Windows PowerShell 3.0: Step by Step – A huge guide to things you can do after you’ve found PowerShell – #bookreview

Windows PowerShell 3.0: Step by Step
Ed Wilson
(Microsoft Press – paperback, Kindle)

 

Wondering what the “Open Windows PowerShell” option does on your Windows 8 PC?

There’s a book for that: Windows PowerShell 3.0: Step by Step by Ed Wilson.

According to Wilson, “Windows PowerShell 3.0 is an essential management and automation tool that brings the simplicity of the command line to the next generation operating systems.” It is “included in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, and portable to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2” and “offers unprecedented power and flexibility to everyone from power users to enterprise network administrators and architects.”

Windows PowerShell is accessed as a command console that also offers a programming language. This means you can create files that will perform some automated actions using “cmdlets” (pronounced “command-lets”) at the PowerShell prompt. The cmdlets, Wilson writes, “are like executable programs, but they take advantage of the facilities built into Windows PowerShell, and therefore are easy to write.” cmdlets are not scripts, he adds, “because they are built using the services of a special .NET Framework namespace.”

In one basic, introductory example in Wilson’s book, you create a batch file — TroubleShoot.bat — that automatically enters four commands in sequence and pipes the results of each command to a text file:

ipconfig /all >C:\tshoot.txt
route print >>C:\tshoot.txt
hostname >>C:\tshoot.txt
net statistics workstation >>C:\tshoot.txt

Wilson’s book spans 666 pages, so there are many other features and uses for PowerShell that should please power users, technical staff, Windows network administrators, and Windows networking consultants. Some programmers also will relish its opportunities to write various types of PowerShell files and create functions, subroutines, modules, and other processes.

If you are studying to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), you may know this already: Windows PowerShell is considered “a key component of many Microsoft courses and certification exams.”

Windows PowerShell 3.0: Step by Step is well written, and it is solidly illustrated with code examples, screenshots, and other graphics. The author is a senior consultant at Microsoft and a well-known scripting expert. Readers are not expected to have “any background in programming, development, or scripting.” So, it is a good (albeit hefty)  how-to guide for PowerShell beginners and intermediate users.

Si Dunn

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Windows 8: The Missing Manual – The reference guide you need to sort it all out – #bookreview

Windows 8: The Missing Manual
David Pogue
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

Okay, so Windows 8 is not exactly setting the digital world on fire these days. Many of us bought it anyway, because we have been using Windows machines at home and in office settings for a long, long time. And we like to keep up–if only out of curiosity and to hedge our digital bets. For example, I now have Windows 8 on one laptop, Windows 7 on another, and Windows XP on two other computers. And all versions have served me well, thus far. 

I have been using Windows since the days of IBM PC-XT clones in the early 1980s. Yet that doesn’t make me a Windows expert. I make good use of the features I need as a writer, editor, and occasional programmer. And I completely ignore the many other features, until I suddenly need details such as how to work with an ISO disk image or temporarily override a pop-up blocker or set up a remote desktop connection. 

That’s when I grab for a reference book. David Pogue’s new Windows 8: The Missing Manual now occupies a prominent spot on my reference shelf. At 905 pages and 3+ pounds, it’s hefty enough to double as a doorstop or workout weight. But I keep it within quick reach when I work with Windows 8. 

The book’s 28 chapters and three appendixes are divided into eight well-organized parts: 

  • Part One: TileWorld
  • Part Two: The Windows Desktop
  • Part Three: Windows Online
  • Part Four: Pictures & Music
  • Part Five: Hardware & Peripherals
  • Part Six: PC Health
  • Part Seven: The Windows Network
  • Part Eight: Appendixes 

“Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Windows 8 is two operating systems in one,” Pogue writes. “They have separate software programs, control panels, Help systems, Web browsers, application switchers–and separate ways of doing things.” Microsoft, he adds, strongly disagrees with that assessment and “certainly doesn’t use the term ‘TileWorld’….”

The familiar Windows desktop portion of Windows 8 “is basically Windows 7,” Pogue says. “It’s the familiar world of overlapping windows, the taskbar, and drop-down menus. It’s designed for use with a mouse and keyboard. In this environment, you can run any of the four million existing Windows programs…..”

