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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum : Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Alan Cooper
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
You're blaming the wrong people!

I used to like computers--then I got a job where I was actually expected to get some work done on a computer. Every time we upgrade something on our system, I have come to dread the occasion because I know that my work will somehow be irreparably messed up. There was even one occasion where I actually discarded the upgrade and went back to the old version of the software. There is no question in my mind that the way software is designed today really needs to be changed. There is too much software out there that is built as if a third grade kid was designing a swiss army knife--it may have a lot of cool stuff on it, but you end up cutting yourself every time you try to use it.
What this book does is to explore these issues in entertaining detail. The author explores several situations in which major problems or accidents that were blamed on "human error" could actually be blamed on poorly designed software--including at least one example where human lives were lost. The author also offers some specific suggestions on how software companies, and end users, can help to rectify the situation.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this excellent book. It's well worth the money.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: .NET Compact Framework Programming with C# (Microsoft Net Development Series)
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Paul Yao, David Durant
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Very complete coverage

I spent some quality time with this book over the weekend and was very impressed. If you're new to .NET, there are good introductions to the technologies. If you're experienced you can pretty much skip these and go straight into programming for the compact framework. This book really provides a thorough understanding of Windows CE, so you really get an idea of what's going on behind the scenes. If you go through this book, you should be a pro at Compact .NET programming, and probably .NET programming in general. Though written in C#, this book should probably be helpful to a VB developer as well (I don't know if there's a VB version in the works).
One of the reasons that this book is so incredibly thorough is its size. At 1300+ pages (close to 1400 counting the index), this is by far the largest book I have from this series.
Fortunately, you should be able to thumb through this text as a reference manual even after you've completed it.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Steve Krug
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Great book for information design

I sincerely enjoyed reading this book on my train rides to work. Falling asleep while reading it was not really related to the book itself ;-)
Despite the many useful tips in the book (sometimes very obvious, but you need to hear them from someone to believe it), I think the design of the book (color print on almost every page) probably makes it too expensive and the actual content could probably have been compressed into 15 pages or so as well.
Anyways, a good read for most so-called "web-designers".

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 3
Publisher: Sybex Inc
Authors: Richard Lynch
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Valuable for both the tutorial and the tools

"The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 3" is really two products intertwined into one. The book goes over image editing by first addressing basic cleanup techniques, tone, contrast and sizing. Color editing is developed through RGB separations. Here the real value of Hidden Power comes through: Lynch provides tools (RGB separation, levels) in an included CD that add this capability thought to be available only in the full version of Photoshop.

Other topics covered in the book are altering composition, shaping and replacing objects, vector art, printing (tools for CMYK separation are provided,) and web graphics, including animated GIF's.

Hidden Power is well written and suitable as both a tutorial and reference.

One thing I wish I knew beforehand: if you already own "The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 2," you can buy the tools for Photoshop Elements 3 online for a lot less.