Laughing matters to consider in the serious
by Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business in Vancouver
February 24-March 1, 2004 Issue 748; The High Tech Office column
The High Tech Office is serious stuff, right? After all, for
of us, our computer gear is our third most expensive purchase, after
our house and car. And when your computer goes down in the middle of
that job-critical project - which is, of course, when it's most likely
to develop problems - it's no laughing matter.
But just look at how many people use e-mail to send jokes to
lists of people, or the number of Web sites filled with graphics and
videos parodying all and sundry. Or take the recent crop of books that
has crossed my desk:
I'm a big fan of Adobe's Photoshop Elements software, a
that offers, in my estimation, 80 per cent of the power of its big
sibling Photoshop for 20 per cent of that professional product's price.
But while providing a lot of graphics power for the rest of us, PS
Elements still comes with a fairly steep learning curve. Wally Wang
writes about computers by day, and works at stand-up comedy by night.
In Totally Tasteless Photoshop Elements (McGraw Hill/Osborne, $37.95),
he manages to combine his two careers, showing readers how to use the
software to remove wrinkles and double-chins, or alternatively, to add
effects (not listed in Element's Filter menu) like bloat and pucker.
His whimsical examples should keep you amused while you're learning how
to edit photos and other graphics, at least if you're prepared to
include George W. Bush among the topics you find funny.
If you don't need to pretend to be learning while laughing,
O'Reilly's $23.95 The Best of the Joy of Tech by Canadians Nitrozac
(aka Liza Schmalcel) and Snaggy (aka Bruce Evans) is a colourful
assortment of the duo's geek cartoons, featured on their
GeekCulture.com Web site. No technology sacred-cow remains untargeted,
with the book sending up geeks, babes (the authors include both geeks
and babes), Microsoft, Apple, Linux and visitors from outer space.
Commentary and polls add to the amusement.
O'Reilly is best known as the publisher of an ongoing series
books for computer programmers; this book may help you relate to the
folks in your IT department a little better.
The Joy of Tech offers equal-opportunity humour, poking fun
corporate Microsoft and Apple, Windows, Unix and Macintosh users
without discrimination. Scott Kelby's Macintosh ... The Naked Truth
(New Riders, $31.99) makes no attempt at offering something for
everyone. Instead, it's aimed at the Mac faithful, promising them a
"totally biased look at what it's like to be a Macintosh user in a
Windows-dominated world." While Kelby rants, he recognizes that Mac
users' relationship with Apple mixes elements of hate with the love.
This book is really for every Mac user who feels like he or she has
been ignored or belittled by mass-market representatives, from the
press to the PC-using salespeople in the minuscule Mac departments of
the major retailers to PC users and "the stupid things they say."
If you're a Mac user, you'll almost certainly relate to
rants, and perhaps feel better knowing you aren't alone. If you're a PC
user, buy a copy for a Mac-user colleague - but read it before you pass
it on, to help get a better take on your co-worker's passion.
Next week, no laughs. Back to business.