Jul 25


Adobe Illustrator CS6 Classroom in a Book ★
There are no authors given to this book, as it is presented as the Adobe official training workbook from Adobe Systems. Many of the Classroom in a book series are reasonably decent at giving the new user a first glimpse at the use and capabilities of whatever Adobe program is being presented. This book, in contrast, is very poor, though the scarcity of stars is not entirely the fault of the book, since Adobe Illustrator itself is a terribly buggy program that needs more work. For instance, smart guides would only intermittently work for me, with no explanation from the Adobe website as to the nature of the problem, and many others have complained on the website of this bug. This book starts with chapter 0 offering a quick tour of the capabilities of Illustrator. It was the most confusing chapter I’ve ever read, and the suggested one hour to get through the chapter took about 4-5 hours. Most of the chapters would take at least double the suggested needed time. I suppose they timed somebody entirely familiar with the program. Throughout the book, very precise details are offered, though they never build on previous chapters for shortcuts or easy ways to accomplish a task. Many times throughout the book, an important detail was omitted, or perhaps a detail was accidentally skipped 20 steps prior, and no means of correction were possible, save for starting over. The book persuaded me of the horrid inadequacies of the Illustrator program. I remember with sadness how easy it was to use Corel Draw, which is unfortunately no longer available for Mac users. My only hope at this point is to try another Illustrator instruction book, and see if it can make better sense of this crazy program.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Jun 28


Adobe InDesign CS6 Classroom in a Book ★★★★
I show my age when I recall purchasing one of the original Aldus PageMaker programs. It was nice, because it treated type like a typographer would have, rather than an amateur using a word processor would do. Each upgrade seems to get better. InDesign CS6 is now focusing on the ability to publish eBooks and automated .pdf files. Much of the print typography functionality has improved significantly but mostly unnoticeably if one were to simply upgrade from CS4 or CS5 to CS6. Yet, it is easy to tell that Adobe has worked with professional publishers in order to make their life easier. This book offers a very superficial review of those improvements, and the broad spectrum of functions that are contained within InDesign.
Classroom in a Book is designed for the earlier amateur, and goes through steps to familiarize a person to InDesign in a painfully slow fashion, though not so painfully slow to one who has never used the program before. Much of its treatments of subjects is very superficial. While this book contained many more explanations about various functions than its Photoshop counterpart, it still lacked in giving the learner a good idea as to how to get something done. Its technique of walking the reader through various projects does better at informing the reader of InDesign functionality,  than teaching the reader how to really use the program. Learning to use InDesign is best accomplished by simply using the program, and  reading other texts. This book provided great ideas and vision for future publications, and was great as a re-briefer for InDesign after not having used much of the built-in power of the program. Thus, the four stars.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
May 27


Synology DS1511+ with 5 Western Digital 2 tbyte Black Caviar hard drives and DX510 Expansion module with 5 Western Digital 2 tbyte Black Caviar hard drives ?????
This is my new system of memory. It came at the recommendation of Jason L. Not being a techno-guru, I had some concern regarding configuration problems and setup, yet it worked immediately after assembling all the hard drives and putting the thing together. I made one small mistake in that I tried to make both the main unit and the expansion module into one volume, which simply won’t work. I have it running in RAID 5 configuration, so that each module consists of 20 tbytes of memory, but I functionally am working with 14 tbyte (giving me at total of 28 tbyte), and if any single hard drive goes out, I can simply swap it out and have no data loss. Now, I need to cat5 wire our house, so that I might leave this system elsewhere in the house. Not that it matters, since the system has no fans, runs completely cool, and makes no noise.
I have all my movies and music and photography stored on this system, with volume left over. My only frustration so far has nothing to do with Synology, but with Apple iTunes, which will not allow me to make the Synology as my main location for iTunes playing on a remote computer.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Feb 23


Adobe InDesign Styles, by Michael Murphy ????
I got to know Michael Murphy on the Podcast called “The InDesigner” and appreciated his insights and comments on InDesign. InDesign is the typographer’s dream, giving the typographer undreamed of control over the page and how type appears on the page. In this short book (as well as the two supplemental chapters downloaded from the internet), one learns the proper use of character, paragraph, and object styles, as well as styles used for tables. Murphy also gives a cursory review of GREP, and touches briefly on styles in the interface between word processors such as Microsoft Word and XHTML/CSS. The book was a slow read, but very helpful in learning more about some of the power of InDesign. The biggest weakness of the book was the failure to use enough examples, especially in the area of object styles, which was too cursory. This is a worthy read for the person who wishes to move beyond InDesign basics to increased power use of the program.

