Adobe Edge Animate: The Missing Manual – #bookreview

Adobe Edge Animate: The Missing Manual
Chris Grover
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Chris Grover’s well-written and updated new book shows you how to build animated HTML 5 graphics for the iPhone, the iPad, and the Web, using familiar Adobe features. By the sixth page of the first chapter, you are using the software to begin creating your first animation.

The previous edition of this book, covering Adobe Edge Animate Preview 7, was released just two months ago, shortly before Adobe released the 1.0 commercial version of its Edge Animate product. This new edition has been updated and expanded to cover the commercial version.

Prior to the 1.0 release, seven Preview versions of Adobe Edge Animate had been issued as free downloads, and user feedback was gathered so the product could be enhanced and expanded.

Here is what I reported about this book’s Preview 7 edition in an  October, 2012, review:

First, this book can help you get started with the 1.0 commercial version of Adobe Edge Animate. Second, O’Reilly will soon bring out an Adobe Edge Animate “Missing Manual” that covers the new commercial release. And, third, sources at O’Reilly tell me that readers who purchase this Preview 7 edition of Chris Grover’s book will get access to “the e-book version of Adobe Edge Animate the 1.0 version and all of its updates.”

The new edition of Adobe Edge Animate: The Missing Manual has ten chapters organized into five parts, even though page xiv of the paperback version states that the book is “divided into three parts.” (It then lists four parts, instead of  five, or three).  The new part in this edition is titled “Publishing Animate Compositions” and focuses on “Publishing Responsive Web Pages” that will look good “in web browsers of all shapes and sizes….” Here are the new edition’s parts and chapters:

Part One:Working with the Stage

  • Chapter 1: Introducing Adobe Edge Animate
  • Chapter 2: Creating and Animating Art
  • Chapter 3: Adding and Formatting Text

Part Two: Animation with Edge Animate

  • Chapter 4: Learning Timeline and Transition Techniques
  • Chapter 5: Triggering Actions
  • Chapter 6: Working Smart with Symbols

Part Three: Edge Animate with HTML 5 and JavaScript

  • Chapter 7: Working with Basic HTML and CSS
  • Chapter 8: Controlling Your Animations with JavaScript and jQuery
  • Chapter 9: Helpful JavaScript Tricks

Part Four: Publishing Your Composition

  • Chapter 10: Publishing Responsive Web Pages

Part Five: Appendixes

  • Appendix A: Installation and Help
  • Appendix B: Menu by Menu

Where keystrokes are appropriate, Chris Grover lists both and does not make you have to translate between systems, as some how-to manuals do.

“Animate works almost precisely the same in its Macintosh and Windows versions,” he assures. “Every button in every dialog box is exactly the same; the software response to ever command is identical. In this book, the illustrations have been given even-handed treatment, rotating between the two operating systems where Animate is at home (Windows 7 and Mac OS X).”

Si Dunn

For more information: (O’Reilly, paperback, Kindle)

Programming C# 5.0 – Excellent how-to guide for experienced developers ready to learn C# – #bookreview

Programming C# 5.0
Ian Griffiths
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Ian Griffiths’ new book is for “experienced developers,” not for beginners hoping to learn the basics of programming while also learning C#. The focus is “Building Windows 8, Web, and Desktop Applications for the .NET 4.5 Framework.”

Earlier editions in the Programming C# series have “explained some basic concepts such as classes, polymorphism, and collections,” Griffiths notes. But C# also keeps growing in power and size, which means the page counts of its how-to manuals must keep growing, too, to cover “everything.”

The paperback version of Programming C# 5.0 weighs in at 861 pages and more than three pounds. So Griffiths’ choice to sharpen the book’s focus is a smart one. Beginners can learn the basics of programming in other books and other ways before digging into this edition. And experienced developers will find that the author’s explanations and code examples now have space to go “into rather more detail” than would have been possible if chapters explaining the basics of programming had been packed in, as well.

If you have done some programming and know a class from an array, this book can be your well-structured guide to learning C#. The “basics” are gone, but you still are shown how to create a “Hello World” program—primarily so you can see how new C# projects are created in Visual Studio, Microsoft’s development environment.

C# has been around since 2000 and “can be used for many kinds of applications, including websites, desktop applications, games, phone apps, and command-line utilities,” Griffiths says.

