The Lens – A Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer – #photography #bookreview

The Lens
NK Guy
(Rocky Nook, paperback)

NK Guy’s new book is billed as “A Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer.” It is that–and more. It also is a celebration of excellent photography made possible by great glass and having several interchangeable lenses available for your digital SLR or film SLR.

Forget about megapixels vs. more megapixels. “Nothing affects the technical quality of a photo more than the glass,” Guy writes.  

And: “Lenses are at the very heart of the image-forming process. They’re not a peripheral, and they’re not an accessory.”

He notes: “Many new photographers put a lot of effort into choosing the right camera, but leave the lens as an afterthought. Lots of people rarely venture beyond the standard kit lens that came in the box.”

The Lens is a noble effort to put lenses on the minds of new and experienced photographers alike. Well written and beautifully illustrated, the book offers not only the nuts and bolts and interior workings of lens but shows numerous top-quality photographs that visually capture the essence of the technical explanations. The pictures can make you want to pick up your camera and shoot something. And add another lens to your camera system.

The 310-page book has nine chapters:

  1. A Brief History of Optics
  2. Bending Light
  3. Lens Mechanisms
  4. Choosing the Right Lens for a Project
  5. Choosing a Lens by Focal Length
  6. Accessorize!
  7. Buying Lenses
  8. Advanced Topics
  9. Creative Options: Beyond the Standard Lens

There also are four appendices:

  • Appendix A: Lens Mount Systems
  • Appendix B: Manufacturer-Specific Lens Terms
  • Appendix C: Lens Mount Table
  • Appendix D: Chapter Opening Images

The book contains many useful tips, as well as information that can be surprising even to veteran photographers.

For example, Guy points out that “there are actually organisms that eat camera lenses….certain types of fungus can invade your prized possessions, gradually etching the glass with permanent tendril-like marks.” He describes how to protect against a fungus invasion and how to detect its damage in a lens, particularly a used lens you may be thinking of buying.

Si Dunn

Juniper MX Series – A comprehensive guide for network engineers – #bookreview #juniper #networking

Juniper MX Series
Douglas Richard Hanks Jr., and Harry Reynolds
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

This comprehensive, well-written handbook is aimed directly at network engineers who want to know more about the feature-rich Juniper MX Series of routers.

Actually, “handbook” is a bit of a misnomer. It takes two hands to comfortably handle this hefty, comprehensive, 864-page guide.

The two authors, both network engineers themselves, note that the Juniper MX Series is “[o]ne of the most popular routers in the enterprise and service provider market….”

They add: “The Juniper MX was designed to be a network virtualization beast. You can virtualize the physical interfaces, logical interfaces, data plane, network services, and even have virtualized services span several Juniper MX routers. What traditionally was done with an entire army of routers can now be consolidated and virtualized into a single Juniper MX router.”

The book’s chapters are:

  • 1.      Juniper MX Architecture
  • 2.      Bridging, VLAN Mapping, IRB, and Virtual Switches
  • 3.      Stateless Filters, Hierarchical Policing, and Tri-Color Marking
  • 4.      Routing Engine Protection and DDOS Prevention
  • 5.      Trio Class of Service
  • 6.      MX Virtual Chassis
  • 7.      Trio Inline Services
  • 8.      Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation
  • 9.      Junos High Availability on MX Routers

The chapters, organized by feature sets, include review questions (with answers conveniently located nearby), so you can track your learning progress.

The authors have extensive experience with the Juniper MX router series. Douglas Richard Hanks Jr., is a data center architect with Juniper Networks. Harry Reynolds has more than 30 years’ experience in networking, with a focus on LANs and LAN interconnection.

Si Dunn

For more information: (paperbackKindle)

Surviving Orbit the DIY Way – You, too, can launch a satellite – #diy #science #bookreview

Surviving Orbit the DIY Way
Sandy Antunes
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Okay, it’s not exactly Star Trek. For less than the price of a reasonably good used car, you now can build your own picosatellite from a kit, get it launched into low Earth orbit by commercial rocket, and receive data from space.

Surviving Orbit the DIY Way is a new book in O’Reilly’s four-book series focusing on do-it-yourself satellites. The project book’s focus is “Testing the Limits Your Satellite Can and Must Match.”

The first book, DIY Satellite Platforms, was released by O’Reilly in January, 2012, and focuses on “Building a Space-Ready General Base Picosatellite for Any Mission.” A forthcoming book, DIY Instruments for Amateur Space, will emphasize “Inventing Utility for Your Spacecraft Once It Achieves Orbit.” And a future book will show how to install miniature radio equipment in your picosatellite, so you and others can receive its data transmissions.

