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Computing At Chaos Manor:
June 22, 2010

The User's Column, May/June 2010
Column 358
Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
www.jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2010 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.


When I wrote the last column I didn't have an iPad, but from the reports I had received I concluded that the iPad was a game changer: It would have a major impact on the future of publishing.

I have the iPad now, and I am sure I was correct. It's a game changer, and it will alter the publishing industry. The impact of the iPad will be very great indeed.

The iPad itself is seductively cool, but it's not that the current iPad itself is so nifty, it's what it surely will become that will have great impact. There will inevitably be many major improvements in the next few years, and what people will eventually carry will have far more capabilities than the iPad I have; but the current iPad is useful enough to attract millions of users. That will be enough to spark the spiral of new applications, competitive hardware which will force Apple improvements, and thousand of useful apps. The current iPad is nowhere near as useful as it will be, but it's plenty good enough to have a real effect on the computing habits of influential early adopters, and that will have big effects on eBooks and eBook habits. Moreover, the enthusiasm I have seen for iPad comes not only from Apple users, but from PC users as well. Of the hundreds of reports I have on iPad (most of them, of course, from early adopters), only a very few were negative. Most were enthusiastic, some wildly so.

To start with, it's a Kindle killer. It has been that for me: I have moved my Kindle books to the iPad, and I find I prefer reading them on the iPad than ever I did on the Kindle (and I liked the Kindle). Getting them to the iPad from the Kindle isn't obvious until you've done it, but like most iPad operations, if you fool around with it trying one thing and another, you'll get it. First, install the Kindle application. Open it, and you'll be on the home page, which won't have anything in it, but in the lower left corner is a small line saying that it is "Showing Home." Touch the "Home" and a menu drops down: Home and Archived Items. Touch Archived Items and you'll see a list of your Kindle books, or at least those you've bought through Amazon. Tap the book title and (assuming you have a WiFi connection) that book will appear shortly on the Home page.

I did have a weird experience with Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man (which I have previously recommended). The book didn't appear on the list of books in the Home page of the iPad, meaning I hadn't previously brought it over; but it wasn't in the Archived Items either. Since those appear as icons - book covers, actually - rather than on a list, I had to look carefully through the thirty or so books I had in Archived Items, but eventually I was certain. It wasn't there.

I got out the Kindle - I hadn't used it since I got the iPad - and looked to be sure the book was there. It was, and it was in fact selected as the book I was reading. I wondered if that could be it, so I selected another book to be reading on the Kindle. I didn't think that could have much to do with anything - the Kindle was off for a week and even now the wireless wasn't on - and it didn't. Then I turned on the wireless on the Kindle. When next I looked on the iPad, The Forgotten Man was there - not in Archived Items, but on the Home page. Already transferred. I have no idea what happened because I am pretty sure I never told the iPad to download the book - how could I when I couldn't find it? - but that was the way it was. I can now read the book either on the Kindle or on the iPad, as I can read all my other Kindle books I have moved over to the iPad.

Given the choice, I read books on the iPad. The screen is both brighter and larger, the text is easier to read, and the cover is in color. Illustrations work better. It's just easier to read on the iPad, but there's more.

The Kindle Application for iPad works better than the Kindle itself. That is, you can turn pages quickly, but better yet, you can slide the "where am I?" button to any part of the book. Almost instantly. That's not quite as convenient as flipping through the pages of an actual book, but nearly so, and a lot more convenient than trying to skip back and forth through a Kindle eBook on the Kindle itself. I found I could easily go back to pages I had already read, which turn out to be something you have to do - at least I have to do it - when reading Stig Larrson's complicated thrillers. Larrson generally refers to characters by their last names (generally in European languages) and since his books are large multi-viewpoint novels, the character may not have been in any scenes for a hundred pages: suddenly there's a new viewpoint but I at least can't remember whose it is.

