Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fahrenheit 451 Revisited: Do Firemen Still Dream of Igniting Books?

Fahrenheit 451"One last thing," said Beatty. "At least once in his career, every fireman gets an itch. What do the books say, he wonders. Oh, to scratch that itch, eh? Well, Montag, take my word for it, I've had to read a few in my time, to know what I was about, and the books say nothing! Nothing you can teach or believe. They're about nonexistent people, figments of imagination, if they're fiction. And if they're nonfiction, it's worse, one professor calling another an idiot, one philosopher screaming down another's gullet. All of them running about, putting out the stars and extinguishing the sun. You come away lost." -From Fahrenheit 451

Last July, after reading a notice of an American classic to be re-published as a graphic novel, I wrote a bit of commentary on Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 called Fahrenheit 451: "Digital" is the Fire in Which we Burn. I was lamenting the day when books were a serious form of entertainment and source of information, even during the advent of the age of television. Then I chanced upon Bradbury's novel at my local library and found myself wondering if I'd ever read it. I assumed I had, but I couldn't really remember. Well, there was one way to fix the problem.

This work was first published as a novel in 1953, the year before I was born. More than half a century later, this work still stands on solid legs, but perhaps not quite the legs that Bradbury first built for his book. The book isn't so much about censorship or even about television replacing books and other print media, as it is about the dumbing down of humanity. If the world of ideas and debate make people unhappy, take them away and replace them with the equivalent of Prozac for the masses. Let the government do the worrying. You don't have to concern yourself about a thing.

Fifty-six years later, the government isn't burning books, but there's a question as to whether or not they've been marginalized. While Bradbury unsuccessfully predicted interactive television in the home, with screens on all four walls (he did seem to capture flat-screened TVs, though), he couldn't have possibly imagined Cable and Satellite TV, iPods, eBooks, blogging, twitter, texting, YouTube, gaming, and the Internet (and on and on). We haven't replaced print with TV, we've replaced few information sources with many, and with sources that produce content in all its myriad forms, at a rate that accelerates faster than the dizzying velocities of the cars and jets of Montag's (the book's protagonist) world.

Whenever I go to the gym to work out, music is blaring, a dozen TV sets are tuned to a dozen TV channels, almost everyone working out is listening to their iPod, and in the midst of all that, some people are either talking or texting on their mobiles. I go to the gym to try and coax my middle-aged body into continued activity for an hour or so a day, and people can't seem to unplug for even that brief a period of time. If we aren't constantly bombarded with information and entertainment every waking second of the day, what would become of us? Would we actually have to suffer alone with our own thoughts? Would we actually have to relate to other human beings? Is this the "real" Fahrenheit 451?

Print isn't dead, it's just been transformed. This blog is one incarnation...one descendant of the magazine article or the newspaper editorial. The difference is that anyone can blog for little or not cost and for some, with little or no effort. When I want to write a book (yes, I still write real books), I have to write and submit a proposal to a publisher through my agent. The publishing staff evaluates my proposal to determine if it's worth their time and money to turn my idea into a book. That is, they have to decide if there are enough people who'll pay good money to buy what I want to write. Even if the proposal is approved, the book turns out to be a collaboration between me and the various editors I work with, so it's not just all my bright ideas on paper or in eBook format.

With blogging, anyone can write anything at anytime. Of course, no audience is guaranteed, but anyone might surf onto your blog and read whatever you've written. Feedback is instantaneous via the commenting system. The main reason I named my blog A Million Chimpanzees was out of the horrible thought that writing as an art has been reduced to the lowest common denominator because there's no limit to who can blog or what can be blogged. Of course, this is also the realization of freedom of speech. Any citizen can, at any time, without limitation, post his or her ideas and statements to the Internet where anyone with access can read them. Reduce the ideas to 140 characters at a time, and blogging becomes twitter. Digitally film them, and you've got YouTube. Podcast and streaming video them and, putting it all together, you've got the cacophony I was describing a few paragraphs back.

I'm still trying to decide whether this is a good thing or not, but from the point of view of Fahrenheit 451, I think it is. To write (or otherwise create), we are compelled to think. This is the antithesis of Montag's world, where his wife Mildred spends all day pretending to be a part of a fictional, interactive "family" on her favorite TV shows (and adding 21st century technology to the mix, the "family" could well have been computer generated, rather than real, human actors). When the day is done, she wanders off to sleep with her iPod in her ear (not really, but the way Bradbury presents it, the device might well have been an iPod). Entertainment parks abound, and schools are not to educate, but to indoctrinate the next generation into a population of entertainment junkies, even as the country is on the verge of nuclear war.

