Mstation Book Reviews
Valid RSS pre Dec 04 reviews are here

Sat, 01 Oct 2005

Smartphone Hacks

Michael Juntao Yuan, Nokia Smartphone Hacks, O'Reilly

This stuff is fun. Take your Symbian Series 60 phone (and there are quite a few bits that refer to the less-smart Series 40s) and make it do interesting things that you hadn't thought about or had time to think about.

Things like using it as remote control for your Mac or PC, playing with the GUI and ringtones, reading blogs, playing DVD movies and music, and lots more. It even tells you how to set up a mobile phone friendly web portal.

The book starts out with phone choices and then gets into data plans before exploring the phone itself and then having a look at the various aspects you can play with. More to the point, it might give you ideas to do things that haven't been done yet.

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Podcasting Hacks

Jack D. Herrington, Podcasting Hacks, O'Reilly

This will tell you pretty much all you need to know about podcasting including the basics of sound recording. As such, it is more of a manual than a hacks book, but it can still be delved into in a random way to yield all kinds of interesting information. If you're starting from scratch, then this is as good a place to go as any and reading straight through will be rewarding.

When Mstation is out about we quite often have to explain what a podcast is, even to people you'd suspect would already know. A podcast is usually an mp3 audio file which is tagged in RSS 2.00 format (which adds an enclosure tag). The original idea was that they would be played on iPods or similar but they can just be downloaded and played on anything that will handle it, an ordinary computer with a soundcard, for instance. The RSS 2.00 feed is added to a blog or auto generated with a script and the feed is subscribed to by people with "podcatchers" like iPodder or iPodderX. These programs automatically download new episodes as they become available.

The whole idea of the thing was to bring broadcasting to anyone who wanted to try it -- no government licences to worry about and no big, expensive studios to buy. Grass roots voices could be heard without the filters of corporate agendas, or government regulation (so far). None of that guarantees quality, wisdom, or fairness, but then neither does the other system. In any case, it's a big, new, and interesting world and you could easily be a part of it if you liked.

Oh, and by the way, Mstation podcasts can be found here.

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Linux, Moving to and a Guide to

Marcel Gagne, Moving to Linux,
Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!,
2nd ed., Addison Wesley, with CD

Readers of the Linux Journal will know Marcel from his regular column there which, I think it's fair to say, some people find amusing and educational while others find it annoying.

This book is not annoying though. It is a straightforward trip through the process of leaving Windows which is made easier by the inclusion of a CD with Knoppix Linux on it.

You are guided through the hardware situation and then on to working with Linux as a substitute for Windows -- what do I use to get my email, browse the web, play with graphics, play my toons and DVDs? etc. It's a sensible approach that is aimed at a reasonably sensible person. People who want to go on to become gurus will need another book as well.

Peter van der Linden, Guide to Linux, Prentice Hall,
 with CD

I'm not going to compare this book and Marcel Gagne's. They both cover much the same ground but with a different emphasis and a slightly different audience in mind. This book, for example, is slightly more detailed, and uses the Linpire Live CD for Linux.

It starts out looking at the desktop (KDE) and then X Windows, and then onto the internet and home networking. After that, there's email and web browsing, package handling and compiling. There are sections on burning and playing DVDs and CDs as well. There's even a section on encryption of files and emails.

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Hari Kunzru, Transmission, Penguin

The main protagonist is an Indian comp-sci grad who seeks fame and fortune working in the USA. He lands a slave visa job and things proceed to get humourously, disastrously, complicated.

If there's a problem, it's that technically knowledgable people will feel the author has absorbed a good bit about the subject but that it's all veneer and liable to fall into holes. It's like dumbed-down geekness. Another thing is the sheer unlikability of most of the characters. We can probably blame irony for most of that.

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iPod Shuffle

J.D.Biersdorfer, iPod Schuffle Fan Book, O'Reilly

Mstation hasn't seen the Fan Book series before. It has a small, graphically rich, format with lots of colour. This book goes through the cheapest iPod, the Shuffle, and tells how it works, what it does, and how to make things happen on it as well as dressing it up. The book could be useful for people thinking of buying a Shuffle to find out more about it or it might be a nice companion present if you're giving someone a Shuffle.

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Wrong About Japan

Peter Carey, Wrong About Japan, Faber and Faber

A nice but slight little book about the author and his son exploring the Japan of Anime and Manga and meeting some Otaku along the way.

People interested in the detail of Japanese Culture (and the detail is the point) will find little nuggets of interest on the way through.

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