Go APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur) with Guy Kawasaki & Shawn Welch – #bookreview #amwriting

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How to Publish a Book
Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
(Nononina Press,
Kindle)

Okay, confession time. I know a bit about the book business—what used to be the book business.

Years ago, I was a freelance developmental book editor for a trio of well-known publishing houses; I’ve had a couple of book agents; books I wrote have been put into print by not-so-major publishers (and later dropped out of print); I’ve written hundreds of book reviews; and I’ve self-published a few books and ebooks: nonfiction, fiction and poetry.

To misquote the late actor-comedian W.C. Fields, on the whole, I’d rather be in self-publishing now.  There isn’t much of an alternative.

And not just basic self-publishing but artisanal self-publishing, which Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch define, in their well-written and well-designed new book, as “a new, cool form of publishing…authors lovingly crafting their books with total control over the process.”

Many writers, of course, already are trying to do that, often with abysmal results, because it’s not enough to commit a book to print (or its digital equivalent) and then wait for the world to recognize your genius and surge forward to buy it on Amazon.

To succeed in self-publishing, you really do have to be, as Kawasaki and Welch contend, an APE: an author, a publisher, and an entrepreneur. 

With APE, Kawasaki and Welch aim to “help people take control of their writing careers by publishing their books. The thesis of APE is simple but powerful: When a self-publisher successfully fills three roles—author, publisher and entrepreneur—the potential benefits are greater than with traditional publishing.”

There’s plenty of truth in that. Three publishers turned down my Vietnam War memoir Dark Signals, even after it received a prestigious award. And several other publishers did not bother to respond to my queries. So I published it myself as a CreateSpace paperback and Kindle ebook, both available through Amazon.

It has not been a runaway best-seller; I knew from the outset that I was writing for a limited audience: readers of military memoirs. Yet several hundred copies have been ordered thus far. And a book that I really needed to push out of my soul finally is out there for posterity, with five-star reviews.

No doubt I could have sold more copies at the outset if I had had APE in hand. Knowing the traditional book business is one thing. Knowing the new ways of book creation and marketing are quite another.   

Filling the three roles — author, publisher and entrepreneur — is “challenging, but they are not impossible—especially if people who have done it before explain it to you.” That’s the key premise behind APE. Kawasaki, a successful author, has become a successful self-publisher with help from Shawn Welch, and together, they are now offering up their hard-earned secrets in a 300-page book that many authors will want to read, repeatedly.

Indeed, many of us likely will value APE as a Chicago Manual of Style for self-publishing that also has entertaining writing and dozens of how-to tips thrown in for added value. APE is comprehensive. And it’s very realistic about what it takes to succeed as a self-published author.

Three points in particular stand out for me.

  1. Yes, I have been a professional editor and proofreader of books. But I still should never do the final edits and proofreading of my own text. (Neither should you.) “The self-edited author is as foolish as the self-medicated patient,” Guy Kawasaki points out. Indeed, I have had to create new editions of at least two of my ebooks, because I found glaring typos that I had completely overlooked while doing my “final” edits. As Kawasaki notes: “The going rate for copyediting is $35 per hour, and copyeditors can work their magic at the rate of roughly ten pages per hour (although this can vary depending on the complexity of the material), so you’ll pay approximately $1,000–$1,500 for a three-hundred-page manuscript. This is one of the dumbest places to try to save money, because poor copyediting destroys the quality of your book.” (Unfortunately, you will have to sell a lot of ebooks to cover that cost.)
  2. At least two of my CreateSpace books have boring covers. I am not a graphic artist, and I should not attempt to save money in the future by “designing” my own book covers or settling for one of the available “standard” covers. As Kawasaki notes: “Not to get too metaphysical, but a cover is a window into the soul of your book. In one quick glance, it needs to tell the story of your book and attract people to want to read it. Unless you’re a professional, hire a professional to create a great cover because, in spite of how the old saying goes, you can judge a book by its cover. Or at very least, people will judge a book by its cover.”
  3. While I have dabbled at business for many years, I am not much of an entrepreneur. And I don’t have the soul of a self-promoting guerilla marketer. I grew up believing modesty is a virtue. (Or, perhaps I merely had that notion spanked into my britches when I was an Eisenhower-era kid.) In any case, when my first books were published, others hired by the publishers did the editing, bragging, selling and distribution. Sometimes I talked to small groups of people and signed a few autographs. But mostly, I just stayed home, started a new project, and waited for the (small) checks to arrive. Now, in APE’s chapter on “How to Build an Enchanting Personal Brand,” Kawasaki states: “Call me idealistic, but your platform is only as good as your reality. If you suck as a person, your platform will suck too.” Cool. Memo to self: Improve personal enchantment platform immediately. (By the way, Guy and Shawn, I would add a comma between “suck” and “too.” You’re welcome.) Seriously, if we self-publish books, we have to sell ourselves to readers, right along with, and often ahead of, our books. And the eight chapters of APE’s “Entrepreneur” section provide excellent guidelines on how to do that.