“The most significant new feature in C# 5.0,” he emphasizes, “is support for asynchronous programming.” He notes that “.NET has always offered asynchronous APIs (i.e., ones that do not wait for the operation they perform to finish before returning). Asynchrony is particularly important with input/output(I/O) operations, which can take a long time and often don’t require any active involvement from the CPU except at the start and end of an operation. Simple, synchronous APIs that do not return until the operation completes can be inefficient. They tie up a thread while waiting, which can cause suboptimal performance in servers, and they’re also unhelpful in client-side code, where they can make a user interface unresponsive.”

In the past, however, “the more efficient and flexible asynchronous APIs” have been “considerably harder to use than their synchronous counterparts. But now,” Griffiths points out, “if an asynchronous API conforms to a certain pattern, you can write C# code that looks almost as simple as the synchronous alternative would.”

If you are an experienced programmer hoping to add C# to your language skills, Ian Griffiths’ new book covers much of what you need to know, including how to use XAML (pronounced “zammel”) “to create  applications of the [touch-screen] style introduced by Windows 8” but also applications for desktop computers and Windows Phone.

Yes, Microsoft created C#, but there are other ways to run it, too, Griffiths adds.

“The open source Mono project (http://www.mono-project.com/) provides tools for building C# applications that run on Linux, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android.”

Si Dunn

For more information:  paperback – Kindle

iPhone: The Missing Manual, 6th Edition – Covers all iPhone models with iOS 6 software – #bookreview

iPhone: The Missing Manual, 6th Edition
David Pogue
(O’Reilly, paperback, Kindle)

 

This latest “Missing Manual” from David Pogue covers all iPhone models that have iOS 6 software, including iPhone 5.

The 538-page book is well-written, well-organized, and heavily illustrated with color photographs, illustrations, and screen shots. It also has numerous tips set off in yellow boxes for extra emphasis.

The 6th Edition’s chapters are gathered into five parts:

  • The iPhone as Phone – Focuses on “everything related to phone calls” with the iPhone.
  • Pix, Flix & Apps – “[D]edicated to the iPhone’s built-in software programs, with a special emphasis on its multimedia abilities…also app management….”
  • The iPhone Online – Includes “email, Web browsing, and tethering (that is, letting your phone serve as a sort of Internet antenna for your laptop).”
  • Connections – “…the world beyond the iPhone itself—like the copy of iTunes on your Mac or PC that can fill up the iPhone with music, videos, and photos, and syncing the calendar, address book, and mail settings.” Also covers the iPhone’s control panel, the Settings Program, and other features.
  • Appendixes – Appendix A covers the iPhone setup process; Appendix B looks at accessories such as chargers, car adapters, and carrying cases; Appendix C is a “master compendium of troubleshooting, maintenance, and battery information.”

The new iOS 6 software is available free, Pogue says, and is “the same operating system that runs on the iPad and the iPod Touch.”

He adds: “Why is that important? Because you can run iOS 6 on older iPhone models (the 3GS, 4, and 4S) without having to buy a new phone.” His new book “covers all phones that can run the iOS 6 software: the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5.”

Si Dunn

For more information: paperback, Kindle

WordPress: The Missing Manual – Covers what you need to know & can profit from – #bookreview

WordPress: The Missing Manual
Matthew MacDonald
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

It’s easy to set up and launch a basic WordPress blog. But once you do, it’s also very easy to just keep blogging and ignore the many other options and features that WordPress offers. (I’m guilty of that, which is why I’m happy to see this book.)

If you want to know more about how to use WordPress or how to improve the appearance of an existing blog, WordPress: The Missing Manual definitely should be in your hands.  Matthew MacDonald’s new book is well-written, heavily illustrated, and packed with good how-to steps and tips.

Many small businesses and numerous large companies also use WordPress to provide some or all of their web presence. MacDonald’s 545-page how-guide has essential information for these users, too.

