Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Review: Netbooks, the Missing Manual

Netbooks are the bright spot in the world of personal computers. More powerful than a mobile phone, but without the bulk nor the power of a laptop, netbooks represent the "just right" mix of features, portability and price.

The earliest netbooks came with various versions of Unix which made them downright scary to non-technical users. Then after some negotiations with Microsoft, a majority of netbooks now have Windows XP. Netbook owners running Windows XP will find little value in this book. The book assumes no background with Windows and walks the reader through the very basics of setup and usage such as configuring email or an Internet connection. What is missing for Windows netbook owners is general tips and tricks specific to the unique characteristics of netbooks. Biersdorfer briefly covers some ideas for backup and synchronization, but doesn't go in enough depth to really be useful and worth the price of admission.

In contrast, Biersdorfer's coverage of Ubuntu is invaluable for owners of netbooks that come with Ubuntu, such as the Dell Mini. I know when I first encountered a Mini with Ubuntu I was completely lost. While Ubuntu is intuitive, it takes some getting used to. Ubuntu doesn't come with a manual and Dell tech support as of this writing won't answer Ubnutu questions. Coverage of printer and email setup is something of value to Unix based netbook owners. All this stuff is out on the Internet, but this book is designed for the non-technical end user. The author's coverage is excellent and comprehensive.

If you have a Windows-based netbook, take a pass on this book as a majority of the explanations apply to any Windows based computer. However, if you have a Ubuntu based netbook, you'll find this book an invaluable resource to translate your Windows knowledge into the Ubuntu world.

Pros: Excellent coverage of Ubuntu for netbooks
Cons: Few netbook specific tips and tricks for Windows users

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review: Apple Training Series: iWork '09

The Apple Training Series is designed to replace the classroom environment for learning a particular Apple program and it rarely disappoints. iWork '09 is no exception to this trend. This is not a manual on how to do certain functions within the program, but rather a comprehensive training program complete with a DVD full of sample content. Not only does this book walk you through real world examples of using Keynote, Pages, and Numbers, but this edition of the book focuses heavily on integration of iWork components with each other as well as with the Macintosh Operating System. Complex functions such as mail merges with Pages and Numbers are included. The book does not cover every esoteric aspect of the programs but rather focuses on the functions the average user would need.

This book relies heavily on brilliant full color examples of the concepts being taught. The reader is easily able to compare what is in the book to what is on their Mac's screen. "Teacher, did I do it right?" is easily answered by looking inside this book. Additionally, a review quiz is included at the end of each chapter to make sure you understand the current lesson before moving on.

While instructor-lead programs allow the student to ask questions and interact, the Apple Training Series is about the closest thing you can come to an instructor-lead program without having to leave your home, office, or coffee shop. I always love how the Apple Training Series includes a suggested time frame it takes to do the particular chapter so you can plan your schedule accordingly.

Pros: Excellent real world examples and clear instructions and output specifications
Cons: Absolutely none

Five out of Five Dogcows.


This article used with permission by the Lawrence Apple Users' Group. The original article written by David Greenbaum aka DoctorDave™ or incorrectly Dr. Dave can be found here.
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Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Get your Sync on between a Droid and a Mac

This article was picked up by quite a few blogs, but I wrote it for TheAppleBlog. If you want to know how to sync an Android based "google" phone with your Mac, my article's got the answers

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book Review: SEO Warrior

This book by O'Reilly has an accurate title because there is a war on the web...the battle to get placement in search engines.

This very up to date book is your arsenal for either advancing your position or maintaining your ground on the web. O'Reilly books tend to be highly technical and SEO is no exception. About a quarter to a third of the book is simply not accessible to people who don't know how to set up servers or write advanced scripts. I know basic HTML and hand code my websites, but I found discussions of such topics as advanced XML a bit over my head. That's OK, because the rest of the book was great for novices

"SEO Warrior" is a complete guide to getting your page noticed by search engines. It's not just about Google rankings and keywords, thought that's clearly a focus. This book takes a 360 degree approach to Search Engine Optimization. It considers not just the code on your website, but such things as your ISP and host, external rankings by others, social media marketing and link building. I've read other books on SEO and this is the most comprehensive guide I've seen to help a business owner create a complete marketing campaign on the web. More technical readers will be able to copy and paste much of the code and examples directly into their website. Web design novices like me will be able to find tools online to help implement the key portions of the strategies found in the book.

As an example, I never really understood Google Webmaster tools or Google Analytics. I worked with both after reading the book and increased my SEO campaign dramatically. I had the confidence to create such things as a site map and learned how to properly configure my meta information to get the maximum exposure for my website.

A true SEO expert probably knows this information already, so the audience of this book is beginning to intermediate users. In particular, any business owner considering a SEO campaign should read this book to get an overview of the concepts. After reading the book, you'll be empowered to hire a SEO company if necessary. You'll learn the ethical and professional concepts for SEO and learn how to avoid the unethical "black hat" companies.

Pros: Comprehensive guide to all aspects of getting your website noticed
Cons: A bit to technical for people who aren't web designers.

Four out of Five Dogcows.


Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review: The Non-Designer's Design and Type Book, Deluxe Edition (Paperback)

Robin Williams is the queen of Macintosh design and her new book is it's Bible. The book is exactly as described: a design book for those people not trained as designers. The book is actually divided into two sections, design and typography.

The design book goes over the basic principles of how to design using a few basic concepts most anyone can learn such as white space, proximity, layout, and contrast. She gives copious amounts of real world examples to help lay people give a bit of "oomph" to such things as newsletters, business cards, and stationary. For someone trying to go out on their own, this book is an invaluable aid in basic design work while saving money to get a true expert on board. The book is a very quick read, but it's a good book to keep around whenever you do design work.

The typography portion was a bit over my head. It's all about fonts, typefaces and so forth. She clearly tries to made the topic accessible, but I found the content difficult to understand as someone not in the design field. The typography portion of the book can be used as a reference guide when deciding which font would work in specific situations.

This book is perfect for the small business owner or the group secretary who suddenly gets called on to create a newsletter or a basic identity for print.

Pros: Accessible and understandable principles of basic design made understandable to everyone
Cons: Font portions a bit over the novice's head

Four out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mobile Me: Is it worth it?

So is it? $99 over a year isn't a whole lot of money, but still is $99 worth it. Check out my post over at TheAppleBlog and read what I and others have to say about an apparently controversial subject.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Finally, iPhone Insurance (Sort of)

Doesn't everyone know someone who has cracked their iPhone screen at least once. It's bound to happen and now there is a new option for people to get their screen and other parts fixed with a new type of iPhone insurance. Read more about it in my article over at TheAppleBlog

Sunday, January 03, 2010

There’s (Not) An App for That: 10 Apps Only Available for Jailbroken iPhones

Over at TheAppleBlog I wrote an article all about iPhone apps it may be worth Jailbreaking your iPhone just so you can install these apps