Even if you already know a lot about self-publishing and self-marketing books, if you’ll go APE, you can learn some profitable new tricks from Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch.

Si Dunn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treasure Hunter by W.C. Jameson – A memoir that’s a treasure itself – #nonfiction #bookreview

Treasure Hunter
By W.C. Jameson
(Seven Oaks Publishing, paperback, list price $14.95; Kindle, $2.99)

We’ve all had the great fantasy. We turn over a spade of dirt while doing some yard work and suddenly uncover Spanish doubloons or a rich cache of 19th-century silver dollars or some long-lost loot buried by a famous outlaw.

W.C. Jameson’s name is now virtually synonymous with “buried treasure.” Of his 70-plus published books, more than 20 of them are focused on treasure hunting, lost treasures and lost mines in the United States and North America.

Jameson’s huge and diverse literary output includes books of poetry, plus books on outlaws, cooking and even writing itself. Yet many of his fans think of him as a master treasure hunter first.

His newest book, Treasure Hunter, is a treasure in itself: an adventure-packed memoir that recounts and reflects upon his five-plus decades of expeditions – sometimes successful, sometimes disastrous – to find and recover long-lost gold and silver artifacts.

In treasure hunting, Jameson points out, if the rattlesnakes, rock slides and cave-ins don’t get you, state and federal laws and private landowners likely will, especially if you don’t keep stay completely quiet about what you are doing and what you have found.

Indeed, he stresses, “Anonymity is a great ally for a professional treasure hunter.”

So, before you quit your office job, cash in your 401(K), dress up like Indiana Jones, and head off for the mountains or desert, Jameson urges you to plant some harsh realities very firmly in mind:

“It is important to understand that almost everything treasure recovery professionals do is illegal,” he warns. “Thus, the bizarre and unreasonable laws related to treasure recovery have turned honest, dedicated, and hard-working fortune hunters into outlaws. Announcing a discovery often leads to negative and unwanted developments, primarily the loss of any treasure that may have been found. As mentors explained to me years ago, the fewer people involved, the better. Silence is the byword.” 

Throughout most of his fortune hunting career, Jameson has worked only with a small group of partners, none of them identified in this book, except with names such as “Poet” and “Slade” and “Stanley.”

At one point in Treasure Hunter, after a complicated expedition ends in disaster and near-death experiences, “Poet” sums up the “glamour” of their many quests:

“This little trip reminds me of most of our expeditions. Lots of action, nothing goes as planned, we get shot at, and we come back empty-handed.”

But Jameson has had some successes in his long and often arduous career: “From a few of these excursions, my partners and I acquired enough wealth to pay off houses and purchase new vehicles. With some of the money, I paid college tuition for myself as well as for my children.”

And, despite his long career and advancing age, he remains “on the hunt” for more treasures, he says.

Not surprisingly, Jameson identifies library research as one of the toughest and most essential parts of treasure hunting. And the lands around certain “lost” treasures may be accessible only after paying bribes, dealing with unsavory characters, surviving potentially fatal double-crosses, dodging deadly snakes and being willing to risk cross-border smuggling.

If that sounds like exciting “adventure” to you, pay close attention to Jameson’s additional cautions:   

“The truth is,” he writes, “adventure was never an objective, merely a byproduct. Anyone who has ever been on a quest will tell you that adventure happens when plans go awry. The great explorer Roald Amundson once said, ‘An adventure is merely  an interruption of an explorer’s serious work and indicates bad planning.’ Our plans often turned out badly, which may give you some idea of our collective ability to arrange and organize a perfect expedition, to prepare for any and all contingencies.”

