Author Archive

Apple releases Mac operating system Mac OS X Mountain Lion today

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in News

Existing Mac users can upgrade for $19.99/£13.99/S$25.98/A$20.99 from Apple’s Mac App Store

Main Features:

  • iCloud integration – allows swift syncing of iOS devices.
  • iMessage – send messages, photos, videos, documents and contacts from your Mac to anyone with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch
  • Notification Center – keep track of your emails, messages, calendar alerts, software updates etc all in one spot on your desktop
  • Power Nap – leave your Mac connected to a power source and it’ll keep updating mail, contacts, calendar, reminders, notes, Photo Stream, Find My Mac and Documents in the Cloud, silently.  So when you wake up it’s ready to go!
  • Dictation – talk anywhere you can type, in English (US, UK, Australian), French, German and Japanese, and your Mac will convert your speech to text.
  • Sharing – there’s a Share button throughout OS X Mountain Lion so you can easily share photos, videos and documents.
  • Facebook & Twitter integration – share what you’re up to right from the app you’re in.
  • Game Center – play anyone with a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch

Mac OS X Mountain Lion makes it much easier to work seamlessly between Apple devices.

We are updating all our Mac titles to cover OS X Mountain Lion and they will be available in a few weeks.  Keep checking our website for updates.

Nick Vandome writes about Adobe’s latest version of Dreamweaver, Creative Suite 6.

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in News

Website design has advanced remarkably since the early days of putting text and images on screen. One web authoring program that has advanced at an equal rate is Dreamweaver, now available in the latest version, CS6 . Dreamweaver CS6 not only has an excellent graphical interface for quickly creating high-quality web pages; it also contains a range of powerful tools for incorporating the latest web-design elements into sites, to give them a highly professional look. Templates are provided so that you can produce stylish websites that adhere to the latest web standards. Best of all, you can do this without having to have an in-depth knowledge of HTML or CSS. However, if you want to expand your knowledge of these areas, Dreamweaver CS6 has all of the tools and support to do so.

Dreamweaver CS6 also acknowledges the fact that websites these days frequently require to be designed to work on a variety of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. The new Fluid Grid Layout function enables sites to be optimized so that the same content will appear correctly on whatever device they are being viewed on.

Overall, Dreamweaver is an ideal program for anyone involved in designing websites: its combination of simplicity and power makes it an excellent choice for the novice and the professional alike.

Nick Vandome is the author of  Dreamweaver CS6 in easy steps, which will be published later this month.

 

Google Drive for free storage

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in News

With the major announcement concerning Google Drive, In Easy Steps is well placed to ensure you make the most of cloud computing.

In the past week alone, Google Drive was launched, offering 5GB of free storage together with amazing search facilities that read scanned documents and recognise images. Visit https://drive.google.com/start#home

But not to be outdone, Dropbox is now allowing non-members to launch links to files help in the accounts of members(https://www.dropbox.com), and  Microsoft has revamped SkyDrive so that it integrates into the Mac and PC operating system to run as a virtual folder (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/skydrive/home).

The forthcoming book – Cloud Computing in easy steps – will cover each of these innovations as well as many, many more ensuring you will not be left behind and can take full advantage of this exciting and growing area of computing.

Dave Crookes, author of Cloud Computing

David Crookes is a journalist who specialises in technology and videogames. He began his career in 1994, writing for Amstrad Action magazine and his many credits include The Independent newspaper, Computing Made Easy, Web User, Micro Mart, games™, Retro Gamer and the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition. In addition to his writing, he is the curator of Videogame Nation, an exhibition celebrating the rise of gaming, which tours the United Kingdom.

Digital Editions now available

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in News

Check out our books in the iBookstore or download our free Apple App (our Android App will be available shortly).

The latest titles to be released are:

A Parent’s Guide to the iPad in easy steps 
C++ Programming in easy steps 4th ed. 

