Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Review: Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 Step by Step

The joke has always been you can’t spell Entourage without “rage” and Microsoft finally retired that product and re-introduced Outlook for the Mac, which hasn’t been around since the classic days! This book is a great overview of all the features of the product including both beginner and intermediate concepts.

The Step by Step series is a lesson-based training program, but you can easily avoid the actual lessons in order to use the book as a reference guide. In this case the actual training exercises are pretty minimal and could have easily been omitted and still retain the book’s value.

The book is extremely well-laid out with a great table of contents and index. Each chapter introduces the concepts it covers and the key points and then reviews them at the end. For users of an Exchange server, the lessons cover both Exchange-based accounts as well as traditional IMAP/POP email systems. Users new to Microsoft products as well as seasoned Entourage and Outlook for the PC users will still find the book’s lessons accessible and of value. If you already know a concept, the book makes it very easy to skip that section.

Unfortunately since the book was printed, Microsoft made significant changes to the sync functions and now that Apple is retiring MobileMe, these sections will be subject to additional changes. Such is the nature of tech books.

Pros: Easy to understand lessons and comprehensive review of features
Cons: Lessons not terribly substantive

4 out of 5

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review: Going Corporate A Geeks Guide

The only book I’ve ever seen with a more misleading title was “The Neverending Story,” which, contrary to its title, actually ends. While “Going Corporate” is about corporations, it has very little to do with moving ahead in corporate America. It is a hodgepodge of anecdotes and tidbits of information loosely strewn together lacking any coherent purpose or mission.

The title and description led me to believe the book would be about learning how the corporate world works and advancing your career from entry level to CIO and everything in between. It’s not. This book is generally geared for an international audience, towards a programmer or software developer working for an outsourced firm in IT. The business examples and case studies focus on million and billion dollar projects dealing with the Fortune 500 and up.

The writing style is short, choppy and stilted and it’s clear the author’s primary language is not US English. In many parts of the book the language is archaic and inappropriate making references to someone's superiors and “class”. These terms are generally avoided in the US and we prefer to describe a person’s supervisor. While Kadre was the primary author, outside writers were used for some chapters and portions making for a inconsistent theme and style between chapters.

The content of the book is difficult to comment on because it was so difficult to understand. Multiple case studies with diagrams that had nothing to do with IT and computing made it easy to skip some parts and it was a quick read. Simplification of microeconomics, macroeconomics and investing were not useful or relevant to IT (and how exactly does understanding economic theories help you move up the corporate ladder?) I was particularly annoyed that Wikipedia was used as a source for information. I expect better footnotes from a book produced by a technical press.

Little to no career advice was included, but the chapters tried to cover every aspect of modern corporate systems and internal software development from a hierarchical perspective: how do you as a programmer fit into the big picture? The international focus made it difficult for US readers to relate, but numerous mentions were made to Satyam computer services. A quick search reveals this is a company that was involved in a major corporate accounting scandal, so I’m less likely to trust a book written by an author (and guest authors) with such a background. In the US, that would be like Bernie Madhoff writing a book on investing.

What was the book about? It’s hard to say. As someone working in the US, I simply couldn’t relate. Programmers working in outsourced multi-national corporations could find some value. The book will not help you “understand the larger business environment” nor will it help you at all in “starting your own” business. Unless that business is a multi-billion outsourced IT firm located outside the US. Then this book might be helpful. For the rest of us, I suggest you take a pass on this book and look elsewhere for career advice.

Pros: It’s a quick read.
Cons: I have no idea what I read. Little to no bearing on getting ahead in corporate America and moving up the ladder.

1 out of 5

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

GigaOM:Tested: SSD brings new life to an old MacBook

In this article for GigaOM, I cover my replacement of my Macbook's mechanical drive with a solid state one

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sunday, October 09, 2011

GigaOM: Mac Malware and the App Store Coming of Age

In this article for GigaOM, I cover new Mac malware and how it may increase usage of the Mac App store

Friday, October 07, 2011

3 ways to use your iPhone to lose weight

In this article, for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I cover 3 apps I used to help me lose over 70 pounds.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Book Review: Microsoft Office 2011 Visual Quickstart Guide

Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac Visual Quickstart Guide is an outstanding book to teach you the ins and outs of this definitive suite for the Mac. The book is well organized with excellent illustrations and explanations of key concepts.

The book starts with explaining exactly what is new in each part of the Office Suite and previews what experienced users might want to focus on. The book leaves no stone unturned, covering not just the PowerPoint, Excel, Word and Outlook but includes the esoteric extras such as My Day, Sky Drive and Office Web Apps.

In particular this book handles both beginner and advanced topics. Those users experienced with Office basics can look at the table of contents and quickly jump to the function they are most interested in. Don’t know what Sparklines are in 2011? Quickly jump to a great explanation on the subject. While the book is larger than the typical Visual Quickstart guide, the information was very accessible

As an experienced Office user on both the Mac and PC, I found this an invaluable resource to optimize my investment in this new version. The final chapters were golden as they really tied all the programs together and focused on interoperability between them.

Overall this is a great book for anyone using Microsoft Office 2011!

Pros: Covers all aspects of the suite in detail in a manner beginners will understand and advanced users will be able to master

Cons: None!

5 out of 5 dogcows