The book is organized into five parts:

  • Part One: Starting Out with WordPress – Covers key decisions you should make before starting to use WordPress.
  • Part Two: Building a WordPress Blog – The blogging-on-WordPress basics are presented here. But: “Even if you’re planning something more exotic than JAWB (Just Another WordPress Blog, don’t skip this section,” the author urges. “The key skills you’ll learn here also underpin custom sites, like the kind you’ll learn to build in Part Four of the book.”
  • Part Three: Supercharging Your Blog – Explains how to use plug-ins to add new features to your self-hosted blog site. Shows “how to put video, music, and photo galleries on any WordPress site. Covers “how to collaborate with a whole group of authors…and how to attract boatloads of web visitors….”
  • Part Four: From Blog to Website – Shows how to “take your WordPress skills beyond the blog and learn to craft a custom website” with WordPress at its heart.
  • Part Five: Appendices – Appendix A “explains how to take a website you created on a free WordPress.com hosting service and move it to another web host to get more features.” Appendix B, meanwhile, gathers up the “useful web links” scattered throughout the book and puts them into one place organized by chapter. A link also is provided where this collection of links can be downloaded.

How popular is WordPress? It is, according to MacDonald, “ridiculously popular…stunningly popular…responsible for roughly one-sixth of the world’s websites….And one out of every five new sites runs on WordPress….”

If you choose to go the WordPress route, be sure you have WordPress: The Missing Manual with you.

Si Dunn

QuickBooks 2013: The Missing Manual – Updated and now it’s ‘Official’ – #bookreview

QuickBooks 2013: The Missing Manual
By Bonnie Biafore
(O’Reilly, paperback – Kindle)

Bonnie Biafore’s latest version of her popular “Missing Manual” QuickBooks how-to guide has gained a significant endorsement. It’s now labeled “The Official Intuit Guide” to QuickBooks 2013.

Once again, the updated guidebook provides clear, well-illustrated, step-by-step instructions on how to use the Windows edition of QuickBooks 2013, the most popular version of Intuit’s product, particularly in small businesses.

The 736-page book also gives some basic how-to information and advice on bookkeeping and  accounting – enough to get you past some confusing stumbling blocks as you set up a business and its accounts, but not enough that you should try to skip legal advice and focused training.

“QuickBooks isn’t hard to learn,” the author emphasizes. “Many of the features that you’re familiar with from other programs work just the same way in QuickBooks—windows, dialog boxes, drop-down lists, and keyboard shortcuts, to name a few. And with each new version, Intuit has added enhancements and new features to make your workflow smoother and faster. The challenge is knowing what to do according to accounting rules, and how to do it in QuickBooks.”

The 2013 edition of QuickBooks, she points out, “sports a brand-new look that simplifies the interface, removes clutter, and presents features and options in a much more organized and consistent way.” Her book also describes several features that are new in the 2013 release.

Three words of caution: First, this book does not cover non-USA versions of QuickBooks 2013. Second, the Pro and Premier editions of the software cannot handle more than 14,500 unique inventory items or 14,500 contact names.  And third, the author points out, “QuickBooks for Mac differs significantly from the Windows version, so this book isn’t meant to be a guide to the Mac version of the program.”

There are many different versions of the QuickBooks 2013 software. But this “Missing Manual” puts most of its focus on QuickBooks 2013 Pro, “because its balance of features and price make it the most popular edition.” However, the author also provides “notes about features offered in the Premier edition, which is one step up from Pro.”

For many of us in small business, a QuickBooks “Missing Manual”  is  the best QuickBooks how-to guide, period. And Intuit’s new “Official Guide” stamp of approval should help seal the deal for others seeking the best QuickBooks reference.

The new edition of Bonnie Biafore’s book is divided into five parts containing a total of 26 chapters and two appendices.

Part One covers “Getting Started.” It starts with “Creating a Company File” and “Getting Around in QuickBooks” and advances to setting up accounts, customers, jobs, vendors, items, lists, and managing QuickBooks files.

Part Two’s focus is “Bookkeeping,” and its chapters covers everything from tracking time and mileage to paying for expenses, invoicing, managing accounts receivable, generating financial statements and performing end-of-year tasks.

“Managing Your Business” is the focus of Part Three. These chapters cover managing inventory, budgeting and planning, and working with reports.

“QuickBooks Power” is the title of Part Four. It covers using QuickBooks with online banking services, configuring preferences in QuickBooks to fit your company, integrating QuickBooks with other programs, customizing QuickBooks, and keeping your QuickBooks data secure.

Part Five contains two appendices: “Installing QuickBooks” and “Help, Support, and Other Resources.”

As usual, this “Missing Manual” does not contain a CD, but it does provide a link where “every single Web address, practice file, and piece of downloadable software mentioned In this book is available….”

