Book Bytes – MyMac Magazine #48

Macworld Mac Upgrade and Repair Bible
by Todd Stauffer
IDG Books Worldwide
943 pages plus CD
$39.99 U.S., $56.99 Canada, £36.99 U.K.

This book delivers a knockout punch. Do you remember Ted Landau’s Sad Macs series of books? This is not a replacement, but instead, the new Macworld Mac Upgrade and Repair Bible adds greatly to the knowledge base available for upper-level Macintosh wizards (or “power users,” take your pick).

I was skeptical of any book’s ability to encourage me to pry open the back of a Mac and start tinkering with hardware upgrades. I’m not timid, but neither am I in a hurry to perform minor surgery. Todd Stauffer REALLY knows his stuff, and presents it fluently and comfortably. Much of the “tech support” info included comes from Stauffer’s personal relationship with many of the “Evangelistas” who participate in the famous Evangelist. (See <> for details.)

Macworld Mac Upgrade and Repair Bible is organized, logically, in four gigantic parts: getting ready to upgrade, performing the upgrade, troubleshoot and repair, and “Tweak and Recover the Mac OS.” Each chapter is loaded with useful tips, screen shots, and charts, plus more photographs of the rear ends of Mac models than you ever knew existed. (Hey, Todd, some of the pictures are too dark. In the second printing can you possibly make them brighter?)

The upgrades covered include processor, memory, hard disk, monitor, printer, modem, and much more! PowerBooks are addressed separately, within each major category. The CD-ROM disk contains quite a few goodies (freeware, shareware, and demos), including many utilizes new to me, and potentially valuable to every serious Macintosher.

I admit that I fell in love with this book upon initial inspection, and read it in entirety, totally satisfied at every stage of the process. The author has accomplished many things in this ambitious first edition, the most important being an overall sense of confidence imparted to his readers to: figure out what you need, equip yourself with the necessary knowledge and materials, take your time, do it right the first time, and enjoy the results immediately.

Stauffer’s common-sense troubleshooting advice is alone worth half the cost of this title, and it’s not even the major thrust of the book. Do yourself a huge favor and take a long, thorough look at his HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Macworld Mac Upgrade and Repair Bible if you are considering an upgrade of any sort whatsoever, or if you simply want to be one very smart Mac person.

Mac OS 8.5 Bible
by Lon Poole
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN 0-7645-4042-4, 965 pages
$39.99 U.S., $56.99 Canada, £36.99 U.K.

By my informal guesstimate, roughly one-third of you are currently using OS 8.5, or its latest update version. How do you like it? Pretty good, right? Do you have any plans to purchase and study a “bible” or other detailed text on this system software? No? Why not? Oh, because you already know your way around 8.5 fairly well, and why bother to spend some hard-earned $$$ when the next Mac OS is always just around the corner. I hear you, brother and sister.

Baloney. My advice is unequivocal on this subject: books like this new Mac OS 8.5 Bible actually ADD value to your use of the operating system, by providing a wealth of knowledge based on years of study and troubleshooting. Lon Poole is a genuine Macintosh all-star, and this ongoing series of OS bibles is, for most serious users, as good as it gets (and I mean good.)

Before 8.5 came 8 and 8.1, and before that we had 7.6.1, the first “almost” stable OS. The Mac OS 8.5 Bible includes coverage from 7.6.1 through 8.5, which means over 80 percent of you are potential candidates for Poole’s wisdom. The last 150 pages of text detail installation and troubleshooting for this range of systems, and I learned something new page after page.

Are you a whiz kid on speech recognition and text-to-speech? How about automating your routine tasks with scripting? Lon will show you how, plus provide thorough info on dealing with “Shared Files and Network Services” and other file sharing activity. Utilizing 32 chapters divided into six parts, it’s all here: overview, getting started, putting the OS to work, beyond the basics, and a bunch more.

Lon Poole is an accomplished writer, and he LOVES to use sidebars, screen shots, and tips. From personal experience, my copies of the earlier OS versions of his bible continue to receive lots of use.

