ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide

Although Flash MX 2004 was released only a couple of weeks ago, this book is rarely an oldie, more a goldie. I think it’s also the most recent in O’Reilly’s series of books about ActionScript. The author, Colin Moock, has done an outstanding job of very clearly explaining the principals of ActionScripting and is easy to understand for the beginner and the intermediate.

ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide

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Colin starts off by explaining variables and data types, the two fundamentals of programming (or scripting). He continues to discuss topics, such as operators, statements, loops, functions, event handling, movie clips and a lot more. One of my favorite chapters was about objects and classes, and movie clips. Colin has a remarkable style of writing that makes it both interesting and entertaining. Which always makes me wonder how O’Reilly scouts such talented authors for all the different topics that they have covered with their titles so far.

When I started working with Flash, one of the most difficult things to understand was the structure of a Flash file. Layers, Timelines, and paths of nested movieclips and buttons. This book is certainly what I longed for two years ago, when I was struggeling. Too bad I only discovered it now. Having mastered the basics with this book, you will find yourself soon advancing to topics, such as object oriented scripting and classes, which is why ActionScript is so extremely useful even for people who usually call the frontend (of a project) their fortay.


Since I have read more than one book on different programming and scripting languages, one should not take for granted that example code always works. I have even had books where none of the files on the CD-ROM that came with the book worked. Keeping in mind that most of those books cost between 40 and 50 USD, you can imagine one’s mood when you discover such negligence. Let me say that I did not try every piece of code that came with this book, but virtually every example code I tried worked flawlessly; I think the editors have done a outstanding job.

Only praise? Well no! It is really a pity that this book does not discuss code debugging in Flash. For example, the very neat remote debugger that has been introduced in Flash. So far this is the only downside I discovered and because I think debugging is one of the most important things, when you learn a new language, I took a star off the rating to reflect this.

Product Rating:

Company:
O’Reilly

Requirements:
n/a

Pricing:
$38.00

Reviewed by:
Till

Competition:
n/a

Pros:
Easy to read, covers basic but also advanced topics

Cons:
Code-debugging totally neglected

Bottom Line:
ActionScript handbook for the beginner and intermediate. Should not be missing in your library.

Learning PHP & MySQL Development

I am in the target audience for this book. I have a tiny bit of knowledge about PHP. My MySQL knowledge is stronger as I am pretty good at queries in the basic sense but things like inner/outer joins just confuse the heck out of me.

This is one of the best developer books I have read to-date. The way the material is presented is easy to understand and concise. It almost feels like the authors were sitting around a table with me actually walking me through the examples. It did not feel “super-techy”, which is a good thing when you are trying to learn something new.

Learning PHP & MySQL Development

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Chapters 1-6 take you through basic orientation, the installation of Apache, PHP and MySQL, followed by an intro to PHP statements.

Chapters 7-9 introduce database concepts and step you through getting PHP to talk to MySQL.

Chapters 10-17 begin the process of creating forms and other components of Web sites and applications following all the way through to integrating some sample applications.

While this book is very basic, meaning you will be able to run basic functions, and database connections, it is a good foundation to build upon. What I like is that now I have a clear understanding of PHP terminology for giving direction to programmers that I work with. I also now understand the basics of database query joins which for me was worth the purchase price alone.

Many developers I work with talk about PEAR and this book has a short chapter on using PEAR in your development to get PHP to talk to MySQL.

This book will wet your appetite to want to learn more about PHP and MySQL.

Product Rating:

Company:
O’Reilly

Requirements:
Ability to read?

Pricing:
$29.99

Reviewed by:
Allen

Competition:
n/a

Pros:
Language is easy to understand even for non-technical folks.

Cons:
For beginners, pros look elsewhere.

Bottom Line:
A good read for the newbie to PHP and MySQL development.

Beginning CSS Web Development

So I decided to take a look at Beginning CSS Development: From Novice to Professional. I must say that coming into this book, I wasn’t expecting much. I thought it would be all about complete beginner CSS stuff, but boy was I wrong! This book’s title is very misleading. It is perfect for beginners, experts, and everyone in between.