For some readers, the many quests described in Jameson’s book likely will fuel or refuel a passion to go out anyway and search and dig for riches. But, for many others of us, some of the armchair adventurers of the world, his book will provide entertaining hours of safe reading, absorbing escapism and comfortable daydreaming.

And that will be treasure enough.

Si Dunn

The Silver Lotus – fine historical fiction by Thomas Steinbeck – #bookreview

The Silver Lotus
By Thomas Steinbeck
(Counterpoint, hardback, list price $25.00; Kindle, $9.99)

Written in the style and language of a 19th-century novel, The Silver Lotus is a grand, sweeping, absorbing tale of Pacific seafaring, romance, family, and business and cultural interactions that ultimately help spur the growth and development of the Northern California coast.

This elegant work of historical fiction has surprisingly little dialogue. Its author, Thomas Steinbeck, son of the great novelist John Steinbeck, relies, instead, on heavy doses of exposition. Yet The Silver Lotus remains an engrossing, well-written story throughout. And it is a refreshing change from books full of fast and furious action and characters who engage in taut exchanges of clever words, while revealing little about their feelings, emotions or sense of place.

Thomas Steinbeck’s novel begins in Canton, China, the late 1890s, in the home of Master Chu-Woo Yee, a man of “high moral principles.” He also is a successful grain merchant with profitable experience in “a great many [other] varieties of exported and imported goods.”

Master Yee allows very few foreigners into his home. But one of them fascinates and intrigues him: Captain Jeremiah Macy Hammond, “one of the last of a long line of the great Nantucket seamen.”

Steamships now have begun to dominate cross-ocean trade. Yet Captain Hammond continues to transport his cargoes under sail, for a very practical reason: profit. He has amassed a small fleet of schooners that can carry large cargoes while sailing inexpensively with only a few crewmen.

When political turmoil suddenly erupts in China, Captain Hammond uses two of his ships to help to move Master Yee, his family, and the Yee fortune to safety in Singapore. Soon, Captain Hammond and Master Yee’s beloved daughter, Silver Lotus, are in love, and Master Yee is in no position to refuse their marriage.

Lady Yee, as Silver Lotus is known, is a remarkable woman with many talents and interests, as well as uncommon beauty. Before their marriage, she informs Captain Hammond that if he chooses to go back to sea, she will “sail with him, and make her life and home by his side.”

In her honor, Captain Hammond repaints his newest ship his wife’s favorite colors, emerald green with yellow trim outlined in black, and rechristens it “The Silver Lotus.” And Lady Yee proves very adept at living at sea beside her husband. She takes “total interest in everything to do with her namesake, her crew, and her cargo.”

Despite its calm narrative and languid pace, Steinbeck’s book has plenty of action and tensions. There are encounters with pirates, sea storms, illnesses, racism, drug abuse, great wealth, and death. There also are dangerous rescues and glimpses into the intricacies and risks of seafaring commerce, as well as clashes over medical and immigration practices in early 20th-century California.

At one level, The Silver Lotus is simply old-fashioned, entertaining historical fiction, enjoyable to read. On another level, however, Thomas Steinbeck’s second novel is a modern, intelligent reflection on how the melding of cultures, talents, dreams and resources has been a driving force behind the growth and prosperity of Northern California, as well as the rest of the United States.

Si Dunn

Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web – #bookreview

Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web
By Lukas Mathis
(Pragmatic Bookshelf, $35.00 paperback)

There’s no code inside this well-written book for programmers and visual designers. Instead, the focus is on usability — how people use things — and how you can make big, modest or subtle improvements to their experiences with digital interfaces.

You may be designing a software product that you think will be user friendly. Yet how good, really, is your knowledge of efficient and effective design? And what do you really know about how users will respond to what you create? Are you relying on formal focus groups to tell you what your users supposedly will want?

If you are, you are not doing nearly enough research, insists the author, Lukas Mathis, a developer and user interface designer for Numcom Software. “[P]eople often aren’t able to tell us how we can solve their problems. Worse, people may not even be able to tell us what their problems are. And worst of all, people are pretty bad at predicting whether and how they would use a product if we proposed to build it for them,” he writes.