QuickBooks 2013: The Missing Manual can help you get a small business set up and off the ground while you are learning the program.  But if you don’t have a reasonably good background in bookkeeping and accounting, do not try to rely on the software alone to save you. Get competent help from a consultant and legal advice from someone besides your rich Uncle Bob. And get some training any way you can, as soon as you can.

Then, once you can afford it, hire good people to help you with  your bookkeeping and accounting, while you focus on the bigger picture, growing your business with the help of QuickBooks 2013’s budgeting, planning, forecast, report, contact synchronization, lead tracking, and to-do list features.

One other caution: QuickBooks has a specialized edition specifically for nonprofit organizations. It is more expensive than the Pro package. So some people try to save money and use the Pro package to manage a small nonprofit. But there can be confusions involving some of the terminology, transactions and reports. And there may not be workarounds for some situations. You may be better off buying the QuickBooks Nonprofit edition.

By the way, QuickBooks 2013: The Missing Manual can be used to learn features in earlier versions of QuickBooks. Of course, doing so and seeing what’s missing may convince you to upgrade. And the 2013 screens will appear somewhat different from what you see. If you have an older version of QuickBooks and don’t plan to upgrade soon, consider looking online for one of the earlier editions of this book.

Si Dunn

Programming Google App Engine, 2nd Edition – An important how-to guide, updated – #programming #bookreview

Programming Google App Engine, 2nd Edition
Dan Sanderson
(O’Reilly,
paperbackKindle)

O’Reilly recently has published a new edition of Dan Sanderson’s Programing Google App Engine.  The new edition updates the 2009 first edition and includes coverage of Java 6 and Python 2.7 support, multithreading, asynchronous service APIs, and using frameworks such as webapp2 and Django 1.3. (“App Engine does not yet support Python 3,” Sanderson notes.)

The 509-page, 20-chapter book shows how “to develop applications that run on Google App Engine, and how to get the most out of the scalable model. A significant portion of the book discusses the App Engine scalable datastore, which does not behave like the relational databases that have been a staple of web development for the past decade,” the author states.

Sanderson is a technical writer and software engineer at Google, Inc. His new edition is well-written and appropriately illustrated with code samples, diagrams, screen shots and other graphics.

With clear steps and good detail, the book shows you first how to install and use the Python or Java SDKs on Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows machines and how to develop simple Python and Java applications. From there, it expands deeper into the how-to aspects of programming the Google App Engine.

In some chapters, the Python and Java options are presented together. Python’s and Java’s data modeling libraries, however, are discussed in separate chapters.

“Google App Engine, Google’s application hosting service, does more than just provide access to hardware,” Sanderson points out.

“It provides a model for building applications that grow automatically. App Engine runs your application so that each user to accesses it gets the same experience as every other user, whether there are dozens of simultaneous users or thousands. The application uses the same large-scale services that power Google’s applications for data storage and retrieval, caching, and network access. App Engine takes care of the tasks of large-scale computing, such as load balancing, data replication, and fault tolerance, automatically.”

Programming Google App Engine, 2nd Edition can take you from asking “What is Google App Engine?” to well down the road toward becoming an App Engine expert.

Si Dunn

For more information: paperbackKindle

Big Data Book Blast: Hadoop, Hive…and Python??? – #programming #bookreview

Big Data is hothotHOT. And O’Reilly recently has added three new books of potential interest to Big Data workers, as well as those hoping to join their ranks.

Hadoop, Hive and–surprise!—Python are just a few of the hot tools you may encounter in the rapidly expanding sea of data now being gathered, explored, stored, and manipulated by companies, organizations, institutions, governments, and individuals around the planet. Here are the books:

Hadoop Operations
Eric Sammer
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

“Companies are storing more data from more sources in more formats than ever before,” writes Eric Sammer, a Hadoop expert who is principal solution architect at Cloudera. But gathering and stockpiling data is only “one half of the equation,” he adds. “Processing that data to produce information is fundamental to the daily operations of every modern business.”

Enter Apache Hadoop, a “pragmatic, cost-effective, scalable infrastructure” that increasingly is being used to develop Big Data applications for storing and processing information.