In Montag's world, people are moving in a single direction; from more to less complex thoughts and ideas. Reading and education are not only discouraged, they're illegal. Humans are not only encouraged to be mindless TV junkies, it's almost the only choice they're offered. We, on the other hand, seem to be going both ways simultaneously; a culture addicted to entertainment, and obsessed by information. What do we really want, a lobotomy, or a PhD? Then again, how much reading to we actually do on a single subject, before we bounce to the next input, and the next and the next and the...You get the idea. If it isn't short and it isn't fast, it isn't compelling enough to stick with. Change the channel or click the next link (does this sound cynical?).

One of the best parts of reading this book was reading Bradbury's commentary. He wrote about how he managed to write the novel, the origin of the ideas and the mechanics of the writing itself. He didn't own a typewriter (no PCs and word processors the 1950s), so he found what amounted to a "typewriter lab" in the basement of a building at UCLA. He could rent typewriter time for ten cents a half-hour and, with not so much as a spell checker or even a bottle of liquid paper, he set about to create his masterpiece. It's in the context of the early 1950s that Bradbury wrote the book, and being able to step outside the book itself, and into the motivation of the writer, I found another dimension to the story and some of the history of where we come from.

Ray Bradbury grew up in a world of books, in a world before television and, even though the film industry was thriving, in a world where the moving image couldn't displace the world of imagination contained within the printed page. I'm old enough to still prefer a "real" book over an eBook, and will still close my web browser to thumb through pages and enter the realm of print, on occasion. That's part of the allure, both of checking out books at the library and of reading books. Fortunately, I'm not alone. A few days ago, I came across a blog article at PBS.org called Kicking Ink: The Guilty Pleasures of Print. I couldn't help but see the parallels between the blog article and the future Bradbury imagined. Books aren't forbidden and burned in our world, but we are made to feel a little guilty about reading them because of the "carbon footprint" they leave behind. Political correctness and the advance of technology take the place of the firemen and their kerosene.

No, we don't burn books, and we don't necessarily disdain thinkers and writers, but is what we're writing (including this blog) worth reading? I hope at least some of it (including this blog) is, but what we produce is in danger of buried in the screaming snowstorm of all the digital content we're generating at warp speed and beyond. Ray Bradbury's novel, over fifty years old now, still has something to tell us. It might not be exactly the same as the original message, but it's close enough to be chilling, or maybe ironic.

All that said, time marches on, and so does the book's creator. You can even go to raybradbury.com these days and find out what he's currently writing.

Endnote: On a whim, I crafted part of the title of this article on Philip K Dick's book title, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?...another novel where humanity, at least as we know it, is an endangered species.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide plus Fundamentals of Joomla! Video

Author: Barrie M. North
Format: Paperback, 480 pages plus DVD edition
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR; 2nd edition (June 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0137012314
ISBN-13: 978-0137012312

Update: I just got a heads up from Heather Fox at Prentice saying that Fundamentals of Joomla Video Training & Users Guide Package (which includes the subsequently mentioned book and DVD training video) is still available exclusively at Barnes and Noble. After January 1, 2010, the bundle will become generally available. Please disregard any contrary bits of information in the original review. Thanks.

I think this bundle (the book and DVD) was a limited offer and unfortunately, it's taken me just a bit too long get to my review to take advantage of the package. Nevertheless, the products are still available individually, and are both written and presented by Barrie North. But let's back up a bit.

According to joomla.org, "Joomla is an award-winning content management system (CMS), which enables you to build Web sites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla the most popular Web site software available. Best of all, Joomla is an open source solution that is freely available to everyone." Between those two links, if you didn't have an idea of what Joomla was before, you do now.

Like a number of other Joomla books on the market, Prentice Hall's offering is tailored for the novice, but promises enough sophistication to take the reader up to at least a "quasi-professional" level. The Preface of the book states in part, that the reader isn't assumed to have any programming or even CSS experience. It's "easy to read" and "low on technical jargon", telling me that North wrote the book for the non-web designing business professional who wants to take advantage of CMS in general and Joomla in specific, to further their business purposes and goals.

