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)

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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

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Lion Edition – #bookreview #in #mac #windows

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Lion Edition
By David Pogue
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $29.99; Kindle edition, list price $23.99)

I own and use three Windows PCs during a typical day. But sometimes (don’t ask why), I find myself forced – forced – to use my wife’s Macintosh.

Grrrr. Where do I click? Where are the other mouse buttons? And what do these geeky, alien icons actually mean?

Frankly, I’ve hated Macs for a long, long time. And I’ve especially hated the smug, “Everything’s simpler on a Mac!” attitude that peppy Mac users seem to radiate whenever they are around us gray-haired Windows types who  have been messing with command prompts, anti-virus software, and the Blue Screen of Death since (seemingly) the War of 1812.

That being said, I am a big fan of New York Times tech columnist David Pogue and “The Missing Manual” book series he created.  I use several of O’Reilly’s “Missing” manuals on a frequent basis.

Pogue’s new book is now proving useful for me as a sort of Klingon-to-English translation guide when I am forced – forced –to use my beloved’s dearly beloved Mac.

But in all seriousness, if you are contemplating making the switch or have already switched from Windows to Mac (traitor!), you need this book. It is a well-written, nicely illustrated user’s guide with a strong focus on how to transfer documents and other files from Windows machines to Macs. Often, the transfers go smoothly. “It turns out that communicating with a Windows PC is one of the Mac’s most polished talents,” Pogue notes.

Sometimes, however, the transfers do not go well. Pogue’s huge book (691 pages) also points out some potential pitfalls and remedies, such as possibly losing “memorized transactions, customized report designs, and reconciliations” when transferring from QuickBooks for Windows to QuickBooks to Mac.

Switching to the Mac is organized into five parts:

  • Part 1, Welcome to the Macintosh – Covers the essentials of “everything you see onscreen when you turn on the machine.”
  • Part 2, Making the Move – Covers “the actual process of hauling your software, settings, and even peripherals (like printers and monitors) across the chasm from the PC to the Mac.” Includes steps for running Windows on Macs, “an extremely attractive option.”
  • Part 3, Making Connections – Shows how to set up an Internet connection on a Mac and use Apple’s Internet software suite.
  • Part 4, Putting Down Roots – Gets into more advanced topics “to turn you into a Macintosh power user.”
  • Part 5, Appendixes – Two of the four appendixes cover installation and troubleshooting. One is the “Where’d It Go?” Dictionary for those trying to find familiar Windows controls “in the new, alien Macintosh environment.” And the fourth appendix offers “a master keyboard-shortcut list for the entire Mac OS X universe.”  

Switching to the Mac offers sound reasons (1) why you may prefer to stick with certain Windows for Mac programs on your new Mac and (2) why you may want to abandon certain Windows programs written for Macs and learn to use the Mac programs that are better than, say, PowerPoint or Notepad, for example.

If you happen to be addicted to Microsoft Access and Microsoft Visio, you have a separate choice. You can either switch to FileMaker and OmniGraffle or keep a Windows machine sitting close to your new Mac.

You won’t be alone as a user caught between two different worlds. Writes Pogue: “A huge percentage of ‘switchers’ do not, in fact, switch.  Often, they just add.  They may get a Macintosh (and get into the Macintosh), but they keep the old Windows PC around, at least for a while.”

In my case, you’ll have to pry the Windows keyboard and mouse from my cold, dead fingers. But I’ll keep this hefty book with me, to use both as a how-to guide and as a bludgeon, each time I have to go into the Macintosh wilds and battle the Lion.

# 

Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available now in paperback. He is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

 

Node for Front-End Developers – Writing server-side JavaScript applications – #bookreview #in

Node for Front-End Developers
By Garann Means
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $14.99; Kindle edition, list price $7.99)

Node is a JavaScript platform used to create server-side applications, communicate with the client, work with data, create dynamic web pages, and handle other tasks.

According to the Joyent Incorporated’s nodejs website: “Node.js is a platform built on Chrome’s JavaScript runtime for easily building fast, scalable network applications. Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient, perfect for data-intensive real-time applications that run across distributed devices.”

Node’s library has many modules created by developers who have focused on automating server-side development. But Garann Means’ new, 45-page book shows how you can get started programming for back-end servers using Node and JavaScript.  

Node.js is easy to download.  And, according to Node for Front-End Developers: “Node is easy to set up or very easy to set up. Node runs on Unix-compatible systems and, more recently, Windows.”

The how-to-get-started instructions, however, are a bit sparse in this thin book, and virtually nonexistent for Windows. Beginners who don’t have much experience with JavaScript may puzzle over a number of basic “What now?” and “WTF?” issues. 

Sparse information for Node beginners, however, is not limited to Node for Front-End Developers. I checked several other sources of  Node documentation and found similar problems. You’re just supposed to know this stuff, I guess. 

