The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide – A very good book for intermediate beginners (and up) – #ubuntu #linux #bookreview

The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide

Sixth Edition

Jonathan Moeller

(Azure Flame Media, LLC – Kindle)

This should not be your first book on how to use Ubuntu, particularly if you consider yourself not much of a computer geek and you are fleeing Microsoft Windows to escape the death throes of XP (or the life throes of Windows 8).

However, The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide is an excellent how-to book that can add to your enjoyment and mastery of Ubuntu once you are comfortable with opening applications, downloading the latest updates, and doing some basic work at the command line in Linux. In other words, once you are ready to learn more about what else you can do with a PC running Ubuntu (besides typing on it and surfing the web), The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide definitely can help. (It focuses on Ubuntu version 12.04 — not the latest, but still a good release that will be supported for a few more years.)

Jonathan Moeller spends much of his book showing how to set up an Ubuntu PC as a server platform, for example an Apache web server, a MySQL server, a DHCP server, and an FTP Client and Server, among others. His instructions are clear, and you don’t have to flip from one chapter to another to keep track of all of the steps. He repeats setup steps when necessary to help the reader stay focused on doing a task from start to finish. (I am definitely not a Linux guru, but I have used Moeller’s book thus far to assign some static IPs, set up SAMBA file sharing, set up an Apache web server, and do several other tasks that I’ve wanted to learn. Some reviewers have criticized the author for repeating certain steps for each process. But I appreciate the convenience of staying focused on just one or two pages at a time.)

Meanwhile, later chapters focus on web applications and “the eight best applications for a new Ubuntu desktop installation.” (No spoilers are given here.)

“Hosting web applications,” Moeller writes, “is where Linux really shines….Ubuntu Linux can run a variety of web applications, ranging from simple interactive sites to powerful content management systems.” In his book, he shows “how to install three of the most popular content management systems on an Ubuntu web server — WordPress, MediaWiki, and Drupal” — and explains what a LAMP server is. “LAMP is simply an acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (or Perl and Python).”

The author covers several other useful topics, including how to create a bootable USB flash drive, how to run some Windows software on Ubuntu using the Wine application, and how to manage eBooks on Ubuntu. And he describes how to enjoy some computer games on Ubuntu, even though the “gaming experience” admittedly will not measure up to Windows machines, various mobile devices, or dedicated game consoles such as an XBox or Playstation.

If you have not yet tried Ubuntu and still wonder if you will like Linux or not, start with a book such as Ubuntu Made Easy, which comes with a CD that lets you try Ubuntu 12.04 without actually installing it. (And , if you do like it, you can use the same CD to install Ubuntu on your PC). Then, after you get comfortable with the basics and want to know more, get The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide.

Si Dunn

Raiders of the Nile – Steven Saylor brings fast-paced action & intrigue to ancient Egypt – #fiction #bookreview

Raiders of the Nile

A Novel of the Ancient World

Steven Saylor

(Minotaur Books – hardcover , Kindle )

Best-selling author Steven Saylor is well-known for his many books, including his Roma Sub Rosa series of historical mysteries set in ancient Rome, starring Gordianus the Finder, a B.C. equivalent of Sherlock Holmes.

Now, in Raiders of the Nile, Saylor again has turned the sundial back a few years and given us a young, pre-Finder Gordianus. In 88 B.C., on his 22nd birthday, Gordianus suddenly has to embark on a truly desperate quest. He must rescue Bethesda, the beautiful young woman he loves,  from fearsome pirates based in the Nile Delta. They have kidnapped Bethesda from the troubled city of Alexandria, where the latest in a string of Egyptian kings named Ptolemy is on a very shaky throne (despite, or perhaps partly because of, his huge girth). And young Gordianus finds that he has just one ally willing to be his John Watson in the Egyptian badlands: a 10-year-old slave boy named Djet.

A pleasingly complex plot unfolds as Gordianus and Djet barely escape death at several turns and have to join the pirate gang not only to save their lives but to have a chance to escape with Bethesda, who is being held for ransom.

What the pirates and their vicious leader don’t know is that they have kidnapped the wrong woman. And if they somehow find out, she, Gordianus and Djet all could be killed on the spot.

It’s the set-up for a lot of intrigue, action and entertainment. And Steven Saylor demonstrates that he is a master at telling fast-paced stories set in the seemingly slow-paced ancient world.

His characters, fortunately, do not speak in hieroglyphics or Latin. Nor do they sound like actors in grainy Old Testament movies. Indeed, they converse in reasonably modern English, which momentarily can be disconcerting the first time you pick up a Steven Saylor novel. But it doesn’t take long to get caught up in the tale and find yourself racing along on the back of a camel you barely can ride, while murderous villagers, also on camels, try to chase you down and hack you into mincemeat.

Saylor, widely recognized as an expert on ancient Roman life and politics, has done extensive research into the lives and politics of some ancient Egyptians, as well as key settings used in Raiders of the Nile. He needed a vacation, he says in the book’s concluding notes, from his long studies of the ancient Romans’ “murder trials, gruesome histories, and self- aggrandizing memoirs.” So he turned to the works of “Greek authors whose books were all about travel and exploration, love and sensual pleasure, religious exaltation and athletic glory.”