In Surviving Orbit the DIY Way, the text describes the conditions a picosatellite faces in orbit. It also explains how to build and use a $100 thermal vacuum chamber , plus an inexpensive centrifuge, vibration test stand, and other do-it-yourself test facilities needed to prepare your picosatellite for the stresses of launch and deployment.

Writes the author: “…with a bit of boldness and a strong do-it-yourself spirit, you can be flying your own picosatellites ‘the maker way’.”

You won’t be boldly going where no one has gone before, of course. Yet, with picosatellites, you can join the numerous schools, groups, and individuals now putting useful and educational low-budget space experiments into orbit around Planet Earth.

Si Dunn

R in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition – A welcome update to an excellent reference guide – #programming #bookreview

R in a Nutshell: 2nd Edition
Joseph Adler
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Attention, statisticians, data scientists, data journalists, mathematicians, graphics specialists, and others who use the R programming language.  Joseph Adler has updated his popular “desktop quick reference guide” to R.

If you aren’t familiar with R, it is a “free software environment for statistical computing and graphics,” according to the R-Project website.  Some of the world’s biggest corporations and news organizations are now using R. But there also are numerous ways individual users can work with R, including using it inside Microsoft Excel by running RExcel.

The new edition offers some nice improvements over the 2009 first edition, but it is not a full-scale rewrite.  After all, R itself generally doesn’t change much from one release to the next.

Here’s what is new in the new edition:

  • New information on ggplot2 and using R with Hadoop.
  • Formatting changes to make the code examples easier to read.
  • Plotting chapters have been grouped together.
  • “Minor updates.” These “reflect changes in R 2.14 and R 2.15.
  • New sections offering how-to information on “useful tools for manipulating data in R , such as plyr and reshape.

The author says that while his 699-page book “is designed to be a concise guide to R,” it is “not intended to be a book about statistics or an exhaustive guide to R.”

Chapter 3, however, provides a friendly “short R tutorial” with plenty of basic examples.  And Chapter 5 presents a helpful “Overview of the R Language.” The book’s other chapters are packed with code examples, illustrations, and well-written explanations, as well.

R in a Nutshell’s chapters are organized into six parts:

  • Part I – R Basics
  • Part II – The R Language
  • Part III – Working with Data
  • Part IV – Data Visualization
  • Part V – Statistics with R
  • Part VI – Additional Topics (including using r with Hadoop)  

Whether you are: (1)  new to R, (2) trying to land a job where R skills are required, (3) working on projects that could benefit from R’s excellent statistical and graphics capabilities, or (4) an old hand at R, you should have this updated “desktop quick reference” manual on hand.

Si Dunn

For more information:  paperbackKindle

Practical Vim: Edit Text at the Speed of Thought – #programming #bookreview

Practical Vim: Edit Text at the Speed of Thought
Drew Neil
(Pragmatic Bookshelf,
paperback)

Vim is a popular, free text editor used by programmers, web developers, and others. If you are a reasonably good touch typist and know just two commands, i and :w, you can create simple code files and text files in a hurry. For serious Vim users, however, there is a fairly long learning curve that includes a large array of features and configurable settings.

Practical Vim: Edit Text at the Speed of Thought is for Vim users who have been through the basic tutorial offered through the program and now want to step up their skills.

The book focuses on “the core functionality of the editor…[m]aster Vim’s core, and you’ll gain portable access to a text editing power tool,” author Drew Neil promises.

Neil has structured his content as “a recipe book. It’s not designed to be read from start to finish.”

Instead, Practical Vim follows its opening chapter, “The Vim Way,” with 20 additional chapters separated into six parts:

  • Part 1 – Modes (Normal, Insert, Visual, Command Line)
  • Part 2 – Files (Manage Multiple Files, Open Files and Save Them to Disk)
  • Part 3 – Getting Around Faster (Navigate Inside Files with Motions, Navigate Between Files with Jumps)
  • Part 4 – Registers (Copy and Paste, Macros)
  • Part 5 – Patterns (Matching Patterns and Literals, Search, Substitution, Global Commands)
  • Part 6 – Tools (Index and Navigate Source Code with ctags; Compile Code and Navigate Errors with the Quickfix List; Search Project-Wide with grep, vimgrep, and Others; Dial X for Autocompletion; Find and Fix Typos with Vim’s Spell Checker; Now What?

There is one appendix, and its focus is: Customize Vim to Suit Your Preferences.

The book is well written, and it provides numerous how-to steps, illustrated sequences of commands, tips, explanations, and suggestions.

If you are a Vim novice and serious about getting good at using the program, Drew Neil’s Practical Vim can show you how to do it.

Si Dunn

Practical Vim: Edit Text at the Speed of Thought

For more information:  paperback

Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion – Working with the Terminal and Shell – #bookreview

Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

 When I showed this book–and its “Going Deep with the Terminal and Shell”–tagline to my Mac-centric wife, her first response was: “Why?”