Instead of depending on focus groups, you should spend some time doing “job shadowing” and “contextual interviews” to help you shape a better interface.

“Since people don’t know what they want, a good approach is to simply observe what they do. The idea of [job] shadowing is to visit users in our target audience at the place where they will use our product. The goal is to find out how our product will help them achieve their goals.”

He adds: “With usability testing, the goal is to find issues with the user interface. When you are shadowing someone, the goal is to figure out what kind of product to create or how to change your product on a more fundamental level.”

In contextual interviews, you interview a user after doing some job shadowing. And: “What you see is more important than what people say. Still, by asking the right questions, you can often get some useful information out of people….The kinds of things you’re looking for are areas where improvements seem possible. Don’t ask for opinions, and avoid questions that force the person to play product designer.”

Mathis has structured his 322-page book into three parts – research, design and implementation – and 36 short, nicely focused chapters that deal with everything from “[c]reating documentation as soon as possible” to “learning from video games” to doing “guerilla usability testing,” overcoming common testing mistakes and dealing with bad user feedback.

Designed for Use has numerous illustrations that highlight common interface design mistakes. The book also shows major, minor and subtle ways to improve customers’ understanding, acceptance and appreciation of what happens when they use product interfaces on their computer screens or phones.

The author also emphasizes the importance of keeping in mind “that you don’t have to own 100 percent of your market. It’s true that adding more features to your product allows you to target more users, but doing so comes at a cost. Your product becomes more desirable to the people who would not be able to use it if it didn’t offer a specific feature. However, it also makes your product less desirable to the people who have no use for that specific feature.”

In his view: “It’s OK to let some people go to your competitors to get what they need; you can’t be everything to everybody.”

Si Dunn

Fante: A Family’s Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving – #bookreview #writing #screenwriting

Fante: A Family’s Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving
By Dan Fante
(Harper Perennial, $14.99, paperback; $9.99, Kindle)

Italian-American novelist and screenwriter John Fante wanted his son Dan to become a plumber or electrician, not a writer or worse, an actor.

He had strong and bitter reasons behind that desire, as Dan Fante movingly notes in this dark and painful, yet ultimately uplifting and triumphant family memoir.

One of John Fante’s novels, Ask the Dust, had been published in 1939 with great expectations and is still respected as a classic look at life in Los Angeles during the Great Depression. Yet it was not a commercial success at the time, largely because the publisher, Stackpole Sons, could not afford to publicize it.

Weirdly, the publisher had “made the dumb and costly blunder of publishing Hitler’s Mein Kampf without the author’s permission,” Dan Fante writes. “The promo money that should have gone to publicize Ask the Dust was spent in New York City courtrooms fighting a protracted lawsuit with the Führer.”

So, to support his family, John Fante returned to writing Hollywood screenplays, including, nearly three decades later, Walk on the Wild Side, and “considered himself a failure as an artist.” His other outlets included too much drinking, too much golf and too much gambling, often in the company of novelist and short story writer William Saroyan, “a loose cannon,” particularly around dice games, Dan Fante notes.

Also: “Pop’s nasty mouth and rages were taking a toll on his life,” to the point that he sometimes punched out movie producers for whom he had been writing or rewriting scripts.

In his brief attempt at college, young Dan Fante had discovered that he was “a fairly decent actor.” But: “…John Fante had utter contempt for the profession, as he did for agents and TV writers and film directors and almost all movie people.” He’d tell his son: “You’re no genius, kid….Get yourself an honest career. Work with your hands.”

Much of the rest of this memoir focuses on Dan Fante’s strained relationship with his father and other family members and on Dan’s attempts to find himself after leaving home and hitchhiking to New York City, hoping to study theater.

Once there, he descends, instead, into a dark, urban hell relentlessly driven and wrecked – over and over again –by alcoholism, drugs, an often uncontrolled sex drive and numerous moments where he goes right up to the edge of committing suicide.

Dan Fante recounts how he tried many different schemes to survive, and some of them, such as working in the limousine business, briefly made him rich and brought him into the company of famous and powerful clients —  but only when he was able to sober up and stay focused.

