NOOK Tablet: The Missing Manual (for NOOK Color, too) – #bookreview #in

Nook Tablet: The Missing Manual
By Preston Gralla
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $15.99)

Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color are stylish and powerful portable devices that blend the functions of e-reader and computer. They have many useful features, but they aren’t shipped with a detailed user manual. (B & N wants you to go to a support website.)

Preston Gralla, meanwhile, is a fine writer who has authored more than 40 books, including several in O’Reilly’s popular The Missing Manual™ series.

His latest, Nook Tablet: The Missing Manual, is both well written and heavily illustrated and does a fine job of showing and telling how to get the most from a NOOK Tablet and its cheaper, less powerful brother, the NOOK Color.

It would be nice for nervous new users, however, if the following assurance had been positioned much sooner in the book rather than on page 320: “Out of the box, the NOOK’s privacy and security settings are configured to make sure that you’re safe and secure. So most likely, you won’t need to change any settings.” (But Gralla then shows how to increase the default security, if you desire, by deleting cookies, deleting web browsing history, and blocking pop-ups.)

Gralla’s 471-page book has 17 chapters and three appendices and is organized into eight parts:

  • Part 1, The Basics – Covers setting up, charging and registering a NOOK, finding its plugs, microphone and controls, using and troubleshooting wi-fi, using a NOOK at a Barnes & Noble store, using gestures to control the device, changing your wallpaper, and other setup basics.
  • Part 2, Reading Books, Newspapers, and Magazines – Focuses on the NOOK’s reading tools, including how to use bookmarks and notes, how to change fonts and text sizes, and how to search inside a book, newspaper or magazine. Has a chapter on kids’ books and shows how a NOOK can read a children’s book aloud or record your own voice reading a book to your child or children.
  • Part 3, Buying, Borrowing, and Managing Your Library – Shows how to research and buy or borrow online reading materials and track them in your personal library.
  • Part 4, Apps, Movies, TV Shows, Music, Photographs, and Files – Starts with streaming media first, including Pandora, Netflix, and Hulu Plus. Then shows how to download and use apps. According to Gralla: “Anything you can do on a traditional tablet, you can do on your NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color. (And yes, that includes Angry Birds.)” This part also delves into how to get music, photographs, videos and documents into your NOOK and how to move files between your NOOK Tablet and your computer.
  • Part 5, The Web and Email – Shows how to browse the Web with a NOOK and how to send and receive email using virtually any of your email accounts.  Also shows how to manage your email with a NOOK and how the NOOK handles attachments such as documents, PDFs and photographs.
  • Part 6, Getting Social – Covers using the NOOK Friends app and using the NOOK on Facebook and Twitter. Also shows how to import and manage your Google, Gmail, and Facebook contacts.
  • Part 7, Advanced Topics  – Focuses on settings you can change and also how to “root” your NOOK. You can adjust sounds, customize the way the keyboard works, alter the settings of the Home screen and make other changes. If you choose to “root” your NOOK Tablet, you will “replace its operating system with a version of Android that lets you install any app you want (via the Android Market), something you can’t normally do with the NOOK.”  But Gralla notes: “Barnes & Noble frowns on this practice, which is why doing it voids the warranty.” B & N also has built “anti-rooting” technology into the NOOK Color, he adds. He carefully does not give you the exact steps for “rooting,” but mentions that such information can be found on the Web.
  • Part 8, Appendixes  – Appendix A focuses on “Maintenance and Troubleshooting.” Appendix B deals with “File Formats,” listing the file types a NOOK can handle. And Appendix C zeroes in on fun things to do with a NOOK while visiting a Barnes & Noble store, “such as read books free for an hour.”

If you are struggling to decide between a NOOK Tablet and a Kindle Fire (or some other device), books in O’Reilly’s The Missing Manual™ series can be a relatively affordable way to get the detailed information you need in a pleasant and helpful format.

If you’ve already ordered or received a NOOK, you likely need this book.

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. He is the author of an e-book detective novel, Erwin’s Law, now also available in paperback, plus a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

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#tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community – #bookreview

#tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community
By J.S. McDougall
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

Okay, you’ve finally ventured onto Twitter. Or, maybe you’ve been tweeting a while and now wonder what else you can do with 140 characters besides report that you have just brushed your teeth and are ready to seize the business day like a donut-chomping tiger shark.

#tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community offers useful suggestions that can help businesses, nonprofit organizations and social causes quickly gain more customers, donors and followers.

None of the 25 projects – such as Twitter BOGO (buy one, get one) — are rocket science. And some of them will not help your particular situation. But several of the Twitter projects likely will be immediately useful and easily adapted to your needs. And you will have fun and gain followers in the process of putting them to work – that is, if you don’t make the classic business Twitter mistake of trying to turn every tweet into a sales pitch.