Meanwhile, the TileWorld part of Windows 8 is, Pogue says, “a new environment for touchscreens, like tablets and touchscreen laptops. This environment looks completely different–and works completely differently. There’s no taskbar, windows don’t overlap, and there are no drop-down menus. For TileWorld, you have to buy and install a completely new kind of app.”

My Windows 8 PC does not have a touch screen, so I don’t make much use of TileWorld or its apps, yet. Sometimes I click on the Calendar app or tiles that bring up Google Chrome, Amazon, eBay, or the Kindle reader. Mostly, however, I just click on the tile that brings up the traditional desktop, where I feel much more at home. 

But once I am ready to venture deeper into TileWorld (and that day is coming soon), Windows 8: The Missing Manual  offers five full chapters of how-to information.

David Pogue’s new book covers all versions of Windows 8, including Windows RT. “There are no longer 17,278 versions of Windows, praise Ballmer,” he writes. “No more Starter, Home, Home Premium, Ultimate, blah blah blah. Basically, there are only two versions for sale to the public–Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro–and the differences are minor.” (He does note that a third version, Windows 8 Enterprise, is available to corporate buyers only.)

“And then,” he warns, “there’s Windows RT. Be careful.”

He explains: “Windows RT does not run on computers with Intel processors and does not run traditional Windows software (Photoshop, Quicken, iTunes, and so on. It’s designed for low-powered touchscreen gadgets like tablets–notably Microsoft’s own $500 Surface tablet–and maybe a few simple laptops.

“Basically,” he continues, “Windows RT is all TileWorld. It runs only TileWorld apps.” It has such traditional Windows apps as the Calculator and Control Panel. And the Surface tablet runs RT versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. “But otherwise,” Pogue cautions, “Windows RT doesn’t run ‘real’ Windows software.”

I download lots of stuff and run many programs, so my hard drives tend to get cluttered and fragmented fairly quickly. One of my favorite chapters of Windows 8: The Missing Manual focuses on “Maintenance, Speed Tweaks & Troubleshooting.” Among its tips are “Three Speed Tricks” that can help keep my Windows 8 PC forging ahead at reasonably full steam. There also are some cool tips in Appendix B, where I can have (dangerous) “Fun with the Registry” if I desire.

I have made a list of several chapters that I intend to revisit soon so I can spend some time hooking up and testing a few peripherals, updating some drivers, and making adjustments to some icons. Essentially, almost anything I want to know or need to know about using my Windows 8 PC appears to be covered in this well written, well illustrated, nicely organized book.

Everything, of course, except the recently leaked news of a Windows 8 upgrade called Windows Blue. (Yet Pogue does predict in his book: “Maybe Windows 8 is meant to be a transitional OS. Maybe the next one will be all TileWorld, all touchscreen, all the time.”)

Having experienced many run-ins over the decades with Microsoft’s legendary “blue screen of death,” I will not be quick to grab any Windows software product named Blue. Not as long as Windows 8, 7, and XP keep working well enough for what I do.

– Si Dunn 

Building Web, Cloud, & Mobile Solutions with F# – #programming #bookreview

Building Web, Cloud, & Mobile Solutions with F#
Daniel Mohl
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

F# (pronounced “F-sharp”) is a relatively new functional, open-source programming language developed by Microsoft and the F# Software Foundation. F# can be used to create scalable applications with ASP.NET MVC 4, ASP.NET Web API, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Windows Azure, HTML5, Web Sockets, CSS3, jQuery Mobile, and other tools.

Daniel Mohl’s Building Web, Cloud, & Mobile Solutions with F# is a well-written guide to “everything you need to know to start building web, cloud, and mobile solutions with F#.” Mohl also give some how-to examples using a range of technologies, libraries, and platforms, including SignalR, CouchDB, RavenDB, MongoDB, and others.

Mohl says his book is “intended for technologists with experience in .NET who have heard about the benefits of F#, have a cursory understanding of the basic syntax, and wish to learn how to combine F# with other technologies to build better web, cloud, and mobile solutions.”