“Made up of a distributed filesystem called the Hadoop Distributed Filesystem (HDFS) and a computation layer that implements a processing paradigm called MapReduce, Hadoop is an open source, batch data processing system for enormous amounts of data. We live in a flawed world, and Hadoop is designed to survive in it by not only tolerating hardware and software failures, but also treating them as first-class conditions that happen regularly.”

Sammer adds: “Hadoop uses a cluster of plain old commodity servers with no specialized hardware or network infrastructure to form a single, logical, storage and compute platform, or cluster, that can be shared by multiple individuals or groups. Computation in Hadoop MapReduce is performed in parallel, automatically, with a simple abstraction for developers that obviates complex synchronization and network programming. Unlike many other distributed data processing systems, Hadoop runs the user-provided processing logic on the machine where the data lives rather than dragging the data across the network; a huge win for performance.”

Sammer’s new, 282-page book is well written and focuses on running Hadoop in production, including planning its use, installing it, configuring the system and providing ongoing maintenance. He also shows “what works, as demonstrated in crucial deployments.”

If you’re new to Hadoop or still getting a handle on it, you need Hadoop Operations. And even if you’re now an “old” hand at Hadoop, you likely can learn new things from this book. “It’s an extremely exciting time to get into Apache Hadoop,” Sammer states.

Programming Hive
Eric Capriolo, Dean Wampler, and Jason Rutherglen
(O’Reilly, paperback Kindle)

“Hive,” the three authors point out, “provides an SQL dialect, called Hive Query Language (abbreviated HiveQL or just HQL), for querying data stored in a Hadoop cluster.”

They add: “Hive is most suited for data warehouse applications, where relatively static data is analyzed, fast response times are not required, and when data is not changing rapidly.”

Their well-structured and well-written book shows how to install and test Hadoop and Hive on a personal workstation – “a convenient way to learn and experiment with Hadoop.” Then it shows “how to configure Hive for use on Hadoop clusters.”

They also provide a brief overview of Hadoop and MapReduce before diving into Hive’s command-line interface (CLI) and introductory aspects such as how to embed lines of comments in Hive v0.80 and later.

From there, the book flows smoothly into HiveQL and how to use its SQL dialect to query, summarize, and analyze large datasets that Hadoop has stored in its distributed filesystem.

User documentation for Hive and Hadoop has been sparse, so Programming Hive definitely fills a solid need. Significantly, the final chapter presents several “Case Study Examples from the User Trenches” where real companies explain how they have used Hive to solve some very challenging problems involving Big Data.

Python for Data Analysis
Wes McKinney
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

No, Python is not the first language many people think of when picturing large data analysis projects. For one thing, it’s an interpreted language, so Python code runs a lot slower than code written in compiled programming languages such as C++ or Java.

Also, the author concedes, “Python is not an ideal language for highly concurrent, multithreaded applications, particularly applications with many CPU-bound threads.” The software’s global interpreter lock (GIL) “prevents the interpreter from executing more than one Python bytecode instruction at a time.”

Thus, Python will not soon be challenging Hadoop to a Big Data petabyte speed duel.

On the other hand, Python is reasonably easy to learn, and it has strong and widespread support within the scientific and academic communities, where a lot of data must get crunched at a reasonable clip, if not at blinding speed.

And Wes McKinney is the main author of pandas, Python’s increasingly popular open source library for data analysis. It (pandas) is “designed to make working with structured data fast, easy, and expressive.”

His book makes a good case for using Python in at least some Big Data situations. “In recent years,” he states, “Python’s improved library support (primarily pandas) has made it a strong alternative for data manipulation tasks. Combined with Python’s strength in general purpose programming, it is an excellent choice as a single language for building data-centric applications.”

Much of this well-written, well-illustrated book “focuses on high-performance array-based computing tools for working with large data sets.” It uses a case-study-examples approach to demonstrate how to tackle a wide range of data analysis problems, using Python libraries that include pandas, NumPy, matplotlib, and IPython, “the component in the standard scientific Python toolset that ties everything together.”

By the way, if you have never programmed in Python, check out the end of McKinney’s book. An appendix titled “Python Language Essentials” gives a good overview of the language, with a specific bias toward “processing and manipulating structured and unstructured data.”

If you do scientific, academic, or business computing and need to crunch and visualize a lot of data, definitely check out Python for Data Analysis.

You may be pleasantly surprised at how well and how easily Python and its data-analysis libraries can do the job.

Si Dunn