Ultimately, he hits bottom too many times and finally can’t get up again. In the meantime, he loses his father and older brother to alcoholism, as well.

But he does, at least, reconcile with his father shortly before John Fante’s death: “We had become a loving father and son after a rocky thirty-year start. John Fante’s gift to me was his ambition, his brilliance, and his pure writer’s heart.”

At age 47, Dan Fante finally went home again in utter defeat, lugging three garbage bags “filled with all that I owned up the front walkway of my mom’s house.”

What happens next is a tough but inspiring true story of how a writer finally was able to find his voice, his focus, his legacy and his stability in life. It is a story rich with lessons and messages for almost anyone currently struggling to succeed as a novelist, screenwriter, writer of nonfiction or practitioner of virtually any other creative endeavor.

Si Dunn

Business Intelligence in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 – #bookreview

Business Intelligence in Microsoft SharePoint 2010
By Norm Warren, Mariano Teixeira Neto,
John Campbell and Stacia Misner

(Microsoft Press, $44.99, paperback)

This useful and well-written book was created, at least in part, as a response to customer complaints about SharePoint documentation. The customers told Microsoft they needed a better sense of  “the big picture” of how business intelligence (BI) and SharePoint 2010 mesh together with BI software tools.

Business intelligence is the process of extracting important and useful information from the massive quantities and flows of information available to companies at any moment.

A stated Microsoft strategy is to “democratize” BI, to make business information and insights available to all employees of a company, so they can make “faster, more relevant decisions.”

What SharePoint 2010 does, the writers note, is to work “with SQL Server reporting and BI tools to surface BI data in meaningful ways.”

Two important focuses for “the BI stack” are “report authoring,” using Microsoft Office, PerformancePoint, Dashboard Designer, and more,  and “report viewing,” in “just about any browser,  in Microsoft Office, on Windows 7 phones, and in SharePoint Search.”

The authors state that in planning this book, “we chose not to include information about setting up all the various tools and databases—although we did include a synopsis of best practices for planning, deployment and configuration.”

A number of step-by-step processes and screen shots are included, however, to illustrate some key configurations, setups, menus, tests and examples. But frequent references to other documents also are made. And some processes are described as “beyond the scope” of the book.

The writers add that “[b]ecause this book is aimed primarily at three audiences—SharePoint administrators, business users and BI developers—we were forced to sharpen our focus and choose only the most relevant BI products from Microsoft for these audiences.”

The four highlighted products are: (1) SharePoint Excel Services; (2) SQL Server 2008 R2 PowerPivot; (3) SharePoint Visio Services; and (4) SharePoint PerformancePoint Services.

Within the BI world, there generally are two types of users: power users and casual users. Power users delve into BI almost daily and frequently “develop advanced technical skills” that help them use BI tools “to explore the data without restraint,” the authors say. Casual users, meanwhile, tend to be “department managers, executives, or even external stakeholders such as customers or suppliers” who are less skilled at using BI tools and need simple interfaces that can help them “find the information they need on their own.”

The 384-page book is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Business Intelligence in SharePoint
  • Chapter 2: Choosing the Right BI Tool
  • Chapter 3: Getting to Trusted Data
  • Chapter 4: Excel Services
  • Chapter 5: PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint
  • Chapter 6: Visio and Visio Services
  • Chapter 7: PerformancePoint Services
  • Chapter 8: Bringing It All Together
  • Appendix A: Virtual Machine Setup and SharePoint Configuration
  • Appendix B: DAX Function Reference
  • Appending C: SharePoint as a Service—“Office 365”
  • Index (19 pages)

The book does not come with a CD, but a companion website offers interactive exercises and code samples to download.

The minimum hardware and software requirements cannot be described briefly here, because they vary, depending on whether you want to (1) use pre-configured virtual machines present in the 2010 Information Worker Demonstration and Evaluation Virtual Machine (RTM) or (2) install SharePoint 2010 software, perform the configuration procedures and create virtual machines from scratch. These options and their various choices are described in Appendix A and Appendix B.

Business Intelligence in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 can be an informative and useful guide for executives, managers, employees, suppliers and customers who must use BI on an occasional basis. If your goal is to become a BI power user, but you are just getting started, you also should look into this book.