That said, the book does teach the technical aspects of how to create a Joomla site from scratch but you start out at ground zero by being introduced to the concepts of web pages, CSS, and Joomla itself. Depending on your level of experience, the first chapter may be something you want to bypass, or at least just skim through. If you have web experience but no Joomla experience, Chapter 2 will tell you where to go to find and download Joomla, then how to install it. You are wisely directed to the XAMPP site to take care of the Apache, MySQL, and PHP side of things, but other options are also presented. Of course, you are also provided with links to acquire the required Joomla installation software.

While I don't consider the Chapter 2 instructions to be outside of a reasonably intelligent person's ability to comprehend, if you really are a completely non-technical person, you might want to take some time to read through the chapter and make sure you have all the steps down, before going through the installation process for both XAMPP and Joomla. This should save you a bit of time and frustration. However, for those with "power user" and up skill sets relative to web design or development, this shouldn't be too much of a chore.

Beyond this point, the book is fairly linear as far as assisting the reader in building the various skills required to create and manage a Joomla site, from basic administration, to organizing content, to creating menus, and so forth. Chapter 10 pulls together all that you should have learned in the prior chapters by letting you build a trial site. In this case, it's a school site, complete with content for students, parents, teachers, other staff, and so on. I suppose this would be the cherry on the cake if you're a school administrator in need of a website, but if you're not, the practice you gain can be applied to just about any organization with a bit of tweaking. If you really need another example, Chapter 11 teaches you how to build a restaurant site. The appendixes offer additional resources, including where to get help, case studies of actual commercial sites powered by Joomla, and more.

The Fundamentals of Joomla! video training DVD and 128 page study guide is based on North's Joomla! 1.5: A User's Guide so, if you have the book, you have all the content the DVD and accompanying booklet contains, just in a different form. On the one hand, this can seem redundant, but if you learn best by accessing more than one learning mode (text and video, for example) using them together will be especially handy. This method could be used either by the individual, or in a school classroom or business training venue. The video content itself might seem a little "light", especially if you have no familiarity with Joomla at all, but coupled with the 480 page primary text, it is a golden learning opportunity.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Web 2.0 Expo New York Announces 2009 Keynotes and Event Program

Me: Not that O'Reilly needs my help in promoting their conferences, but I did receive this in my email from Maureen Jennings and I thought I'd pass it along. Who knows? Maybe a trip to New York will be on your schedule next month.

Sebastopol, CA, October 20, 2009 — Today Web 2.0 Expo New York announced this year's keynotes and new program elements. O'Reilly Media, Inc. and TechWeb, co-producers of Web 2.0 Expo and Web 2.0 Summit, welcome a lineup of distinguished keynote speakers including Jay Adelson, Chris Brogan, Caterina Fake, Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Beth Novak and Kevin Rose, in addition to an expanded program with first time sessions and a New York Launch Pad. Web 2.0 Expo New York returns on November 16-19, 2009 to the Javits Convention Center. More information is available at ny.web2expo.com.

"The Power of Less is about how the principles of Web 2.0 can turn constraints into opportunities and drive innovation," said Jennifer Pahlka, co-chair of Web 2.0 Expo. "We are inspired by the canonical examples of this power, such as Twitter's character limit, but also by the products and services launching now, in a time of less, that will change the world."

Web 2.0 Expo New York 2009 brings Launch Pad to New York for the first time and adds a series of new sessions to the program including a track on the topic of Government 2.0. On the heels of a successful Gov 2.0 Summit, the Gov 2.0 sessions will further illuminate how transparency, participation and collaboration can break down silos and increase efficiencies on the government level. In addition, the event presents a brand new Bootcamp program. These full day intensive programs, taking place Monday, November 16, are titled "Good Design Faster," "Search as Strategy" and "Communilytics: Applied Community Analytics" and will further cover design and online communities, respectively, as they relate to successful business practices.

Web 2.0 Expo New York will feature influential keynotes and speakers, detailed workshops, a multi-track conference, an "unconference" program called Web2Open, a first-time New York Launch Pad start-up program, a major tradeshow and many rich networking opportunities and events. Conference tracks include: Landscape & Strategy, Design & User Experience, Social Media, Development, Fundamentals, Web 2.0 at Work, Government 2.0, Mobile, Performance and Analytics. The event targets developers, designers, entrepreneurs, marketers, and business professionals embracing Web 2.0 technologies.

