FileMaker Pro 12: The Missing Manual – A big but easy how-to guide by two experts – #bookreview #database

FileMaker Pro 12: The Missing Manual
Susan Prosser and Stuart Gripman
(O’Reilly,
paperbackKindle)

The good news is: “FileMaker Pro is the ease-of-use champion.” It avoids common database “jargon words like query, join, and alias.” Instead, the two authors state, it uses “simple concepts like find, sort, and connect.”

So, if it’s so simple, why does this book weigh three pounds and have 924 pages?

Two reasons, both good. The authors – each are FileMaker Pro Certified Developers — do a fine job of explaining the package, from the basics to the most advanced features. And they illustrate their points with a generous number of screen shots, lists of steps, and other learning aids.

“FileMaker Pro databases,” they point out, “can be as simple as a list of the things you need to pack when you’re camping (complete with pictures!) or as complex as a company-wide system for purchasing, sales, inventory, invoicing, shipping, and customer tracking. But all of them essentially work the same way.”

FileMaker Pro 12: The Missing Manual has six parts, and the first two parts (encompassing four chapters and 172 pages) explain and demonstrate how to get started with the software and use it to build and improve your first database.

In Part 3, you move past the beginner stage and into creating and maintaining a relational database, plus handling such choices as field options, layout mechanics, calculations, and using scripts. In Part 4, you learn how to start thinking like a relational database developer and using FileMaker Pro Advanced. Part 5 focuses on database security and integration issues, including managing accounts, sharing databases over the Internet and sharing data with other systems. Part 6 contains four useful appendices, including definitions of FileMaker error codes.

In a powerful package like FileMaker Pro 12, there are plenty of choices and capabilities to explain, and there are few ways to be reasonably “complete” without ending up holding a big pile of how-to pages.

Despite its heft and thickness, however, this excellent Missing Manual is structured to help you move forward at your own pace — whether you want to learn it all or just enough to scrape by at a new workplace.

Si Dunn

Version Control with Git, 2nd Ed. – Bring order to software development’s collaborative chaos – #bookreview #programming

Version Control with Git, 2nd Edition
Jon Loeliger and Matthew McCullough
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

When I first took a job in software development, individual programmers controlled code versions themselves, and they jealously guarded their releases with back-ups on multiple diskettes – 5.25” diskettes. The real floppies. (Yep, I’m so old I actually worked with a few 8-inch floppies, too.)

It’s a different world now. Code for one project often is developed, modified, tested and controlled by groups of people, sometimes big groups. And many of those who work with the project’s code are scattered all over the planet.

Thus, maintaining version control and keeping good backups are major management challenges for software developers today. There’s no more going home after work with 10 big floppies in your briefcase as a hedge against your office burning down overnight.

Git is a popular, if somewhat difficult, tool for tracking, branching, merging, and managing code revisions. The authors of Version Control with Git favor the term “version control system (VCS)” for this and other software packages that perform similar functions. (“Source code manager (SCM)” is another popular label.)

In their updated and expanded 2nd edition, here is how they sum up the imperative for strong version control:

“No cautious, creative person starts a project nowadays without a back-up strategy. Because data is ephemeral and be lost easily—through an errant code change or catastrophic disk crash, say— it is wise to maintain a living archive of all work. For text and code projects, the back-up strategy typically includes version control, or tracking and managing revisions. Each developer can make several revisions per day, and the ever-increasing corpus serves simultaneously as repository, project narrative, communication medium, and team and project management tool. Given its pivotal role, version control is most effective when tailored to the working habits and goals of the project team.”

Whether you do or do not yet have experience with a version control system, you can glean important information and numerous useful tips from this book’s 21 chapters and 434 pages. Version Control with Git covers a lot of vital ground in a well-organized how-to fashion, with plenty of code samples and related illustrations.

One example out of its many key lessons: “As the developer of content for a project using Git, you should create your own private copy, or clone, of the repository to do your development. This development repository should serve as your own work area where you can make changes without fear of colliding with, interrupting, or otherwise interfering with another developer.”

In another key lesson, they show how to use git stash, “the mechanism for capturing your work in progress, allowing you to save it and return to it later when convenient….the stash is a quick convenience mechanism that allows a complete and thorough capturing of your index and working directory in one simple command. It leaves your repository clean, uncluttered, and ready for an alternate development direction. Another single command restores that index and working directory state completely, allowing you to resume where you left off.”

