The Sony a7 and a7R: The Unofficial Quintessential Guide – #photography #bookreview

sony_a7_a7r

The Sony a7 and a7R

The Unofficial Quintessential Guide

Brian Matsumoto and Carol F. Roulland

(Rocky Nook - paperback, Kindle)

 

Rocky Nook has gained a hard-earned reputation for publishing excellent digital camera how-to guides. And this new one does not disappoint.

The Sony a7 and a7R: The Unofficial Quintessential Guide is aimed at both professional photographers and newcomers who recently have acquired, or are still considering, various elements of the Sony a7 and a7R digital photography and video system, including camera bodies, lenses and accessories.

The authors, who both have extensive photography experience, praise the a7 and a7R as “a breakthrough camera design…the lightest, least expensive, full-frame interchangeable lens cameras available to professional and amateur photographers” at the time their book was written.

The a7/a7R system has some innovations, including, for example, “a completely electronic viewfinder” that provides “immediate feedback on errors in white balance, focus, and exposure.” You also can use the viewfinder to “preview the image with additional artistic elements, such as saturated vivid colors, or muted colors and subtle shades, to decide how to create the proper ambience for the scene.” You also can preview the image in black-and-white.

But Matsumoto and Roulland offer a caution, as well. The a7 and a7R cameras are not well-suited for “taking action shots with a rapid-fire burst capability.” They recommend some of the “heavier digital SLRs,” instead.  The a7 and a7R, they contend, are “eminently suitable for those photographers who are interested in taking pictures at a more deliberate rate, who are concerned about critical composition, and whose aim is to take landscapes close-ups, portraits, or scientific photographs.”

Their 11-chapter, 362-page book wisely includes a chapter titled the “Basics of Digital Photography” near the front of the book, so users new to the a7 and a7R series–particularly those moving up from simple point-and-shoot cameras can learn to how to set their cameras on Intelligent Auto mode or Superior Auto mode and take good pictures while they are becoming familiar with menus, options and features.  (Superior Auto mode “is able to fine-tune the camera settings to create a better-quality image,” the two authors point out.)

Like many other of today’s digital cameras, the a7 and a7R offer “scores of menu commands and options, which can discourage even the most experienced user” if time and care are not taken to learn the ones you will use most often.

Matsumoto’s and Roulland’s excellent how-to book begins with chapters on “Getting Started” and learning the basics of photography, including f/stops, ISO numbers and some essential settings when shooting pictures or video.

The remaining chapters cover:

  • Managing Your Images
  • Automatic Settings
  • Taking Control of the Camera
  • Manual Control
  • Additional Features
  • Working with the Camera’s Wireless Functions
  • Accessory Lenses
  • Flash Photography
  • Making Movies

Two appendices also are included. Appendix A covers menu commands. Appendix B focuses on error messages and warning messages and how to resolve them.

A caution is offered for those who may use the a7R with telescopes, long telescopic lenses, or microscopes. “In comparison to the a7, movement of the a7R’s mechanical shutter can generate significant vibration which can blur the image.”  However, Matsumoto and Roulland also offer some tips to minimize the vibration’s effects.

If you have or are considering this new Sony camera system, The Sony a7 and a7R: The Unofficial Quintessential Guide packs a lot more clear and useful information than you will find in the official user manuals.

The book is richly illustrated, and it provides clear, step-by-step procedures and recommendations for every feature. You’ll need and want it in your library and in your camera case.

Si Dunn

 

Mule in Action, 2nd Edition – Want to be an integration developer? Here’s a good start – #bookreview

 

Mule in Action, Second Edition

David Dossot, John D’Emic, Victor Romero

(Manning – paperback)

 

An enterprise service bus (ESB) can help you link together many different types of platforms and applications–old and new–and keep them communicating and passing data between each other.

“Mule,” this book’s authors note, “is a lightweight, event-driven enterprise service bus and an integration platform and broker.  As such, it resembles more a rich and diverse toolbox than a shrink-wrapped application.”