Web 2.0 Expo New York 2009 welcomes industry leading companies that are participating and exhibiting in this year's show including Diamond sponsors: IBM and Microsoft; Silver sponsors: Awareness, blueKiwi, Jive Software, Layered Technologies, Inc., Neustar Inc., OpenText, Opera Software, Overtone, Qtask, Rackspace, and Sony Ericsson.

To learn more about the 2009 Web 2.0 Expo New York or to register, visit: http://www.web2expo.com/ny

View selected presentations from Web 2.0 Expo New York 2008 at: http://www.web2expo.com/webexny2008/public/schedule/proceedings

To see articles, blogs, and other coverage of last year's event, visit:

For a look at photos from New York 2008, see:

To apply for a media pass, visit: http://www.web2expo.com/webexny2009/public/content/media

To read the O'Reilly Radar, visit: http://radar.oreilly.com/

If you have ideas about areas you'd like to see included at the conference, send a note to: webexpo-idea@oreilly.com

If you'd like to stay up to date on information relating to Web 2.0, sign up for the conference newsletter (login required): http://elists.oreilly.com/#conferences

About TechWeb

TechWeb, the global leader in business technology media, is an innovative business focused on serving the needs of technology decision-makers and marketers worldwide. TechWeb produces the most respected and consumed media brands in the business technology market. Today, more than 13.3* million business technology professionals actively engage in our communities created around our global face-to-face events Interop, Web 2.0, Black Hat and VoiceCon; online resources such as the TechWeb Network, Light Reading, Intelligent Enterprise, InformationWeek.com, bMighty.com, and The Financial Technology Network; and the market leading, award-winning InformationWeek, TechNet Magazine, MSDN Magazine, Wall Street & Technology magazines. TechWeb also provides end-to-end services ranging from next-generation performance marketing, integrated media, research, and analyst services. TechWeb is a division of United Business Media, a global provider of news distribution and specialist information services with a market capitalization of more than $2.5 billion. *13.3 million business decision-makers: based on # of monthly connections.

About O'Reilly
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.

O'Reilly conferences bring together forward-thinking business and technology leaders, shaping ideas and influencing industries around the globe. For over 25 years, O'Reilly has facilitated the adoption of new and important technologies by the enterprise, putting emerging technologies on the map.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Python: Converting from one temperature scale to another is easy, but what about eight?

In just about any class or set of tutorials involving beginning programming, there's usually a problem or set of problems having to do with converting temperatures. Just about everyone has had to write a wee bit of code to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius or vice versa. That's not much of a chore. However, there are eight major temperature scales available (though some are around now only for their historical value), according to wikipedia. What if you had to write a program that let a user convert a temperature from any of these scales to any of these scales?

Do you have any idea how many if statements you'd have to write? On the previously referenced wikipedia page, there are eight tables (one for each temperature scale) so converting from any of scales to any of scales would, in theory, require 8 times 7 or 56 if statements (it wouldn't be 8 times 8 because you wouldn't convert from a scale to itself). That's an awful lot of coding and there's got to be an easier way.

Actually, there's more than one way to make it easier, but this is a tutorial that is, or should be, within the grasp of a relative newbie to Python. I took a stab at it and came up with what I think is a pretty straightforward bit of programming that doesn't require a lot of typing.

Oh. I forgot. There is a specific requirement for the solution to the problem. The code must convert from the source scale temp to central or canonical scale, such as Celsius, and then must convert that value from Celsius (for example) to the target scale temp. Here's what I came up with. I don't claim this is the best possible solution, but I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with it, either (I checked with a higher power to be sure). See what you think. Here it is:

t = float(raw_input("Please enter the temp: "))
source = raw_input("Please enter the source temp scale: ")
target = raw_input("Please enter the target temp scale: ")

if t < 1000000.0:
    if source == "k":
        cel = t -273.15
    elif source == "c":
        cel = t
    elif source == "f":
        cel = (t - 32) * 5.0 / 9.0
    elif source == "r":
        cel = (t - 491.67) * 5.0 / 9.0
    elif source == "d":
        cel = 100.0 - t * 2.0 / 3.0
    elif source == "n":
        cel = t * 100.0 / 33.0
    elif source == "re":
        cel = t * 5.0 / 4.0
    elif source == "ro":
        cel = (t - 7.5) * 40.0 / 21.0
    if target == "k":
        answer = cel + 273.15
    elif target == "c":
        answer = cel
    elif target == "f":
        answer = cel * 9.0 / 5.0 + 32.0
    elif target == "r":
        answer = (cel + 273.15) * 9.0 / 5.0
    elif target == "d":
        answer = (100.0 - cel) * 3.0 / 2.0
    elif target == "n":
        answer = cel *  33.0 / 100.0
    elif target == "re":
        answer = cel * 4.0 / 5.0
    elif target == "ro":
        answer = cel * 21.0 / 40.0 + 7.5

print answer
I found all of the formulas for conversions at wikipedia, too. You can copy this code into a text editor and save it as something like covert.py, then run it to see how it works for you. Share/Bookmark