In a software development environment where everything is a crisis and priorities change hourly on what should have been finished yesterday, git stash save and git stash pop may become two of your favorite commands.

The book describes installing versions of Git for Linux and Microsoft Windows, and for running within Cygwin. It also can be run on Mac OS X and Solaris systems. Meanwhile, most of the book’s chapters focus on using the Git command line tool. But the new 2nd edition also devotes a chapter to what many Git users consider the most vital tool that has emerged from the big online community that now surrounds Git: GitHub.com.

Developers often clone a repository from GitHub. Several types of public and private repositories also can be created there. And so-called “social coding” is available. Indeed, many open source projects are hosted on GitHub, and some of them attract people who simply watch the coding, while others do coding in personal “forks” that may or not prove helpful to those more officially involved in the project. Yet another popular use of GitHub is finding useful code examples in particular programming languages.

Whether Git is in your working future or it’s already here, or if you’re still wondering if it can help you, definitely check out Version Control with Git.

Si Dunn

Learn the Kinect API – New Microsoft ‘Start Here!’ guide shows how – #bookreview

Learn the Kinect™ API
Rob Miles
(Microsoft Press, paperback, Kindle)

The Kinect sensor  is a popular peripheral for Microsoft’s XBox 360 video game systems and Windows PCs. The device contains a video camera, a directional microphone system, and a depth sensor.

Software developers are using the device “to advance the field of computer interaction in all kinds of exciting ways,” the author notes. “It is now possible to create programs that use the Kinect sensor to create a computer interface with the ability to recognize users and understand their intentions using a ‘natural’ user interface consisting of gestures and spoken commands. In addition, the device’s capabilities have a huge range of possible applications, from burglar alarms to robot controllers.”

If you want to learn how to program with the Kinect application programming interface (API), this new book in the popular Microsoft “Start Here!” series can get you moving along the right path toward becoming a developer.

But there are three key assumptions that may slow your start. You are expected to “have a reasonable understanding of .NET development using the C# programming language.” And: “You should be familiar with the Visual Studio 2010 development environment and object-oriented programming development.”

Also, “if you are a C++ developer who wishes to learn how to interact with the Kinect sensor from unmanaged C++ programs, you will find that the code samples supplied will not [emphasis added] provide this information.” All of the code samples are written in C#.

Rob Miles, a programming professor at the United Kingdom’s University of Hull, has organized his well-written, 250-page book into four parts:

  • Part I: Getting Started – Provides an overview of the Kinect and how to hook it up and get it working with your PC.
  • Part II: Using the Kinect Sensor – Covers sensor initialization and introduces each of Kinect’s data sources –video, depth, and sound – and how to use them in programs.
  • Part III: Creating Advanced User Interfaces – Illustrates how the Kinect SDK performs body tracking and how programs can use this information. Also shows how Kinect data can be combined to create augmented-reality applications.
  • Part IV: Kinect in the Real World – Focuses on how the Kinect can interact with external devices, such as MIDI devices and robots.

Learn the Kinect™ API offers several ideas for how you can use the Kinect’s video, sound, and depth-response capabilities in your own programs. One example is using the Kinect’s directional microphone feature so that a spoken password “only works when you say it in one part of [a] room, or you could have different [spoken] passwords for different parts of the room,” Miles points out.

It’s a bit of understatement to say that Rob Miles enjoys working with the Kinect device. “I’ve had,” he writes, “more wow moments with this little sensor bar than I’ve had with much more expensive toys that I’ve played with over time.”

Si Dunn

New Books for Windows Phone 7 & 7.5 and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 T-SQL – #bookreview

Microsoft Press recently has released two new books, one for developers who work with Windows Phone 7 & 7.5 and the other for newcomers to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 T-SQL. 

Windows Phone 7 Development Internals
Andrew Whitechapel
(Microsoft Press, paperback, Kindle)

Andrew Whitechapel’s hefty new 809-page development internals guidebook focuses on Windows Phone 7 design and architecture and helps you learn best practices for building Windows Phone 7 applications. It is illustrated with numerous screenshots, code examples, and other illustrations.

