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Digital Video Production Cookbook: 100 Professional Techniques for Independent and Amateur Filmmakers (Cookbooks (O'Reilly))
Digital Video Production Cookbook: 100 Professional Techniques for Independent and Amateur Filmmakers (Cookbooks (O'Reilly))
by Chris Kenworthy
Edition: Paperback
83 used & new from $0.01

27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun book on how to improve your video techniques, February 21, 2006
Advances in computer video and moviemaking software has mad it very easy to make a bad movie. Software like iMovie, Avid Free and others allow easy input of video camera footage into a program which can edit both video and sound clips, overlay clips, and add transitions, titles, sound effects, graphics, credits and more.

All of this technology however does not guarantee a watchable or quality product. There still is no substitute for compelling narrative writing, acting, dialogue, purposeful editing, and soundtrack selections.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of amateur directors and producers who want to create their own films for personal, family, or group enjoyment. This is where a book like "Digital Video Production Cookbook" fills a need. This is a volume of about one hundred professional- level techniques to help independent and amateur filmmakers improve their movie's quality. Almost anyone with basic competence using a digital video camera and video editing software can use these techniques to improve their movie products.

The author is a writer, producer and director of award- winning independent films, as well as a contributor to computer arts publications. This is a book for beginning or novice filmmakers on low or no- cost, easy to implement, production techniques to enhance your personal creations. These are techniques about lighting effects, camera illusions, visual effects, night shooting, make- up effects, weather and sound effects, and more, all designed to enhance the visual and dramatic impact of your shots. Most of these techniques are used to help you tell your story. This is not a book on how to capture footage or how to use a digital video camera, but on how to go about telling your story via visual and audio techniques to improve your film quality.

A key point about these effects is that that are easy to understand and create but will almost certainly will have a large impact on the results of your work. It really does not take much to create impressions on an audience. Simple editing in a clever manner, or sound effects juxtaposed against innocuous video scenes, can be very persuasive and impactful.

Almost anyone can get started in amateur filmmaking. All it takes is a decent video camera and editing software, along with a handful of incidentals, like a tripod, microphone, and movie light. Author Kenworthy shows how easy it is to light a simple scene, whether indoors or outdoors, with natural light, artificial light, and candle light. Mood can be manipulated by coloring the light. A soft, romantic scene can be lit by natural light bounced off a yellow towel, for example. Backlighting a smoky background scene can imply a mysterious or eerie effect. Low lighting on a face creates a horror-look. Stories can be told using shadows. All of these effects are demonstrated in the section on lighting effects.

Certain illusions are easily produced using "pull focus" to show 2 scenes at once without moving a camera. Camera movements like a background slide, dolly shot, discovery shot, and spins can greatly enhance the dramatic impact and professional look of your film. A scary chase scene can be created, in part, by footage captured while running holding your camera close to the ground. Editing segments to show implied forward or backward looks is very easy to do with almost any decent software.

Other camera techniques demonstrated include shooting reflections, mimicking gunsight or binocular views, flash cutting multiple images, and picturing implied blood and bullet impacts using homemade fake blood. Interesting visual effects can be created using clever camera views or homemade models, like miniature worlds made of clay and other simple components, or spaceships made from cheap junk parts, but properly lit to mimic the dramatic scenes from "Star Wars".

There is a section on performing safe stunts like jumping large gaps, safe punching and fighting scenes, and smashing objects. More advanced techniques include showing how to mask foreground components from a background so they can be inserted elsewhere in other scenes to create action in illusionary environments.

Some of the most interesting effects deal with mimicking weather effects like rain and storms, and people- related effects like bruises, aging and serious injuries, sometimes just by using camera angles. It was interesting to learn how to create a fake brain spill using canned plums and fruit mix with colored water and glycerin. Cool!

This is a richly produced book with plenty of photographs and visual illustrations showing how to produce effects that duplicate some of the great producers and directors from Hollywood.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 13, 2007 5:40 AM PDT

Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence
Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence
by Chris Stakutis
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice practical perspective on developing technologies, February 21, 2006
The authors of "Inescapable Data" share their excitement about what they see as a rapidly-developing convergence of digital technologies having enormous significance for business and culture. This convergence, in their view, is inescapable, life-altering for both good and bad, and presents a frame-shattering paradigm-shift which is mostly unrecognized, and much less examined critically. "Inescapable Data" is a thought-provoking book meant to describe the new technologies and to examine the special values which arguably will emerge from the convergence.

This book illuminates the practical perspective of these developments. Others who pay attention to developments in culture of this sort believe that this "convergence" presents the most important and consequential development in human history, far vaster in its scope and effects than the Great Wars, and the Industrial Revolution. The developments have been so rapid and the effects so many and complex that is hard at this point to grasp all of the significances, although the dynamics, as noted in the book, are fairly clear.

Nicholas Negroponte in his 1995 book "Being Digital" first popularized the idea of the power and force of "Digital". But this book emphasizes that "Digital" itself is not nearly the force that "Convergence" is and will become. Yes, the impetus certainly comes from the specific digital technologies but the combination of four major separate technology spheres has catalyzed into a much greater force. This is the "Convergence."

As detailed in the book, these technologies are: 1) "data-everywhere" devices, like cellphones, biosensors, miniaturized video cameras, and GPS transmitters; 2) asynchronous-yet-immediate transmission technologies, like instant messaging; 3) intelligent wireless networks; and 4) advanced information processing software. Embedded chips will be everywhere, including in your dog or cat, your clothes, every product you own or consume or use, and your own body. What links everything together context-wise are XML files and protocols. The synergy of all of these components create a whole system which is much greater than the sum of its parts.