Beginning CSS Web Development

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Through all of his experience, from his work, and all of the articles that he has written, Simon Collison does an amazing job on explaining things, and I have yet to see anyone who does a better job. As the book starts, he goes over everything basic. What things are, when you should use them, and how you should use them. Everything is paced so nicely, and it’s extremely easy to follow.

Through part one, of the book, he explains all of the basics. Then, in part two, he addresses layouts. He goes on to explain a lot of things, which many intermediate CSS developers may be a foggy on. He does a great job addressing a lot of issues, and provides examples and uses for everything. If you’ve ever had problems with CSS, I can almost guarantee there is some kind of help, in part two of this book.

Simon really covered a lot in this book. He covered stuff about core concepts, text, color, backgrounds, images, lists, links, tables, forms, and layout. Each one of these things has their own chapter. In each chapter, everything is looked upon, in depth. This is why I really like the book. While everything is covered in depth, it is all really easy to follow, and understand.

So if you’re a beginner, you NEED to get this book! This book explains everything you need to know, about the basics, and expands on everything.

If you’re an intermediate CSS developer, you should definitely get this book, it will elaborate on many things, of which may be confusing you, and will help take you to the next level.

If you’re an absolute pro, and know everything about CSS, you should still get this book, it will probably have a lot of different view points on different elements of CSS, than the you have yourself. Just learning things from a different view, can be very helpful.

My final thoughts on this book, are that it is a “MUST HAVE” regardless of your CSS experience. I really loved this book, and I suggest it to anybody, and everybody who is looking to learn CSS.

  Product Rating:
 
Company:

  Apress

Requirements:

  n/a

Pricing:

  $34.99

Reviewed by:

  Jake Dahn

Competition:

  n/a

Pros:

  Great for beginners, Great for experienced CSS developers, Packed full of easy to follow information.

Cons:

  Only con is Cost, but the book is well worth the price!

Bottom Line:

  A must-have book for your CSS collection

Build Your Own Web Site the Right Way Using HTML

This book is great for beginners! If you have never seen HTML or CSS, this book is for you. Even if you know a little bit of HTML, and how to make a very basic website, this book will clarify a lot of things, that are usually harder to learn.

The thing about this book that I liked the most is that it is extremely simple to read, and understand. It was written, so people who have no experience of making a website. You could give this to a 10 year old kid, and by the time they finish the book, they would have a very good understanding on how things work.

The book starts out basically explaining what the book is about, and what the tools that you will be using are. It explains, in depth, what a web browser is, what text editor you should use. The thing I thought that was really cool, is that it breaks down what tools you can use, for both Mac, and Windows computers. It tells you about image editors, and text editors that will make making a website easy as pie.

Build Your Own Web Site the Right Way Using HTML

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From there the author slowly introduces code to create a web page. It comes at you at a nice pace, and it’s really easy to keep up with. By the end of chapter 2, you will have created a very basic web page.

Then right after it introduces it introduces CSS. This in my opinion is the way to learn how to make a website. If you learn HTML, and CSS separately, your skillset will be incomplete, and you will have a lot of holes to fill. If you learn then at the same time, you’re building a great foundation for your future in building websites.

In the later chapters the book explains how to get your website online, how to make your website into a blog, and how to add other cool things to your creation. Then in the very back (appendix A), the book has a huge reference for all of your xHTML needs. It includes every tag that you will ever need to use, and tells you how to use it, and goes pretty in depth with it.

So if you’re looking for a book to learn HTML, this is your book! If you know a little bit of HTML, and how to make a basic website, this is also a book for you, it will strengthen your skillset, and you will be able to read through and learn all the new stuff much faster. Now, if you’re a web designer who knows a lot about xHTML, and CSS, then you wont need to touch this book, unless you’re trying to teach someone else how to use HTML and CSS.