The book “covers the breadth of application development for the Windows Phone platform, both the major 7 and 7.1/7.5 versions and the minor 7.1.1 version,” Whitechapel writes.

Windows Phone 7 Development Internals is aimed at experienced .NET developers who are familiar with Microsoft Silverlight and want to dig into Windows Phone’s platform design and API surface.

“The Windows Phone 7 release only supports C#,” Whitechapel notes, “and although support for Visual Basic was introduced with the 7.1 SDK, this book focuses purely on C# and XAML.”

In each of the 20 chapters, several features are introduced, and Whitechapel provides “one or more sample [Silverlight] applications and walks you through the significant code (C# and XAML).”

The book’s author is a senior program manager for the Windows Phone Application Platform.

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Microsoft SQL Server 2012 T-SQL Fundamentals
Itzik Ben-Gan
(Microsoft Press, paperback, Kindle)

Transact-SQL, more commonly known as T-SQL, is the Microsoft SQL Server dialect of the ISO and ANSI standards for SQL. T-SQL code is used to query and modify data in SQL Server 2012.

Itzik Ben-Gan, one of the leading experts on T-SQL, emphasizes that his new book “covers fundamentals [and] is mainly aimed at T-SQL practitioners with little or no experience.” But others who have some T-SQL experience also can find it helpful for filling in gaps in knowledge. The book also is recommended for database administrators, business intelligence (BI) practitioners, report writer, analysts, architects, and SQL Server power users who have “just started working with SQL Server and need to write queries and develop code using Transact-SQL.”

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 T-SQL Fundamentals is structured into 10 chapters. The first chapter provides “Background to T-SQL Querying and Programming. Chapters 2 through 8 examine “various aspects of querying and modifying data.” Chapter 9 looks at concurrency and transactions, and Chapter 10 provides an overview of programmable objects.

The book’s one appendix shows you how to “get started and set up your environment so that you have everything you need to get the most out of this book.” The major discussions include: “Getting Started with SQL Database”; “Installing an On-Premises Implementation of SQL Server”; “Downloading Source Code and Installing the Sample Database”; “Working with SQL Server Management Studio”; and “Working with SQL Server Books Online.”

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Si Dunn

Training Kit (Exam 70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases – #bookreview #mcsa

Training Kit (Exam 70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
Orin Thomas, Peter Ward, and boB Taylor
(Microsoft Press, paperback with CD)

Exam 70-462 is one of three required examinations you must pass to get a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification for Microsoft SQL Server 2012.

This well-structured, 593-page book is designed for self-paced training and includes a CD with practice tests. The CD offers several testing modes to choose from and hundreds of test questions. The text is amply illustrated with screenshots, bullet points and numbered steps, and each lesson concludes with a lesson summary and lesson review. Answers to the lesson review questions are at the back of the book, and explanations also are provided for why the incorrect answers are wrong.

The book’s introduction covers such topics as system requirements, practice setup instructions, errata and book support links, and how to prepare for the exam.

The book’s 12 chapters focus on the following topics:

  1. Planning and Installing SQL Server 2012
  2. Configuring and Managing SQL Server Instances
  3. Configuring SQL Server 2012 Components
  4. Migrating, Importing, and Exporting
  5. SQL Server Logins, Roles, and Users
  6. Securing SQL Server 2012
  7. Mirroring and Replication
  8. Clustering and AlwaysOn
  9. Troubleshooting SQL Server 2012
  10. Indexes and Concurrency
  11. SQL Server Agent, Backup, and Restore
  12. Code Case Studies

The authors caution that you should consider this study guide just “one part of your exam preparation plan. You require meaningful, real-world experience with SQL Server 2012 to pass this exam.”

They also recommend using Hyper-V, a feature of Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Widows Server 2012, and certain editions of Windows 8, “[t]o minimize the time and expense of configuring physical computers for this training kit. You can use other virtualization software instead, but the instructions are written assuming that you are using a solution that supports 64-bit operating systems hosted as virtual machines.”

Si Dunn

Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition – Welcome to the new, improved & BIGGER Internet – #bookreview #microsoft #windows

Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition
Joseph Davies
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $49.99; Kindle edition, list price $39.99)

The Internet can now expand into a much bigger realm than was possible before the worldwide launch of IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) on June 6, 2012.