 “Twitter is not a marketing channel—and you should never view it as such,” J.S. McDougall cautions.

“Twitter is a community. Folks join Twitter to meet new friends and to discuss their interests with a wide variety of people—most of whom they will never meet in the real world. No one will ever tell you that they joined Twitter to make themselves available to more advertisers. Advertising on Twitter—sending out one-way, uninteresting, very short commercials for your stuff—will annoy people and you will be blocked, reported, and unfollowed. All of that is hard to wash off,” the author warns.

McDougall says his book’s 25 “community-building projects” can help you “build an interested and engaged community for your business. The payoff that comes from having such a community around your business is increased sales, referrals, and opportunity for feedback and improvement. It is vital to understand the difference between your goal and your payoff.”

The book includes a Twitter-integrated QR code at the beginning of each chapter. If, while reading #tweetsmart, you happen across a project that you think might help or interest a friendly follower on Twitter, you can scan the code with your mobile device and tweet them a recommendation.

Friends helping friends…entertaining friends…informing friends…advising friends…connecting friends with other friends — these are all at the heart of how Twitter works best.

Definitely not: “Today only! 25% off SoopahSwoosh nuclear-powered toilets! Click the link, buy now & FLUSH!”

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.

Consuming too much information can make you fat, clueless & dead – The Information Diet – #bookreview

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption
By Clay A. Johnson
(O’Reilly, hardback, list price $22.99; Kindle edition, list price $19.99)

In this controversial new book from O’Reilly Media, veteran software developer, open source guru and political advocate Clay A. Johnson makes the forceful argument that our current mania for consuming information is killing us, mentally and physically.

First, we are sitting too much and too long while consuming data from the Web, from TV, from smart phones, from books, and while driving around in our cars listening to blather on the radio.

And, much of what we are consuming is crap – the digital equivalent of high-fat junk food and raw sugar. Some of us now are driving ourselves to destructive distraction through gluttonous obsessions with tweets, status updates, downloads, videos,  instant messages, text messages, emails and restless Web surfing.

For instance, suppose a tweet just went by mentioning some kind of rumored problem with pig populations in Zambia, and you idly read it, processed it in your head, wasted a few more seconds of your life, and took another sip of your latte and took another bite of bagel while continuing to sit on your butt much longer than you intended.

Then you checked your Facebook account on your iPhone or iPad, took another sip of your latte, took another bite of bagel, and went back to Twitter and followed a link to what seemed to be a review of a movie you’ve already seen to see but turned out to be just a lame blog post about how Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich resemble certain characters in Avatar. Then you took another bite of bagel, another sip of latte and checked your email and followed a link to something about Lady Gaga.

More wasted time. More attention to generally useless information. More sedentary life gone by.

We now spend nearly 11 hours a day consuming – frequently gorging on – information, Johnson’s book points out. And it’s driving us to distraction – and killing us.

First, the physical dangers. Johnson notes: “In 2004, one physician coined the term Sedentary Death Syndrome to classify all the diseases that come from the sedentary state. The effects: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and yes, obesity. Some researchers are calling it the second largest threat to public health in America. What are we doing when we’re sedentary? Few of us are meditating. We’re consuming information.”

He continues: “New research points to sitting, especially amongst men, as a leading cause of death. Even if you exercise regularly, it turns out that sitting for long periods of time can be deadly.”

It’s also easy to lose track of time and lose control of time management while distracted by the free flow of information. Something unexpected or surprising or outrageous on the Web grabs your attention, and your carefully crafted to-do list for the day is shot to hell. And, relationships can be affected: “Just a quick check of email when we get home can often end up in evenings entirely lost to LCD screens…” instead of talking and paying attention to each other.

Then there’s the problem of “attention fatigue.” Writes Johnson: “About two years ago, I started to wonder: what the heck happened to my short-term memory? And where did my attention span go? I’ve written a little pithy 140-character tweet, sent it into the universe, and in no more than five minutes, I’ve received a reply. The only problem is, I’ve already forgotten what I wrote in the first place. I’ve had to go back, and look at what I said just five minutes ago to understand what the person replying to me is referencing.”

This book offers more dire warnings about consuming too much information. But the author also offers ideas and recommendations for achieving “Attention Fitness.” You can still have your information and consume it, too, in deliberate, conscious doses that are healthier for your mind, body and your participation in American democracy.

If you pay attention to this book long enough to actually think about what it points out and proposes, you may figure out how to get healthier again, how to regain your focus – and how to better understand the ways you are being duped by some of the misinformation constantly sucked into your head by your addiction.

You can become a more conscious and proactive consumer of information and not just another wasted – and life-wasting — data junkie.

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.

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