In 13 chapters and an index comprising 268 pages, the authors explain the basic vision of the practical dynamics of "inescapable data". Chapters 4-12 contain section by section descriptions of the implementation of the component technologies and show how traditional and historical ways of doing things are being quickly altered, primarily now in manufacturing, distribution, and retailing.

The writing is mostly in the form of serial presentations of anecdotes, statistics, specific examples, and commentary. It is geared to the technologically-interested person focused on practical matters. This is not an academic work; it is full of practical and real-world examples but short on critique, theory, and analysis.

Chapter Four starts the discussion of existing and developing applications of "inescapable data", and is about digital convergence in military and government spheres. Instant messaging, GPS transmitters, ubiquitous cellular communication, and advanced software applications have radically altered traditional "command and control" operations. With immediate, field-based information, the way battles are waged is now different. Commanders have instantaneous information about realtime happenings, aggregated and realtime updated information about equipment and materials including logistical supply chains and more, through wireless devices held or embedded in all elements of the military operation, including individual troops.

Governments, using wireless video camera transmitters, biosensors, and GPS transmitters can now utilize realtime broad-scale, relatively inexpensive surveillance for crime control and other purposes. In the home, wireless and digital technologies acting to provide surveillance and remote control of heating and electrical systems are in use now, and many more applications will be utilized very soon. The technology and cost factors are available now. In the field of medicine, everyday worklife, manufacturing, retail and entertainment, data collection is coming widespread as miniature sensors, radio frequency identification devices (RFID), wireless connectivity, XML content headers, and information processing software facilitate the recording of much of social, business, and cultural life. This then allows the widespread, immediate, real-time processing of relevant information by businesses, marketers, government (think "Homeland Security"), and, of course, miscreants of various types.

The important part to understand is not just that new technology is available now and at relatively low cost. What makes all of this interesting is that the connections among individual components of this technological matrix are increasing and developing. So, your new refrigerator is linked to the manufacturer's array of servers and to your grocery store's servers, and to your bank. Your medical records are stored in your doctor's server, connected to insurance company and government computers, as well as wide-scale medical-related organizations. Each of these linked "nodes" is further linked, or will be to other nodes, so that an immense matrix of relationships is now being furthered.

Chapters 7 and 10 on manufacturing and retail show how old-fashioned practices involving a company networking its departments and units internally, has now evolved into a process where the company computers and particularly its databases are now linked to all of its component suppliers, distributors, advertisers, regulatory entities, and more.

The authors detail through each of the chapters the available technology, the specific uses, and the immediately perceivable effects, via interviews with a large handful of corporate, university, and business people involved in the technology. Examples of use, both awesome and mundane, are noted.

The alleged benefits of the convergence are vastly new efficiencies, flexibilities, customization opportunities, adaptability, and other values, many of which remain to be determined. One thing is absolutely certain- there will be plenty of data generated. Almost certainly, there will be plenty of people and organizations trying to make sense and meaning of this data, filtering and analyzing with new, capable, processing applications.

Whole new industries will form to manage this data. Where linked computers once vastly facilitated digital development, including the Internet, there will now be linked databases which will stand out as the chief component of the convergence. There will be systematic, continuous connectivity in a matrix of networked relationships represented by linked databases.

This convergence concept is highly reminiscent of Big Brother of "1984" fame. Obviously, there are serious issues about the quality of life in the convergence era. The good is in enormous increases in efficiency, in customized processes and products, in immediacy, and in flexibility and individual freedoms. The downsides are discussed here in a mere four pages in Chapter 13 on "Perspectives". The authors itemize them as: discriminatory insurance underwriting effecting those unlucky enough to have reported genetic or medical issues; rampant identity theft, increased marketing pressures, a conflation of work and home life which some may feel as threatening, the alteration of sports and entertainment, and the exposure of formerly personal information. Another issue is the likelihood that some people will not be connected, for whatever reason. This group will comprise an underclass missing out on the benefits of convergence.

The book ends with a list of suggestions to the reader on how to exploit the developments - use an email PDA, avail of work-at-home opportunities, equip your kids with cell devices, convince your medical provider to send SMS and email appointment reminders, and set up home surveillance. For businesses, they suggest broad use of IM, groupware, and work-at-home concepts. Predictions include global calendars, singular devices, single key authentication, cashless economic transactions, and flexible matrix workers.

These suggestions and predictions seem fairly lame in respect to a process compared by some to the Great Wars and the Industrial Revolution. However, the perspective here is a practical, pragmatic one. More weighty suggestions, conclusions, and predictions are for higher-level academic writers.

Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML
Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML
by Eric Freeman
Edition: Paperback
235 used & new from $0.01

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Intro to XHTML and CSS, February 8, 2006
What distinguishes "Head First: HTML With CSS and XHTML" from the plenitude of books about learning about creating web pages is its novel teaching approach. It takes knowledge from modern developments in the science of cognition to develop a teaching approach designed to increase learning and retention using a checklist of techniques. It emphasizes use of visual and graphic elements to facilitate learning, the placing of words near graphics, use of a conversational and personalized writing style, engaging the reader's emotions, and grabbing attention by eye and brain-catching presentations. All of this is plausible pedagogically and I believe it works. After reading 655 pages of technical material, rarely did it feel tedious, difficult, or confusing.

The subject matter is basic coding with XHTML and CSS and is designed for beginner code writers and web page creators. It explains basic material for understanding and writing standards-compliant code. It is not a reference book and it does not dig deeply into its topics. Many readers may find the instructional approach highly appealing as it does make reading fun. Learning is likely to be enhanced by the brain stimulation provided by the many dozens of activities, like crossword puzzles, tests, exercises, and question and answer sections.