Power users of BI may want to consider having this book, as well. You may be well-versed in one particular area or aspect of business intelligence. But business itself changes very rapidly these days, and a narrow expertise suddenly can  become less useful. You may need “the big picture,” too, to help you figure out where else to specialize, just in case.

Si Dunn

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Two Microsoft Certification Training Kits – #bookreview

In today’s tough and fiercely competitive IT job market, you never outgrow your need for certifications. Microsoft Press recently has released two self-paced training kits that you may need to study, if they apply to your areas of information technology. And you may need to keep these books close at hand in your technology library once you are certified.

The two training kits are: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (MCTS Exam 70-516) and Windows Server Enterprise Administration (MCITP Exam 70-647).

Short reviews of each book are posted below. In general, however, both are hefty, handsome and well-organized volumes that include practice tests on their accompanying CDs. The practice tests contain hundreds of questions and come with “detailed explanations for right and wrong answers.” Each of the books includes a certification exam discount coupon from Microsoft. 

Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
(MCTS Exam 70-516)
By Glenn Johnson
(Microsoft Press, $69.99)

“This training kit,” the author writes, “is designed for developers who write or support applications that access data written in C# or Visual Basic using Visual Studio 2010 and the Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 and who also plan to take the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) exam 70-516.”

Before you plunge into this self-paced training kit, be sure you have “a solid foundation-level understanding of Microsoft C# or Microsoft Visual Basic and be familiar with Visual Studio 2010.”

Also, be sure your available equipment meets the minimum requirements: 2.0 GB – and preferably more – of RAM; at least 80 GB of available hard disk space; a DVD-ROM drive; and Internet access.

The software requirements are Windows 7, SQL Server 2008 Developer Edition and SQL Server 2008 Express Edition. Links are provided to download evaluation copies of Windows 7 and SQL Server 2008 Developer Edition. A link also is provided to download a full release of SQL Server 2008 Express Edition.

A “virtualized environment” can be used, rather than configuring a machine specifically for the training kit, the author states. He notes that virtualization software is available from Microsoft, Oracle andVMware.

The CD supplied with Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4 includes practice tests, all of the Visual Basic and C# code samples in the book, and a “fully searchable” eBook version of the printed book.

Directions are provided for installing, using and uninstalling the practice tests.

The 647-page training kit is structured as follows:

  • Introduction
  • ADO.NET Disconnected Classes
  • ADO.NET Connected Classes
  • Introducing LINQ
  • LINQ to SQL
  • LINQ to XML
  • ADO.NET Entity Framework
  • WCF Data Services
  • Developing Reliable Applications
  • Deploying Your Application

The final sections are the Answers appendix and a detailed and apparently thorough index.

This training kit’s chapters generally contain one to three lessons, with code examples, practice exercises, plus a lesson summary and lesson review. Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4 provides more than 250 practice and review questions to help you prepare for the certification exam.

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Windows Server Enterprise Administration
(MCITP Exam 70-647)
By Orin James, John Policelli, Ian McLean, J.C, Mackin, Paul Mancuso, and David R. Miller, with GrandMasters
(Microsoft Press, $69.99)

This training kit for Windows Server Enterprise Administration is intended for “enterprise administrators who have several years’ experience managing the overall IT environment and architecture of medium to large organizations.”

To run the lab exercises in this self-paced training kit, you will need at least two computers or virtual machines. One must be a server running Windows Server Enterprise 2008, and it must be configured as a domain controller. The book provides a link for obtaining an evaluation copy of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise from Microsoft’s download center. The other computer or virtual machine must run Windows Vista (Enterprise, Business or Ultimate).

“You can complete almost all practice exercises in this book using virtual machines rather than real server hardware,” the authors state. But you must be aware of the minimum hardware requirements for running Windows Server 2008:

1. Processor: 1GHz (x86), 1.4GHz (x64) – But 2GHz or faster is recommended.
2. 512MB RAM, with  2GB recommended.
3. 15 GB of disk space, with 40 GB recommended.

The book also explains how to set up networking and how to install and use (and later uninstall) the practice tests.