Mule in Action, Second Edition, is a comprehensive and generally well-written overview of Mule 3 and how to put its open-source building blocks together to create integration solutions and develop them with Mule. The book provides very good focus on sending, receiving, routing, and transforming data, key aspects of an ESB.

More attention, however, could have been paid to clarity and detail in Chapter 1, the all-important chapter that helps Mule newcomers get started and enthused.

This second edition is a recent update of the 2009 first edition. Unfortunately, the Mule screens have changed a bit since the book’s screen shots were created for the new edition. Therefore, some of the how-to instructions and screen images do not match what the user now sees. This gets particularly confusing while trying to learn how to configure a JMS outbound endpoint for the first time, using Mule Studio’s graphical editor. The instructions seem insufficient, and the mismatch of screens can leave a beginner unsure how to proceed.

The same goes for configuring the message setting in the Logger element. The text instructs: “You’ll set the message attribute to print a String followed by the payload of the message, using the Mule Expression Language.” But no example is given. Fortunately, a reviewer on Amazon has posted a correct procedure. In his view, the message attribute should be: We received a message: #[message.payload]  –without any quote marks around it. (It works.)

Of course, this book is not really aimed at beginners–it’s for developers, architects, and managers (even though there will be Mule “beginners” in those ranks). Fortunately, it soon moves away from relying solely on Mule Studio’s graphical editor. The book’s examples, as the authors note, “mostly focus on the XML configurations of flows.” Thus, there are many XML code examples to work with, plus occasional screen shots of the flows as they appear in Mule Studio. And you can use other IDEs to work with the XML, if you prefer.

Indeed, the authors note, “no functionality in the CE version of Mule is dependent on Mule Studio.”

Overall, this is a very good book, and it definitely covers a lot of ground, from “discovering” Mule to becoming a Mule developer of integration applications, and using certain tools (such as business process management systems) to augment the applications you develop. I just wish a little more how-to clarity had been delivered in Chapter 1.

Si Dunn

Software Testing Foundations, 4th Edition – Updated study guide for Certified Tester Exam – #bookreview

Software Testing Foundations, 4th Edition

A Study Guide for the Certified Tester Exam

Andreas Spillner, Tilo Linz, Hans Schaefer

(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle

 

Worldwide, more than 300,000 software testers now have certifications recognized by the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB).

“The ISTQB Certified Tester qualification scheme has three steps,” the authors note. “The basics are described in the Foundation Level curriculum (syllabus). Building on this is the Advanced Level certificate, showing a deeper knowledge of testing and evaluation. The third level, the Expert Level, is intended for experienced professional software testers and consists of several modules about different special topics.”

This newly updated study guide covers subjects on the Certified Tester Exam at the Foundation Level. The major topics are:

  • Fundamentals of Testing
  • Testing in the Software Life Cycle
  • Static Test
  • Dynamic Analysis – Test Design Techniques
  • Test Management

Appendices cover standardized test plans, offer exercises for each chapter that follow the introduction, and provide a glossary of terms, many of which are recognized by the ISTQB.

“Testing has no tradition for using standardized terminology,” the writers caution. “Thus, the test plan should contain an explanation of the testing terms used in the project. There is a high danger that different people will have different interpretations of testing terms. For example, just ask several people involved in the project for the definition of the term load testing.”

The three writers point out that “[t]he Certified Tester Foundation Level syllabus version 2011 forms the basis of this book . A few updates to the syllabus, which is due to be released in 2015, are noted in the book. The respective national boards may create and maintain additional national versions of the syllabus. These may contain minor deviations from the English original, such as, for example, references to local standards. The national boards coordinate and guarantee mutual compatibility of their curricula and exams. In this context, the responsible board is the International Software Testing Qualifications Board.”

Whether you plan to seek formal ISTQB certifications or just up your game as a software tester, Software Testing Foundations can be an excellent how-to guide. Many aspects of software testing–a complex and often underappreciated field–are covered. Overall, the book is well-organized and written clearly, and its illustrations, while somewhat sparse, are adequate to the task.