As one example, I followed the book’s instructions to create Node’s important package.json file, then discovered that what I had downloaded from Nodejs already contained a package.json file. In fact, it was now in several subdirectories. Was I supposed to edit it, instead? Delete it and replace it with my file? Had I just screwed up the installation by creating my own file?

After a lot of horsing around with node and npm at the command line and getting strange results at the not-quite “Hello World” level, I happened across a small note on the GitHub.com website. It stated that Node’s “Windows builds are not yet satisfactorily stable but it is possible to get something running.”

Especially if you resort to package managers to help you out.  And maybe get assistance from a Node guru. [See UPDATE below.]

Yes, I was indeed attempting a Windows setup, and I did get Node to partially work. But after several tries at reinstalling, rebooting, debugging, and attempting to supplement the book with conflicting bits of  information downloaded from the web, I gave up having “fun” with Node. (UPDATE: Recently, I reviewed my command line procedures a bit, looked again at my files and subdirectory structure and tried again. This time, Node works fine at the “Hello, World” level and beyond. I stand by my criticism that this book’s how-to-get-started instructions should be made clearer for Windows users. But I am at fault, too, for not figuring out what I was doing wrong much sooner.)  

Your results likely will be much better than mine, especially if you have more than novice experience with JavaScript.  and are using something other than (and better than?) a Windows machine. 

As for Node for Front-End Developers, the rest of the book appears to be an easy-to-use guide to getting a basic understanding of the Node platform. The code examples look good and are preceded by well-written explanations. I have now tested some of them successfully and plan to try a few of the longer, more-complex examples soon. wish I could have tested more of them. But I intend to keep this book and try Node again once easier and more stable Windows options are available.

The book’s chapters are:

  • Chapter 1, Getting Node Set Up
  • Chapter 2, Serving Simple Content
  • Chapter 3, Interaction with the Client
  • Chapter 4, Server-Side Templates
  • Chapter 5, Data Sources and Flow Control
  • Chapter 6, Model-View-Controller and Sharing Code

How-to-get-started instructions are vital in any programming and developer’s book, in my view. And they need careful preparation and presentation for every major operating system that is supported.

Countless beginners are looking for new programming and development paths and challenges, and many of them will buy books that are beyond their experience level so they can try to learn faster and backfill as they go. Most of them also won’t have the latest-and-greatest hardware and software. Therefore, minimum requirements need to be spelled out clearly, as well.

Don’t let my blunderings with Windows dissuade you from considering this book. Node has been hot, and if you have JavaScript experience at the browser level, Node for Front-End Developers can help you learn how to work on back-end servers, too.

It pays to be versatile in today’s fast-paced tech world.

But yeah, I probably do need a Mac and a Linux machine flanking my Windows PC.

#

Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available soon in paperback. He also is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

Fast Guide to Cubase 6 – Not so fast but packed with good info – #bookreview

Fast Guide to Cubase 6
By Simon Millward
(PC Publishing, paperback, list price $29.95)

I’m not sure a 474-page book should bill itself as a “fast guide.” For Simon Millward’s new work, a better descriptor would be “thorough.”

Steinberg Cubase 6 software is feature-rich and powerful software for music creation and audio recording. And this thick guidebook provides a thorough gathering of details, steps, tips and illustrations that show how to use the software’s many features.

The popular music software package has a reputation for being user-friendly and flexible. And it comes with a manual.

But Simon Millward’s book aims to provide readers with much more, including: (1) “the essential information to get you up and running in the shortest possible time”; and (2) descriptions of “advanced techniques and a wide range of theoretical knowledge which help you get better results.”

The major topics covered are:

  • Installing and setting up Cubase 6
  • Audio and MIDI recording and editing
  • Mixing, mastering and EQ (equalizers)
  • VST (Virtual Studio Technology) instruments and plug-in effects
  • Loop manipulation and beat design
  • Music production tips and tools
  • Media management

That is only a partial list, of course. The author cautions: “Before you can use Cubase you must have some idea of how to record and manipulate MIDI data, how to record and manipulate audio signals, how you are going to get an audio signal into the computer and how you are going to feed it back out into the real world.”

Fortunately, his well-written and helpfully illustrated book includes much of that crucial how-to information. It also provides a macro library, a heavy-duty glossary, and a useful list of Web resources. 

Computer-savvy musicians, music producers, sound recordists and audio professionals — and readers who aspire to be any of those — should consider owning and using Fast Guide to Cubase 6.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, all available on Kindle.

Making Embedded Systems (for things that blink & go ‘Beep!’ in the night) – #programming #bookreview

Making Embedded Systems
By Elecia White
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

Elecia White loves embedded systems. “The first time a motor turned on because I told it to, I was hooked,” she writes in her new book, Making Embedded Systems. “I quickly moved away from pure software and into a field where I can touch the world.”

In that world, she has “worked on DNA scanners, inertial measurement units for airplanes and race cars, toys for preschoolers, a gunshot location system for catching criminals, and assorted medical and consumer devices.”

