Sunday, January 21, 2007

iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual

Some say lightening can never strike the same place twice. The Missing Manual series proves that wrong. David Pogue and the O'Reilly gang constantly hit the mark and spark creativity and knowledge in a variety of programs.

IPhoto 6 covers absolutely every aspect of digital photography on your Mac, leaving few stones unturned. In order to make sure you get the great photos you need and minimized the editing needed in iPhoto, Derrick Story and David Pogue make sure you buy the right digital camera for your needs and tells you the basics of lighting and composition. After reading that chapter, I looked at my own iPhoto library and understand why I liked certain shots and why others ended up on the digital darkroom floor.

After explaining how to buy a camera and create great photos, the authors take you through the steps of using iPhoto in logical order: importing, managing, outputting and of course backing up. More technical manuals need to do this. Instead of taking you through the features, they take you through the workflow.

The writing was typical of the series: clear, understandable with plenty of screen shots to explain the concepts. While I consider myself an expert on iPhoto, the book was full of subtle tips and tricks to shave hours off my digital photo management.

The strength of the book was definitely the extensive chapters on what to with your photos after they are in iPhoto. Photos are meant to be shared, not locked up in your hard drive. He went over not just the specifics of all the printing options such as photo books and calendars, but also using iMovie, iWeb, and iDVD to share the photos with the world.

The final chapters covered some more advanced options such as AppleScript and Automator. Unlike other Missing Manual books that simply point you to the website to download utilities, Pogue and Story explained some of these programs and how they can help you expand your iPhoto capabilities. The Appendix was definitely the icing on the cake handling practically every iPhoto error and it's solution, as well as walking you through the basics of every iPhoto menu command and its implications.

My only complaint was somewhat weak coverage on desktop printing of photos. I always get confused about the way to feed the photo paper and how to configure settings to get the proper output. iPhoto, the printer's software, the printer, and Mac OS X must all be in alignment to print properly. These days, I simply upload it to the drugstore website and print it there. Printing to services other than Apple's wasn't really covered either.

While iPhoto basics are simple and quick to learn, "iPhoto 6 the Missing Manual" helps you become the hands down master of digital photos on your Mac. Others will tremble in fear of your massive knowledge after reading this book cover to cover.

Pros: Covers every aspect of digital photography and makes everyone an iPhoto wiz.
Cons: Needed more coverage of desktop and third party printing of photos.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mac User's Guide to Living Wirelessly by Brad Miser

While wireless connectivity should be “plug and play,” in reality there are choices, compromises, and caveats when using wireless devices. The author effectively navigates the reader through the wonder world of wireless connectivity and while warning us of problems, does not make the process overly complex.

By far, this is the most hands on and effective book on wireless networking I have read! The book was very logically organized by first training the reader on all the lingo such as the difference between an Airport Extreme and Airport Express and all the 802.11 alphabet soup. Once establishing that baseline with the reader, Miser then gives the reader all the potential options of how to setup a wireless Mac network and then explains each step with plenty of simple diagrams and pictures. Other books I read on this subject quickly lose the reader with complex and unnecessary options. For example, Miser doesn’t go into detail about “port mapping” which allows you to use create a web server “behind” an airport. If someone needs to set up a webserver, they probably don’t need help setting up a wireless network. This book covers the practical aspects of wireless networking the typical Mac user would face. If someone wanted complex, they’d probably be using a PC!

I was particularly impressed with his hints on how to have certain parts of your network secure, while realizing that it may not be worth the hassle of securing other parts. Heck the guy even asks you to email him if you have any questions about setting up your network (though to be fair, he didn’t say the advice would be free, but I suspect it is!). Having setup thousands of wireless networks for clients, I really think he’s covered everything an average user would face. His wireless network troubleshooting section should be licensed by every ISP! Too often, when a user calls tech support and tells them they have a Airport Base Station–tech support blows them off and tells them to get a Linksys or other brand they know. Miser covers it all in his troubleshooting section. In fact, after reading his section you can avoid calling tech support all together….just pick up his book.