Her Macintosh, she declared, already does everything she needs it to do, with no fuss. Why bother with terminals and shells–and Unix?

I, on the other hand, started working with computers back in the days when everything was done at the command line, programs and data were stored on recording tape, and 48K of RAM was stunning state of the art.

So I am happy with Dave Taylor’s observation in his new book that “there are over a thousand Unix commands included with OS X—and you can’t see most of them without accessing the command line. From sophisticated software development environments to web browsers, file transfer utilities to encryption and compression utilities, almost everything you can do in the Aqua interface—and more—can be done with a few carefully chosen Unix commands.”

Indeed, he notes, “…dipping into the primarily text-based Unix tools on your OS X system gives you more power and control over both your computer and your computing environment.”

He lists some other, enticing reasons to learn and use the Unix tools available in OS X. There are, for example, “thousands of open source and otherwise freely downloadable Unix applications,” including the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) that is a convenient and affordable alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

“Fundamentally,” he says, “Unix is all about power and control.”

My wife is still not convinced having this power and control is necessary or important to  how she uses her Mac. But I predict many others will want to get this book.

It is an excellent how-to guide, with 214 pages organized into 10 chapters:

  • 1. Why Use Unix?
  • 2. Using the Terminal’
  • 3. Exploring the File System
  • 4. File Management
  • 5. Finding Files and Information
  • 6. Redirecting I/O
  • 7. Multitasking
  • 8. Taking Unix Online
  • 9. Of Windows and X11
  • 10. Where to Go from Here

Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion is well written and nicely illustrated with step-by-step Unix command examples, results displays, screen shots, and tips. It doesn’t try to cover everything, nor get too deep into detail.

Dave Taylor’s new book comfortably meets its goal of showing savvy OS X users how to use “all the basic commands you need to get started with Unix.”

There is, he points out, “a whole world of Unix inside your OS X system, and it’s time for you to jump in and learn how to be more productive and more efficient, and gain remarkable power as a Mac user.”

Si Dunn

Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion
For more information: paperbackKindle

Learning Node – A good how-to guide for server-side Web development with Node.js – #programming #bookreview

Learning Node
Shelley Powers
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

 “Node is designed to be used for [server-side] applications that are heavy on input/output (I/O), but light on computation,” veteran Web technology author Shelley Powers notes in Learning Node, her ninth and newest how-to book from O’Reilly.

“Node.js,” she explains, “is a server-side technology that’s based on Google’s V8 JavaScript engine. It’s a highly scalable system that uses asynchronous, event-driven I/O (input/output), rather than threads or separate processes. “It’s ideal for web applications that are frequently accessed but computationally simple.”

I’ve criticized some previous Node books (1) for assuming that all of their readers know a lot about Node.js and assorted programming languages and (2) for not giving enough step-by-step installation and start-up information.

Happily, Learning Node is well written, nicely illustrated with code samples and screen shots, and assumes only that you have some working familiarity with JavaScript. It gives a detailed overview of how to set up development environments in Linux (Ubuntu) and Windows 7. “Installation on a Mac should be similar to installation on Linux,” the author adds.

One caveat regarding code examples: “Most were tested in a Linux environment, but should work, as is, in any Node environment.”

The 374-page book has 16 chapters. The first five “cover both getting Node and the package manager (npm) installed , how to use them, creating your first applications, and utilizing modules.”

Shelley Powers notes that she incorporates “the use of the Express framework, which also utilizes the Connect middleware, throughout the book.” So if you have little or no experience with Express, you will need to pay attention to chapters 6 through 8. But: “After these foundation chapters, you can skip around a bit,” she adds.

Some of the additional chapters cover key/value pairs, using MongoDb with Node, and working with Node’s relational database bindings.

Two chapters get into specialized application use. “Chapter 12 focuses purely on graphics and media access, including how to provide media for the new HTML5 video element, as well as working with PDF documents and Canvas,” the author points out. “Chapter 13 covers the very popular Sockets.io module, especially for working with the new web socket functionality.”

The final chapters are crucial, particularly if you want to move from learning Node to working in a production environment. Chapter 14 covers “Testing and Debugging Node Applications.” Chapter 15 “covers issues of security and authority…it is essential that you spend time in this chapter before you roll a Node application out for general use.”

Meanwhile, Chapter 16 describes “how to prepare your application for production use, including how to deploy your Node application not only on your own system , but also in one of the cloud servers that are popping up to host Node applications.”

Learning Node is both an excellent overall introduction to Node.js and a how-to reference guide that you will want to keep close at hand as you develop and deploy Node applications.

Si Dunn

For more information: Node.js, paperback, Kindle