One outcome was his 2013 book The Seven Wonders, which brings 18-year-old Gordianus face-to-face with intriguing, challenging, deadly mysteries each time he stops to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Raiders of the Nile is the second prequel novel that points toward how Gordianus eventually will become the famed Finder who solves cases involving prominent historical characters and events in Rome. While researching ancient Greece, Saylor encountered several books, manuscripts and websites that inspired him to look closely at Egypt, too. And that led to the absorbing tale which unfolds in this new book.

One downside to the many plot twists, intrigues, double-crossings, and surprises in Raiders of the Nile is that Saylor must rely on a fairly lengthy ending to wrap everything up and shake Gordianus loose for whatever will come next. Even then, some of the concluding events seem to happen just a bit quickly and conveniently.

Still, fans of Gordianus the Finder will not be disappointed. And readers encountering Gordianus (and Saylor) for the first time will find plenty to enjoy–including a whole series of Gordianus novels to savor.

Steven Saylor definitely knows how to blend imagination, good storytelling, historical accuracy and cultural details into tales of mystery, intrigue, action and, yes, love.

Si Dunn

Mastering the Nikon D610 – Another helpful how-to from Digital Darrell – #photography #bookreview

Mastering the Nikon D610

Darrell Young

(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

d610_hr

Today’s digital SLR cameras have many more features than most of us can possibly use. And, certainly, they have many more features than most of us can readily employ without cracking open a how-to guide.

Still, I am both a fan and user of DSLRs. I am also a fan and user of some of Digital Darrell’s books on how to master various Nikon cameras.

Yes, the instruction manuals that come with new DSLRs are supposed to tell us how to use every button, setting and indicator. Often, they do. Yet, that’s all they usually tell us: the bare basics.

In a Digital Darrell book, on the other hand, you get more than detailed coverage of every dial, button, indicator, and menu setting. You also get color photographs of menu options, plus recommended settings and numerous tips based on Darrell Young’s shooting preferences and experiences in the field. Those recommendations and tips can be valuable savers of time and frustration, whether trying out a feature for the first time or using a feature not touched in several months.

Darrell Young’s new Mastering the Nikon D610 is a world-class how-to book that deserves to be kept handy by anyone who uses this new, feature-rich, full-frame (FX) camera.

Young has written more than a dozen photography books, primarily detailed guides for specific models of Nikons. “The massive resolution of the 24.3 megapixel (MP) sensor, an amazing dynamic range, and clean, broadcast-quality video make the D610 one of the world’s best digital cameras,” Young states.

“In my opinion, the image is what counts, and the Nikon D610 can deliver some of the highest-quality images out there. It’s a robust camera body designed to last. With this camera we can return to the days when we seldom bought a new camera body and instead put our money into new Nikkor lenses.”

Whether you get one D610 or a dozen, you may really like keeping a copy of this well-crafted, 547-page book handy for quick—and detailed—reference in the field or studio.

Si Dunn

Hello World! – Updated book brings new fun to learning Python – #programming #bookreview

Sande--Hello World!, 2e

Hello World!

Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners (2nd Edition)

Warren Sande and Carter Sande

(Manning, paperback)

Many politicians, educators and pundits keep arguing over whether the United States should offer computer programming classes to all students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Others say all of us, including senior citizens, should do some coding to help us (1) maintain mental sharpness and good computer skills and (2) ward off late-in-life memory problems such as dementia.

These contentious debates are a long way from being settled, of course. Meanwhile, questions also rage over which programming languages we should learn. There are, after all, many dozens now in use.

Experienced software developers often state that Python is a good choice for youngsters ready to tackle their first “real” language, particularly once they have spent some time mastering Scratch, which MIT describes as “a programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animation with people from all over the world.”

Manning Publications recently has brought out an updated second edition of its popular Python how-to book, Hello World!, written by Warren Sande and his son Carter Sande.

Some parents want to hand a programming book over to a child and let them learn at their own pace. And that can be done, in many cases, with Hello World! (It is written at a 12-year-old’s reading level, according to Manning). But other parents want to share the learning experience and be mentors, too, and the Sande book can be used effectively that way, as well. In either case, many children younger than 12 also should be able to learn from it.

Be sure to note the “Other Beginners” in the book’s subtitle. I have taken classes in Python, and I have worked my way through a couple of  Python programming books. Hello World! is proving a useful addition to my library, too, because it gives some clear explanations and examples for  many different concepts, such as using variable nested loops, importing portions of modules, or providing collision detection in a game, to name just a few.

One big question quickly pops up when someone decides to learn to program in Python: Python 2 or Python 3?

Several years ago, the language was updated from version 2 to version 3, but many users of version 2 chose to not upgrade. So now we recently have had Python 2.7.6 and Python 3.3.3 (with Python 3.4 coming soon). The two versions have some similarities, but they also have essential differences. Bottom line: They do not play well together.

In this second edition of Hello World!, the authors have elected to stick with Python 2 in their text and code examples. But they have added notes to help make the code work for students using Python 3. Likewise, they have added an appendix explaining some major differences between Python 2 and Python 3.

Other significant changes include using color in illustrations and code listings and, in the chapter on GUI programming, using PyQT, rather than the no-longer-supported PythonCard. And the updated book now spans more than 460 pages, including its index.

With Hello World!, even the most eager student who is a very fast reader can be kept focused and busy for many hours while learning how to program in Python.

Si Dunn