It is a world where “embedded systems don’t have operating systems. The software runs on the bare metal. When the software says ‘turn that light on,’ it says it to the processor without an intermediary.”

So this is not a book about embedded operating systems. Just embedded systems. And the intended audience is intermediate and experienced programmers seeking new challenges.

The author’s basic definition of an embedded system is “a computerized system that is purpose-built for its application.”

She says she wrote her book (and it is well-written, by the way) “almost as a story, to be read from cover to cover. The information is technical (extremely so in spots), but the presentation is casual.”

So she hopes readers will not treat Making Embedded Systems as “a technical manual where you can skip into the middle and read only what you want.” With that approach, “you’ll miss a lot of information…[and] You’ll also miss the jokes, which is what I really would feel bad about.”

Embedded system compilers typically support only C or C++ (and often just a subset of that language), she notes. And: “There is a growing popularity for Java, but the memory management inherent to the language works only on a large system.”

Meanwhile, debugging an embedded system often can be challenging, because it’s not always easy to tell if a problem lies in the software or in the associated hardware.

Elecia White’s 310-page book is divided into 10 chapters, with illustrations, code examples and a good index:

  1. Introduction(Discusses embedded systems and how their development differs from traditional software development.)
  2. Creating a System Architecture(How to create – and document – a system architecture.)
  3. Getting Your Hands on the Hardware(Dealing with hardware/software integration and board bring-up.)
  4. Outputs, Inputs, and Timers(The simple act of making an LED blink is more complicated than you might think.)
  5. Managing the Flow of Activity(How to set up your machine, how to use [or not use] interrupts, and how to make a state machine.)
  6. Communicating with Peripherals(“Different serial communications forms rule embedded systems.…” But: “Networking, bit-bang, and parallel buses are not to be discounted.”)
  7. Updating Code(Options for replacing the program running in a processor.)
  8. Doing More with Less(How to reduce RAM consumption, code space, and processor cycles.)
  9. Math(“Most embedded systems need to do some form of analysis.” Make your system faster by “[u]nderstanding how mathematical operations and floating points work [and don’t work]….”)
  10. Reducing Power Consumption(Your system may run on batteries. Better system architecture and reducing processor cycles can help cut power drain.)

Making Embedded Systems also includes helpful information on how to read a schematic diagram, why it’s best to run tests on three of the same prototype devices, not just one, and what interviewers look for when meeting with applicants for embedded systems jobs.

An embedded system, the author says, often is viewed as a jigsaw puzzle that only fits together one way. But she challenges readers to see the puzzle as also having “a time dimension that varies over its whole life: conception, prototyping, board bring-up, debugging, testing, release, maintenance, and repeat.”

Embedded system design presents many challenges, she says, and demands constant flexibility.

“Our goal is to be flexible enough to meet the product goals while dealing with the resource constraints and other challenges inherent to embedded systems.”

Si Dunn

The Twitter Book (2nd Edition) – What newcomers & veteran tweeters need to know #sm #bookreview #TwitterBook

 

The Twitter Book (2nd Edition)
By Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $15.99)

It’s easy to spot a business that’s starting to use Twitter for the first time. They think “tweets” are a great and inexpensive way to push out information and reach potential customers worldwide. So, over and over, they tweet how great their new product or service is, and they include a link where you can get more information, place an order and add cash to their bank account.

But a funny thing happens on their way to easy fortune and fame: Most Twitter users shun them; many actually block them; and some get snarky and snarl about their lame tweets.

Twitter, the authors point out in their newly updated book, is mostly about sharing information, being helpful to others, and generally being interesting and entertaining.

Yes, there are ways to sell stuff using Twitter. But one of the quickest ways to failure on this widely popular social media outlet is to just barge in and try to be an electronic door-to-door sales person.

The recently published second edition of The Twitter Book is fun reading and nicely illustrated. And it is a good guide for learning how to use Twitter without the “common gaffs and pitfalls” that many newcomers commit.

Many experienced Twitter users likely will find helpful tips and techniques in this book, as well.

If you are thinking about trying to put Twitter to work in your business, the two authors offer some sage advice: Listen first. For a long time.

“People already on Twitter will expect your corporate account[s] to engage with them,” they write, “so before you start tweeting away, spend a few weeks or so understanding the ways people talk about you. Get a sense for the rhythms of conversation on Twitter, and think about how you’ll hold conversations.”

That listen-first and “rhythms of conversation” advice applies to all other new users of Twitter, as well.

And it wouldn’t hurt if some long-time Twitter-istas paid more attention to what others are saying and less attention to tweeting their every thought (or half-thought).

One more benefit of The Twitter Book:  It can introduce you to some of the third-party services and tools now available, such as TweetGrid, Monitter, Seesmic, and TweetDeck., which provide more “features and flexibility” than the standard Twitter web interface offers.

Si Dunn