Seiwert and Woeltje recommend that you use Outlook to “plan your professional life and private life together…so that you avoid conflicting appointments…unless private planning is prohibited on your office computer or you don’t have access to it on the weekend or in the evening.”

They also recommend that you follow “the Kiesel Principle” so you can “gain more time for what matters most each week,” in your work life and your personal life.  “Take about 30 minutes to plan your week,” they explain. “Initially, it might take you longer, but after a few weeks, you will get used to it and it will become routine.”

It’s all about achieving a healthy balance in life – and using Microsoft Outlook to help you get there and stay there.

Si Dunn