Monday, October 5, 2009

Python: input, raw_input, and inadvertently treating integers as strings

This is a "newbie" mistake, but these little details do tend to get in the way, which is why I'm posting my wee Python tutorial. If you know Python or programming, even reasonably well, this will probably seem way too simple to you. Just giving you a "heads up" so you don't waste your time.

I encountered a lesson that teaches storing conditionals using booleans. The code was presented like this:

young = age < 45 

slim = bmi < 22.0 
if young and slim: 
risk = "low" 
elif young and not slim: 
risk = "medium" 
elif not young and slim: 
risk = "medium" 
elif not young and not slim: 
risk = "high"
Of course, you can't really run this. If you try, you get this:
Traceback (most recent call last): 
File "assign_bool.py", line 1, in  
young = age < 45 
NameError: name 'age' is not defined 
I figured the solution was to modify the program to let me input the age and bmi, then print the results. I modified the code like this:
age = raw_input("Please enter your age: ")
bmi = raw_input("Please enter your bmi: ")

young = age < 45
slim = bmi < 22.0
if young and slim:
    risk = "low"
elif young and not slim:
    risk = "medium"
elif not young and slim:
    risk = "medium"
elif not young and not slim:
    risk = "high"

print risk
Like I said, if you have any real programming experience at all, you can already see my mistake. If not, read on. My modified code happily returned prompts for my age and bmi. Being scrupulously honest, I entered my correct age. I have no idea when my bmi is, so I made up a value. When I pressed enter, the value returned was "high". Just to make sure the program was working properly, I entered a young age and a low bmi. Egad! The return value was still "high". In fact, no matter what values I entered, "high" was always returned. This wasn't right. On the fly, I tried this change:
age = input("Please enter your age: ")
bmi = input("Please enter your bmi: ")
It seems very simple (and it is). Using raw_input, the data is always interpreted as a string, rather than the INT type I needed for the program to work. Since strings, rather than integers where input, Python worked it's way through the various tests and, since none of the other conditions matched, printed the result of the final clause which of course, was "high". input interprets what you enter as a python expression, which works, but isn't the best solution, since it can return a wide variety of object types. What's really needed is a way to input something that's always interpreted as a number. I did a bit of research and came up with the following solution, changing the first two lines of my program accordingly:
age = int(raw_input("Please enter your age: "))
bmi = int(raw_input("Please enter your bmi: "))
Now the program will always expect integers to be input for age and bmi. If you try to enter a string now, you'll get something like this:
Please enter your age: Fred
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "assign_bool.py", line 1, in 
age = int(raw_input("Please enter your age: "))
ValueError: invalid literal for int() with base 10: 'Fred'
Play with the different input types and see for yourself. Share/Bookmark

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sams Teach Yourself PHP and MySQL: Video Learning Starter Kit

Author: Sams Publishing
Format: Paperback: 80 pages/ DVD
Publisher: Sams; 1st Paperback/DVD edition (March 6, 2009)
ISBN-10: 067233027X
ISBN-13: 978-0672330278

Frankly, I'd prefer to work with a book or in a classroom setting. I can read faster than a person can speak in a video. OK, that contradicts my preference for the classroom, but in a class context, I can also directly interact with the instructor and the students. I can't exactly do that using a video. I know I keep telling everyone that I'm a visual learner, so you'd think that a DVD would be just about perfect, but I've always found them something of a problem. This isn't to say that video learning is bad in general or that this product is bad in particular. I'm just expressing my personal opinion before I move on.

I was initially excited to discover that I could use the DVD on any Windows, Mac, or Linux computer with a DVD drive. I've had problems with previous video tutorials that included movie files only readable on Windows. The Quick Start Guide reassured me that I wouldn't have a problem using Linux. Then, as I was about to rip open the packaging around the disc itself, I saw a piece of contradictory information. Specifically, the text on the packaging read, All the contents of the PHP and MySQL Video Learning Starter Kit are accessible on any DVD-equipped Windows or Mac OS X computer (emphasis mine). What?