This is a handsomely produced volume with heavyweight glossy paper, clear, detailed photographs, and many illustrations and graphics. It is easy on the eye and stimulating to the brain. The discussion is suitable for virtually any beginners in XHTML and CSS. The presentation will appeal to the MTV generation especially, with its high density of graphics, bold illustrations, and low-density text.

Authors Elisabeth Freeman and Eric Freeman are software developers and computer scientists. The book emphasizes standards-compliant coding for all the right reasons - newer browsers may not correctly display older noncompliant code, accessibility for handicapped web users is heightened, efficiencies in code writing is enhanced, and more options are available for web page authors to display and style their content. It covers HTML 4.01 and XHTML, and covers both Mac and PC aspects of the topics.

After a couple of very basic chapters dealing with rudimentary HTML and hypertext, the authors turn to the building blocks of satisfactory, compliant coding - sketching structures, adding elements, learning inline vs. block element positioning, and similar items.

There are small sections throughout which inform on various related matters, like dealing with different browsers, using a hosting company and organizing one's site, but the bulk and better of the material deals with systematic construction of web pages using essential building blocks.

Headings, paragraphs, images, element identification, and the various components of CSS styling are carefully described and explained via examples using sample sites. The writing throughout is very clear and straightforward (as enhanced by the teaching elements noted earlier). The best chapter in my view is Chapter 10 explaining the "box model" of XHTML elements. The components of padding, margins, content, and body are very well illustrated within the context of the examples.

The chapter on layout is also very well done, showing how to create two and three column layouts and addressing how to handle common layout problems in positioning. Other matters covered include floating elements, liquid and frozen designs, and relative and absolute positioning.

Later chapters cover using XHTML to create lists, tables and forms, and then styling with CSS. The sections or CSS are very clear, but limited. This is an introduction, after all, and most of the most important and useful style components are described and illustrated. More advanced components like DIV and SPAN are covered nicely. The sections on classes and pseudo-classes are well done.

This is a fine introduction to the topics for the nontechnical reader. Higher-level computer types will not be satisfied; those people not attracted to the unconventional presentation may not be pleased. But, for the most part, this is a worthwhile introduction to the topics.

PHP 5 Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach
PHP 5 Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach
by Frank M. Kromann
Edition: Paperback
Price: $44.99
64 used & new from $0.13

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice addition to the php 5 literature, November 30, 2005
With all the books being published recently about PHP a new one will need to find and fill a niche to distinguish itself. "PHP 5 Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach", published by Apress, has done so, in my view. This is an intermediate-level volume exploring PHP 5 using a "recipe" approach where the basics of PHP 5's functionality are expressed systematically but in a "small-topic" by "small-topic" manner. Cookbook style, each topic is relatively autonomous and can be individually selected, as necessary, for information or review, similarly to how many refer to the "Joy of Cooking" for help on a cooking project. It's a source for instant solutions to common PHP-related problems. There are over 200 such recipes presented.

Each of these "recipes" refers to a small element or aspect of PHP 5 and the presentations contain a brief overview of the topic, an explanation of how the code elements work, and where the code is applicable in projects. Overall, the book covers the whole range of PHP 5 functionality where each major element of PHP 5 is addressed in a recipe explaining and illuminating relevant code elements. You can easily get information about a specific PHP 5 element by going directly to the section of the book where it appears. Even better, the code snippets are designed to allow one to copy and paste them into your own applications or development easily and then to configure them as necessary. All of the code snippets are freely available for downloading at the publisher's website at [...].

There are 16 chapters and an index covering a total of 646 pages. The chapters are organized similarly to other PHP primers, covering the basic elements of PHP - data types, operations, arrays, strings, variables, files and directories, dates and times, functions, and regular expressions. The coverage for much of these concepts is relatively mundane and unoriginal. The discussion of dynamic imaging, however, is an exception. The writing throughout, however, is solid and clear. The book emphasizes the most important elements of new PHP 5. The object-oriented programming elements especially are covered - classes, objects, protected class variables, exception handling, interfaces, and the new mysqli database extension. The authors' discussions focus on PHP 5.0.4, MySQL 4.1, and cover Linux and Windows environments.

The book is directed at PHP programmers looking to learn the elements introduced by PHP 5, and for those looking to find fast solutions to coding problems. It assumes a basic knowledge of PHP. Many of the recipes discuss object-oriented programming and these are some of the more advanced sections of the book. I can say that Chapter 2, which introduces the object-oriented concepts is one of the better explanations of the topic that I've read. The chapter covers constructors, destructors, methods and properties, class diagrams and examples of these concepts at work in code snippets. There are a number of interesting segments containing custom coding of classes as reusable templates from which to create "objects".

The book is well-designed and written. The discussion is clear and logical. The code snippets are well-explained. The authors are experienced programmers and developers, and Good and Stephens have authored or co-authored a number of technical books.

A large handful of the recipes contain "projects", usually appearing at the end of the overview and presentation of code snippets covering the basics of the topics. The projects usually deal with the creation of higher-end classes and objects as solutions to common coding problems. The idea here is to show PHP 5 functionality at work providing useful code sections to be dropped into your custom applications. Chapter Five concludes with a sophisticated class dealing with dates and times issues. Other chapters contain constructions of string, file, graphics, and regular expression classes.

