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Month: September 2010

iPad: The Missing Manual by J.D. Biersdorfer

I read this book using a trial subscription with Safari Books Online. I recently decided that I want to use Safari Books Online to expand my knowledge of JavaScript and other web technologies that will help me build great web sites. I bought an Apple iPad with the idea that it will be a great reading device for Safari Books, eBooks, web sites, and even audio books. I will review both Safari Books Online and the iPad in future posts.

After using the iPad for a week there was a handful of things I had questions about, mainly interface elements that appear to be different between the iPad and the iPhone.

iPad: The Missing Manual went a long way towards making me a power user of both the iPad and the iPhone. The largest leap for me was learning that pausing on many of the keys on the keyboard will present other keys, sometimes they are accents and sometimes they are shortcuts to totally different keys. Very cool.

I like the way the book is organized, it is easy to find information you have already skimmed, and easy to use as a reference with clear table of contents.

I really appreciate the iTunes coverage, I would not initially think about this in a book about the iPad, but for users who are not familiar with iOS these sections are invaluable. iTunes is an integral part of working with and enjoying any iOS device like the iPad, iPhone, or iPod, and this book does a great job of explaining how the iPad and iTunes interoperate.

I rate this book a 7 out of 10 and highly recommend this book for iPad users that are new to iOS devices, but if you are an iPhone user you may want to skim the book in a store before paying for it.


Dresden Files Book 3: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

I am really enjoying these books by Jim Butcher as read by James Marsters for Buzzy Multimedia and purchased from Audible.

This is the book where the pace of the novels changes; there is a lot more action and sexual content. The book reads more like a good action movie than the previous novels. For me the involvement of Michael’s wife in this book ads a lot of emotion to the story which balanced out the action.

From the publisher:

Harry Dresden’s faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you’re the only professional wizard in the Chicago area phone book.

But in all Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: the spirit world’s gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble — and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone — or something — is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc.

But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself….

I rate this book an 8 out 10.


Dresden Files: Storm Front & Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Dresden Files: Storm Front
Dresden Files: Fool Moon

A few years ago I asked some science fiction authors at DragonCon what book they had read recently that they really enjoyed. I was surprised when more than one of them said “Storm Front” by Jim Butcher. I am sorry it has taken me so long to begin reading the Dresden Files series; I should have taken their advice and read Storm Front much sooner.

I am reviewing these books together as I listened to them as audio books from Audible one right after another; I am currently listening to book three.

The audio books are read by James Marsters who also played Spike on the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. James is such a great actor that I could not picture him being the reader even though I have met him at DragonCon a couple of times. He creates voices for the characters that really bring them to life for me.

The Dresden Files centers around a Wizard named Harry Dresden that lives in a world very much like ours but where magic, spirits, demons, werewolves, vampires, and such walk the street and cause all sorts of trouble. He offers his services to the public similar to a private investigator but also works as a consultant for the Chicago police. I think of them as modern paranormal detective fantasies.

From Jim Butcher’s web site:
Storm Front

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Fool Moon

Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn’t been able to dredge up any kind of work — magical or mundane.

But just when it looks like he can’t afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.

A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses — and the first two don’t count…

I rate these books a 9 out of 10 and recommend them for anyone who enjoys any of these genres: paranormal, detective, or fantasy.


National Geographic Photo Books

Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs
Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places

I believe that to be a great photographer I should study a lot of images created by other people, especially those considered great by a consensus. So I spend a lot of time looking at books about art history that contain photos of paintings by “The Masters” and photo books like the two I am writing about here.

I found these books at a local thrift store and could not pass them up. “Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs” and “Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places” are both full of great photographs that any photographer could learn from.

I think after reading these two books what I came away with is a better insight into what makes a great photograph. It is not always the lighting, the shadows, focus, color, contrast, and/or framing, but it can also be purely the subject matter. Of course keeping in mind that all those things can enhance a photo of a special subject.

These two books and books similar to them can be a good education about what makes a great photography for any photographer and they are very inexpensive, “Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs” is available at Amazon for less than $12 right now with used copies available for under $6.

I give these books a combined 8 out of 10 and highly recommend them for any photographer.