Of course the ability to browse - to flip back and forth among the pages - is one of the main features of printed books. That sort of works when reading some books in some formats on a computer, but it has been very difficult on the Kindle. That limits the usefulness of the Kindle for works of any great complexity, which mean it's not what I would recommend for reading textbooks. It's different with the iPad. With the iPad it's almost as easy to flip back and forth through the eText as it is to thumb through a printed book.

Annotations and highlights are simpler on the Kindle than on the iPad, and that too will be important for textbooks and non-fiction in general. Finding existing annotations - they come over with the book when you download it from a Kindle - is easy, but figuring out how to make new ones took more fooling around. Hint: touch and hold the text you want to mark or the place you want to put a note. After that it's simple. And actually Amazon does a pretty good job of explaining how to use Kindle on the iPad.

I am told that students don't like using the Kindle for text books. They prefer to have paper to mark up. I can understand that. You can make notes with the Kindle, but it's not all that easy. It isn't easy on the iPad either. There's neither handwriting recognition nor a stylus. Dan Bricklin's note program for the iPhone sort of works, but not very well, and you would really rather use the keyboard. The iPad's on-screen keyboard takes getting used to, but it is useful - far more so for me than the iPhone virtual keyboard - but I'd hate to use it for more than notes. I tend to rest my fingers on the keyboard, and with the on-screen keyboard that's disastrous.

Fortunately the Apple Wireless Keyboard works perfectly with the iPad. Connecting it up is simple. The Apple TV ads say of the iPad "You already know how to use it," and that's more or less true. When I turned on the Apple Wireless Keyboard and then the iPad, nothing happened of course; but it took only a second to realize that I needed to touch the Settings icon and turn on Bluetooth; after which the iPad told me what to do.

The iPad in the LapWorks iPad Recliner
The iPad in the LapWorks iPad Recliner, with the Apple Wireless Keyboard, set on a very crowded desktop.

If you intend to do much text entry with the Wireless keyboard you will need a way to prop up the iPad. I have the LapWorks iPad Recliner, and that works quite well. The Apple Wireless Keyboard is quite a good keyboard. My preference is for "clickier" keys, which is why my iMac uses a heavy duty Microsoft Comfort Curve wireless keyboard for the Mac, but I could live with the Apple keyboard and I doubt it would take all that long to get used to it. The iPad Recliner also works fine. I can put it on a crowded desk - see photo - and work with it just fine. I would hate to write a whole novel on this combination, but in fact it would be a lot easier to use than my first Z-80 was, and way easier to work with than the typewriters I learned to write with. Of course the keyboard and Recliner are more stuff to carry. At what point do you decide to take a netbook? Or for that matter, a MacBook?

Most iPad users won't be carrying a keyboard and stand. They'll just have their iPad. For some that will be good enough. For those who normally use Apple Mail and don't tend to write long email replies, the iPad can replace a netbook, or even the MacBook, or so I am told by several road warriors. That isn't typical, I think. I could never go on a trip with only the iPad; but the fact that some professionals can with the existing iPad (and iPhone) is significant. All of the "iPad only" people I know were Apple enthusiasts and carried MacBooks; I don't know of any PC addicts who are leaving their laptops behind. On the other hand, many PC users, including me, find it easy enough to stuff the iPad in with the PC when they're headed for trips. It's thin and light, and if you already have a ThinkPad in your carrying case you will hardly notice the extra bulk and weight of an iPad.

Size Matters

The iPad is larger than a Kindle, and thus less convenient to carry: except for the ScotteVest I don't have anything with a pocket large enough to carry the iPad, and I never got in the habit of wearing a vest for the pockets; it gets warm in Southern California. If I am going to take the iPad with me, I carry a shoulder bag, and while I have a couple of nice shoulder bags, the iPad doesn't quite fit either one. For the moment, if I am going to carry an iPad I will have to carry a small brief case or messenger bag.

I expect that to change. For me the ideal bag would have a principal pocket 10 inches high by 8 inches wide, a bit taller than the iPad needs but big enough for the Borum and Pease composition book I use as a paper log. I like paper logs anyway: I can Scotch tape in printed pages and receipts and notes, keeping all that in order, and the log book serves as a file when it's filled. The log book is one major reason I don't go far without a brief case or flight bag: if things aren't logged, I probably won't remember them.