The last five chapters deal with using the PHP code in web applications and services. This material covers cookies (including construction of a cookie class), using HTTP headers, sessions, and using query strings. Much of this material has been covered elsewhere in the many primers on PHP already published. There is a chapter on using forms and an interesting chapter on working with markup. The better chapters are on using DOM to generate markup, parsing XML, using RSS feeds, SOAP, and simple XML. The chapter on mysql is basic, except for the section on creating a "wrapper" class. The last chapter deals with communicating with Internet services, like POP, iMap, and FTP. Another project presented here is one creating object-oriented code dealing with a mail class.

This is a useful book to have in a programmer's library.

Essential PHP Security
Essential PHP Security
by Chris Shiflett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $28.62
81 used & new from $0.01

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of php security matters, November 2, 2005
This review is from: Essential PHP Security (Paperback)
You would think that with all of the books being published recently about PHP that everyone and his mother is writing PHP code. This may be true, but even if it is not, it is certain that many people and businesses are using PHP code, in concert with other applications like MySQL, to produce dynamic web sites. This is all well and good because PHP is a high-quality coding language especially well-suited to web applications. It is also open-source, meaning well-supported by a community of coders and developers and cost-free. The one problem is that, like all coding languages, poorly designed or written PHP applications can be security risks potentially allowing Internet miscreants to cause damage to web servers, hosts, and users. It appears to be the case that there are many, many instances of insecure PHP code in use, hence, the value in a targeted book on PHP security, like "Essential PHP Security", by Chris Shiflett.

The author is an internationally-known and accomplished expert on PHP security. He is the founder of the PHP Security Consortium, a group of volunteers who help educate the PHP community, and a well-known contributor to the PHP-general mail digest. The book is designed to provide security information and guidelines and explain the most common types of attacks and how to prevent or repel them.

"Essential PHP Security" is a slight volume of only 109 pages, including index. Shiflett wastes no time and immediately jumps into his topic, starting with his opinion on the use of the PHP concept of "register globals", a configuration setting which he recommends against using in favor of "superglobal arrays". He next turns to how to configure your web server setup to properly deal with error reporting, both for the developer's use and to prevent providing clues to any interloper trying to illegally access your site.

The balance of Chapter 1 itemizes general principles of Internet security: Defense in Depth - redundantly using more than one technique to secure your site; Least Privileges - writing code to minimize access to the least needed for any particular user's needs; Simple is Beautiful - the writing of clear, simple code, to make troubleshooting and auditing easier; and Minimize Exposure - taking steps to design and implement programs to eliminate or at least minimize display of sensitive data or code - don't even store credit card information unless absolutely necessary, he suggests.

Next, comes "Best Practices" - balancing risk vs. usability, keeping track of data, filtering of all input, escaping output, and in all cases, distinguishing between filtered and tainted data. These principles and practices are illustrated with short code snippets comparing insecure vs. more secure code.

The next seven chapters deal with specific elements of a website, the types of attacks that can occur with each, and tips and suggestions on how to deal with these attacks. These elements include vulnerabilities in forms and URLs, databases and SQL, sessions and cookies, PHP "include" files, files and commands, authentication and authorization, and shared hosting.

The author credibly describes by examples the types of attacks against forms and URLs - cross-site scripting, cross site request forgeries, spoofing of forms, and insecure Raw HTTP requests. Authentication attacks include dictionary attacks, password sniffing, replay attacks, and cookie stealing. For each, he briefly describes how the attacks work, shows examples of insecure code, and provides examples of secure code.

For each of the elements dealt with, the author follows the same model: describe briefly the types of attacks against each element, show conventionally-used insecure code, and show how to eliminate the insecure parts of the code. Most of the security defenses entail filtering data from outside sources, especially form input, email, and XML documents from other web applications. Other defense techniques include using SSL for encrypted data transmissions, strengthening identification methods, hard-coding file paths, and using token techniques in addition to PHP encryption functions. Interestingly, Schiflett believes it is impossible to achieve a high level of security in a shared hosting situation. He provides suggestions on what security measures will help the most.

What is most useful about this book is the aggregation in one place of descriptions of all of these security attacks, and vulnerabilities in PHP code, along with suggestions on dealing with them. The organization of the material is good, however. I believe the author falls short in his code examples. There appears to be a disconnect between the descriptive text (which is clear enough) and the examples, which are not, at least to me, a novice in PHP. I could not readily follow the detailed code segments, although I could understand in principle what was going on.

Some of the code segments were barely explained and some were inadequately explained. The concepts of the attacking techniques were understandable, but the detailed implementations were not. There are a small handful of illustrations, but I found them too simplistic and inadequate. To be fair, this may be a failure of the reviewer. More experienced PHP folks may not complain about the presentations. For them, this book gives them what they need to know about handling the security aspects of their applications, but my guess is that it is the less accomplished coders who need the most help (although those same people are probably writing the types of applications and sites least likely to be targeted by miscreants.)

There are three short appendices presenting suggestions on how to configure a PHP installation to minimize weaknesses, suggestions about avoiding certain powerful PHP functions, especially system commands, to minimize risk, and a short segment on cryptography features in PHP.

Podcasting Hacks: Tips and Tools for Blogging Out Loud
Podcasting Hacks: Tips and Tools for Blogging Out Loud
by Jack D. Herrington
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.95
67 used & new from $0.06

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great primer!, October 30, 2005
Podcasting appears to be one of the more interesting developments in current culture and technology. It is one of the earliest nonbusiness representations of the value and power of XML (Extensible Markup Language). XML is subtly and quietly being used to link digital documents together, and more significantly, databases, much like the Internet itself linked individual computers into a global network.

The power of XML is yet to be fully recognized, but its expression in podcasting has far-reaching effects and consequences all by itself. Way beyond extending audio distribution over the Internet and providing relatively easy access for creative types to a global distribution channel, podcasting may alter and extend the distribution of content in ways never experienced before, having repercussions for political communication, social expression, and democracy itself.