Product Rating:

Company:
SitePoint

Requirements:
n/a

Pricing:
$29.95

Reviewed by:
Jake Dahn

Competition:
n/a

Pros:
Excellent beginner book, covers both HTML and CSS

Cons:
One thing that may bother people, is that if you dive right in, there’s a lot of grey code boxes, and it’s can be easy to get lost

Bottom Line:
Worth the purchase!

GoLive 6 MAGIC

When I spend a Saturday at a book store, I wonder why people spend money on these kinds of books. Everyone has seen the, “XYZ for Dummies” types; they are available for nearly every piece of software. So why do people purchase these types of books? I think it is because they are promoted as helpers, though they are quite difficult to work with. In general, I dislike these books.

I had never used Adobe’s GoLive before I got this book and it certainly got me hooked on the program.

GoLive 6 MAGIC

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The author of “GoLive6 MAGIC” is the infamous Paul Vachier. You might ask who is Paul Vachier. He has been actively involved in GoLive’s development at Adobe since the beginning. Vachier who had been a writer for a web-zine himself, worked at companies such as @home, Macromedia, Symantec and others, before he started working for Adobe on the GoLive team, where he has written lots of “actions” and the entire application’s documentation. Many of his “actions” are now part of the GoLive distribution.

The book is in fact made up of an entire team of authors. They all come from different computer-related backgrounds. Very skilled and talented people who have worked in the industry for some time and have gotten together to share their knowledge about and experiences with GoLive.

I believe New Riders (who are the publishers of this book) have a talent for chosing skilled authors. Or perhaps all the skilled people have their books publish at New Riders – who knows?

In any case, “GoLive 6 MAGIC” is different from other books. Do not expect the “We teach everything to do in 24 hours” attitude . “GoLive MAGIC” will take you beyond simple page editing. This is your seminar to become a GoLive MAGICIAN.

So what’s inside?

To begin, this book covers the topics you might expect it to. There are numerous pages on how to create basic HTML, CSS and DHTML. All very easy to comprehend and straight to the point. For example, topics covered include, CSS and the document object model, collapsible DHTML menus and a lot more.

What was surprising were the chapters about cHTML and i-mode. i-mode is the new mobile hype from Japan and a few mobile carriers are currently testing it in Europe as well. i-mode cellphones have a colordisplay and let you surf on websites with 48kbit/s – which is almost as fast as the speed of a standard modem. Fast enough to check stocks, news headlines or what movies are on at the theatre tonight – if you ask me.

Creating websites for i-mode is a pain. You have to follow certain standards (page width, height and so on, and so on), which is why I really welcomed that the book has a couple chapters about it. Thumbs up for that!

To continue riding the techie mobile train, there are also chapters on WAP – the Wireless Application Protocol. Another “wireless” thing (Yeah, duh!) and i-mode’s predecessor. Not too new, due to its lack of sucessfulness not important, but certainly nice to read up on it. Vachier’s tech editor made a typo when they said, “Wireless Access Protocol”, instead of “Wireless Application Protocol”. Read more on WAP.


And wait there’s more!

There is a chapter – which I had to read first – that explains how to create a small content management system (that is a set off scripts to manage the content of your website) with PHP and MySQL.

It is nice and easy to follow, specially for people who are new to all of this. When you have completed reading, you have the basics on how to get a installation of PHP and MySQL running, and how to set things up in GoLive. The CD included with the book provides you with the examples that they used in the book. Though it will not save you from learning more SQL-language, as a novice or intermediate individual, you are off to a very good start. If you are an advanced or professional user, this is old news to you.

I also found it quite interesting how they explain the terms – for example, middleware. Middleware comes up if you get into the dynamic content parts of the book. I disliked how Keniger absolutely does not mention any other type of SQL. There are at least a dozen different servers on the market and MySQL may be easy, but is by far not the best there is.

The remaining chapters cover Macros (very neat), Quicktime and GoLive’s very own site management tool, SDK, and a bunch more.

