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    A welcome pair of missing manuals to help users exploit Vista and Leopard operating system advantages

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver March 25-31, 2008; issue 961

    High Tech Office column


    Slowly but surely, both Microsoft and Apple are moving their user bases over to the new operating systems each company released in 2007: Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, respectively. Neither comes with much in the way of printed documentation. (Remember software manuals?) That creates an opportunity for authors and publishers of third-party volumes.

    The title of David Karp’s Windows Vista Annoyances (O’Reilly, $35) shouldn’t be taken as a comment about many users’ opinion of Vista. Karp, in fact, has run a popular Windows Annoyances website (www.annoyances.org) for over a decade. His self-described mandate: “Do we continue to suffer with Windows’ shortcomings or take matters into our own hands?”

    The resulting book, he suggests, “is not documentation; you can get that anywhere.” Instead, it’s “a collection of solutions, hacks and time-saving tips to help you get the most from your PC.” Karp believes that users can learn to make their computers work for them rather than twisting themselves to adjust to their computer’s setup.
    That can take some doing, though. Karp wisely assumes his readers might not have much background in fiddling with their computers and provides thorough explanations. Many of the solutions he proposes are somewhat complex, and despite Karp’s care, may overwhelm many readers. Karp’s job is complicated by the various Windows Vista editions.

    Fix-it tools included with Vista’s Business or Ultimate editions may not be included in other versions, and I suspect Vista users may not be clear which version they’re running. Karp tries to keep readers informed, but it’s an uphill battle.

    Solid chapters on performance, security, and networking will make this book worthwhile for many. The author’s advice on customizing Vista’s UAC security nags to reduce nagging while maintaining security may be worth $35 for many Vista users.

    While Vista Annoyances was released prior to Microsoft’s Vista Service Pack 1 (due any time now), that release shouldn’t invalidate Karp’s content.

    It remains a worthwhile volume for anyone willing to spend the time and effort to tame an annoying Vista system.
    Apple’s Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard has generally received a warmer welcome from users than Vista, but even with Apple’s focus on user friendliness, Leopard is also filled with features that can benefit from explanation and, in some cases, a bit of a tweak. That provides the raison d’Ítre for David Pogue’s Mac OS X Leopard Edition: The Missing Manual (Pogue Press/O’Reilly, $35).

    As with other Pogue Missing Manuals, it tries to appeal to a broad range of users, from new-to-Mac switchers to Mac lifers, and does so with style and wit. New to the series is a set of power users guides serving up more advanced information ranging from keyboard shortcuts to tips on making use of Leopard’s underlying Unix framework. If your eyes glaze over when he mentions these, it’s easy to skip those sections.

    Pogue includes tips for some of Leopard’s useful but under-used features such as the Spotlight search tool or Automator macro-creator, building upon practical examples. The tip on enabling the secret right mouse-button on Apple’s mouse will surprise and please many.

    Despite having nearly 900 pages, Pogue had to leave some information out. The book references a downloadable chapter on Apple’s iLife ’08 applications, which is not formally part of Leopard. I found that invaluable in trying to find my way around Apple’s presumably “easier than ever” new version of iMovie.

    Any Windows user new to Macs and many Mac users new to Leopard will get their money’s worth with Pogue’s Missing Manual.

    Speaking of getting one’s money’s worth: both of these volumes list identical U.S. and Canadian prices. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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