Podcasting can be considered, in general, a melding of several elements: digital audio, weblogs, radio, Tivo-like recording/playing devices, and RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS is the protocol extending XML allowing creators to publish content to audiences who can easily subscribe and partake remotely in both space and time. It is much more than merely an alternative to conventional radio.

Given all of this asserted importance, the new book, "Podcasting Hacks: Tips & Tools for Blogging Out Loud" is perfectly timed to provide guidance on how to find, listen to, and subscribe to podcasts as well as how to create, publish, and market audio and video content. This is a comprehensive introduction to nearly all aspects of podcasting. It covers not only the technological elements but the content and creative elements as well. Much of the later material draws on analog sources like radio and television broadcasting. Many of the content elements are shared across the technology distinctions. Good interviewing techniques and content stylings, for example, are the same regardless of how produced and distributed. The major theme here is how to produce quality audio which can attract audiences via digital distribution over the now ubiquitous Internet.

The book has 11 chapters covering how to find podcasts, starting out in listening and creating podcasts, producing quality sound, using formats, interviewing, blogging, publicity, basic editing, advanced audio, mobility, and video blogging.

The main author is Jack D. Herrington, a software engineer and developer and technology writer and reviewer. There are 20 other contributors to the book, including journalists, multimedia consultants, radio and video producers, web editors, and podcasters themselves, particularly several who have popularized the medium.

The book has two main focuses - how to find and listen to podcasts and how to produce your own. The later focus consumes most of the book and deals with producing the best sound (with the lowest noise), producing interesting content, marketing, getting involved in the community, and even how to get your audio masterpieces into syndication.

Although this book is part of the venerable O'Reilly series of "Hacks", the 75 "hacks" contained here work more like captions for various sub topics under the podcasting rubric. The book is less a collection of individually-packaged solutions to discrete problems or issues, but a primer on the whole of podcasting.

The first two chapters provide a list of the best and most popular podcasts, and directions on how to search directories of podcasts on the web. Apple's iTunes software broadly popularized podcasting only a short while ago by including a built-in directory of podcasts in version 4.9 of iTunes. How to get and use the right podcaster for your interests is explained, as well as some recommendations of specific applications - iPodder gets good reviews. Hack #2 offers a perl script which allows one to aggregate and rebroadcast feeds from other sources. Hacks 3 & 4 also describe perl scripts to build your own podcasts and to import podcasts into iTunes, (both PC and Mac versions.)

Using perl scripts is not for everyone, but the content of this book is fairly broad, having interest and value for a wide range of technological types, from higher level geeks to the person who is only casually interested in this new technology and content. Throughout, when discussing common software applications, the authors pointedly cover each of the main platforms - Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux and both technical production and content. Hack 10, for instance. is a technological hack; it relates how to create your first podcast using the freeware, Audacity. Hack 11 is a content-related hack instructing how to produce the content of a podcast and how to understand the respective roles of producer, writer, engineer, host, editor, and performer.

Surprisingly, one can get started producing podcasts relatively easily using a very modest amount of hardware and a little software, including mostly freeware or modestly-priced applications. The authors go out of their way in many of the hacks to point out how to select and acquire production materials at low cost. They often recommend specific products and services making it as easy as possible for readers to believe they can actively participate in podcasting with relatively modest efforts and budget.

The segments on formats describes what a format is in terms of duration, structure, content, and production elements. Some of the many types of formats are itemized and described - news, story show, personal show, political, mystery science theatre, music, sports, technology, and news. The segments for each of these contains information on important sources for content, examples of use, and tips for producing content. Each type has its own strengths, limitations, and pitfalls. An overly enthusiastic personal show, for example, can get you fired from your job if your boss accesses and hears something he/she doesn't like. (It has happened more than once, according to news resources).

There is an enormous amount of material presented in this book with excellent attention to details. The audio theatre type of format, for example, includes an itemization of the structure of a typical show - the story, script, studio setup, performances (with directorial prompts), mixing and encoding audio, and even how to make your own sound effects. Hack 33 describes techniques professionals use in producing interviews - types of interviews, location considerations, preparing guests, interviewing techniques, using environment sound ambience, and even microphone techniques. A large handful of the contributors make reference to how to use microphones properly emphasizing the need to control wind, voice pops, environmental noises and the like. There is even guidance on training one's voice for audio (Hack #19).

Virtually every possible element of podcasting is noted in this book. Some other topics include: how to record telephone interviews, including Skype conversations (#34); how to podcast using blogs (with examples of HTML and XML coding); how to manage bandwidth (#39); how to use ID3 tags for your audio to facilitate searches (#40); how to market, connect with the community, and even how to make money while podcasting (#48-49).

More advanced topics are handled later in the book. Learn basic editing using the right audio tools in Hacks#50-58. Hack 61 details how to set up a home studio. A very interesting section tells how to be mobile while podcasting including making a small recording rig for travel as well as podcasting directly from your car while driving. (Sounds unsafe to me and illegal in some states, as noted by the authors). Other sections take up, directly and at length, the legalities of podcasting covering copyrights, libel, licensing, and more. An interesting explanation of "Creative Commons" licensing is contained in #67- 68. To cap it all off, there is a useful glossary of digital and analog audio terminology and an index.

As you might expect, given the presence of 21 contributors, not all hacks are as good as some, and there is considerable repetition of some elements, like microphone handling, production concepts, and others. However, these are small quibbles for such an information- packed volume of modest cost.