To add the proverbial icing on the cake, Misner covers another technology that would fall under the terms of wireless: Bluetooth. Bluetooth almost always works, but every once in a blue moon (pardon the pun) things don’t always click. He covers almost every major bluetooth peripheral you’d connect to your Mac. He even covers how to sync your phone. Cell phone companies are notoriously bad about assisting customers syncing with Macs. They say to call Apple. Apple says to call the cell phone provider, and you’re left stuck having to manually put in phone numbers to your phone. Finally, you can get those pictures off your cell phone and into iPhoto with Miser’s help.

Realizing that people that use wireless technology probably travel, Miser includes a brief section on how to find wireless networks and how to safely connect to them over the road.

Overall, an outstanding book for any Mac user wanting to setup and enhance their wireless experience.

Pros: Covers every aspect of using Apple’s Airport products to set up a wireless network and most of his advice is applicable to 3rd party products

Cons: Would have like to seen coverage of Linksys and other popular wireless products

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

New ways to manage your photos

After the holidays, there is never a shortage of photos. Children opening presents, holiday parties, and winter vacations all leave digital cameras overflowing with cherished memories. The problem, of course, is what to do with all those pictures. Wolfe’s Cameras, Camcorders and Computers, located at 635 S. Kansas Avenue, has brought to Topeka an easy way to organize, share and preserve memories via “photo books.”

Photo books are collections of digital pictures printed and professionally bound into books of various sizes. While some digital camera owners will print their photos at home or with a photo processor, the pictures often times are never put in an album. According to Wofle’s President DeWitt Harkness, “Even with the best of intentions, pictures don't get put in albums”. That’s one reason Wolfe’s give the average consumer the ability to not just print their digital pictures, but at the same time, have them put in an album and bound for permanent storage and display.

Approximately six months ago, Wolfe’s invested in touch screen kiosks that allows customers with digital photos to get a bound photo book on the same day for under thirty dollars for a ten page book. Each page holds up to nine pictures and the books can accommodate up to 40 pages. Harkness is so committed to the digital processing, he’s redesigned the store to accommodate more do –it-yourself photo printing equipment in a cybercafe-style format with easy chairs and couches.

At these kiosks, Wolfe’s employees, all who have experience with photo books, will walk new users through the short process of making the book. Harkness indicated the knowledge of his employees is “what a specialty store offers that the big boxes do not”. No computer skills are required to operate the kiosks. Customers plug in their digital camera media and the pictures automatically load into the kiosk. Customers can then select the photos to print, specifying how they should be laid out on the page, as well as colors and size of the album The kiosks even allow themes such as "earthtones or “romantic hearts” which include predesigned color schemes and backgrounds. The books are extremely high quality and are "printed on the best commercially available equipment" according to Harkness.

Alternatively, customers can also go to the compay's website, at www.wolfes.com, which offers more options and greater control, but isn’t as user friendly and requires about ten days for the book to be processed. Harkness believes that the in-store printing is more attractive than other online options because “people want what they want now” and printing the books at Wolfe’s is much faster than other online options.
  
Other popular options at Wolfe’s for printing include calendars, full size posters and scrapbook pages. Often times people buy these books for those difficult-to-buy-for people on their shopping lists. At Wofle’s, one of the most popular uses of photo books is grandparents giving them as gifts for grandchildren. Each grandchild is given a unique album of pictures, printed with their name on it. Another popular use of these photo books is to share vacation photos with friends and family.

Harkness sees these photo books as the next “big thing” in photography and is excited about photo books because they are “designed to share with others, on the coffee table or other places”. Next time you take a series of pictures, you might consider freeing those memories from your camera.

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Online websites that support photo books as well as other ways to print digital photos:
Photoworks: http://www.photoworks.com
Shutterfly: http://www.shutterfly.com
Snapfish: http://www.snapfish.com
Kodak Gallery: http://www.kodakgallery.com/
Walgreens: http://photo.walgreens.com
Walmart: http://photos.walmart.com

Users of Apple’s iPhoto can click the “book” icon
For coupon codes and savings at these websites, go to http://www.deal-news.com