Younger people may not have that problem, yet.

I put this much emphasis on bags and carry systems because I note that many people use the iPhone or some other Smart Phone. Most iPhone users are iPad enthusiasts once they see one. So, I found, were users of other kinds of phones when they saw my iPad in the airport lounge. Alas, you really can't carry the iPad without a carry case. It won't hook onto your belt. On the other hand it's small and light, and getting popular. I suspect the iPad and its successors will have a big fashion impact. There was a time when it was fashionable for men to carry a shoulder bag. I think that fashion will come again.

Power Problem

The iPad has the disturbing habit of saying "Not Charging" when it's connected to a computer by USB cable, and it doesn't seem to matter what computer it's connected to, either. I see that message whether connected to an iMac, MacBook Pro, ThinkPad, or a big Core 2 Quad system. The only way I can see the little lightning bolt "charging" icon on the iPad is to connect it to the (tiny, included with the iPad) wall charger. That's no great inconvenience, even on trips, because the charger really is small and easy enough to include in whatever you carry the iPad in.

In fact, though, the iPad is charging when connected to a powered USB port; it's just that it won't charge when the iPad is turned on. Let it sleep, and lo! it will actually be charging, but of course you won't see any signs of that, since the iPad doesn't have a charging light: it can only tell you its charge status when turned on. It takes a while to charge up, too, but if you connect the iPad to a ThinkPad at bedtime, it will be fully charged when you wake up in the morning.

Incidentally, you can charge (or synchronize) the iPad while it's in the iPad Recliner although there's no slot in the Recliner to feed the connecting cable through. Just turn the iPad upside down and attach the cable at the top. It doesn't mind which way it's oriented.

Transfer Problems

One feature of the Kindle is that you can transfer files into it by USB. Even better, you can mail yourself files through Amazon and for a dime Amazon changes their format and puts them in your inventory. I have sent a number of books to my Kindle that way, including Strategy of Technology.

I have so far not found a way to get those books from the Kindle to the iPad. I am hoping someone will develop an application that will do that. Of course iPad has a number of other reading programs. There's the normal bookshelf iBooks format, which is just as nice as the Kindle app format, and if you turn the iPad on its side oBiiks is even better because it shows two pages; and since it also has the "where am I" slider button so that you can thumb through pages, it's preferable to the Kindle format. Apple has not yet released an application that will import pdf format books into iBooks, but one is promised. Meanwhile, it's already possible to get books in epub format into iBooks. That opens up both Google Books and Project Gutenberg, and that's a lot of books. CNET has a good video on just how to load both books and cover pictures into iBooks.

Peter Glaskowsky notes

Regarding getting non-Amazon content into Kindle for iPad (or iPhone) - it can't be done, according to the online forums, without jailbreaking the machine and manually stuffing the content into the proper folders. Even that doesn't seem to be very reliable.

I think this is Amazon cutting off its nose to spite its face. If people get into the habit of loading their personal content into iBooks instead of Kindle for iPad, they'll also buy their books through iBooks instead of the Kindle store.

I tend to agree. Amazon has no great stake in Kindle sales. They're not a hardware company, and they can't be making much profit on the Kindle in the first place. What Amazon sells is books. They need to have a lot of Kindle capable readers out there, but for Amazon it's not important that they be actual Kindles.

Note that Barnes and Noble has already decided to cooperate with iPad. You can get the Nook apps for iPad and then buy and read B&N books through iPad. You can even borrow books from the public library - at least from the LA Public Library - through the Nook app. There's considerable discussion in Nook circles on Nook vs. iPad. You can find a good one here.

I understand that Apple may have already released the pdf importer but I haven't found it as this goes to press. It's pretty clear there will be multiple means for getting pdf books into iBooks and probably other iPad apps.