The Definitive Guide to MySQL 5 (Definitive Guides (Paperback))
The Definitive Guide to MySQL 5 (Definitive Guides (Paperback))
by Michael Kofler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $36.61
74 used & new from $0.01

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely a definitive guide, October 30, 2005
"The Definitive Guide to MySQL5 3rd Edition" certainly deserves its title. It is a large, dense, complete guide to MySQL and updates its predecessor edition by covering new MySQL5 and new auxiliary software including database administration tools and interfaces. MySQL is the open-source database software which has become very popular for web-based database applications now being used by Yahoo, NASA, Slashdot, and other entities.

The author of this book, Michael Kofler, has a Ph.D. degree in computer science and is an accomplished writer of technical books. The audience is intermediate to high-level database designers and programmers. Although the presentation assumes little prior knowledge of MySQL and databases, it does assume a good amount of contact with and knowledge of programming languages. The topic of this book does not lend itself to an easy, flowing writing style. Reading through this complex material is like chewing on heavy New England pound cake. That is not a criticism of the author as he thoroughly presents the topics in a comprehensive, workmanlike, textbook-like manner. The discussions of databases and MySQL features are lightened by numerous table, charts, graphics, and examples of relevant matters.

The updating from the 2nd Edition of "The Definitive Guide" involves the upgrade of MySQL from version 4.1 to 5.0 which now provides support for Unicode, the sub-SELECT and GIS functions, improved authorization features, addition of stored procedures, and other new commands and server options. It also includes discussion of new or updated auxiliary software used with MySQL, like PHPAdmin and new interfaces for Open Office, Star Office, and Apo.NET.

There are six parts with twenty-three chapters and 3 appendices, amounting to 748 pages with index. The parts entail an introduction to MySQL and databases, administrative tools and user interfaces, fundamentals of database design, programming using MySQL, and detailed content references. The appendices include short segments of a glossary, bibliography, and notes about the sample code files available for downloading from the publisher's website at [...]

The beginning chapters introduce the basic concepts of MySQL including its client-server architecture, tables, fields, queries, keys, and the distinction between relational and object-oriented databases. The author focuses the bulk of the book on relational databases. The many features of MySQL are itemized and other matters like licensing and setting up test environments are discussed. A large segment of this early material offers instruction on installing under Windows and Unix/Linux platforms and configuring the installations for function, usability, and security. An introductory example of building an opinion poll application with PHP is provided.

Chapters 4 - 6 cover a number of administrative tools to use with MySQL, including mysqladmin, mysqldump, and PHPAdmin. The author spells out how to install and configure, set up user management and security, create and edit databases, import and export data, and use auxiliary functions, among other things.

The best chapter, in my view, is Chapter 8 on database design. The technical aspects of databases are well-covered, like the various table types and data types, but the more theoretical aspects are noted in some length. There is some art in creating databases and tables which is above the technological. Correct design with related tables is crucial to efficiency, ease of use, accuracy, ability to revise, and consistency. A segment on "tips and tricks" in database design is especially interesting.

The bulk of Part 3 contains a comprehensive presentation of SQL features, syntax, configuration, and security issues, The new functions of version 5 are explored, like GIS and stored procedures and triggers. A section on transactions for advanced users and setups is nicely done. For novice users, mention is made of the "...I-am-a-dummy" option which warns and provides a second chance to avoid inadvertent updating or deleting of a table. Chapter 14 is all about maintenance issues - backing up, importing, logging, and replication.

Part 4 deals with how to combine MySQL with programming languages like PHP, perl, Java, C, Visual Basic, and Visual Basic.NET. Each is treated similarly - detailing features, concepts, syntax, and programming techniques. Most of the attention is given to PHP, which is described as a natural companion to MySQL for use in developing dynamic web applications.

Chapter 21 is a comprehensive SQL reference of operations, functions, data types, variables and constants, and commands. There are a large number of charts and tables to bring order to the dense material. Chapter 23 contains material on the various API's which can interact with MySQL. These include PHP.API, perl.API, JDBC, ADO-net, and C.API.

For those with a need to know, and those with a desire to learn MySQL, this volume contains nearly everything you would want and expect, not only about MySQL itself but about the software that interacts with it or web servers. The author deserves credit for presenting the dense material in a thorough and orderly manner.

Core Web Application Development with PHP and MySQL
Core Web Application Development with PHP and MySQL
by Marc Wandschneider
Edition: Paperback
Price: $49.97
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice strategic overview, October 30, 2005
"Core Web Application Development with PHP and MySQL" is an intermediate to advanced-level guide for programmers and developers. It bills itself as "everything one needs to know about building robust database applications". That is a bit of puffery but this is a comprehensive practical guide for designing and building production-quality, database-enabled applications.

The author is an open-source platform expert and software developer. He comes from a background of working with standard desktop Windows-based applications and made the transition to building dynamic web applications. His experience in making the transition informs this book as a comprehensive explanation of how to use the various technologies that go into writing web applications. For those making similar transitions, this is a very fine presentation done by a thoughtful, systematic designer. For those already busy in the PHP/MySQL area, the advanced level of instruction is likely to be valuable.

The emphasis is on open-source applications, particularly PHP5 and MySQL in an XHTML/Javascript environment. But, beyond technologies, the author's focus is on the strategies and systematic approach one needs to design and implement successful web applications. He writes for an advanced audience which is already basically familiar with programming and XHTML. Those writing or planning dynamic web applications will benefit most from the book.

There are 33 chapters in five parts - basics of PHP, database basics, planning web applications, implementation, and sample projects. There are three appendices covering installation and configuration of PHP, MySQL, and other related open-source applications like Apache, a set of charts of database function equivalents among the leading database types - MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and a short list of recommended reading.