In other words, this should not be your first book about F# or the relevant technologies that also are covered. Mohl recommends Chris Smith’s Programming F#, 3.0 as a first step toward learning the language.

In its 160 pages, Building Web, Cloud, & Mobile Solutions with F# offers five chapters, three appendices, and a number of code samples and screen shots. The chapters and appendices are:

  • 1. Building an ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Application with F#
  • 2. Creating Web Services with F#
  • 3. To the Cloud! Taking Advantage of Azure
  • 4. Constructing Scalable Web and Mobile Solutions
  • 5. Functional Frontend Development
  • Appendix A: Useful Tools and Libraries
  • Appendix B: Useful Websites
  • Appendix C: Client-Site Technologies That Go Well with F#

Mohl’s text also contains numerous links to important and useful websites.

He notes that “the primary focus of this book is on how to use F# to best complement the larger technology stack”, so he spends “a lot more time talking about controllers and models than views. F# provides several unique features that lend themselves well to the creation of various aspects of controllers and models.”

Si Dunn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Si Dunn

For more information:  paperback – Kindle

Adobe Edge Animate Preview 7: The Missing Manual – #bookreview #html5 #animation

Adobe Edge Animate Preview 7: The Missing Manual
Chris Grover
(O’Reilly,
paperbackKindle)

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

The only problem is,Adobe released the 1.0 commercial version of its Edge Animate product on Sept. 24, 2012, very soon after this Preview 7 book was published.

And, for a limited time, Adobe was offering Edge Animate 1.0 free with a new membership in Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

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

Preview 7 was released about five weeks prior to the appearance of new 1.0 commercial version. And this book was created to fill a gap that was expected to remain open longer.

Here’s the good news – three items of good news, actually.

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

Adobe Edge Animate Preview 7: The Missing Manual has nine chapters organized into four parts:

Part One:Working with the Stage

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

Part Two: Animation with Edge Animate

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

Part Three: Edge Animate with HTML 5 and JavaScript

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

Part Four: Appendixes

  • Appendix A: Installation and Help
  • Appendix B: Menu by Menu
  • Where keystrokes are appropriate, Chris Grover lists both and does not make you have to translate between systems, as some how-to manuals do.

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

 

Si Dunn

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

Version Control with Git, 2nd Ed. – Bring order to software development’s collaborative chaos – #bookreview #programming

Version Control with Git, 2nd Edition
Jon Loeliger and Matthew McCullough
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

When I first took a job in software development, individual programmers controlled code versions themselves, and they jealously guarded their releases with back-ups on multiple diskettes – 5.25” diskettes. The real floppies. (Yep, I’m so old I actually worked with a few 8-inch floppies, too.)

It’s a different world now. Code for one project often is developed, modified, tested and controlled by groups of people, sometimes big groups. And many of those who work with the project’s code are scattered all over the planet.

Thus, maintaining version control and keeping good backups are major management challenges for software developers today. There’s no more going home after work with 10 big floppies in your briefcase as a hedge against your office burning down overnight.

Git is a popular, if somewhat difficult, tool for tracking, branching, merging, and managing code revisions. The authors of Version Control with Git favor the term “version control system (VCS)” for this and other software packages that perform similar functions. (“Source code manager (SCM)” is another popular label.)

In their updated and expanded 2nd edition, here is how they sum up the imperative for strong version control:

“No cautious, creative person starts a project nowadays without a back-up strategy. Because data is ephemeral and be lost easily—through an errant code change or catastrophic disk crash, say— it is wise to maintain a living archive of all work. For text and code projects, the back-up strategy typically includes version control, or tracking and managing revisions. Each developer can make several revisions per day, and the ever-increasing corpus serves simultaneously as repository, project narrative, communication medium, and team and project management tool. Given its pivotal role, version control is most effective when tailored to the working habits and goals of the project team.”

Whether you do or do not yet have experience with a version control system, you can glean important information and numerous useful tips from this book’s 21 chapters and 434 pages. Version Control with Git covers a lot of vital ground in a well-organized how-to fashion, with plenty of code samples and related illustrations.