Learning About iPad

Apple has prepared a number of video tutorials on various uses of iPad. The tutorials are excellent, but if I had known about them before I got an iPad I probably never would have acquired one: when I tried to look at the videos they downloaded with incredible slowness, played jerkily, and in general made me think this was a childish toy. Then I found that that to be true on a number of systems, including an iMac, MacBook Pro, and a Windows 7 Intel Quad machine.

I'm not sure why this is. I can watch episodes of NCIS and other videos on the iPad. I can watch YouTube videos including the Jumping Rope halftime show at the Army/Navy Game on the iPad. The problem doesn't seem to be my Internet connection. Just the Apple tutorial server. Perhaps it's overloaded? But others tell me they have no problems at all. In any event, it's worth watching those tutorials, and in my case it was a matter of patience: let it play jerkily to the end, then watch it again. I had to do that with each tutorial, but I did learn a lot about using my iPad. You probably won't have that difficulty. Watch the tutorials. You'll be glad you did.

iPad Camera Connection Kit

This isn't cheap, but you'll probably need it. The "kit" consists of two 2 ½ by 1 ¼ inch plug converters. Either will plug into the iPad (but only one at a time.) One of the converters allows you to plug in an SD memory card. You can then transfer pictures to the iPad. I haven't yet seen an app that uses this as a general file transfer system for backup or introducing files to the iPad, but I haven't been looking for them. I'm sure that if there aren't any, there will be.

The other converter lets you connect a USB cable to the iPad. That will then connect to many digital cameras, which is useful. I wondered if it would support other USB devices, but my excitement died when I tried to connect two different Plantronics DSP headsets. In both cases I got a message: The attached device is not supported." On the other hand, some reviewers report success, but none I have seen anyone specify which headset worked. I am also told that powered external USB drives may work, but again the details are vague. My guess is that it won't be long before there are apps that allow a lot more uses for the "Camera Conversion Kit", but so far I haven't found any.

The Biggest iPad Problems

My biggest problem with the iPad is actually with the iPhone: it's locked on to AT&T, and AT&T may have advertisements telling us how wonderful their coverage is, but you'll never prove that by me. In my case I had great cell phone coverage all over my house when I had Cingular, but once AT&T bought Cingular that went away. I now get three bars at best in my upstairs office, and none at all at the breakfast table or my back yard. It's not much better at Larry Niven's house out in Chatsworth.

For a while that was somewhat ameliorated by a neat booster gadget that I could stick on an upstairs window with a suction cup. The gizmo, about the size of a package of cigarettes, connected to an antenna of similar size with a forty foot wire. It took a while to find the best location for the antenna box, but once it was in place I had good coverage near it, and adequate coverage in nearly all parts of the house. Alas, it stopped working after a couple of months - just after I got used to having cell phone coverage in my house! - and I've never found a satisfactory replacement. The company that made it seems to have vanished.

The biggest complaint most Windows users have about the iPad is that it won't display Flash, the Adobe (formerly Macromedia) video player. That's not an accident; Steve Jobs has deliberately excluded both Flash and applications that use Flash from iPhone and iPad, on the grounds that Flash is yesteryear's technology and causes more problems than it solves. He has given his reasoning in some detail.

There are a number of replies to Job's letter, some from Mac enthusiasts, like this one from Ars.

Whatever one's opinions on the subject, it's pretty clear that Jobs is adamant, and it's unlikely that the iPad will ever accommodate Flash. This is annoying to many iPad users, because a lot of web sites were developed using Flash. On the other hand, many of those are adapting, as for example YouTube. For me the gripping hand is the extraordinary iPad sales, far higher than projected. Few will want to abandon that market.

A Few Reader Comments

I have selected a couple of iPad comments from among the dozens I have received. The first is from long time reader and friend Bob Holmes, a systems engineer with long experience in computer operations:

Two Months With an iPad

Jerry

I've had my iPad for two months and if I had to do it over again there isn't really anything that I would do differently.

