MP3, The Definitive Guide:
Mastering the MP3 Audio Experience http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/mp3/index.html
by Scot Hacker
O’Reilly & Associates
ISBN 1-56592-661-7, 339 pages
$29.95 US, $43.95 CN
The day this book arrived, it immediately jumped to the head of our Book Bytes queue. (Please don’t tell the author/publisher of the title that got bumped: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wasting As Much Time As Possible on the Internet for Dummies, 99th Edition.) Is this the first-rate MP3 guidebook we have been awaiting? Previously-reviewed titles have been only so-so, and music lovers desperately need a serious volume on their favorite audio format. Let’s have a look.
Within the past year, the MP3 compression standard has taken the musical distribution world and shaken it upside down. Author Scot Hacker is both a confirmed audiophile and a sparkling writer. His facts are solid and his explanations are lucid.
From “How MP3 Works: Inside the Codec” (Chapter Two) through nine giant chapters loaded with charts, screen shots, informative sidebars, and recommended URLs, if you want to understand this technology in depth, MP3, The Definitive Guide is the place to begin. I have a suggestion for the publisher: please use BOLD type for your URLs, because those italic Internet addresses don’t jump out of the text as they should for maximum impact.
After a long (yawn) section on WinAmp and its comrades, Hacker explores Mac OS MP3 for several pages. This chapter, “Getting and Playing MP3 Files,” is outstanding, and is available free online (as is Chapter Two) at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/mp3/chapter/index.html. Did you know that current Apple system software has inherent problems with some aspects of MP3 playback? Don’t sweat, readers, because OS X’s multitasking capabilities should render those difficulties obsolete.
Subsequent topics include playlists (I love ‘em), skins (I hate ‘em), ripping and encoding (a life-altering experience), and a thorough study of household and portable playback hardware. (Excuse me while I take a break a reread this unit; it is brilliant.) Do you care about the legal aspects of MP3? You should—and you will—after reading “Legal Bits and Pieces,” in Chapter Seven.
Internet distribution, still in its infancy, comes next, including some techie terms that will make geeks gleeful. Take time to read the interview with Sander van Zoest, Senior Web Engineer at MP3.com, starting on page 332. The final chapter deals with competing technologies and file formats, if you’re not writhing on the floor with delight from the stuff you have learned and listened to by then.
Anything missing? How about a dozen included CDs of my personal favorite classical and jazz tracks for the same price (just kidding, Scot). This is the fourth title Book Bytes has reviewed on MP3, and it by far the best. MP3, The Definitive Guide sets the standard (oops, sorry about that pun) against which all future books on this breakthrough technology will be compared. Outstanding value, exceptional content, lively writing style.
MacMice Rating: 4
Job Searching Online for Dummies, 2nd Edition
by Pam Dixon
ISBN 0-7645-0673-0, 295 pages plus CD
$24.99 US, $37.99 CN, £23.99 UK
Here’s a quick quiz. Which is worse: looking for work, finding a place to live, or having your car repaired? Answer: it depends on which of these predicaments you are having right now. I am happily situated in my job, with a decent place to live and a car that could expire any moment. But if I were out of work, would this latest Dummies title be a help or a hindrance?
Hey, what’s this? A 64-page yellow pages directory of recommend job-related websites, parked between the final chapter and the appendix. Nice going, Pam Dixon. And what’s on the included CD? More goodies, including standard web applications plus:
• a handy-dandy résumé template
• clickable URLs for all the websites mentioned in the text
• BBEdit Lite freeware text editor application.
Seems to Book Bytes that Job Searching Online for Dummies has already paid for itself the first time you use the disk or yellow pages. How is the actual written content and job hunting advice?
The inside front cover contains a “cheat sheet” tearout card with best-of-the-best employment and reference websites, and an assertive “Online Job Seeker’s Bill of Rights” with eleven positively-worded rights including (number nine) “the right to expect integrity and honesty from all online employment sites.” Amen, Pam.