All “pro” and no “con”?

There is the “Index of Techniques”, which is too general in my opinion. For example, if you are looking for Flash, you have to read a chapter about Quicktime before you really get to it.

It might have helped if they had put down the actual page number the topic is covered on, and not the page number of the chapter it’s covered in. If you are like me, the index in the back of the book is what I go to for reference.

I definately recommend this book to those of you who have GoLive 6 and are struggling with it. If you own a copy already and did not know about two thirds of the things that I mentioned, go get it. It will help you.

If you are a “GoLive 6-Power User”, I think you are better off looking elsewhere. I recommend this book to novice and intermediate users.

Pro: Easy to read and understand. Great team of authors who have created a great set of tutorials walkthroughs!

Product Rating:

Company:
New Riders

Requirements:
N/A

Pricing:
$28.00

Reviewed by:
Till

Competition:
N/A

Pros:
Easy to read and understand. Great team of authors who have created a great set of tutorials and walkthroughs!

Cons:
The — Index of Techniques — It’s not the best book on the market for advanced users.

Bottom Line:
Diplomatical spoken: If you need it, it’s worth the money.

photoshop type effects

Earlier this week, I received “photoshop type effects” from New Riders. The author of this book is Roger Pring who has been at the forefront of digital art since the 1980s.

When I scanned through the pages of the book, I immediately noticed that this was no run-of-the-mill type effects book. With dozens of type effects books on the market, I assumed this was going to be the same sort of book. Instead of the standard Table of Contents, “photoshop type effects” uses small thumbnails for their contents list. This allowed me to immediately jump to the effects that, to me, looked the most interesting.

photoshop type effects

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Each effect is demonstrated in clear, concise language. Generally, each effect is covered in two full color pages. There is a screen capture for each step in the effect and they are easy to follow along.

The book starts off with Reflective effects. Included in this section are: Polished Chrome, Bold As Brass, Good As Gold, Polished Metal and more.

Solid effects are next up, some of which are: Utterly Routed, Fret No More, Number Tile, etc. These effects are “Solid”.

Atmospheric effects are based on the earth. Sands of Time, Into The Fire, Absolute Zero, and Is It A Bird? are the demonstrated effects in this chapter.

Lighting effects light up the web with effects such as Red Hot, Light Information, Terminal Signboards, and Glow Baby Glow.

The next chapter covers Typographic effects which are more simplistic in nature. I like the Warped Type, Line Up and Mountain High.

The Simulations effects include All Keyed Up. This is one of the most effective effects I have ever seen. You can create some awesome Flash movies and animated gif files using this effect.


“photoshop type effects” also includes an Appendix which covers using Alien Skin Filters, 3rd-party effects and other 3rd-party filters. Pring explains how to use Photoshop shortcuts to save you time and effort for newbies.

My favorite five demonstrated effects are Polished Chrome, Good As Gold (the best gold effect I have seen), Number Tile, Terminal Signboards (makes me feel like I am at a ballpark), All Keyed Up and Beads. The book is created for use with Photoshop 7 but most effects should work with earlier versions. The author is not platform biased either; he shows screen grabs from the Macintosh and the PC Photoshop versions.

I would suggest this book for intermediate through advanced Photoshop users. The type effects move very quickly; I am not sure new users will be able to grasp some of the techniques. After trying most of the effects, my results did not look exactly the same as the book’s examples. This left me frustrated. At $45.00, it is a little pricey, but if you win over a client by using the techniques demonstrated, I am sure it will be well worth it.

Product Rating:

Company:
New Riders

Requirements:
N/A

Pricing:
45.00

Reviewed by:
Mindy

Competition:
N/A

Pros:
all new effects, demonstrated with Photoshop 7, step-by-step explanations

Cons:
high price, fonts demonstrated are not included making it hard to reproduce exactly what the author demonstrates

Bottom Line:
A worthwhile purchase for the intermediate to advanced Photoshop user.

Pages: