How the Internet Works, Special Edition
by Preston Gralla
ISBN 1-56276-552-3, 290 pages
$29.99 U.S., $42.95 Canada, £27.49 U.K.
How to Use the Internet,
The Complete Visual Solution,
by Mark Walker
ISBN 1-56276-560-4, 232 pages
$24.99 U.S., $35.95 Canada, £23.49 U.K
… and then …
How Computers Work, Deluxe Edition
by Ron White
ISBN 1-56276-546-9, 292 pages
$29.99 U.S., $41.95 Canada, £27.49 U.K
How to Use Computers, The Complete Visual Solution
by Lisa Blow
ISBN 1-56276-566-3, 240 pages
$24.99 U.S., $25.95 Canada, £22.95 U.K.
In two pairs of similar titles, ZD (Ziff-Davis) Press offers informative, colorful explanations of the basic features of the Internet. I remain perplexed as to why a publisher often competes directly with itself, but I’ll leave that verdict to a higher authority.
Picture-heavy books on technical subjects are often good introductions to complex material, but a book’s text and format provide the ultimate acid test. Computers, and the Internet, are complicated regardless of how they are presented. Newcomers should have their hands held in a warm and fuzzy way from the first page.
No matter how many books on the Internet I encounter, I am still amazed by authors who introduce readers to the online universe by explaining about such breezy topics as “How TCP/IP Works” or “The Internet’s Underlying Architecture.” I appreciate that writers and publishers are merely being responsible, but does anybody really care about this stuff?
How the Internet Works finally gets to “Connecting Your Computer” in Chapter 10, “How E-Mail Works” in Chapter 15, and “How Web Browsers Work” in Chapter 25. Being personally familiar with most of the topics, I can comfortably hop around to locate appropriate information and graphics, but rookies will be bewildered by the book’s format, I suspect.
Now that I have registered my complaints, I offer my compliments. The design is snappy and appealing, using colorful, clean illustrations to reinforce numbered items of text, alternating with full-page written explanations. Every aspect of the Internet is covered in ten major sections. Recent innovations are included, such as Push Technology and “making phone calls on the Internet.” Do I recommend How the Internet Works? Let’s look at its half-brother first.
How to Use the Internet looks different from its comrade, because every page utilizes both graphics and numbered text, with no print-only pages. The organization of this second book is also different, introducing readers to the fundamentals of the Web, E-mail, Newsgroups, and “Using the Browser” in the early chapters. Consequently, How to Use the Internet has the look and feel of a successful book for beginners.
How to Use the Internet is current to Internet Explorer 4 and “How to Watch Web Movies with QuickTime.” All the bases are covered, including installing and configuring browsers, using search engines, FTP and Telnet, plus “Security Issues on the Internet.” The inside back cover lists the Web sites mentioned in the book, in a Quick Reference Chart.
Considering the target audience, I RECOMMEND How to Use the Internet over How the Internet Works. The latter title is slightly more thorough and technical, and the pictured-pages are very well done, but How to Use the Internet, The Complete Visual Solution, Fourth Edition is my choice for new users.
… and then …
Once again, on the subject of computer basics, we have a double-header of apparently identical titles. How are they similar, or different, this time around?
How Computers Work is impressive, but also rather peculiar. Using the “how ____ works” theme, readers can learn how such diverse components as a mouse, keyboard, modem, or removable drive actually operates, with excellent illustrations and descriptions. In addition, more abstract concepts such as fonts, memory, and virtual reality are described, with ingenuity and style.
What disturbs me is that all references are to PC, as in *not* Macintosh, in spite of the book’s wealth of valuable information. I’m tempted to recommend this book as a gift for a loved one who lives nearby (and uses the other platform), so you can read it on an as-needed basis. I’ll decide after examining the following book.
How to Use Computers has much more text than How Computers Work, and is written in a friendly voice. The drawings are cute, but not plentiful. Again, all “PC” references are just that, for non-Macs. (On page 81 I found the heading, “What’s So Great about Windows?” which is just what I was thinking.)