Wow, is this book helpful. The world of job hunting has come a long way from when I was agonizing through What Color is Your Parachute a dozen years ago. The competition is more intense now, so users of Job Searching Online for Dummies have a serious head start.
The major focus of the first section in the book is creating, posting, and promoting your online resumes and cover letters. Job searching and researching come next, followed by practical lists of DO’s and DON’T’s. All information is up-to-date, and will remain current for years.
Job Searching Online for Dummies is easy for Book Bytes to RECOMMEND. If you or someone close to you is ready to look for a new job, the $$$ and time spent with this book-disk-URL combo is a great investment. Nice job, Pam Dixon.
MacMice Rating: 4
Sams Teach Yourself Today: e-Parenting
by Evelyn Petersen and Karin Petersen
ISBN 0-672-31818-0, 310 pages
$17.99 US, $26.95 CN, £12.99 UK
Let’s see. I’m a parent, and I was once a child. This book may therefore apply to me, even though my daughter is now an adult. Yikes. She may become a parent soon. I had better read this book first, but should you? My reaction to this new series from Sams Publishing has been lukewarm so far. I hope this title changes my opinion.
Ooh, here’s something I appreciate, as I thumb through the back pages in Sams Teach Yourself Today: e-Parenting. Hundreds of URLs comprise the “e-Parenting Web Site Directory” on a chapter by chapter basis, with some additional recommended web addresses included for good measure. Intrepid parents will be spending loads of their spare (ha!) time exploring what is available from these fine URLs. Let me know which ones you find most useful.
The mother and daughter team of authors (ages 63 and 33) teamed up to help all generations of parents (and grandparents too) use the many available Internet resources. From “Why a PC Can Be More Useful to Families Than a TV” through a sensible mixture of technical and common-sense life lessons, readers learn from the book how to be better parents online and offline.
Pages include some screen shots, boxed sidebar words of wisdom, and in-context URLs geared to an extensive variety of topics:
• virtual pen pals
• online safety and security
• blended and untraditional families
and a fitting chapter on
• child development.
The writing is sensible and sensitive, and is worth reading even if you won’t be able to follow parent-oriented web links for hours on end. If I were once again the parent of a youngster, the valuable advice in Sams Teach Yourself Today: e-Parenting would be worth the modest cost of the book many times over. And if I ever become a grandpa? What a thought. How exciting!
It is a pleasure to RECOMMEND this title, with a ranking of:
MacMice Rating: 3
Digital Photography for Dummies, 3rd Edition
by Julie Adair King
ISBN 0-7645-0646-3, 336 pages plus CD
$24.99 US, $37.99 CN, £23.99 UK
The only thing more fun than reviewing top-quality books every month on subjects I am not familiar with is reviewing books on a subject with which I am very familiar, such as photography. Glancing over at my Book Bytes shelf, I see two previously-reviewed serious titles on this topic. How does Digital Photography for Dummies compare?
Digital photography has become mainstream. Last week my dentist was asking me for camera recommendations while he had his hand in my mouth. I sputtered “O<$^&*s” and he said “what?” before removing his fingers. “Olympus,” I repeated, but quickly lost my ability to explain before the torture continued.
Do yourself a favor, friends, and turn to page 290 in this book. The author urges you to READ THE MANUAL that comes with your camera, and I agree. Why spend all that $$$ on camera and digital media, not to mention tons of your precious time, without understanding (or getting individual help with) your equipment and technology?
Now, from me, comes an equal encouragement to obtain this excellent beginners book, read it, and put its wisdom to work. Julie Adair King has divided the process of obtaining, using, and working with digital cameras and photos into chapters, pictures, and recommendations that are straightforward, creative, and enjoyable. Her CD contains useful images and software to make the experience more complete.
Do you need help with:
• selecting and using a digital camera?
• understanding how the digital photography process works?
• using the camera and media with your computer?