Digital SLR Photography in easy steps, 2nd ed
Effective Project Management in easy steps, 2nd ed. 
Get to No. 1 on Google in easy steps, 3rd ed. 
Linux in easy steps, 5th ed.
Macbook in easy steps, 2nd ed. (covers Mac OS X Lion)
Photoshop CS5 in easy steps
Photoshop Elements 10 in easy steps
Successful Selling in easy steps

Visual Basic in easy steps, 3rd ed. 

You can preview the books before purchasing.

Planning for Windows 8

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article, News

Windows 8 is the next version of Windows.

Microsoft have already released a Developer Preview and the initial Beta version is due shortly. Windows 8 features the new Start Screen which replaces the Start menu and displays active tiles with the new Metro Apps that are being. You will be familiar with this type of interface if you use a Smartphone such as Windows Phone (which incidentally is also a member of the Windows 8 family).

If you are currently running Windows Vista or Windows 7, or planning to upgrade your existing system to Windows 7, the same configuration will run Windows 8.
For a conventional desktop or laptop PC, the requirements are:

  • 64-bit (x64)
  • CPU with 1 GHz
  • 20 GByte Hard disk space
  • 2 GByte RAM
  • DirectX-9 graphics Card
  • 32-bit (x86/x32)
  • CPU with 1 GHz
  • 16 GByte Hard disk space
  • 1 GByte RAM
  • DirectX-9 graphics Card

On these systems, Windows 8 will run your existing desktop applications, such as Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, and it will also support the new Start Screen and the Metro Apps, with the mouse or keyboard being used to perform the same action that are supported via the Touch functions on the Tablet PCs.
You can therefore be ready for the launch of Windows 8 in the fourth quarter, without having to switch the new class of Windows 8 PCs that are currently under development.
You can go one step further and add a Touch-sensitive monitor to your desktop computer (or use a Windows 7 laptop that supports Touch). However, most existing displays are limited in the level of Touch capability offered and so would not be fully Windows 8 compliant.

The Windows 8 interface comes into its own when used with touch-based, tablet or convertible PCs, in particular the Windows on ARM (WOA) PCs that use the ARM processor rather than Intel or AMD.

These PCs are still under development, but they will feature additional hardware requirements including:

  • Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI)
  • WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)
  • Direct 3D 10 with WDDM 1.2 driver
  • 1366x768px resolution
  • At least five touch points
  • 720 pixel Camera

Other requirements include USB port and speakers, plus special purpose items such as an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The device must also provide a minimum set of buttons including the Windows Key, Power, Rotation lock and Volume. For devices without keyboards, the Windows Key + Power buttons act as Ctrl+Alt+Del.
As further interim versions of Windows 8 are released and Windows 8 compliant hardware becomes available, the configurations will be refined and confirmed, and the level of capability offered by the various classes of PC will become clearer.  We will also be able to investigate the new versions of software that will be released along with Windows 8, including Internet Explorer 10 and Microsoft Office 2012.
About the author
Michael Price is an accomplished author, IT journalist and systems consultant with a wide experience of computing systems ranging from mainframes to personal computers. He’s also a successful author with several best-selling In Easy Steps books to his credit.
Books by Michael Price
•    Windows 7 in easy steps : Special Edition
•    Windows 7 for Seniors in easy steps
•    Office 2010 in easy steps
•    Office 2010 for Seniors in easy steps
•    Excel 2010 in easy steps
•    Office 2007 for Seniors in easy steps
•    Office 2007 in easy steps
•    Excel 2007 in easy steps
•    Internet for Seniors in easy steps, UK edition
•    Internet for Seniors in easy steps, International edition
•    Internet for Seniors in easy steps, Windows Vista edition
•    Windows Vista for Seniors in easy steps
•    Wireless Home Networking in easy steps, 2nd edition
•    Computer Basics in easy steps, covers Windows 7
•    Computer Basics in easy steps

Raspberry Pi brings £22 computer to the masses

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in News

A new computer was launched this week and sold out immediately. It wasn’t created by Apple.  In fact, it wasn’t created by any business, but by a charitable foundation.  Its goal?  To make computer science accessible once more to everyone, especially young people.