Si Dunn

 

Optimizing Hadoop for MapReduce – A practical guide to lowering some costs of mining Big Data – #bookreview

Optimizing Hadoop for MapReduce

Learn how to configure your Hadoop cluster to run optimal MapReduce jobs

Khaled Tannir

(Packt Publishing, paperback, Kindle)

Time is money, as the old saying goes. And that saying especially applies to the world of Big Data, where much time, computing power and cash can be consumed while trying to extract profitable information from mountains of data.

This short, well-focused book by veteran software developer Khalid Tannir describes how to achieve a very important, money-saving goal: improve the efficiency of MapReduce jobs that are run with Hadoop.

As Tannir explains in his preface:

“MapReduce is an important parallel processing model for large-scale, data-intensive applications such as data mining and web indexing. Hadoop, an open source implementation of MapReduce, is widely applied to support cluster computing jobs that require low response time.

“Most of the MapReduce programs are written for data analysis and they usually take a long time to finish. Many companies are embracing Hadoop for advanced data analytics over large datasets that require time completion guarantees.

“Efficiency, especially the I/O costs of MapReduce, still needs to be addressed for successful implications. The experience shows that a misconfigured Hadoop cluster can noticeably reduce and significantly downgrade the performance of MapReduce jobs.”

Tannir’s well-focused, seven-chapter book zeroes in on how to find and fix misconfigured Hadoop clusters and numerous other problems. But first, he explains how Hadoop parameters are configured and how MapReduce metrics are monitored.

Two chapters are devoted to learning how to identify system bottlenecks , including CPU bottlenecks, storage bottlenecks, and network bandwidth bottlenecks.

One chapter examines how to properly identify resource weaknesses, particularly in Hadoop clusters. Then, as the book shifts strongly to solutions, Tannir explains how to reconfigure Hadoop clusters for greater efficiency.

Indeed, the final three chapters deliver details and steps that can help you improve how well Hadoop and MapReduce work together in your setting.

For example, the author explains how to make the map and reduce functions operate more efficiently, how to work with small or unsplittable files, how to deal with spilled records (those written to local disk when the allocated memory buffer is full), and ways to tune map and reduce parameters to improve performance.

“Most MapReduce programs are written for data analysis and they usually take a lot of time to finish,” Tannir emphasizes. However: “Many companies are embracing Hadoop for advanced data analytics over large datasets that require completion-time guarantees.” And that means “[e]fficiency, especially the I/O costs of MapReduce, still need(s) to be addressed for successful implications.”

He describes how to use compression, Combiners, the correct Writable types, and quick reuse of types to help improve memory management and the speed of job execution.

And, along with other tips, Tannir presents several “best practices” to help manage Hadoop clusters and make them do their work quicker and with fewer demands on hardware and software resources. 

Tannir notes that “setting up a Hadoop cluster is basically the challenge of combining the requirements of high availability, load balancing, and the individual requirements of the services you aim to get from your cluster servers.”

If you work with Hadoop and MapReduce or are now learning how to help install, maintain or administer Hadoop clusters, you can find helpful information and many useful tips in Khaled Tannir’s Optimizing Hadoop for Map Reduce.

Si Dunn

Computing with Quantum Cats – Strange and exciting times are ahead – #science #bookreview

Computing with Quantum Cats

From Colossus to Qubits

John Gribbin

(Prometheus Books – hardcover, Kindle)

John Gribbin’s new book, Computing with Quantum Cats, is an entertaining, informative and definitely eye-opening look at quantum computing’s recent progress, as well as its exciting near-future possibilities.

The “conventional” (a.k.a. “classical”) computers currently on our desktops, in our briefcases, and in our pockets and purses keep getting smaller and faster, yet laden with more features, memory and processing power. “But,” cautions John Gribbin, a veteran science writer, “the process cannot go on indefinitely; there are limits to how powerful, fast and cheap a ‘classical’ computer can be.”CompwithQuantumCats

Already we are cramming a billion transistors into tiny chips and moving much of our data and programs out to the “cloud,” because we are running out of both physical space and memory space on our shrunken devices.