• creative projects involving pictures and software?
You have come to the right place, dear readers. For once I’m intentionally not going to give you explicit details on how good Digital Photography for Dummies is; instead I invite you to examine this RECOMMENDED book and see for yourselves. I expect you will agree it is a keeper, destined for a long tenure on my Book Bytes shelf.
Author Julie Adair King informs Book Bytes:
I do a biweekly column answering specific digital photography questions on www.Zing.com.
MacMice Rating: 4
Adobe InDesign Bible
by Galen Gruman, John Cruise, and Kelly Kordes Anton
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN 0-7645-3243-X, 820 pages plus CD
$39.99 US, $59.99 CN, £36.99 UK
I hope your eyesight in good, because you will need it to read the tearout card for keyboard shortcuts inside the front cover. These five columns of tiny type will prove to be valuable as you use progressively more of InDesign’s many features. Inside the rear cover is a CD containing fonts, utilities, demos, and other desktop publishing goodies, in total worth much of the price of this hefty and affordable book.
What’s between the covers? Eleven major parts contain 39 chapters, with five appendices. Experienced desktop pubbers will study every syllable and kern of Appendix D, “Switching from QuarkXPress or PageMaker.”
The sequence of chapters takes readers from bazillions of fundamentals into crucial advanced issues. Pages contain numerous tips and notes, cross-references and warnings, screen shots and examples, plus special boxes of sidebar info. These three writers/designers are smart, experienced, and helpful in their text and illustrations.
Production quality is high, and tremendous energy has gone into being thorough. Do you realize how many different formats are supported by InDesign? (See the chart on pages 176 and 177.) What I don’t know about desktop publishing would fill a larger book than Adobe InDesign Bible, but I’ll certainly turn to this volume when I want to get it right first time and every time.
Given the cost of InDesign software and the time involved in working with it, users will adore this book. As Adobe updates its application, this bible will continue to provide solid information. If I’m sounding uncharacteristically flabby, it’s because I am so enthralled with the authors’ accomplishments that I keep studying chapter after chapter instead of sticking to my knitting.
The IDG Books bibles are consistent winners, for good reason, of our annual Book Bytes Awards. I have given away previously-reviewed titles on this application, because I don’t use it myself. I expect to be keeping Adobe InDesign Bible as the definitive reference. If any book is required reading for users of the software under discussion, this is it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
MacMice Rating: 5
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to iBook
by Brad Miser
Alpha / Que / Macmillan
ISBN 0-7897-2284-4, 341 pages
$19.99 US, $29.95 CN, £18.50 UK
It’s not every day I have the opportunity to review a book with a quote of praise from me on the cover. In this case, the publisher sent me five chapters prior to publication for my candid comments. It was easy to compliment the author, because Brad is very good, and I wanted to help him achieve plenty of exposure for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to iBook. Can Book Bytes offer an honest review? Ubetcha. Here goes.
Beginners will benefit from opening the front cover and encountering:
• a screen shot of the iBook desktop, with targeted items referencing relevant chapters;
• “Ten Cool Things to Do with the iBook,” again listing chapters;
• a brightly-colored tearout card full of helpful keyboard shortcuts;
plus, inside the rear cover, instructions on doing a quick web search with Sherlock, and a few snappy “Internet shorthand” abbreviations and symbols ;-).
Newcomers need to know how initially to set up iBook’s hardware and software, plus the basics of Macintoshiana. The author doesn’t waste any time, and uses dozens of tips and screen shots to enhance the instructional text in the first five chapters.
Soon the happy iBooker is creating documents and printing them, with a reasonable understanding of how the software and hardware components work together. End-of-chapter summaries help new users to consolidate their knowledge, keeping primary concepts in mind as they proceed.
The next hundred pages delve into spending time productively on the Internet, then using iBook’s versatile built-in features for web browsing, emailing, and more. Final chapters address customizing your iBook and learning the many things to do with the princely portable, including CDs, movies, and games.
