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    A selection of high-tech tomes for summer reading

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business in Vancouver July 18-24, 2006, High Tech Office column; Issue # 873

    “Summer’s here and the time is right for …”

    Martha and the Vandellas claimed it was dancing in the streets. You might not go that far, but most of us take at least some extra time away from work. But even on holiday, a lot of us make sure to check our e-mail regularly and maybe haul along a laptop and try to get a little work done.

    So while you’re lounging on the beach or lakeside, you may want to make these books some of your vacation reading and use your holidays to hone your High Tech Office edge.

    Wallace Wang’s Steal This Computer Book 4.0 (No Starch Press, $38.95) is an updated look at the people who are out to take over your computers: who they are, what they can do (and why they do it) and what you can do to stop them. Newly revised, this edition stays on the cutting edge with new chapters on social engineering, taking advantage of peer-to-peer file sharing, manipulating search engines to obtain personal information and more.

    Rare these days, a real CD is included, packed full of hacking and anti-hacking tools for Windows, Linux and Mac. Wang doubles as a standup comic. Perhaps as a result, the book is a surprisingly fun read on a serious topic.

    Windows XP is found on more BIV reader’s desktops than any other computer operating system. Despite being five years old, many of us are still at a loss to smooth over its rough edges and to make it work for us rather than against us.

    Windows XP Cookbook by Robbie Allen and Preston Gralla (O’Reilly, $62.95) makes no claims to be for dummies or idiots. Readers should be comfortable with their computers but looking for some help in tinkering with XP’s guts. The authors claim the book, packed full of 325 recipes, is for “administrators and power users.” Tasks range from turning off annoying pop-up message balloons and moving your notebook from one network to another to turning your PC into a jukebox.

    Opening this book at random can be scary; you may hit a page densely packed with code. Don’t panic, there are multiple solutions for most tasks, ranging from easy-to-use utilities up to programming-like scripts.

    While not as fun a read as Steal This Computer Book, if you’re hauling your laptop on your holidays, this book will help you make it more fun to use.

    The March 2004 Scientific American reported on a psychological study in which subjects were asked to count the number of passes made by a basketball team in a one-minute video clip. Midway through the tape, a gorilla walked across the court; half the subjects failed to notice the gorilla.

    Futurists Edie Weiner and Arnold Brown suggest that all too often we are similarly blind to evidence of change. In FutureThink (Prentice Hall, $34.99) they try to teach readers “how to think clearly in a time of change,” with practical advice for making business decisions. Topics covered include getting past the personal and organizational blocks that keep us from understanding change, stepping back to get a better view of the big picture, freeing the mind and out-witting self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecies.

    Their conclusion: “Question Consensus.” Only by learning to think in ways that will “sustain and nourish your organization” will you be able to help yourself and your organization succeed.

    Happy summer reading.

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