It’s too bad about all this praise, but I proclaim loudly that you will thank me, and Lon Poole, the first time you put his Mac OS 8.5 Bible to the test. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Macs for Dummies, Sixth Edition
by David Pogue
Dummies Press
ISBN 0-7645-0398-7, 407 pages
$19.99 U.S., $28.99 Canada, £18.99 U.K.

People continue to give me strange looks when I insist they need to understand every single page of books with titles such as Bob LeVitus’ Mac OS for Dummies or David Pogue’s Macs for Dummies series. Sorry, folks, but if you are smart enough to use a Macintosh, you owe it to yourself to master the basics. No exceptions.

Most Book Bytes readers are beyond the “Dummies” level, but each of you knows someone who will benefit from Pogue’s latest Macs for Dummies offering. When new editions land on my desk, I immediately retire to my favorite chair to make sure I know as much as David Pogue thinks I should know.

This sixth edition is the best one yet, and is a complete rewrite, not an updated version. I emphasize for TOTAL BEGINNERS, Macs for Dummies is one of the best sources for no-nonsense (but often humorous) introduction to the world of Macintosh. David’s writing is clear and concise, providing just what is needed for newbies to become comfortable as quickly as possible. No “power user” or esoteric “Easter eggs” references take up valuable learning space. I particularly approve of Appendix C: “The Techno-Babble Translation Guide.”

Common applications get special treatment, with basic info provided on AppleWorks (ClarisWorks), Quicken, Word, Excel, and a few more. In this book, America Online is given top billing for first time participants in the Internet. Many of us began our Net experience with AOL, and the author is wise to keep it simple. In contrast with previous editions, the text is more factual and less cutesy. Enough is enough, right, David?

Hardware is current to the iMac, and software to Mac OS 8.5. Troubleshooting tips are plentiful, as are sidebars and screen shots (including photos of Dr. and Mr. Pogue’s first baby).

Is there an echo around here? Book Bytes HIGHLY RECOMMENDS Macs for Dummies, Sixth Edition, for Mac newbies. Order a bunch of these books, and give them as gifts. You will be a hero.

SPECIAL NOTE: David Pogue has authored (or co-authored) three new books. The other two titles will be covered in successive months here in Book Bytes. Keep ‘em coming, Pogueman!

Illustrator 8 Magic
by Raymond Pirouz
New Riders Publishing
ISBN 1-56205-952-1, 275 pages
$29.99 U.S., $42.95 Canada, £26.95 U.K.

We have a well-crafted, attractive book in front of us, and it is a joy to behold. I congratulate Raymond Pirouz on his opening section, Illustrator Basics, in which he color-codes the essential items within his colorful pages, to assist new users of Adobe Illustrator 8. If every book was given such consideration, I could retire from Book Bytes and we would all be the beneficiaries.

Competing with Peachpit’s Wow series, the key word in the title of this series is Magic. Pirouz created custom cartoon-style imagery for his tutorial lessons, in which techniques are explained in depth from concept to conclusion. The vivid illustrations practically jump off the page, due to the book’s high production values. Pages utilize two-column format, with the graphics placed on large outside columns and numbered text methods on narrow inside columns. Very effective, Ray.

Blue text indicates fundamental techniques referenced in the initial Basics section, which sounds clumsy, but is very efficient when put into practice. Illustrator screen shots and toolbar palettes are strategically placed for maximum relevance to the pictures under discussion.

The author is a designer (I’m jealous!) and his creative juices were flowing like a mountain stream in spring during the creation of Illustrator 8 Magic. What initially appear to be simplistic pictorial examples are, in fact, 32 comprehensive step-by-step stimulants to readers’ personal projects, including performing “magic” with composition, images, type, filters, multimedia, and more, including:

• “Create a 3D Paper Sculpture Effect”

• “Design Maps and Topographical Aids”

• “Give Objects Translucency”

and 29 others. Seeing is believing. Check out this book, artists and designers.

In case you have forgotten, I am not a graphics guy, but I know a first-rate art/design book when I see it. This one passes the test. RECOMMENDED for all users of Illustrator 8.

Sams Teach Yourself iMac in 10 Minutes
by Rita Lewis
Sams Publishing
ISBN 0-672-31519-X, 214 pages
$12.99 U.S., $18.99 Canada, £10.99 U.K.

