Cover V06, I11


Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

This month's reviews include Windows Annoyances by David A. Karp (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.), Mastering Web Design by John McCoy (Sybex), and The AltaVista Search Revolution: How to Find Anything on the Internet by Richard Seltzer, Eric J. Ray, and Deborah S. Ray (Osborne/McGraw-Hill.)

Windows Annoyances
by David A. Karp
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-266-2

The majority of computer users regularly encounter a Windows operating system as users or as technical support. Annoyances are easily detected; they frequently elicit mutterings and grumblings. ("Why can't I do..." and "I could have written a better..." followed by indistinguishable phrases are some popular mumblings.) In Windows Annoyances, Karp not only identifies these private complaints to computers, but also demonstrates specific techniques to customize the Windows environment to its user. The author addresses the following topics: So You're Stuck with Windows, Customizing Your System, The Registry, Advanced Customization Techniques, Maximizing Performance, Troubleshooting, and Networking. The Appendices contain: (A) Frequently Asked Questions, (B) MS-DOS Crash Course, (C) Glossary, and (D) Contents of the MSDOS.SYS File.

The introductory chapter, So You're Stuck with Windows, describes some of the new features found in Windows 95 and / or Windows NT 4.0. Customizing Your System illustrates methods and tips to tailor the environment to the user's preferences. In chapter 3, Karp introduces and explains the Registry, the database that monitors any changes the user initiates. The author also discusses regedit, the Registry editor, and how to use it (preferably after backing up the Registry file). The end of this chapter cross references Registry topics in other chapters of the book. In Advanced Customization Techniques, Karp illustrates clearing the desktop of unwanted and unused icons, changing some time-consuming annoyances, some advanced configuration issues, and system administration procedures. The two following chapters, Maximizing Performance and Troubleshooting, are closely related to each other. In the chapter on performance, the author discusses improving the computer's hardware performance, upgrading your system, and improving your work habits and routines. The Troubleshooting chapter identifies logical techniques, preventive maintenance, how to restore Windows following a crash, and configuration solutions. The final chapter features networking principles and communications configurations and processes.

Windows Annoyances provides a useful tool for any Windows 95/ Windows NT 4.0 user. Karp presents step-by-step directions in the second chapter and continues throughout the book. The necessary concepts and their accompanying instructions illustrate a clearly written style and easy-to-understand text. This is an excellent book featuring practical and valuable solutions to many Windows problems.

Mastering Web Design
by John McCoy
ISBN 0-7821-1911-5

The design (or lack of good design) of any Web page, can be recognized by the visitor within minutes. Success of the page not only depends upon its premiere appearance, but also encompasses the ease of its user interface. Additionally, the site should reflect the occupation or persona of the site's owner or business. McCoy divided the book into two chapters: Design and Tools. The first chapter includes responses and essays from many different design professionals, many of whom learned about design through doing it. Each response, however, covers the same questions from the author. The Tools chapter includes tutorials for applications used in Web development. The segments in the Design chapter each contain a company profile and chapter profile followed by an essay from a contributor. The companies profiled and their specific responses are: Digital Planet - Inside a Two-Way Mirror: Creative Design for the Online Medium; Red Sky Interactive - Printing on Water; CyberSight - The World Wide Web, My Dad, and Creativity; Studio Archetype - About Design and About Web Design; The New Web Publishing Paradigm and NetObjects; The Net Magazine - Balancing Fun and Function; Yahoo! Corporation - Achieving Good Web Design; Poppe Tyson - Building Brand Applications for a Global Audience; Rare Medium - General Mills on a Web Adventure; CKS|Interactive - Blending Strategy and Aesthetics Online; Process 39 - Running a Digital Design Studio; Organic Online - Global Brands in the Digital Age; Aaron Marcus and Associates - User Interface Issues In Web Design; and The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. The tutorials in the second chapter explore: GNN and GNNpress - User's Guide to GNNpress 1.1; Adobe Systems - Adobe Acrobat Exchange and Reader, Getting Started with Acrobat for the Web; and Dimension X and Liquid Motion - Delivering on the Promise of Java-Based Animation: How To Author in Liquid Motion. McCoy assumes that the reader is familiar with PhotoShop, or an equivalent package, and has access to a Web browser, preferably Netscape or Explorer.

Although the tutorial information is excellent, Mastering Web Design's primary strength is in the essays from recognized leaders in the industry. This collection of views about elements of good Web design, what designers have used, both as tools and ideas, plus their predictions for the future of Web design make this an outstanding book both as a practical consideration of design issues and also as an historical perspective. McCoy's organization and writing styles are clear and easy to follow. Mastering Web Design will be an asset and guideline for graphic designers and Webmasters alike. I highly recommend it.

The AltaVista Search Revolution: How to Find Anything on the Internet
by Richard Seltzer, Eric J. Ray, and Deborah S. Ray
Osborne McGraw-Hill
ISBN 0-07-882235-1

Many articles written about the Web discuss the enormous amount of information that it contains. All that we have to do is access it. Although the user may have access to several search engines or ways to research material, they may still be unsuccessful. The tools themselves work perfectly; it is the user's imperfect search criteria that fail. An experienced navigator can often find matches that a new user cannot, creating frustration for the novice. AltaVista is one of the better search engines available. Its interface is friendly and straightforward and the directions remain uncomplicated. However, many users feel more comfortable with printed instructions that can be read and reread without touching a key.

Seltzer, Ray, and Ray provide tips and procedures for finding information easily for everyone. They address the following topics: Introduction to AltaVista Search, Getting Started with AltaVista Search, Advanced Search, Searching Usenet Newsgroups, Providing Information the AltaVista Way, Using the AltaVista Search A to Z Reference, and the AltaVista Story. The Appendices contain A) The Top 1,000 Most Common Words on the World Wide Web, B) A Sample of 1,000 Queries, and C) Frequency of Words Used in AltaVista Search Queries.

The authors demonstrate the various ways to execute a search, whether simple or complex. They describe the different representations of syntax used in the search queries and explain when and why one type of search pattern may be preferable to another. Each method is accompanied by detailed figures of how the search will really appear on the page. The AltaVista Search Revolution will provide the reader with the instruction needed to conduct successful searches. This is a well-written guidebook that will help both the beginner and the experienced user discover successful search techniques, and more importantly, to obtain the desired results. Its tips and techniques will prove invaluable for both simple and advanced queries.

About the Author

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 12 years. She is currently a UNIX and C consultant, and one of her specialties is UNIX education. In addition to her computer science background, she also has a degree in English. Elizabeth can be reached via America Online (