So what’s next, if the end of Moore’s Law is here?

Gribbin predicts that “within a decade the computer world will be turned upside down”–by quantum computers that  “will enable physicists to come to grips with the nature of quantum reality, where communication can occur faster than the speed of light, teleportation is possible, and particles can be in two places at once. The implications are as yet unknowable,” he concedes, “but it is fair to say that the quantum computer represents an advance as far beyond the conventional computer as the conventional computer is beyond the abacus.”

For now, quantum computers are functioning  at a level somewhat equivalent to the early classical computers that, nearly 70 years ago, could perform only rudimentary calculations, yet filled large rooms and required 25 kilowatts or more of electrical power to light up hundreds or thousands of  vacuum tubes. It may be decades or perhaps just a few years until quantum desktop PCs or quantum smartphones become a reality.

What makes quantum computing such a big deal? 

Classical computers, Gribbin writes, “store and manipulate information consisting of “binary digits, or bits. These are like ordinary switches that can be in one of two positions, on or off, up or down. The state of a switch is represented by the numbers 0 and 1, and all the activity of a computer involves changing the settings on those switches in an appropriate way.”

He notes that two “classical” bits can represent any of the four numbers from 0 to 3 (00,01, 10, and 11). But once you start using quantum bits–qubits (pronounced “cubits”)–the scale of possibilities quickly becomes astronomical.

The “quantum switches can be in both states, on and off, at the same time, like Schrodinger’s ‘dead and alive’ cat. In other words, they can store 0 and 1 simultaneously.” Or both can be off or both can be on, creating three possibilities.

“Looking further into the future,” Gribbin continues, “a quantum computer based on a 30-qubit processor would have the equivalent computing power of a conventional machine running at 10 teraflops (trillions of floating-point operations per second)–ten thousand times faster than conventional desktop computers today….” 

His new book presents an enlightening, engrossing blend of facts and speculations about quantum computing, as well as short biographical sketches of key people who have helped quantum computing become a reality.  These range from Alan Turing and John Von Neumann to more recent researchers such as Nobel Prize recipients Tony Leggett and Brian Josephson, to name a few. Their key research efforts also are explored.

The author notes that “the enormous challenge remains of constructing a quantum computer on a scale large enough to beat classical computers at a range of tasks….” He also observes that “many competing approaches are being tried out in an attempt to find the one that works on the scale required.” And he concedes that in a research field now changing very fast, “I’ve no idea what will seem the best bet by the time you read these words, so I shall simply set out a selection of the various [techniques] to give you a flavor of what is going.”

John Gribbin’s other books include In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat, Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution, and In Search of the Multiverse.

The need to break enemy codes in World War II gave us classical computers, Gribbin points out. In a curious twist, it may be the need to create truly unbreakable codes that will help usher in quantum computing as a practical reality.

Si Dunn

Improving the Test Process – A Study Guide for ISTQB Expert Level Module – #software #bookreview

Improving the Test Process

Implementing Improvement and Change — A Study Guide for the ISTQB Expert Level Module

Graham Bath and Erik van Veenendaal
(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

If you are a software tester seeking an important new credential to help boost your career, definitely check out this book. Improving the Test Process can help you complete and pass one of the four modules required by the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) to achieve “Expert” certification. (Two of the four “Expert” modules will be available in 2014 and 2015, respectively.)

The ISTQB has established three levels in its Certified Tester program: Foundation, Advanced and Expert. “The result,” the two authors state, “is a structure that supports the development of career paths for professional testers.”

Improving the Test Process has 10 chapters and six appendices devoted to that Expert Level module, including an appendix that focuses on what to expect in the module’s certification exam.

