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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Microsoft Access 2000 Bible
Publisher: Wiley
Authors: Cary N. Prague, Michael R. Irwin
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
This is a must buy!


This is a great book for beginners and intermediate developers alike. Examples are clear and concise. I started reading and had a hard time putting it down. Very complete on tables, querys, forms, reports and macros. Also has chapter on Visual Basic. You won't be sorry with this one, it's a great buy!



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Microsoft Access 2000 Bible
Publisher: Wiley
Authors: Cary N. Prague, Michael R. Irwin
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
This is a must buy!


This is a great book for beginners and intermediate developers alike. Examples are clear and concise. I started reading and had a hard time putting it down. Very complete on tables, querys, forms, reports and macros. Also has chapter on Visual Basic. You won't be sorry with this one, it's a great buy!



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Learning Python, Second Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Mark Lutz, David Ascher
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Learning Python - Teachers and Beginners Beware


I can readily subscribe to almost all of the nice things already said about Python. I've been programming Perl for 10 plus years and also C, C++, Java and lots more. In short, I'm a very experienced programmer. I've also had a lot of teaching experience at the college Computer Science level and within companies that I've worked at. My idea of a great Learning XXX book is the Learning Perl book by R. Schwartz and T. Phoenix (O'Reilly). Learning Python is definitely not in the same league as a teaching and self-instruction book. I need a Python book for an upcoming course that I will be teaching. The course will cover both Perl and Python. I have used and will use Learning Perl. My Python book needs to be, oh say about the same size as Learning Perl and will take the user to about the same level of proficiency. This book is not it. The book is way too heavy in bulk and presentation. Just compare for yourself, the Table of Contents for the two books, available on the Amazon.com page. Way too much for a Learning Python course. Teachers and Students - "Caveat Emptor" (=Let the buyer beware)



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 3
Publisher: Sybex Inc
Authors: Richard Lynch
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Required addition for serious use of PS Elements 3.0


I read/scanned the book yesterday. It is mostly written along the lines of a tutorial following a standard work flow that a photographer would follow to optimize a photograph. This means the majority of the book concentrates on the tools that a photographer would most frequently use. Along the way the book introduces additional tools that are included in a CD that comes with the book to add to the features in Elements 3. I often realized that it would be possible to create a work around in Elements to achieve a certain effect like separating the colors of an image into separate layers; this book shows you how to create these work arounds without your having to figure out all the details yourself. The important thing is the CD then adds a plug-in effect that automates the action, this is crucial since with Elements you can't record actions yourself and without them some of these techniques would be impracticle. In some other cases like for curves the CD just supplies the missing tool. Unfortunately it seems that not only will you still be unable to record actions yourself, but you also will not be able to play any of the various pre-recorded actions that you can find around the web. Richard has posted that he is open to suggestions to his web site for actions that readers would like changed into effects for Elements users to use.

Criticisms:

At first I was worried because the book uses mask layers instead of real layer masks. The difference is that you use the eraser tool with mask layers but with layer masks you just swap foreground and background colors to draw transparency with all the power of the brush tool. Not to worry, the hidden power toolset includes a tool in the bonus set to add a real layer mask to any layer. It would have been better though if the book used real layer masks in the examples. I think Richard should put a quick tutorial on his web-site on how to use the full power of real layer masks including erasing masks with the brush tool. (Maybe he has, I haven't looked recently.) I found the beginning of the book a little annoying because it seemed like it was written to sell a casual browser in a book store on buying the book. Once the book gets into the meat of correcting images the repeated sales pitches thankfully go away. In the section on transformations and distortions I think Richard should have shown how to add a slight amount of a blurred/stretched copy of the flowerpot just in front of it on the sidewalk to represent secondary illumination. Adding a bit of reflected light illuminating the ground would really increase the sense of presence of the added object. I found the later sections of the book on output less useful. Printing on an inkjet printer with a profile is mentioned but more time is spent on CMYK printing. I think the book could have been a little clearer in showing exactly how to set Elements to perform the printer color management by including an explanation of how to set no color magagement for Epson, Canon, and HP inkjet printers in the printer driver. I am not sure how much need there is for all of the tools and information on performing CMYK separations. I would think that the sorts of professionals that need to create separations would already have a sophisticated RIP-type tool to automatically create them. The last part of the book discusses image files for the web. This would be useful mainly to someone who just wants to add a couple of basic image effects to their personal web page. Anyone doing real web layout should already have more detailed documentation. Instead of the web information I would have preferred more examples on how to re-touch people. For instance, what is the best way to use the reshape tool to reshape a person's features to be more flattering? Along with re-shaping I think he should show how to paint onto a photograph with light and shadow using the airbrush and dodge/burn tools to re-contour features. One easy example would be how to erase a small double chin.

Overall I think the book provides a strong foundation for a beginner to learn the basics of a photographer's work-flow. Readers already experienced with the full Photoshop will just want to skim the book for instructions on using the included effects and to look for nuggets of tricks that they hadn't thought of. (For instance, Richard shows how the gradient tool hides a lot more power than I realized.) The real reason I bought the book was to get the effects on the CD that I missed most from the full Photoshop- mainly curves, channels and layer masks, and with my quick test it looks like the included CD delivers. I would recommend the book both to new Elements 3.0 users who have never used the full Photoshop and to cheapskates like me that just want a few crucial features from the full Photoshop without paying the big bucks for Photoshop CS.