It gets worse (from my point of view, at least). There are instructions on how to install PHP, Apache, and MySQL on both Windows and Mac but not on Linux. This seems rather mysterious considering we're talking about technologies that just thrive on Linux. Of course, if I have the need to install Apache/MySQL/PHP on Linux, I can just use XAMPP, but that's besides the point. I suppose Sams is playing to the majority desktop market, but that doesn't speak to those of us who spend the vast majority of our time using Linux for work and play. In fact, the vast majority of web developers and database people I work with in my "day job" use Linux on the desktop. Oh well. I still need to evaluate and review the content. Firing up one Windows XP computer.

I slipped the disc in my Windows PC and Adobe Flash Player 9 fired up flawlessly. The TOC is divided into Parts I through IV and each part contains various chapters or lessons. Part I for instance, contains the introductory lessons you'd expect, such as Getting to know PHP, Variables, Flow Control, and so on. Each lesson is divided into Lesson, Lab, and Quiz. I chose Flow Control to start with, just to get an idea of how things were presented.

The lesson on Flow Control honed in on conditional statements and loops. I'd recommend taking notes during the video lesson. I need to take notes, even when I read a book, because it's one of the ways I learn and remember the content, besides actually practicing the relevant tasks. The woman's voice reciting the lesson reminded me somewhat of those instructions airline attendants give when telling you, before your flight takes off, what to do in case the aircraft explodes or sinks into a lake. Actually, I felt fortunate that the visual content didn't include the author's appearance, which most of the time, is totally irrelevant. What I did see was pretty much a PowerPoint presentation.

Lesson 3 was fairly short, maybe five minutes or so long. This is another reason to take notes, since the content goes by very fast. To advance to the lab section, you are required to click the available link. This is also a slide show of sorts, but you click through manually, and there's no accompanying voice. Notes come in handy again since, unless you have a perfect memory, you'll need to refer to something as you're solving each problem. Once you complete each lab, you are able to click to see the output. At the end of a lab session, you can either click the link to repeat, or advance to the Quiz. In the quiz, you select an answer, but can't advance until you get the correct one. The quiz wasn't particularly extensive, which is good if you want to focus on material rather than tests, and bad if you need or want to test your memory of concepts and details.

The general formatting of the disc is good; that is, it's logical. I can see this content being used in the classroom to augment a standard curriculum, but I can't imagine learning these technologies using the DVD and Quick Start Guide (90 page mini-book) alone. I guess I'm old fashioned (which you must have guessed by now) in that I need to have access to more detailed content and/or something or someone I can query about what I'm trying to learn. That said, I can see the video answering questions I sometimes have about ambiguous content I've found in books. Having the same content presented in two different ways can fill occasional gaps. That means I'd need to have the full text book to accompany this DVD.

The content is appropriate for beginning students with little to no prior programming and database experience. For me at least, I'd need to have a platform running actual PHP and MySQL to practice on. Getting my hands dirty is the only way I'm able to learn this sort of material. I recommend setting up your system so you can do a little more than the labs suggest, but remember, the instructions for how to do that only cover Windows and Mac computers.

If you explore the disc, you'll find the eBook Teach Yourself PHP in 10 minutes by Chris Newman in PDF format. The book was published in 2005, but is still relevant to PHP 5.0. The eBook also includes some MySQL content, so it'll take you further than the flash material and the mini-book.

For the programming and database beginner, who may eventually want to get into putting together at least some basic web applications, this product should fit the bill. If you get to the point where you've become familiar with, if not mastered the content, I'm sure you'll want to pursue more advanced resources.


Friday, October 2, 2009

It's Here!

new book I came home last night and my daughter-in-law mentioned that I'd gotten a UPS delivery. She said the box was heavy and felt like books. Sure enough, my author's copies of my new book PC Technician Street Smarts, Updated for the 2009 Exam had arrived. I know it's technically available (in the U.S. at least) in just a few days, but having a copy in my hands makes the book seem so much more real.

Now, I need to line up my "usual suspects" and ship off a few copies for review. I encourage anyone out there who's reading this and who is either planning on taking the A+ exams or is a newbie PC or desktop support tech to have a look. Please review on Amazon or your blog (or where ever). If you do, let me know or post a comment here. I'd really like to know what folks think of the second edition.