Sunday, December 24, 2006

iPod and iTunes: The Missing Manual

You know how there are some actors whom you can trust re part of a great movie. If they are in it, you know it's good. Take Tom Hanks: practically anything he is involved in tends to be a great movie (expect of course for "Joe and the Volcano"). David Pogue and the Missing Manual series are the Tom Hanks of the technical publishing world. Even their mediocre stuff rises head and shoulders among the competition. "iPod & iTunes" is no exception to the long string of quality and informative manuals.

In particular, I was impressed with the flow of the book. Too often new iPod users feel they have to buy music from the iTunes Music Store to use their iPod and directly bypass their legal CD collection. Biersdorefer doesn't introduce the iTunes music store until chapter 7. She logically starts with the iPod itself and the proper care and maintenance thereof, making sure new users can properly use and understand their iPod before they even hook it up to the computer. The book then moves from the iPod hardware to installing the software, adding songs, photos, and videos. After the user understand all that he then introduced the music store along with advanced concepts like using the iPod as an external hard drive. Finally, she introduces basic and advanced troubleshooting. Other books I've read on iPods organize their concepts based on themes such as hardware and software, rather than the actual flow of how a user might use their iPod. While you can easily pick up any chapter and learn something, beginner iPod users would be best serviced starting at, well, the beginning (how's that for straightforward logic?).

Throughout the book, Biersdorefer uses extensive pictures and screen shots to illustrate the concepts described. I'm always impressed when an author does this, because not everyone likes to sit in front of a computer learning something. Good visuals help a reader learn a concept while not sitting at the computer. In addition, her explanations are clear and easily understandable without requiring knowledge of technical jargon.

Biersdorefer also included just about every iPod tip and trick I know such as all the idiosyncrasies of photo formats the iPod can display and how to put DVDs on iPods. I honestly can't think of a single iPod concept the beginner or intermediate iPod user needs to know that isn't covered in this book. While I consider myself an iPod expert, I still learned a thing or two and would recommend this to basic users as a book to read cover to cover to understand how to use an iPod. Intermediate users can use this manual as a reference for tools or procedures they don't often do and don't want to rely on the whim of internet searches. For example, I know I can use my iPod to do iPod presentations but I probably won't remember how to do it until my new presentation. Biersdorefer covers the topic extensively so all I have to do is pick up his book. The only iPod concepts this book doesn't cover is advanced tinkering such as installing Linux or how to boot your Mac off of it.

In general, this is a impressive book for the beginner that wants to know everything their iPod can do and a great reference manual for advanced users.

Pros: Covers it all in straightforward easy to understand language accessible to beginners without talking down to experts.

Cons: iPod not included. Waaah.