I wouldn't have waited for the 3G model. WiFi works just fine for my needs.

While I have used about 6 GB of storage so far, getting 64 GB gives me a comfortable cushion.

The only problems so far aren't really problems, they solved themselves after a short wait. I have had several "lockups" using Safari. In all cases, after leaving Safari and then returning the locked up page reloads and everything is fine.

I will be interested to see what improvements over and above multi-tasking iOS 4 will bring.

My main concerns that I would like to see addressed are:

No multi-generation back up in iTunes.

Better use of keyboard real estate by adding keys to reduce switching between Alpha and Numeric modes. Adding a Tab Key would improve document creation in Pages or other word processing applications.

Support for the original Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. (Original iPad literature stated that the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard was supported. Since there are two models and both have the same nomenclature I and many others were led to believe that our keyboards were supported.)

iWorks improvements:

Folders in all three apps for organizing documents. (This can be done with the current OS version. See GoodReader for a good implementation. The GoodReader UI for doing this is a little clunky, but it works.)

The ability to convert to Excel .xls format in Numbers. (Currently the only formats available to export are Numbers and PDF.)

Bob Holmes

Sent from my iPad

My experience with 3G as opposed to Wi-Fi is similar: I haven't found I need 3G. On my last trip I had no problems connecting the iPad to the Wi-Fi in the American Airlines Admirals Club, and in my hotel, so I never missed not having a phone connection. Others have different experiences. My daughter-in-law uses the 3G connection constantly, and has found the iPad enormously useful in her work. Some users have stopped carrying the MacBook in favor of iPad and iPhone.

One note: I didn't have the older Apple Wireless Keyboard; mine was ordered at the same time as the iPad, and as I said above, It Just Works.

I have had a number of recommendations for the GoodReader application, and I am ashamed to say that although I have bought and installed it, I haven't yet learned to use it. That's largely because I've found iBooks and the iPad Kindle app good enough for what I've been doing.

The next letter brings up a point familiar to all iPad users:

iPad Observations

When my iPad is connected to a three year old Belkin powered USB hub, it says "Not Charging" when it's on, but it does in fact charge at a reasonable rate when it's asleep.

After scarcely a day, the entire active surface of the screen is uniformly covered with fingerprints. This suggests that a great deal of thought has gone into making the most of the touch screen. The fingerprints are invisible when the screen is on, and visible only at an angle when the screen is off. No point fussing with them unless you want the unit to look pretty while it's off.

Bill Dooley

I had the same experience with the fingerprint covered screen. When the iPad is off, it's ugly enough to be alarming, but it's easily cleaned with the chamois that came in the iPad box.

iPad and Tablet

The huge sales of iPad have sparked some strongly exaggerated articles - see "Tablet computers set to overtake netbooks" by Brandon Bailey which assumes that the iPad is the equivalent of a TabletPC, which it is not - but Bailey has a point. The iPad is a great introduction to Tablet computing. I've long said that the best research tool I've ever had was LisaBetta, an HP-Compaq TabletPC with Microsoft OneNote. The TabletPC didn't catch on the way I thought it would. It was too heavy, the battery life is too short, and the early ones were so slow that many early adopters turned away from them. Eventually that included me, but I still have my regrets. If a Windows 7 system as versatile and useful as LisaBetta shows up - and I think that's only a matter of time - with more speed and a bit more battery life, I'm ready.

I think the iPad will bring back some of that early Tablet enthusiasm. It doesn't have a stylus and handwriting recognition, which are in my judgment the minimum requirements for a real TabletPC, but I'm willing to bet that will change over time. Apple has made a very useful device that has many of the features of a real Tablet, and does much of what people carry netbooks for.

Two more notes for you to think about. First, the iPad uses no Intel chips. All of the iPad's innards were developed in Apple controlled shops. The runaway iPad sales bring no revenue to Intel. Second, Apple's capital value recently passed Microsoft's. At one time Apple was the little brother of the computer industry. Now it's a giant. I think both those facts are not only significant, but will have some very hefty consequences over the next few years.