This is a large format book of 912 pages, including index. My reviewer's copy is a prepublication version containing grayscale graphics and much white space, especially around the code snippets, making reading easy and comfortable. Although the material is high-level and technical, the writing seems light and casual. Wandschneider's writing style flows easily, never bogs down even with technical details, and the book reads much faster than one might expect.

Although the best part of the book contains the three start-to-finish sample projects at the end - a calendar system, weblog engine, and e-commerce store, the lead-in chapters are nicely done, too. Chapters 1 and 2 are about getting started in PHP. There is a brief comparison to perl and C++, but the bulk is about PHP terminology and programming concepts. Much is made of PHP5's new object-oriented features, but the discussions of that here (and in Chapter 4) was about the only parts which I feel needed more clarity - the rest of the chapters are very clearly stated and contain plenty of good examples.

Chapters 3 - 7 continue with scripting concepts like functions, classes, arrays, strings and characters. The discussion is not designed to instruct comprehensively about PHP itself but works on a higher level of showing how PHP interacts with MySQL and other technologies on an overall basis. You can get detailed PHP coding instructions elsewhere. Chapter 6 contains an unusually good discussion of character sets, usable for global applications, and provides instructions on configuring Unicode and multi-byte support for high-level applications.

Part 2, Chapters 8 - 12, take the same approach to MySQL and databases in general. They include discussion of basic terminology and concepts, designing and creating databases, storing and retrieving data, PHP-to-database connectivity, and advanced topics, like use of "transactions" and advanced querying.

Part 3, Chapters 13 - 17, deal with the server-side matters. Again, the level of presentation is not on comprehensive details of PHP, MySQL, and web services, but present a comprehensive overview to guide planning, design, and implementation. Here the author states overall design considerations of a website noting how to incorporate CSS, HTML, code libraries, user interfaces, and web services into a working dynamic website.

User management and security concerns are noted throughout the book and Chapters 14 - 17 deal specifically with validation, and software and hardware security, including tips on how to secure your server. These passages on security are some of the better and clearest written I've experienced in this area.

Part IV continues the systematic approach to website construction discussing error handling, debugging, cookies, and sessions (again some of the clearest explanations I've read), authorization, and data validation with regular expressions. Chapter 21 is entirely about globalization and localization that is, dealing with the fact that the Internet is global and that there is a need to deal with foreign language sets. There are tips on how to determine users' locations and how to script to account for different language sets, including Unicode.

Chapters 23 and 27 are about XML and are especially useful now that XML and XHTML are becoming the reigning protocols of dynamic web activity. There is an extensive sample of using XML to work with the Google API. Using XML with PHP is an advanced topic and it is only generally covered here, together with XML web services and SOAP. Other chapters cover the use of extensions to PHP, like PEAR, developing a coding "style", creating test suites, configuring PHP.ini, and more. The three working examples are extensively commented and contain complete code examples.

The book comes with a comparison CD-ROM containing all of the sample code, and versions of PHP5, MySQL, and Apache HTTP server.

Watching My Friend Die: The Honest Death of Bob Schwartz (American Catholic Experience)
Watching My Friend Die: The Honest Death of Bob Schwartz (American Catholic Experience)
by Mark Hare
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from $2.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written book., July 24, 2005
Mark Hare's "Watching My Friend Die: The Honest Death of Bob Schwartz", is a remarkable little book. Ostensibly, this is a story book of a mere 142 pages, well-told, about the lingering death from pancreatic cancer of a well-loved Rochester, NY teacher and songwriter at the tender age of 49. But it is also a story about the author's candid personal reactions to the circumstances of his friend's death and his introspective musings about death, faith, and life choices. The thoughts and questionings expressed are rightly thought by the author as more than just his own but likely to be experienced by others in similar circumstances, hence worthy of being expressed in a book. Hare's introspection results in some positive realizations for him, like the value of hope, community, and his Catholic faith. Hare is liberal enough to believe that these things may or may not be similarly valued by others, but he makes the case that one can learn a great deal about life choices from the experience of death. The book is part of a series published by ACTA Publications of reflections of lay Catholics on what it means to live out the Catholic faith in the midst of life's joys and challenges.

What initially fascinated the author about the death of Bob Schwartz was how Bob refused to die what some would call "the good death"; that is, an accepting, contemplative, deliberate windup of one's life and relationships with others. It implies a quiet expiration where the dying one tries to make the least demands on his care givers.

There was none of this for Bob Schwartz, an ebullient man who cherished life, lived life fully, and did not want to see it end. He refused to accept the inevitability and immanence of his death and acted to the end as if he would never accept it. This attitude placed increased and extraordinary demands on Bob's family, friends, and care givers. It seemed selfish in a way. It was not a "good death" by conventional understanding.

The author's primary theme focuses on a comparison between the so-called "good death" and Bob's type of death. Bob was true to himself, his history, and his nature. For him to do it any other way would have been personally dishonest. For a man who lived a good, community-oriented, selfless life, to give up on that attitude would be difficult and wrong. Hence, the admiration of Bob's way by those who observed his difficult demise, despite the hardships. Bob's death, like his life, was honest, and despite the difficulties of his death process, his way of dying was probably the best choice for him. In his case, an honest death trumped the virtues of the "good death".

For anyone who has experienced closely the lingering death of a relative or friend, it is no surprise to learn of the availability of a huge number of personal memories and journalistic pieces about the experience. It certainly is one of the most impactful, poignant, challenging, and provocative experiences one can have. Hare's description of the honest death of Bob Schwartz involving the tragic alteration of Bob's expectations and wants, the effects on his family and his large community of friends and associates, the gritty details of his physical decline, and the emotional moments of the entire 22-month process would be, all by itself, a worthwhile read.