I have to chuckle at the U.S. price of this book, exactly one percent of the cost of the original iMac. I don’t know Rita Lewis, but she has impeccable Macintosh references, according to her publisher. Has anyone read or used her other Mac titles?

The “in 10 Minutes” approach to learning about computers has found a suitable home in the iMac:

This book is broken down into 17 lessons, all easily read in 10 minutes or less. This book focuses on the key things you have to know so that you can get comfortable using the iMac. The step-by-step procedures are … illustrated with figures so that you know what you should see on your screen while you are trying out the tasks on the page.

The author understands a new user’s basic questions, as the book begins with “What is an iMac,” then “The Computer Defined” and “Keyboard and Mouse,” before attempting to convey the essence of “The Mac Operating System,” in Lesson Two. She is correct that 10 minutes is adequate for initial reading, but considerably more time is needed to put her basic training into practice, as you loyal readers already understand.

If I don’t personally agree with Lewis’ decisions on what-goes-where within the sequence of chapters and lessons, I’m not certain my subjective logic is worth the disagreement. She covers all the bases eventually, which is what the target readers of Sams Teach Yourself iMac in 10 Minutes are paying her to provide.

Last month I did not particularly recommend The Little iMac Book, by Robin Williams, and now I feel that this second title on the same topic is a superior book. The writing and presentation are just what new iMac owners need; no more and no less. Lewis’ pages are bursting with helpful screen shots and sidebars, plus lots of timely tips, such as this one in Lesson Nine, on Fonts:


The one side effect of using the Font folder is that any font placed into the folder is “on” or loaded into memory during your iMac startup, thus using precious memory even if you do not want to use that font during your present work or play.

The final Lesson 17, “Troubleshooting the iMac,” covers crashes, hangs, conflicts, and lots more un-fun stuff, briefly but effectively. Specific utilities are recommended; not too many and not too few.

This book is very good. If you or someone you know needs basic info on the operation of a new iMac, Book Bytes RECOMMENDS Sams Teach Yourself iMac in 10 Minutes. It’s well worth $12.99.

Real World Photoshop 5:
Industrial Strength Production Techniques
by David Blatner and Bruce Fraser
Peachpit Press
ISBN 0-201-35375-X, 703 pages
$44.99 U.S., $67.50 Canada

The first impression of this new title for serious Photoshoppers is that it a physically HEAVY book, in spite of its moderate size. Paper is glossy stock, and I suppose extra-weight ink was used (just kidding). I congratulate the publisher for having the confidence to put upper-bracket production values into an “Industrial Strength” volume, hoping Real World Photoshop 5 will be useful for many years.

Book Bytes has favorably reviewed David Blatner’s earlier books, and I respect Bruce Fraser from reading his regular columns in the Macintosh magazines. My expectations are high as I crack open the book. In eighteen chapters, readers are taken from “Essential Photoshop Tips and Tricks” and “Thinking in RGB and CMYK” through “Managing Files for Fast Production” to “Multimedia and the Web.” Very ambitious, our authors!

The instructional text is dense and informative, and pages are liberally illustrated with screen shots plus greyscale and color imagery. Hearty sidebars and tips add value to this full-service title. The book is visually attractive, and the pages have been designed to maintain reader enthusiasm, even when the mental terrain gets a bit steep.

Humor is included where appropriate, and tutorial items are cross-referenced whenever possible. The authors admit “We were crazy to take on this book. If we weren’t we wouldn’t have tried to unravel such an insanely complex subject.” The quantity of lucid detail is enormous, and the authors’ ability to present complex procedures in a non-techie way gets my vote.

I’m actually restraining myself from presenting a gigantic list of all the things you will learn from reading and using Real World Photoshop 5. As publishers keep offering more books on this workhorse application, the decisions for book-buying artists and designers become more complicated. If you are in need of Industrial Strength Production Techniques as you work with Photoshop 5, consider adding this RECOMMENDED title to your personal library.

