Two books from the Pros
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1995. First
published in Our Computer Player, October 1995
The SLIP/PPP Connection by Paul Gilster and
Design Book by Robin Williams
There's something to be said for books by people
who've become experts
in a field... sharing the benefits of their experience.
And while people new to computing often think that
it's a single field
of expertise, it quickly becomes apparent that there are many areas of
specialty; it's rare that a page designer is also a C++ programmer, for
Both of these books are the latest offerings from
their authors, each,
just one of a long string of well-written and informative volumes.
One is another book aiming to make the Internet
accessible, the other
is, as its title suggests, hoping to give basic principles of page
and typography to "the visual novice".
Some users will find only one interesting-- feel free
to skip to that
section of the review; others, particularly with the merger of the
and graphic design that's implicit in the boomlet in World Wide Web
may find both of use.
The SLIP/PPP Connection
This is the fourth book by Paul Gilster that I've had
for review in
two years or so-- he's turned himself into a one-person library, all
on the Internet.
While all are informative and well-written, they seem
to follow Gilster's
personal on-line odyssey.
The first two volumes, The Internet Navigator, and
Finding It on the
Internet, use the traditional tools that have been evolved by Net
for twenty years or so... Unix text-based shell programs.
Even with a Mac or Windows PC, these users connected
to the Net as a
dumb terminal hooked onto their Internet provider, and typed commands
a Unix command line. There is great power available in this approach,
at a cost of ease-of-use.
More recently, with the Mosaic Navigator, Gilster
browsing on the World Wide Web, which has led to the explosion of
and activity on the Net. Finally, in the present volume, Gilster
the new range of graphically-oriented programs available, for both the
Mac and PC platforms, focusing on free and shareware programs.
He starts off looking at setting up the connection
itself-- what is
SLIP/PPP and how is it different from a traditional shell connection.
chapters focus on configuring the shareware Trumpet TCP/IP for Windows,
and using Mac TCP/IP and InterSLIP for the Mac.
Then he examines the range of Internet services and
software, looking at an example program for each platform... ftp, mail,
telnet, archie and wais searches, gopher, and usenet. Finally, he
the Web, looking at several of the popular browsers-- Mosaic, Netscape,
(for both Windows and the Mac), Cello, and WinWeb.
Finally, he gives a short peek at TIA and SlipKnot,
two strategies that
emulate a SLIP/PPP connection on a standard shell connection.
As with all Gilster's Internet volumes, this one
maintains a good compromise
between the technical and the friendly-- I find it a comfortable read,
with a good level of information for most users. Inevitably, this 1995
volume was actually researched and written late last year and early
year-- some of the software has been replaced with later revisions, and
for many people, Trumpet TCP/IP will soon be replaced with the
built into Windows 95. Despite this, The SLIP/PPP Connection will prove
useful and timely for at least the next year-- which is about the shelf
life of any Internet volume these days.
I can recommend this for people who are comfortable
using Macs or Windows
who are new to the Net, and especially to anyone who has to work with
on both platforms.
The SLIP/PPP Connection
by Paul Gilster (c) 1995
John Wiley & Sons
THE NON-DESIGNER'S DESIGN BOOK
Like Paul Gilster, Robin Williams (no, not THAT Robin
written a whole series of books, often small books, at a reasonable
aimed at new users.
Her "The LITTLE MAC BOOK" is my favorite introduction
to the computer
that, despite its image, still needs an introduction. "JARGON" aims at
helping users wade through at least some of the techno-babble and
that often help make a new user to computers feel like an outsider.
And "The MAC IS NOT A TYPEWRITER", and a companion
volume for PC-users
spelled out beginning typographical principles, and how to put them
practice... ways that proportional typefaces allow computer users to go
beyond the limitations of the typewriter, on which some many of us
to use a keyboard.
This 1994 book is a slim and attractive volume. It is
carrying on in
the tradition of the TYPEWRITER books, but with more focus on "design
typographic principles for the visual novice", and less on specific
Computers, and graphical interfaces in particular,
along with reasonable-priced
inkjet and laser printers, have given every computer user the power to
create complicated page designs with lots of fonts, justified type,
graphics, and more.
And that power is, too often, the power to create
pages that send shivers up the backs of printers and graphics
and without wanting to sound snobbish, there are established principles
of good design. Unfortunately, computer software manuals and tutorials
show user how to use these programs, but now how to use them tastefully
And that's the focus of Williams' book-- it avoids
issues specific to
individual computers or individual programs, but looks at how to design
pages that work-- and that look good. She examines principles of
proximity, alignment, repetition, and contrast, and shows how to use
(and when to break the rules). She shows how type, rules, graphics, and
other page elements can be put together using these principles. Each
includes exercises, and self-quizzes.
There's a good section on type-- classifying
typefaces, beyond the common
serif and sans serif, and shows how and when different typefaces can be
tastefully mixed, going beyond the by-now cliched advice of "One serif
and one sans serif face per page".
This short book (144 pages) is attractively designed--
I suppose, given
its topic, it would have to stand up as a sort of model, and a joy to
It should be required of anyone with a graphical word processor or
The NON-DESIGNER'S DESIGN BOOK
by Robin Williams (c) 1994
ISBN # 1-56609-149-4