File sharing, troubleshooting, and adding peripherals wrap up The Complete Idiot’s Guide to iBook, making this title a worthy choice for readers new to the Mac OS, applications, and portable computing. Is anything missing? Sure, but enough is included to RECOMMEND this title as very good value for beginners’ money, with a rating of:
MacMice Rating: 4
What’s my cover quote, you ask? “An excellent introduction to the iBook, AirPort, and MacOS. The chapter covering AirPort is worth the entire price of this book.” Still true.
Looking Good on the Web
by Daniel Gray
ISBN 1-56710-508-3, 200 pages
$29.99 US, $43.99 CN, £20.99 UK
Now I understand why some design titles are much more expensive than others, given comparable page count and similar content. Two factors add $$$ to the price: color imagery on every page, and included CDs. Looking Good on the Web covers a lot of ground, but does it in greyscale, with the exception of a small “Color On The Web” section.
Coriolis publishes books featuring a dedicated commitment to the design process. In twelve long chapters, author Daniel Gray aims to continue that custom. I consider this title best suited to talented, imaginative people who are new to presenting their projects on the web. Gray offers loads of seasoned advice, complete with ample screenshots and tips, plus examples of HTML code and good/bad page content.
Some of his best chapters come at the end, dealing with solving design problems, and redesigning your earlier work. Every chapter in Looking Good on the Web concludes with a “Moving On” wrap up that looks ahead to the next unit.
The author tells Book Bytes the purpose of this book:
Looking Good on the Web sets out to cover the basics. It provides a friendly point-of-entry for folks new to the world of Web design. It doesn’t bog newbies down with tech-heavy geekspeak. Instead, it stresses the importance of simple and effective design, over the lure of geegaws and gadgets.
As folks get into web design, they inevitably buy more books: a web graphics book, an HTML book, a layout application-specific book, an animation book, and possibly more. Looking Good is program agnostic. That’s why it’s not full of Photoshop- or Front Page-specific tutorials.
We kept the cost to an affordable level so that the book could be used alongside other books. Instructors or college professors are able to build their courseware without the fear of redundant or superfluous information. (If the book was heavy on Photoshop, for example, it would do no good if the course used PaintShopPro, instead.)
With such a broad topic, one book never answers all the questions. There are too many variables. That’s why folks build their own personal libraries.
MacMice Rating: 3
Web Design Essentials: Professional Studio Techniques
by Maria Giudice
with Anita Dennis
and Peachpit Press
ISBN 0-201-70011-5, 119 pages (LARGE FORMAT)
$40.00 US, $59.95 CN
We have been here before, almost. I was originally skeptical of the value of these large-and-expensive-but-thin pro level design titles when Peachpit Press introduced them two years ago, but soon their content and style won my admiration. Promising “web design techniques and advice from the experts” on Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and GoLive, the authors have produced a fascinating and valuable addition to this specialized area of the publishing universe.
With extensive contribution from colleagues at Hot Studio, Maria’s Bay San Francisco-area design company, Web Design Essentials takes readers through a series of colorful, itemized lessons geared to designers from beginner through advanced. The format, liberally mixing graphics and instructional test, remains consistent throughout the book, and the progression of lessons is outstanding.
Not being a design guy, I am in awe of the talent and skill required to perform creative projects such as:
• Creating a Complex Animated GIF (with all three applications)
• Dithering Only Part of an Image (using Photoshop)
• Designing “Remote” Rollovers (with GoLive)
and dozens more. The book is cleanly arranged, with high-quality illustrations on heavyweight large-format paper. Each sequential task is clearly written and well placed for optimum usage. White space is generous, suitable for scribbling (do you dare, on such fine paper stock?
Major sections cover planning, preparation, type management, HTML (including tables and frames), animation, and rollovers. Beginning web designers will want to lock their cubicles and work through the focused tutorials, and experienced webheads will become inspired to improve their existing sites.