Illustrator 8 for Windows and Macintosh,
Visual Quickstart Guide
by Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas
Peachpit Press
ISBN 0-201-35388-1, 362 pages
$19.99 U.S., $26.95 Canada

For a non-artist, I sure spend a lot of time reading and reviewing computer books for artists and designers. I suppose this is as close as I can come to experiencing the creative process on paper or monitor. When the books are well-written and illustrated, I am happy to savor the time with them, and feel an affinity with their authors and artists.

Within the consistent Visual QuickStart format, this extensive series of books contains a large range of content and style. Book Bytes congratulates Peachpit Press for taking the lead in third-party guides to graphics and design applications.

Illustrator 8 for Windows and Macintosh is loaded with artwork, both practical and decorative, and all the artists are credited, with contact info in a special appendix. Pages are designed creatively, using greyscale imagery with imagination and taste.

From the first chapter, itemizing the many features of the Illustrator interface, to the final chapters on output and separations, an enormous amount of tutorial and visual content fills the book. My personal favorite feature is the use of bold white-on-black headings and special fonts for the “middle bar” techniques covered on the inside columns (harder to describe than appreciate in person; you’ll see).

How does Illustrator work? How do you get it to do anything useful? Would you like an extensive chapter entitled “Fill and Stroke”? Taking specific graphics and working on them many different ways, the co-authors of this Visual QuickStart Guide hold your hand (almost literally) as you create and modify artwork and type, using:

• brushes and pen

• gradients, filters, and masks

and then move, reshape, and transform your new creations.

Illustrator 8 is for serious artists, which is why we have two books on it this issue. Last month we reviewed a competing title, also from Peachpit Press. A third, more advanced Peachpit book is waiting in the wings. I definitely RECOMMEND Illustrator 8 for Windows and Macintosh, Visual Quickstart Guide, and urge you to consider its modest cost and extensive content.

DeBabelizer for Windows and Macintosh:
Visual QuickStart Guide
by Nolan Hester
Peachpit Press
ISBN 0-201-35386-5, 319 pages
$18.99 U.S., $28.50 Canada

This book is the first third-party guide to DeBabelizer I have seen, and it is impressive. What is this application? It is a $400 U.S. heavy-duty, comprehensive image-processing powerhouse. DeBabelizer’s “real strength is processing graphics with an amazing array of tools; use DeBabelizer with your mainstay graphics program,” according to the author.

Basic introductory material is covered extensively, for users (like me) who are new to the software. I claim no experience whatsoever with DeBabelizer, and other newbies will feel comfortable with the way increasingly complex tasks are introduced.

I have one complaint, and now is a good time to get it off my chest: there is too much white space in DeBabelizer for Windows and Macintosh, which could be better used for more tips, warnings, and screen shots or illustrations. I do appreciate the practical limitations of preparing a detailed book within a production schedule and budget, but ANYTHING would be more interesting, Nolan, than dozens of pages half-full of blank white.

Hester takes a few images and processes them over several tutorial projects, which is very helpful for hands-on learning. The Visual QuickStart format emphasizes “visual” here, which is fitting for an application of this sort.

DeBabelizer for Windows and Macintosh is truly a cross-platform book, and both versions are given equal treatment, with special coding when appropriate (which is often). The book’s three appendices cover installation, preferences, and the extensive array of keyboard and toolbar icon shortcuts.

The author has created a dedicated website for users of his book, which I applaud, because it’s difficult to imagine many of the color illustrations when viewing them in greyscale on the printed page. His eight-page color insert only hints at DeBabelizer’s power and range.

From “Handling Image Files” and “Palette Basics” to “Manipulating Colors” and “Special Scripting Actions,” each of DeBabelizer’s many components are given thorough, systematic treatment. There will be a substantial learning period for everyone starting out, and the author invites personal email from his readers. Bravo!

The final page of this Visual QuickStart Guide is an advertisement from Equilibrium, the creator of DeBabelizer, featuring a coupon for a full rebate of the book when the application is purchased in the U.S. by December 31, 2000. All software publishers should consider this friendly relationship with book publishers and readers. Hint hint.

Book Bytes RECOMMENDS this book. Let me know how you feel about it, after putting it to the test.


Next month: New and old faces, with a few surprises. Keep reading, and keep in touch.


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