Tagged with:
1 Comment »
Jan 30

Adobe InDesign CS4 One on One, by Deke McClelland ????
I’ve been a bit remiss on writing on my blogsite. Every once in a while I feel like I need to offer a personal reflection on what’s going on, but that may be a while from now. There are some trips being planned soon, which I’ll detail when I get back.
It is a bit unusual perhaps seeing a book on InDesign from me. Oddly, typography has a particular attraction for me. I remember the days when I was a typographical apprentice, mostly using hot type. It was at that time, in the early 1970’s, when cold type first arrived. I remember the clunky and always problematic Alphatype machine, which seemed to be broken more often than not. But, it was the forerunner of our current typesetting technology. I suspected back in 1973 that computers would eventually take over the typesetting business, and I was correct. The only use I had for my Journeyman’s card was to work my way through medical school. My former union (International Typographical Union) doesn’t even exist anymore. It was in the early 1980’s that the first real typesetting program came out, called Aldus PageMaker. I purchased it and started playing with it. It was unreal how closely PageMaker simulated how a typographer would approach type. Aldus was since bought out by Adobe, who later morphed PageMaker into InDesign, constantly adding new functionality. This book takes one on a whirlwind tour of InDesign CS4. It is quite amazing all the power that one now has in the program, compared to the first version of PageMaker. McClelland adeptly demonstrates many of the subtle functions of InDesign CS4. His instructions are quite easy to follow, compared to many how-to-do computer books. Each chapter is accompanied by a short video that highlights a particular segment of the upcoming chapter. My only complain about the book is the preoccupation with certain distractions, such as how  to draw figures, that are nice to be able to do in InDesign, but best performed in Illustrator. I would be quite amazed if somebody owned InDesign and did NOT own both Illustrator and Photoshop. Many typesetting topics were glossed over. He could have spent more time on the use of styles, which is one of the strongest utilities in InDesign. His examples included portions of past books that he wrote, or a silly frog article called Professor Shenbop. I would have appreciated a fuller spectrum of types of publications. Deke did have a keen eye for typographical details, and I wished he would have mentioned his thinking more often regarding adjustments of type spacing, etc. In the 1970’s, everything had to be -10% between-letter spacing, so that letters ran on top of each other—thankfully, that is bygone. In summary, Deke does a most capable job of giving one a great summary of what InDesign CS4, and what it can do. For somebody familiar with InDesign, it was still helpful to read, and I felt like I picked up many new tips to make InDesign more useful to me.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Jun 01

Layers, by Matt Kloskowski ?????
I thought at first that I would be disappointed with this book, but first impressions proved to be wrong. It is a further book on Photoshop technique, intermediate level. I does not come with a CD of practice material, but you are able to download the images off of the web, which helps keep the cost of the book down. Matt has a slightly different style from other Photoshop instructors, in that he tends toward a more casual approach, encouraging you to play and try out your own techniques. His tendency is toward simplicity rather than complexity. He doesn’t waste much time insisting that you label every layer, or create 50 layers for a single image. His teaching technique makes each step quite easy to remember. His projects are interesting enough that one could imagine using the Photoshop tricks for personal photos. All in all, an excellent text for the intermediate Photoshopper.

Tagged with:
3 Comments »
May 01

Photoshop CS4 Channels and Masks One-on-one, by Deke McClelland ????
This is just another Photoshop book that I’ve read in the last 6-12 months. I have one or two more to go. This text taught me a number of things, including functionality and routines in Photoshop that I had absolutely no clue about in the past, like the “calculations” instruction for merging several channels to make a better mask. There are movies that accompany each lesson, but they only somewhat approximate the actual lesson. Deke is very careful to be exact in his instructions, but doesn’t always elaborate why you are doing a certain function in a manner that makes perfect clarity for when you need to do such functions independent of the instruction book. A number of things became quite clear on this reading. 1) Photoshop is far more complicated than I originally thought, and it will take years to master exactly what it could do for you. 2) Experience will eventually be the best teacher, and one needs to play with the program to glean all the possibilities of what you could do to alter or improve a photo. 3) There is always more than one way to accomplish a given task, and every book details a completely different style of accomplishing the same thing. Ultimately, one needs to develop their own style. 4) Many routines are discovered by chance and then shared. One should not imagine that any given photo alteration is intuitive. Rather, one needs to keep a number of “reference” books around when learning photoshop and use those books to walk through techniques. 5) Videos are nice, but the text ultimately teaches you how to do things. It would be nice to note a end product, attempt it first yourself, and then walk through how the teacher reaches the end-product. Unfortunately, most photoshop instruction books are not written that way. All in all, this is not the best photoshop book that I’ve read, but still is a book worth having on the shelves.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Mar 16