The chapters and appendices are:

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. The Context of Improvement
  • 3. Model-Based Improvement
  • 4. Analytical-Based Improvement
  • 5. Selecting Improvement Approaches
  • 6. Process for Improvement
  • 7. Organization, Roles, and Skills
  • 8. Managing Change
  • 9. Critical Success Factors
  • 10. Adapting to Different Life Cycle Models
  • Appendix A: Glossary
  • Appendix B: Literature and References
  • Appendix C: The Syllabus Parts
  • Appendix D: The Exam
  • Appendix E: Summary of Cognitive Levels (K-Levels)
  • Appendix F: Answers

The “Answers” appendix provides the answers to exercises posted at the end of chapters 2 through 10.

“The definition of a testing expert used by ISTQB,” the authors note, “is ‘a person with the special skills and knowledge representing mastery of a particular testing subject. Being an expert means possessing and displaying special skills and knowledge derived from training and experience.'”

The book’s authors are both long-time professionals in the field of software testing, and they are co-authors of the ISTQB Expert Level syllabus. So they know their subject matter.

In each chapter, they lay out specific learning objectives and follow with technical content and exercises.

Their well-written book is structured so it can be used for two important purposes: (1) as a preparation guide for taking the ISTQB Expert Level certification exam and (2) as a practical guide for experienced testing professionals who want to learn more about how to improve software testing processes.

Si Dunn

Adobe Edge Animate – Rocky Nook’s elegant new software how-to guide – #webdesign #bookreview

adobe_edge_animate

Adobe Edge Animate

Using Web Standards to Create Interactive Websites

Simon Widjaja
(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

Simon Widjaja’s new book is both elegant and practical. It is elegantly structured and illustrated, and it is practical in its approach to showing how to use Adobe Edge Animate.

That software package, Widjaja says, “is a multimedia authoring tool based on open web standards….Compositions created with Edge Animate can be used in browser applications and apps on mobile devices, but also in digital publications created with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite or Apple iBooks Author.”

Widjaja is an experienced Edge developer, as well as programmer, author, IT trainer, and Flash developer.

Not only does his book show how to design and create animations. He also demonstrates “solutions that go beyond the application’s standard functions,” including “integration into external systems and extensibility with additional frameworks and custom components.”

The Edge Animate runtime, he notes, “is largely based on the popular jQuery JavaScript framework.” So external HTML and JavaScript components can be placed into Edge Animate compositions, and Edge Animate users can create their own components.

The 220-page book (translated from German by Susan Spies) is divided into seven chapters, with numbered subheadings and sub-subheadings. The chapters are:

Chapter 1: Introduction — Contains “basic information on the current status quo in web standards” and how they apply to understanding and using Edge Animate.

Chapter 2: Getting to know the authoring tool – Provides an overview of Edge Animate’s interface and its wide range of functions.

Chapter 3: Design – Shows how to use the functions for creating graphic elements, how to work with assets such as images and fonts, and how to “create more complex layouts.”

Chapter 4: Animation – Introduces the Timeline and the Pin and explains “how to animate  your compositions using keyframes.”

Chapter 5: Interaction – Focuses on Edge Animate’s API and “how to implement various actions.”

Chapter 6: Publication –Explores the “the various publishing options available…in Edge Animate and explains the necessary preparations…for publishing your composition on the web or within a digital publication. Also looks at “how your creative work can be integrated into a content management system.”

Chapter 7: Advanced Tips – Covers “a range of extensions you will need to make your projects perform well on the web.”

Widjaja’s Adobe Edge Animate seems an excellent fit for Rocky Nook’s stated 2014 mission, which is “to publish books on cutting-edge developments in photography, imaging, and technology that really matter, and to focus on practical usage that will enhance capabilities. Our ultimate goal,” the company says, “is to foster image quality.”

With this book and Adobe Edge Animate, you definitely can learn how to boost the quality of images, using effective animated presentations on the web, in apps, and in other publications.

One e-book caution: This book “has complex layouts and has been optimized for reading on devices with larger screens.” In other words, do not try to read it on a phone or small tablet.

Si Dunn