The 572-page Windows Server Enterprise Administration training kit is organized as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Planning Name Resolution and Internet Protocol Addressing
  • Designing Active Directory Domain Services
  • Planning Migrations, Trusts, and Interoperability
  • Designing Active Directory Administration and Group Policy Strategy
  • Designing Network Access Strategy
  • Design a Branch Office Deployment
  • Planning Terminal Services and Application Deployment
  • Server and Application Virtualization
  • Planning and Designing a Public Key Infrastructure
  • Designing Solutions for Data Sharing, Data Security, and Business Continuity

The chapters generally have two to three lessons each, as well as lesson summaries, lesson reviews, chapter reviews, chapter reviews, chapter summaries, suggested practices and a practice test.

The remaining sections of the training kit include answers to the practice tests, a somewhat modest glossary, and a hefty and well-detailed index.

The supplied CD provides more than 275 practice and review questions, a “fully searchable” eBook version of the training kit, case scenarios, best practices, and exercises. 

– Si Dunn

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Code in the Cloud: Programming Google App Engine #bookreview

Code in the Cloud: Programming Google App Engine
Mark C. Chu-Carroll
(O’Reilly, $32.95, paperback)

 “O clouds, unfold!”
          –William Blake, “Milton,” preface

These days, it’s all about the cloud, many people insist.

Somewhere out there in “the cloud” are the servers and programs that you are now using – or soon will be. Much of  your data already is out there, too, and more will be.

But where, exactly? Why, floating in “the cloud,” of course.

“You don’t know where, and more importantly, you don’t care; there’s absolutely no reason for you to care,” insists Mark C. Chu-Carroll, a Google software engineer who has worked on programming languages and software development tools for nearly 20 years.

These “don’t care” and “it’s all in the cloud” notions expressed in Chu-Carroll’s well-written new book may make many long-time computer programmers nervous. This could be particularly true if you have spent a long time working with, and trying to secure the data on, personal computers or corporate networks of computers.

In the brave, new, vaporous world of cloud computing, there are almost no boundaries anymore. And many of the limitations and weaknesses of hardware, software and security can be more easily subdued, we are told.

So, what exactly is the cloud?

At one level, it is many clouds. You can think of huge data centers with many computers as individual clouds, and each data storage device within those centers as one water droplet that helps form that cloud. As individual clouds come in contact with each other, they bunch up into one bigger cloud and cover more and more of the sky.

In Mark C. Chu-Carroll’s view, the cloud is “a revolutionary way of thinking about computing; it’s a universe of servers that you can build an application on; it’s a world of services that you can build or that you can use to build other things.”

But when should you, as a programmer, use “the cloud”?

According to the author, “You can write almost any application you want in the cloud. In fact, many people strongly believe that everything should be in the cloud — that there’s no longer any reason to develop applications for standalone computers.”

He does not completely support that view and concedes that the cloud may not be “the ideal platform for everything.” 

Yet, when programming for the cloud, you can worry a lot less about what operating system you are running, what software you have, what hardware limitations you have and when you will need to do backups or do software and security upgrades.

“If you’re a user of the cloud,” Chu-Carroll writes, you buy access to the application you want and then connect to it from anywhere.”  And, when developing for the cloud, “you break things down to basic building blocks, buy those pieces from service providers, and put them together however you want to build a system.”

The cloud likely is here to stay, and it won’t be dissipating soon, just getting bigger. So, computer programmers of all types and persuasions need to pay close attention. It likely will become an increasingly important element in hiring and in securing contract work.

Mark C. Chu-Carroll’s Code in the Cloud can give you a solid introduction to cloud computing and also get you up to speed quickly on how to program applications using the Google App Engine. It starts out at the beginner’s level using Python and the Google App Engine to create a first, simple app. Then it moves quickly to Java and advanced Google App Engine topics.