Publishing News: Kindle and Nook Prices Cut

Barnes and Noble has announced a price cut for the Nook eBook reader from $259 to $199, with a Wi-Fi only (no cellular connection) for $149. Amazon immediately countered by lowering the Kindle price to $189. So far there is no hint from Apple of a coming price cut in iPad, but the probable effect on eBook sales is obvious.

Magazines and newspapers are already in trouble. Paperback book distribution is a tangled mess. Years ago the Supreme Court decision in Thor Power Tools doomed most paperback books to the shredder - probably without recycling - and also insured that distribution would be complicated. Paperbacks are sent out on what amounts to consignment, but because of Thor Power Tools those not sold are not returned to the publisher: the covers are stripped off and the books are destroyed. This is hardly a green practice; it also makes book keeping difficult for authors, publishers, and distributors since it's hard to tell whether a book has been sold, is displayed for sale, or has already gone to the shredder.

Hard bound books remains profitable, but publishers see trouble ahead there, too.

The bright spot in publishing has been the rise of eBook sales. The newest round of price cuts will help that. What those price cuts will do to iPad and its successors is a bit harder to determine. You can argue that it is as easy - some would say easier - to read a book on Kindle or Nook as it is on iPad, but few would say that's true for magazines and newspapers. See the Apple tutorial on Popular Science on iPad for an example. Assuming that the servers work properly - that is, that enough is invested in server farms to make on-line magazine reading a pleasant experience - iPad and or some kind of Tablet-capable system are likely to be the clear successors to magazines that rely on color pictures and lots of illustrations, and probably to those like Commentary that are mostly text.

Meanwhile, it has never been easier to get one's books in print. Most authors still rely on old fashioned publishers to print and distribute their books, but the old 10% royalty system is being undermined by the much higher royalties - up to 70% -- offered by some eBook publishing services, and more than a few published authors have turned to those services rather than return to their traditional publisher. There are new developments every few weeks, but the trend seems clear. Electronic publishing is on the rise. Its effect on printed book sales isn't entirely clear - some publishers have found that those who bought the eBook also buy a hard copy - but in general it hasn't been good.

And we know that newspapers, which seem determined to alienate their readership by reducing print size, hiding the comics in advertising, wrapping the front page in more advertising, and in general showing a complete lack of regard for reader sentiments, are failing; while a glance at the nearest news stand will show that many familiar magazines are gone and the rest are thinner.

Winding Down

The movie of the month is a very old one: Command Decision, with Clark Gable, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson, Brian Donlevy, and more, pretty well all male because this is a movie of upper echelon command in World War II, and doesn't have a romantic interest. It's one of the best movies about command ever done. I have it on both VCR and DVD.

The computer revolution goes so fast that no one can keep up with it. When BYTE had 30 editors it was possible, just barely; but no longer. Readers usually tell me about new developments I haven't heard about, but even then some of them get away from me. The Computer Book of the Month is Google SketchUp from the Pogue Press imprint of O'Reilly; it's one of the excellent Missing Manual series. SketchUp has been around for a long time, but even though I once gave it a show award, I blush to say I had forgotten its existence until I got this book for review. SketchUp is a Google freeware version of the SketchUp Pro 3D CAD and modeling program. The professional program costs about $500, and I won't try to compare it to its competitors; but you can do a lot in the Google free version. The O'Reilly SketchUp Missing Manual starts with the very basics - there's even a definition of "clicking" - and goes to quite complex levels. Like most of the Missing Manuals it is well edited so that the writing is clear and there are lots of examples. If you are interested in learning how to work with 3D CAD programs, Google SketchUp and this book are a great way to get started, and if you go through all 500 pages you'll know enough to do quite useful work. The free Google SketchUp is quite powerful, and it's not just a toy. Highly recommended.