Designers’ URLs are provided, so readers can examine the authors’ and contributors’ real-world output. I have one complaint: why didn’t I come from a different family, with skills in this art/design area? Oh, well, it’s a joy to study Web Design Essentials, and award it a strong RECOMMENDATION for professional web designers and advanced students.
Author Maria Giudice tells Book Bytes:
This book was a truly collaborative effort within Hot Studio. Everyone at the 10-person San Francisco company contributed. Anita Dennis did a great job in maintaining editorial consistency throughout the book.
We redesigned and redefined the series with a no-nonsense easy to understand format. (Compare this book to the predecessors in the series). We tried to include lesser popular Adobe programs in this book (like Acrobat for PDF and some After Effects tips).
We reached out to the greater web-design community to contribute tips, because of the value in gaining real-world experience and knowledge.
MacMice Rating: 4
Guest review by David Weeks: firstname.lastname@example.org
Macintosh Windows Integration:
Integrating your Macintosh with
Windows 95/98 and Windows NT Environments
by John Rizzo
ISBN 0-12-589325-6, 595 pages plus CD
$44.95 US, $62.95 CN
John Rizzo has written THE book for Macintosh users who find that they need to learn how to co-exist in the Windows world.
Most Mac users learn the Macintosh operating system as their first personal computer OS. These home users may not even need to learn the basics of Macintosh networking, unless they have more than one Mac at home. They find that they do very well, thank you very much, without knowing the intricacies of how life works on the other side of the Macintosh/Windows digital divide.
But there is an increasing number of Mac users who find they must learn more about the PC world. They may only want to learn the simple things, such as how to email file attachments to friends or co-workers who use PCs. Or perhaps they may have to learn how to run Windows-only software, and are trying to decide between buying a software emulator or a hardware co-processor. And then there those people who want to know how to make their Mac coexist on one of the many types of Windows-based networks.
Until Rizzo wrote this detailed yet highly readable book, there was no single resource that told you everything about Mac and Windows integration. It is possible to find most of the information in this book elsewhere, but you would have to spend a tremendous amount of time wading through manufacturers’ websites, product manuals, and Internet FAQs. Even so, you would not find all the information coming from Rizzo’s personal experience.
Macintosh Windows Integration is logically laid out. It begins by discussing the whys and wherefores of cross-platform integration. Simpler topics such as file exchange between Macs and PCs are covered, and then the book moves on to detailed discussion of the fundamentals of Macintosh and PC networking. I found this section extremely informative, as my need to learn the basics of PC networking software is what drove me to read the book.
The section on software emulators vs. hardware co-processor cards taught me some new tricks, and I’ve owned both over the years!
The last chapters discuss how to get your Mac to live happily on a Windows NT-based network. If you find you must connect your Mac to a NT network, and have to do it yourself—or your network administrator says that it is too complex—you can learn that it is NOT that difficult or costly to do.
Rizzo’s writing style is straightforward; it’s too bad that more software manuals aren’t as readable as this book.
If you have to do anything more complex than formatting a DOS floppy in your Macintosh and don’t know how to get it done, Macintosh Windows Integration will tell you how to do it.
A CD-ROM full of useful Mac and Windows utility applications accompanies the book.
John Rizzo tells Book Bytes:
The book isn’t aimed just at Mac users. Mac users NEED this info more (if you don’t integrate your Mac, you risk getting it replaced with a PC), so there is more info for Mac users. But there’s also info for PC users.
For instance, there’s section called “Differences” at the beginning of many chapters that points out how Macs and PCs do things differently. These sections are aimed at both Mac and PC users. There’s a whole chapter called Mac Network Basics to help PC users get up to speed on how Mac networking works.
The other thing is that much of the info is not aimed at USERS as all, but at the people who run cross-platform networks. Mac client support is only briefly covered in the Microsoft certification programs for Windows NT Server, and most NT Server books gloss over Mac support.
MacMice Rating: 5