The web most of us use has long relied on IPv4, the circa-1981 Internet Protocol built around 32-bit addresses. This scheme can accommodate approximately 4.3 billion unique addresses worldwide. On a planet where (1) the population now has surpassed 7 billion and (2) many of us now have multiple devices connected to the Web, Internet Protocol version 4 recently has been in dire danger of running out of unique addresses.

IPv6 will fix that problem and offer several important new enhancements, as long as we don’t find ways to expand the Internet to parallel universes or to the people on a few trillion distant planets. IPv6 uses a 128-bit addressing scheme that can accommodate more than 340 trillion trillion trillion unique addresses. So go ahead. Get online with that second iPad, third smart phone or fourth laptop.

IPv4 and IPv6 are now running in a dual stack that supports both addressing schemes. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is not seamless, however. A lot of work remains to be done by major Internet service providers (ISPs), web companies, hardware manufacturers, network equipment providers and many others to enable IPv6 on their products and services.

Joseph Davies, author of Understanding IPv6, has been writing about IPv6 since 1999. His new 674-page third edition provides both a detailed overview of IPv6 and a detailed focus on how to implement it, within a limited range of Windows products.

“There are,” he notes, “different versions of the Microsoft IPv6 protocol for Windows….I have chosen to confine the discussion to the IPv6 implementation in Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista.”

This well-written and well-organized book is not for beginners. Its intended audience includes:

  • Windows networking consultants and planners
  • Microsoft Windows network administrators
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSEs) and Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs)
  • General technical staff
  • Information technology students

Davies and Microsoft offer downloadable companion content for this book: Microsoft Network Monitor 3.4 (a network sniffer for capturing and viewing frames); and PowerPoint 2007 training slides that can be used along with the book to teach IPv6.

If you need a guide to best practices for using IPv6 in a Windows network, definitely consider getting Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition.

Si Dunn

Introducing Windows Server 2012 – A guide to what’s coming in a much-anticipated release – #bookreview #microsoft

Introducing Windows Server® 2012
Mitch Tulloch with the Microsoft Server Team
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $14.99; Kindle edition,
list price $0.00)

 The anticipated release date for the new version of Microsoft Server®  is sometime between the third quarter of 2012 and early 2013. And this book’s introduction hails it as “probably the most significant release of the Windows Server platform ever.”

Windows Server® 2012, it states, will offer “an innovative new user interface, powerful new management tools, enhanced Windows PowerShell support, and hundreds of new features in the areas of networking, storage and virtualization.”

There also will be major emphasis on cloud computing. The product has been “designed for the cloud from the ground up and provides a foundation for building both public and private cloud solutions,” the book declares.

Introducing Windows Server® 2012 is “based on beta,” according to the cover disclaimer. And, according to the author, the book  “represents a ‘first look’ based on the public beta release of Windows Server 2012 and is intended to help IT professionals familiarize themselves with the capabilities of the new platform.”

The 235-page book is divided into five chapters:

  • Chapter 1 presents “The business need for Windows Server® 2012.” Not surprisingly, the main focus is on cloud computing and multi-server platforms.
  • Chapter 2’s focus is “Foundation for building your private cloud” and how the new product can provide “a solid foundation for building dynamic, highly scalable, multi-tenant cloud environments.”
  • Chapter 3 looks at the Windows Server® 2012 features and capabilities that can create a “[h]ighly available, easy-to-manage multi-server platform.”
  • Chapter 4 discusses how you can use the product to “[d]eploy web applications on premises and in the cloud,” with its “scalable and elastic web platform” and “[s]upport for open standards.”
  • Chapter 5 focuses on Windows Server® 2012 features and capabilities that are key to “[e]nabling the modern workstyle.” The author states: “Today’s business users want things simple. They want to be able to access their desktop applications, and data virtually anywhere, from any device, and have the full Windows experience. And from an IT perspective, this must be done securely and in ways that can ensure compliance at all times.”

Since this book is a “first look” written prior to the ready-to-manufacture (RTM) date, some of its screenshots, feature descriptions and stated capabilities may differ somewhat from the product that will be released.

But this overview can be a useful – and inexpensive — guide to have handy while considering whether to move to, or upgrade to, Windows Server® 2012.

Si Dunn