One example out of its many key lessons: “As the developer of content for a project using Git, you should create your own private copy, or clone, of the repository to do your development. This development repository should serve as your own work area where you can make changes without fear of colliding with, interrupting, or otherwise interfering with another developer.”

In another key lesson, they show how to use git stash, “the mechanism for capturing your work in progress, allowing you to save it and return to it later when convenient….the stash is a quick convenience mechanism that allows a complete and thorough capturing of your index and working directory in one simple command. It leaves your repository clean, uncluttered, and ready for an alternate development direction. Another single command restores that index and working directory state completely, allowing you to resume where you left off.”

In a software development environment where everything is a crisis and priorities change hourly on what should have been finished yesterday, git stash save and git stash pop may become two of your favorite commands.

The book describes installing versions of Git for Linux and Microsoft Windows, and for running within Cygwin. It also can be run on Mac OS X and Solaris systems. Meanwhile, most of the book’s chapters focus on using the Git command line tool. But the new 2nd edition also devotes a chapter to what many Git users consider the most vital tool that has emerged from the big online community that now surrounds Git: GitHub.com.

Developers often clone a repository from GitHub. Several types of public and private repositories also can be created there. And so-called “social coding” is available. Indeed, many open source projects are hosted on GitHub, and some of them attract people who simply watch the coding, while others do coding in personal “forks” that may or not prove helpful to those more officially involved in the project. Yet another popular use of GitHub is finding useful code examples in particular programming languages.

Whether Git is in your working future or it’s already here, or if you’re still wondering if it can help you, definitely check out Version Control with Git.

Si Dunn

Learn the Kinect API – New Microsoft ‘Start Here!’ guide shows how – #bookreview

Learn the Kinect™ API
Rob Miles
(Microsoft Press, paperback, Kindle)

The Kinect sensor  is a popular peripheral for Microsoft’s XBox 360 video game systems and Windows PCs. The device contains a video camera, a directional microphone system, and a depth sensor.

Software developers are using the device “to advance the field of computer interaction in all kinds of exciting ways,” the author notes. “It is now possible to create programs that use the Kinect sensor to create a computer interface with the ability to recognize users and understand their intentions using a ‘natural’ user interface consisting of gestures and spoken commands. In addition, the device’s capabilities have a huge range of possible applications, from burglar alarms to robot controllers.”

If you want to learn how to program with the Kinect application programming interface (API), this new book in the popular Microsoft “Start Here!” series can get you moving along the right path toward becoming a developer.

But there are three key assumptions that may slow your start. You are expected to “have a reasonable understanding of .NET development using the C# programming language.” And: “You should be familiar with the Visual Studio 2010 development environment and object-oriented programming development.”

Also, “if you are a C++ developer who wishes to learn how to interact with the Kinect sensor from unmanaged C++ programs, you will find that the code samples supplied will not [emphasis added] provide this information.” All of the code samples are written in C#.

Rob Miles, a programming professor at the United Kingdom’s University of Hull, has organized his well-written, 250-page book into four parts:

  • Part I: Getting Started – Provides an overview of the Kinect and how to hook it up and get it working with your PC.
  • Part II: Using the Kinect Sensor – Covers sensor initialization and introduces each of Kinect’s data sources –video, depth, and sound – and how to use them in programs.
  • Part III: Creating Advanced User Interfaces – Illustrates how the Kinect SDK performs body tracking and how programs can use this information. Also shows how Kinect data can be combined to create augmented-reality applications.
  • Part IV: Kinect in the Real World – Focuses on how the Kinect can interact with external devices, such as MIDI devices and robots.

Learn the Kinect™ API offers several ideas for how you can use the Kinect’s video, sound, and depth-response capabilities in your own programs. One example is using the Kinect’s directional microphone feature so that a spoken password “only works when you say it in one part of [a] room, or you could have different [spoken] passwords for different parts of the room,” Miles points out.

It’s a bit of understatement to say that Rob Miles enjoys working with the Kinect device. “I’ve had,” he writes, “more wow moments with this little sensor bar than I’ve had with much more expensive toys that I’ve played with over time.”

Si Dunn