Hare is a natural storyteller, being a community columnist for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper. He writes several columns per week framing stories based on local news, events, and topics relevant to the paper's readership. Like a knowledgeable and experienced photographer who understands he "makes" pictures rather than merely "takes" pictures, a good story writer like Hare "makes" a story, not just by topic selection, but by the shaping of the story, entwining factual elements with more general themes of community history, morals, and values, and relating a message (or messages) for the readership to consider. He has the ability to express himself in very accessible language written for the "average Joe", and has a very economical writing style, using the fewest words and phrases to express ideas and events. Each word and phrase appears to be carefully weighed and chosen to perform its literary function. There is an "Everyman-like" quality of expression to a community of "Everymen" readers.

But beyond the story of Bob's life and death, there is the parallel story of Hare's participation in the process of Bob's dying and how it affected him. The author is unusually frank about his feelings and thoughts during his participation in Bob's lingering death, a man of his same age. He feels compelled to question his own life and expectations about the "good death". He relates his innermost feelings on a variety of the experiences Bob was undergoing and asking himself over and over again, would he, if he was in Bob's position, make the same choices. If not, what choices and whose choices are better? Hare is intellectually honest enough to know that no one can answer those questions for anyone else, but that each individual has to decide for himself.

He comes to a realization that maintenance of honesty and sincerity is more important than the conventional virtues of a "good death". More importantly, Bob's way of dying helps to illuminate a person's understanding of life. Bob's life and his inability or unwillingness to accept death provides lessons for the living. What matters most is how one chooses to live one's life. And, choice is a paramount concept for all of us. You can say that, in effect, Bob chose his own way of dying - an admirable, honest way of dying. Bob also made good choices in his life, proven by the existence of his supportive family, huge number of friends, and acquaintances who believed he was a great person. Obviously, the author was impressed enough to tell Bob's story in this book.

"Watching My Friend Die" is more than the simply- stated stories of Bob's choice of dying and Hare's reactions to it. Barely noticeable among the story lines are slight threads of humanism and existential themes. Hare describes the very human beliefs, emotions, psychology, and physicality of the dying protaganist and those others involved in the experience. People have complex and conflicting responses to their life experiences and the personal responsibility they have in life outcomes including the death experience. There is, maybe, like in Bob's case at his very end, uncertainty and doubts about even the most important things including the existence and nature of God. One tends to develop enhanced recognition of the personal choices in both life and death available to each of us.

Throughout there are questions. There are also answers, at least for Hare. His answer is faith, primarily expressed in Catholic concepts, but in actuality touching upon spirituality in general. He emphasizes the value of his own personal faith in God and in the "Community of Saints" - that group of people both living and dead who provide support for those faced with tragedy and death.

For such a slender book, this work layers the interesting story of Bob's noble death, a story of the author's learning about himself through his experience of Bob's death, and some universal philosophical themes about life and death. The author states that he writes to make some difference - to try to help others in the community to improve their own lives. This well-written, accessible book seems to be an ideal choice for reading lists for educators teaching about such important topics as death, religion, and existential and humanist philosophies.

Spring Into PHP 5
Spring Into PHP 5
by Steve Holzner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $39.99
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good primer on PHP 5, May 26, 2005
This review is from: Spring Into PHP 5 (Paperback)
"Spring Into PHP 5" is a primer on the latest version of the popular server-based scripting language, PHP. It is part of a new "Spring Into" series of books from Prentice Hall which intend to provide concise, fast-paced tutorials for new and developing technologies primarily for non-professionals and those professionals who need or want a quick and easy way to transition to new technology.

The author, Steven Holzner, is a prolific writer on technology, having penned 88 programming books as well as being a contributor to PC Magazine. His intent here is to make a technological topic like PHP scripting accessible, especially for novices who have little familiarity with web-related language other than HTML. He states an intent to produce "as good a book on PHP as can be". This is a good book but lacks depth and completeness and does not cover many practical uses of PHP. There is minimal discussion of security issues. There are other publications which would complement this book. The examples of PHP scripts are very simple and sometimes not practical.

The structure of the book is represented in nine chapters covering the basics of PHP for web designers. Each chapter is separately divided into "chunks" - bite-sized pieces of material - supported by examples and illustrated code snips. Each chunk is only about 1-2 pages long and is meant to be a self-contained "module", while building upon others in the book. Downloadable code examples are available at (...).

Holzner starts by briefly describing the why and how of PHP and quickly moves to installation issues. The following chapters cover the essentials of using PHP on a modest-sized website. The concepts of PHP are explained first - the terms, operations, syntax, components, and more.

Chapter 3 discusses strings and arrays. Chapter 4 covers functions. Chapter 5 and 6 show how to use PHP to control web pages, web forms and user interactivity. The usefulness of PHP for connecting to and using databases is noted.

Later chapters cover object-oriented programming, file handling, and working with databases. The final chapter skims a handful of useful aspects of PHP programming - using cookies and sessions, the ftp and mail features, and more.

Perhaps the most useful parts of the book are the two appendices. Appendix A is a listing of PHP's language elements. Appendix B is a comprehensive reference of PHP functions.

This is a rather light introduction to PHP, primarily for novices. There are useful tables of string and array functions and illustrations or examples on nearly every page. The illustrations and examples are produced in grayscale instead of full-color, but there is no need for full-color glossy production elements in a book of this type. The cost savings are reflected in the book's price - only $29.95 - less than others covering the same or similar material.

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