This 306-page book is a new entry in O’Reilly’s popular “The Pragmatic Programmer” series. Here is its section and chapter lineup:

Section I – Getting Started with the Google App Engine
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Getting Started
Section II – Programming Google App Engine with Python
- Chapter 3: A First Real Cloud Application
- Chapter 4: Managing Data in the Cloud
- Chapter 5: Google App Engine Services for Login Authentication
- Chapter 6: Organizing Code: Separating UI and Logic
- Chapter 7: Making the UI Pretty: Templates and CSS
- Chapter 8: Getting Interactive
Section III – Programming Google App Engine with Java
- Chapter 9: Google App Engine and Java
- Chapter 10: Managing Server-Side Data
- Chapter 11: Building User Interfaces in Java
- Chapter 12: Building the Server Side of a Java Application
Section IV – Advanced Googe App Engine
- Chapter 13: Advanced Datastore: Property Types
- Chapter 14: Advanced Datastore: Queries and Indices
- Chapter 15: Google App Engine Services
- Chapter 16: Server Computing in the Cloud
- Chapter 17: Security in App Engine Services
- Chapter 18: Administering Your App Engine Deployment
- Chapter 19: Wrapping Up

A good index is included that enhances the book’s organization and ease of use.

Code in the Cloud does an excellent job of explaining what a cloud service is and how it is different from traditional applications. Cloud applications are easily scalable. You can program a cloud app that works only for one user on one computer. Or your app can be used by many millions of users who can access it, via the cloud, from thousands of computers. If you build applications for people who work together online, “[c]ollaboration is the cloud’s natural niche,” the author says.

Mark C. Chu-Carroll shows you: (1)  how to build applications as a cloud service; (2) how to employ the App Engine to manage persistent data in the cloud; (3) how to create dynamic and interactive user interfaces that will run in Web browers; (4) how to interact with other services available in the App Engine cloud; and (5) how to maintain and manage security in cloud-based Web applications.

With this book in your programmer’s library, you will not — to badly misquote the poet William Wordsworth – be left wandering lonely, outside the Google App Engine’s share of the cloud. 

 – Si Dunn

iPad 2: The Missing Manual (It’s here!)

iPad 2: The Missing Manual
By J.D. Biersdorfer
(O’Reilly, $24.99 US, $28.99 CAN)
Amazon link: http://amzn.to/mwXfN6

Each new addition to O’Reilly‘s “The Missing Manual” series has a telling tagllne: “The book that should have been in the box.”

Users of the iPad 2 definitely may wish they had received this book in their Apple box. It is well-organized and well-illustrated and engagingly written by J.D. Biersdorfer, the popular “Gadgetwise” columnist for the New York Times and best-selling author of several previous tech books, including: iPad: The Missing Manual; iPod: The Missing Manual; and The iPod Shuffle Fan Book: Life Is a Playlist.

Along with the iPad 2, Biersdorfer’s new book also covers the original iPad and is structured to help you locate the right buttons, connectors and Home Screen icons once you have an iPad in your hands.

“Odds are,” the author notes wryly, “you had that iPad out of its box about 5 seconds after you got it, running your hands over its smooth edges, admiring its tapered thinness and high-gloss screen.”

But, with little else to guide you, you may not know what to do first to make it work and then set it up correctly. As the O’Reilly book points out, “there’s still no printed guide to using its features” — not in the iPad 2′s box.

Yes, you can boot up your PC, go online and find iPad setup and features information. You can even print out some pages, punch some holes, and stack the paper in a three-ring binder for future reference. But why bother? This book is an excellent, convenient and affordable guide to everything you need to know to become adept at using and enjoying your iPad 2.

Early on, it covers mastering iTunes, “your iPad’s best friend. You can do just about everything with your digital media here….”

The book also shows you how to find, buy, download, use, troubleshoot and uninstall apps.

Some of the other “important stuff” it covers includes:

1. Building your media library, by filling your iPad with music, ebooks, movies, photos, TV shows and other materials.

2. Using the iPad 2′s new still camera, video camera and Photo Booth app to create your own media projects.

3. Getting online and surfing via wi-fi or wi-fi + 3G.

4. Making video calls using the iPad 2′s video cameras and FaceTime app.

5.  Sending and receiving email messages using any of your email accounts.

6. Discovering iPad tricks and workarounds for problems or limitations.

All in all, this is a fine, comforting and informative guide for new iPad users. Along with smooth writing, step-by-step procedures  and logical structure, it also has a good index and numerous illustrations and screen shots.

Those who have owned the popular tablets for a while likely can also find some new tricks and helpful information in O’Reilly’s iPad 2: The Missing Manual by J.D. Biersdorfer.

The book is available in paperback and Kindle editions. O’Reilly also offers it via Safari Books Online

Si Dunn