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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects, Vol. 1: The Essentials (3rd Edition, Version 6.5)
Publisher: CMP Books
Authors: Trish Meyer, Chris Meyer
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A very good guidance

This is absolutely the hardest tutorial I've ever followed. Instructions as long as sixteen lines long contains several steps, yet they're not numbered. What were the authors thinking? Have they not used instructional materials before? Obviously, they're new to writing them.

I have also also had the worst time trying to find the examples. I open up the Chapter 14 tutorial and get an After Effects warning: "23 files are missing since you last saved this project". Interesting, since I'd never opened the project. And then the tutorial doesn't work because the graphics are missing.

This book gets two stars for reference, but no stars for execution. The lack of numbered steps is totally unforgiveable (I thought this would be a training manual) and the disk with the missing files is unforgivable. I've yet to find a website for file download.

Buy whatever copy of the book everyone else has because mine (2nd Edition, Version 5.5) is awful.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Excel Best Practices for Business: Covers Excel 2003, 2002, and 2000
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Authors: Loren Abdulezer
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A welcome first!

I have been looking for a book on Excel with both substance and heart. It's got tons of clearly stated tips that I haven't seen anywhere else. Also, I've been looking for a book that can finally explain how to make Excel accessible to blind users since I have many goverment clients who have to comply with section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities act. The use of Spreadsheet Portals in general (and in specific with screen readers for blind users) is going to make my life a lot easier.
I highly recommend this gem of a book!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Hacking: The Art of Exploitation
Publisher: No Starch Press
Authors: Jon Erickson
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Advanced Hacking and Exploit Techniques

People often talk about whether the hacker technique genre of books such as Hacking Exposed, Hack Attacks Revealed or Counter Hack actually do more to teach the next generation of hackers and crackers than they do to help educate people about security. Those books don't go to nearly the depth that Hacking: The Art of Exploitation does.

Jon Erickson picks up more or less where those other books leave off. He provides a look at techniques and tools used by hackers as well, but he also gives a more comprehensive look at stack overflows, heap overflows, string vulnerabilities and other commonly exploited weaknesses.

Rather than simply describing the vulnerabilities and their exploits theoretically or showing you how to use pre-existing tools to exploit the vulnerabilities, Jon Erickson provides the nuts & bolts you need to learn how to program your own exploit code.

Arguably, this information could very well be used by a hacker wannabe to learn how to break into machines illegally. However, like the other hacker technique genre books, the purpose is to educate so that we can better protect ourselves from such hackers.

Armed with the information in this book you can actively develop your own exploit code to conduct vulnerability and penetration testing- the results of which could be very valuable in helping to secure your networks and computers.

This is an excellent book. Those who are ready to move on to Level 2 should pick this book up and read it thoroughly.

Tony Bradley is a consultant and writer with a focus on network security, antivirus and incident response. He is the About.com Guide for Internet / Network Security (http://netsecurity.about.com), providing a broad range of information security tips, advice, reviews and information. Tony also contributes frequently to other industry publications. For a complete list of his freelance contributions you can visit Essential Computer Security (http://www.tonybradley.com).

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Murach's Beginning Visual Basic .NET
Publisher: Mike Murach & Associates
Authors: Anne Prince
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Excellent first book for transitioning from VB6 to VB.NET

I just passed my Microsoft MCSE and MCDBA certifications and am studying for the MCSD.NET (covering VB.NET, ADO.NET, ASP.NET, and XML Web Services). While studying for my MCDBA I read Murach's SQL for SQL Server and was very impressed. So I bought Murach's Beginning Visual Basic .NET, Murach's VB.NET Database Programming with ADO .NET, and Murach's ASP.NET Web Programming with VB.NET.
I was very impressed with Murach's Visual Basic .NET. The book focuses on building Windows forms applications with light coverage of XML, ADO.NET, ASP.NET, and web services.
I liked the book because it delivers content in bite sized chunks (the 2 page Murach style). Most of the book focuses on building an application that covers the situations most VB.NET developers will face: forms design, classes, exception handling, database access, reading and writing XML files, and reading and writing text/binary files. The format is concept => example => hands on exercise. Concepts are introduced in a logical fashion. Terms are not used before they are defined.
The book does a great job weeding through all the .NET possibilities and highlighting what's useful. As an example, to paraphraze page 446: there are 150 XML classes but at least know these 2; and, this XML class has 27 Write methods but at least know these 6.
Anne Prince writes good tight VB.NET code that serves as good examples for developers new to VB.NET.
The book may also be good for someone brand new to Visual Basic. However, it would be a good idea to first get some background on programming in general, object oriented programming, HTML, and XML before reading this book.