The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Layers Book, by Richard Lynch ????
This is an excellent though advanced text on Photoshopping. I remain with the continued quest to produce a perfect photograph. Unfortunately, not only must one have the right tools, they also need the skills. Regardless of one’s skill with Photoshop, obtaining a properly taken photo in the field remains the most important, and requires the most practice. Unfortunately, one often wishes to obtain a photograph at a given setting, when the light isn’t right, and it simply isn’t possible to remedy the photographic technique to make a classy photograph. Unfortunately, it is those situations where Photoshop isn’t able make up for field problems in order to help one get a prize-winning photo. Yet, the quest remains. Lynch takes Photoshop to another level. Having now read several intermediate to advanced technique books on Photoshop, I’m realizing the multiplicity of techniques to obtain a quality product. Lynch’s system uses multiple baby-steps, each step forming another layer in the photo-editing process. This can become quite cumbersome, but allows a person to safely retreat when the outcome seems to be going the wrong direction. Sometimes, the steps are quite numerous in order to achieve a given effect, yet he repeats the technique enough times that one figures out what he is doing, and is able to duplicate his process. This is not an easy book, and would be best read more than once to grasp the techniques he is pointing out. Sometimes, he carries editing a little too far, in that much of his portrait works ends up slightly artificial, yet, it is probably the technique of most magazines. I had wishes for more landscape and other forms of photography in the book. All in all, this is a valuable book to grasp. My last few Photoshop books will be a Channels and Masks book, and then yet one more Layers text. Hopefully, my photographic output will improve through all this effort.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Feb 25

Photoshop CS4 Digital Classroom, by Jennifer Smith and the AGI Creative Team ????
Having worked through the similar textbook on Dreamweaver and liking it, I decided to run through this text, hoping to improve my Photoshop skills. I certainly learned a few things from the book, in that no instruction book could be completely comprehensive, unless it was a meter thick. This text had a companion DVD which provided the images for the projects in the book, as well as videos by J Smith explaining portions of the text. The book was simply too simple for me, and my only benefit was to learn some functionality, like 3D rendering, which is usually not included in regular photographer’s texts on Photoshop, since they are interested in the image, and not in the fact that you can paste your beautiful scene from Yosemite on a pop can. All the same, the text is simple, easy to follow, so I could not downgrade the stars for the book’s simplicity. It is not as comprehensive as Photoshop Classroom in a Book, and the presentation is a little sloppier, but it has a very easy style to it, making it a reasonable first textbook for the total novice on Photoshop.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Feb 23

Photoshop CS4 Essential Skills, by Mark Galer and Philip Andrews ?????
This is probably one of the best skills textbooks that I’ve read so far on Photoshop, covering a broad range of topics from photo touch-up, montages, landscape photography, portrait photography, panoramas, and the works. There were some topics not covered, such as 3D work, but the text did not intend to be a comprehensive coverage of all that photoshop offers. The book is arranged to be read with an accompanying DVD, containing many movie files, as well and sample photographs that will be used in projects in the book. Typically, a set of movies would first be watched, and then the projects shown in the movies worked through in the accompanying textbook. The authors assume that the reader is learning, and thus make short cut descriptions of how to do things, as you get deeper into the text. The example projects provided are very sensible images that any amateur photographer would usually be working with. Through the use of repetition and ever expanding skills, you cover most of the standard functionality of photoshop. The text is very good at showing how something may be done in a number of ways, and also explaining the various choices that Photoshop offers. This is not a beginners book, but a very good transition for someone who has read a beginning book on Photoshop, or at least is familiar with the functionality and various uses of layers and channels, etc. I would compare this to the text Photoshop Classroom in a Book, which is produced by Adobe, and is excellent for taking a raw beginner through all the things that Photoshop can do. Unfortunately, it will not teach one how to use Photoshop, as you spend your time following detailed instructions, but rarely ever told why you are doing it. This book is highly recommended as a “next-step” text for the Photoshop photographer.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
preload preload preload