I’ll get right to the point on this pair of books. Skip How to Use Computers, The Complete Visual Solution, because it’s neither complete, nor very visual. Instead, pick up a copy of How Computers Work, Deluxe Edition, and *really* study it. Then circulate it among your friends, colleagues, and family members. You and they will learn plenty about how *most* components and features of personal computing work, so just smile and ignore all the references to… (you know).
Here’s a typical selection:
Did you know that? I certainly did not. I admit it: How Computers Work is a keeper.
“Two More Useful Quickstart Guides”
Eudora for Windows & Macintosh,
Visual Quickstart Guide
by Adam Engst
ISBN 0-201-69663-0, 195 pages
$16.95 U.S., $23.00 Canada
ClarisWorks for Windows & Macintosh,
Visual Quickstart Guide
by C. Ann Brown
ISBN 0-201-69660-6, 216 pages
$16.95 U.S., $23.95 Canada
Here we go again: John winds up to deliver effusive praise for Peachpit Press’ Visual Quickstart Guide series. Please calibrate your rave-detector, and activate it immediately.
Adam Engst is back, and this time he’s writing about his favorite email application. The book covers “all the features of that you are likely to use in normal situations” for both Eudora Pro and Eudora Light, current to versions 3.x for Mac and Windows.
The book begins with Eudora Basics, including hardware and software requirements, plus how to obtain, install, and configure the software. Beginners are given priority, and advanced users are directed to resources for additional assistance, linked from <http://www.tidbits.com/eudora/>. An email glossary defines and explains the terminology used in Eudora.
Are you ready? Readers immediately learn how to create and reply to messages, with an entire chapter dedicated to customizing your letters. Working with messages, mailboxes, and filters are covered, each in a separate, detailed chapter. To help Eudora users locate specific messages and their components, there is a chapter called Finding and Searching.
Eudora is a very powerful application, and Adam Engst addresses the power-features in the final chapters: address book, toolbar, and settings/options. Many of the pages offer Tips at the bottom for hidden or otherwise unknown features. That’s where much of the power and flexibility of Eudora is revealed. A tearout page of keyboard shortcuts is an added bonus.
Special hints are positioned at the bottom of certain pages, with grey background. An example: “GROUP SUBJECTS: The Group Subjects command in the Mac versions of Eudora is a fabulous feature if you participate in lots of mailing lists.” (See page 95 for the complete text of this hint.) I’ll provide my recommendation after we look at the other Quickstart Guide.
C. Ann Brown’s new book on ClarisWorks 5 begins with a tremendously helpful Getting Started section, covering the basics of computer operation and CW usage. She itemizes both traditional features of ClarisWorks and version 5’s enhancements.
One by one, the CW modules are explained. First comes Word Processing, in three chapters: beginning, intermediate, and advanced (a brilliant approach, in my opinion). For example, in Editing a Macro, I learned that “If you don’t remember the shortcut you assigned to a macro, try editing the macro. When the Edit dialog box appears, the shortcut key combination appears on the right side of the macro list.”
Spreadsheets get two chapters, beginning and advanced. Databases, drawing, painting, and communications receive one hearty chapter apiece. Just like ClarisWorks itself, the book is lean and straightforward, providing just what you need, with no flab.
Excuse me for repeating myself, but please recall that the pages in each Visual Quickstart Guide are split into two columns, with text and tips on the outside columns, and numbered screenshots and graphics on the inside columns. I find this format to be extremely easy to use. Peachpit continues to be user-friendly, pricing the guides at $16.95 U.S., and printing them in a comfortable size.
I highly RECOMMEND the Eudora Visual Quickstart Guide, because it is exactly what most Eudora users require for the majority of their email software instruction.
I give the ClarisWorks Visual Quickstart Guide a medium-level RECOMMENDATION, because it is not really much more substantial than the online CW HELP application, and it is much less substantial than IDG’s ClarisWorks “Bible”, by Steven A. Schwartz, which I will be reviewing soon. If you need good, basic visual material on ClarisWorks 5, please do have a look at C. Ann Brown’s ClarisWorks Visual Quickstart Guide.
