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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Essential System Administration, Third Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Æleen Frisch
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Long on generalities, short on being thorough.

I have been an NT admin and have found myself in the position of having to learn Unix administration. I chose this book based on the recommendations herein and was extremely disappointed with this book. While it gave a good general overview of how the many flavors of Unix are organized and structured, it lacked in its explanations as to how to manipulate the environment as an admin. Tons of examples and scripts are presented, without going through and expaining the entire script, or showing what its output would yield. It has wonderful advice on key elements of system administration and politics, but these are essentially the same as they are for NT. I was looking to learn, in detail, the Unix commands that need to be mastered fully, with all their parameters, in order to be a top notch admin, not just a few hand picked examples of commands in various arenas of the admin world. In order to fully understand the explanations given for the examples in this book, you already need to be quite proficient with Unix: and if that's the case, you shouldn't need this book.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Database Design for Mere Mortals: A Hands-On Guide to Relational Database Design, Second Edition
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Michael J. Hernandez
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
For Mortals, It Is Practically Valuable

A very nice book, which makes the daunting task of designing databases easy for "mortals". I like the facts that 1) the book is well written and easy to follow, 2) examples are plenty and to-the-point, 3) checklists or numbered procedures are handy for dealing with real problems.
But for "immortals" (or smarties, or professionals) who earn a living on designing databases, this book may be too simple. First, the book is not concise and may be distilled into half less without losing any essential concept. Second, serious stuff like normal forms may be added. Third, maybe an expanded chapter on special situations like analysis- or performance-centered design. But this will change the title of the book, which is not what the author intends to do, I guess.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Newton's Telecom Dictionary: Covering Telecommunications, Networking, Information Technology, Computing and the Internet (20th Edition)
Publisher: CMP Books
Authors: Harry Newton
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A Must for People Dealing with Telecom

Harry Newton is now on the 18th Edition of his renowned dictionary. Having worked in the telecommunications industry for 4 years, I can vouch for how valuable this reference has been for me.
Newton covers all the acronyms, standard terms, slang, etc. that anyone would ever be exposed to in the telecommunications world. These are not just standard definitions. Newton goes in depth for those terms that require extensive explanation. The definition for "Frame Relay" is approximately a page and a half. Even more impressive, you come away with a solid, basic understanding of Frame Relay.
What separates Newton's from other efforts is the extensive nature of the work, and the humorous approach to writing many of the definitions. For example, Newton's definition for "Intelligent Phone" starts off with "When the Bell operating companies get bored they occasionally fantasize about applications for the networks they provide." Believe me, if you have ever had to work with a Bell operating company (Southwestern Bell, Bell South, etc.) you'll get a lot of laughs from this kind of stuff.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Ipod & Itunes: The Missing Manual (Missing Manual)
Publisher: Pogue Press
Authors: J. D. Biersdorfer
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
many interactions with a desktop machine

Apple's iPod has achieved iconic status. On a par with its 1980s Mac. So this book might interest the many people who lug around iPods. It thoughtfully also covers the Shuffle.

The book shows the elegant user interface design of both devices. Makes it clear that Apple does not lack for ingenuity. Much of the book is taken up with revealing the considerable range of options for copying data to an iPod. From a Mac, naturally. But, crucially, also from a Microsoft machine. Apple has gone to some lengths to outreach to the 97% of the desktop market that does not use a Mac. There is a surprising amount that can be done with the iPod when connecting to a desktop machine. Hard to predict from the minimalist UI.

The book also mentions Apple's offer of membership in mac.com for $100/year. You get 250Mb of disk space and an email account and a web page and sundry extras. Intriguing. Though the 250Mb for email or file storage is now no bargain, when Yahoo, Hotmail and Google at least match this. Still, Apple has successfully charged a premium for many of its other offerings. So perhaps .mac will fly as well.