The Missing Manual series was originally confined to books about computer programs, later programs and products, that came with insufficient documents and manuals. It expanded to include many more programs and products that had fairly good documentation: the Missing Manuals made things clearer and included tricks and procedures that the official documents didn't have. Over time the series expanded to include a lot more than programs and computer products. Now, for instance, there's "Buying a Home: The Missing Manual" by Nancy Conner, who has authored other Missing Manual volumes. She has a PhD (subject unspecified) "and is qualified for a New York real estate license," whatever that means. I confess I opened this book with some reservations: what does it mean, a missing manual in home buying?

I changed my mind as I read through it. I remain unsure that books like this belong in the Missing Manual series, but I can recommend this book to anyone about to go buy a house. For most of us - certainly for me - real estate is an arcane science, and we pretty well have to trust in a real estate agent. In a normal economy that's probably good enough - it sort of worked for most of my life - but these aren't normal times. We've been through a large boom and bust period, and some real estate agents are desperate, not having made a sale in a long time. Meanwhile, loans are harder to come by, the paper work is formidable, and the more you know about it all the better off you are likely to be.

There's a lot in this book that I didn't know when I bought my first house, but I got by. I bought my last house, Chaos Manor, in 1968, and I pretty well escaped all the wild roller coasters since. Things are trickier now. This book isn't enough to get you past some of the hazards. I don't think it has sufficient warning about routinely borrowing against equity and treating your home as a cash cow during boom times. It does have a decent exposition on Adjustable Rate Mortgages, and it gives pointers to a number of valuable information sources. It explains how various fees are calculated, and explains options you may not be aware of. In summary, I recommend this book - there's little in it you don't need to know, and some you need to know badly - but I will add the warning that in these economic times you will do well not to think you know all you need to even after you've gone through these checklists and read up on some of the arcana of real estate.

The next Computer Book of the Month is also from O'Reilly, Learning iPhone Programming by Alasdair Allan. Those who already write iPhone applications aren't likely to need this book except as a quick and dirty introduction to give new hires. Mostly, this is a book for C programmers with or without Mac experience who want to learn something about writing iPhone apps; and of course the ability to write iPhone apps is a pretty good basis for beginning to write iPad apps. So far I don't know of an iPad App how to book, but I doubt it will be long before there are as many of them as there are of iPhone App books. In any event, C Programmers who want to do iPad apps will find this book useful. It gives lots of examples, and it's written in a programmer friendly style, and like most O'Reilly books it's well edited. If you're a programmer thinking of writing iPhone or iPad apps, you'll want this book if you don't already have one of its rivals.

If you do SQL Server administration you are probably aware that Microsoft Press has released a second edition of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Administrator's Pocket Consultant by William Stanek. If you're not aware of it, you should be, and you'll want to get a copy, even if it's a bit large to fit into a pocket. It's a good handbook, 680 pages, well indexed, with an extensive table of contents. If you are not already in SQL Server administration, be warned, this is not an introductory work.

I have mixed emotions about Land the Tech Job You Love by Andy Lester from Pragmatic Life. It's one more of a big stack of self help books for high tech geeks, written by a successful high tech geek. Most of its career development secrets and tips seem fairly obvious, but I know lots of high tech people who don't know them. If you're one of those who has only a hazy idea of how businesses operate, or you've always worked with a small group of people you get along with and now you find you have to find a place in a big outfit, there's probably a lot in here for you. Whether it's all that much better than another book of this sort depends more on you than on the books. My recommendation is that when you're making a big decision - buying a house, changing jobs - it's always a good idea to have as much appropriate information, both general and specific, as you can get. Probably the best way to decide if this book is for you is to go to the Amazon site, find the video of the author talking about his book, and watch it; he does a pretty good job of pitching his book. If the pitch appeals to you, get the book.

I have so many unreviewed computer books, many of them important, that I am going to prepare a special Summer Book Review column. I should have that done shortly.

This column is a month late. I thought of labeling it June, or May/June (which I did, in fact, do), but I am vain enough that I hope to catch up; I haven't missed a monthly column since I began with BYTE in 1979, and better late than never...