Rittner’s Field Guide to Usenet
by Don Rittner
MNS Publishing (PO Box 50216, Albany, NY 12205)
ISBN 0-937666-50-5, 249 pages
Newsgroups are alive and well, and this book is the first and only one to examine Usenet from the inside-out. I applaud Don Rittner, and urge readers to visit his Web site and consider his Field Guide series of books on the Internet.
Field Guide to Usenet is actually two books in one, comprised of many small segments. The first part is how to navigate and participate in the Newsgroups of your choice, with dozens of real-world examples. The second part is a comprehensive explanation and history of Usenet, which is fascinating reading.
The book concludes with over 100 pages of Don’s annotated Usenet Newsgroup Catalog listings, such as:
• alt.emusic (Ethnic, exotic, electronic, elaborate, etc. music)
• comp.sources.games (Postings of recreational software; moderated)
My criticism is primarily visual. The printing and graphics have a bit too much of a “desktop-pub” feel, and I suggest that Don aim higher with respect to physical appearance of the type and screenshots in future editions. That being said, the information is worth the effort. Because this book is published independently, readers probably need to contact Don Rittner directly, if local bookstores don’t carry it.
My RECOMMENDATION is subjective (for a change?), because if you are a “UseNUT,” which *I am*, then you will find unlimited hours of pleasure in Field Guide to Usenet. It is for this select group of readers that I endorse this book. By the way, I like Don’s Mac-friendly site, <http://www.themesh.com>, very much. Tell him I sent you, next time you’re in the neighborhood.
(Saving the best for last again, John?)
Harley Hahn’s Internet
& Web Yellow Pages, 1998 Edition
by Harley Hahn <http://www.harley.com/>
Osborne / McGraw-Hill
ISBN 0-07-882387-0, 914 pages (includes CD)
I was a skeptic, and now I’m a convert. Harley, you have an admirer here at Book Bytes. I’m a sucker for Internet and Web directories and yellow pages, but the promo material for this new book was too effusive to be real. Well, it’s a *real* treat. Being totally satisfied with comparable books from NewRiders, Lycos, and Internet Media, how could I possibly need another Internet yellow pages? Read on.
What does Harley Hahn offer that the competition lacks? For an opener, the Table of Contents, at three column per page, lists every heading alphabetically (Agriculture, Anarchy, Animals and Pets, Archaeology, … X-Rated Resources, Young Adults, Zines, Zoology), with every site in the book then listed under the appropriate heading. Simple and elegant. The Index contains every site in straight alphabetical order, such as Abdominal Training FAQ and Zip Codes of the U.S.
Each page, in two columns, averaging four listings per page, utilizes largish type, with bold site names and Internet links, all of which are hyperlinked on the included CD. Harley provides, as appropriate, Web sites, Listserv Mailing Lists, and Usenet News Groups. Special “Look What I Found on the Net” boxes fill the bottom of many pages with a witty mixture of facts and opinion from anonymous Netizens. Attractive informative graphics and cartoons add visual variety to every page, in keeping with Harley’s bright and lively first-person approach to site descriptions.
For example, in the Education section, on two facing pages we have:
“Want to talk about new ways to learn? Join <altlearn>, the mailing list for discussions about alternative approaches to learning;” and “Get an A+ for Current Events. Teachers: Do you want to be able to keep up on what’s happening in the educational community? Read the Daily Report Card <www.utopia.com/mailings/report card/> every day, and you’ll never have to worry about falling behind the rest of the class.” Each contains an eye-grabbing graphic.
I put Harley Hahn’s Internet & Web Yellow Pages to the test, looking for writing resources for my wife, who is a creative writing student. Bingo. Harley delivered with Web sites taking me exactly to “where I want to go today” (why does that sound vaguely familiar?)
Before I get carried away, here’s a firm RECOMMENDATION for Harley Hahn’s Internet & Web Yellow Pages, 1998 Edition. If you like Internet directories half as much as I do, this book is an outstanding addition to your library.
Being the loyal Book Bytes reader that you are, do you prefer getting Web site listings and links from printed sources (books and magazines) or from the Web itself (including Yahoo!, AltaVista (and the other search engines), directories, and on-site links? I’m curious. Thanks for reading. Next month: yes, more Internet books, and … more! JN