The device is called Raspberry Pi, and it’s designed to be as easy to meddle with as possible.  There’s no casing on the device, so you can see all its components, and it uses open source software that you can experiment with, and has support for the programming languages Python, C, Perl and BBC Basic. BBC Basic is the real odd one out there, as a language that is rarely used commercially any more, and it’s a clue that the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been at least partly inspired by the BBC Micro of the 80s, which many of us used in schools to write our first programs.  The Raspberry Pi even comes in two models, named Model A and Model B, after the BBC.

The Raspberry Pi is about the size of a credit card, and you’ll need to add your own keyboard, mouse and monitor. For storage, it uses an SD card, similar to those found in digital cameras.  The Model B which went on sale this week has two USB ports and an Ethernet port, and the Model A which has not yet been released will have just the one USB port and no networking capability.  The operating system is Linux, which is essential for both its openness and the fact it’s free. Having a commercial operating system like Windows would have made it impossible to keep costs as low as they have.

The price of the device is just £22, which might be one reason it sold out so quickly.  It shows that programming does not need to be elitist, and invites everyone to try it.  It also cuts the risk of experimentation.   If somebody breaks a Raspberry Pi, they’re not hard to replace, even if they look a little bit vulnerable for use in the school environment.  I wonder whether computer science classes will begin at school with students making cases for their Raspberry Pis, in the way that many of my classes started by covering our exercise books?

If you’d like to get hold of one, you might have to wait a few weeks.  The Raspberry Pi Foundation is licensing its design so that it doesn’t have to bear the full cost and responsibility for manufacturing every unit.  That’s a smart move that will enable it to grow distribution rapidly, but there’s going to be a delay before any more units are available to buy.  For now, your best bet is to keep an eye on the Raspberry Pi Foundation website.

Sean McManus

Developing Apps for Android phones

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

App Inventor for Android lets people create apps for Android phones by manipulating programming blocks in a web browser.   Since July 2010, Google has run App Inventor  as a large-scale public web service as a part of its Google Labs suite.  With the wind down of Google Labs, as of December 31, 2011, Google ended support of App Inventor.

In order to ensure the future success of App Inventor, Google Research has funded the establishment of the Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab.  Sometime in the first quarter of 2012, the Center plans to provide a large scale App Inventor service for general public access, similar to the one Google ran.  Improvements will be made to the Google version of App Inventor before MIT make it available for public access.

“Building Android Apps in easy steps” will be published to coincide with the public release of the MIT version of App Inventor to demonstrate each aspect of building applications for the Android platform, including all the latest innovations.

Contributor :

Mike McGrath

iPad 2 Competition Winners

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in News

Congratulations to the three lucky winners of “In Easy Steps Win an iPad 2 Competition”!

 

The three In Easy Steps users and winners are:

 

Sarah Frith – USA

Graham Foxy – UK

Chris Downing – UK

 

A big thank you to everyone who entered this competition to celebrate 20 years of successful learning approach: In Easy Steps – for smart learning!

 

Regular competitions, updates and offers are featured on this website – do visit us again!

Fighting Spam

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

By Stuart Yarnold

Some interesting statistics on spam:

  • Currently, some 80 % of email traffic is estimated to be spam
  • 30 billion spam emails are sent every day
  • 78 % of PC users receive spam on a daily basis
  • 4 % of recipients make a purchase as a result of a received spam email
  • Worldwide, the cost of dealing with spam is estimated to be 50 billion dollars annually

If the spammers have you in their sights, what can you do about it? The first and most obvious step is to simply delete your account and open a new one with a different address. This will stop any spammers who are currently jamming your inbox. However, for many users this will not be an option for various reasons. If so, do the following:

  1. In the case of spam from specific websites, add the website’s address to your email program’s Blocked Senders list.
  2. In the case of spam from unidentifiable sources, use your email program’s message filters. These can be set up and configured to cut out the majority of spam. Typical examples are:
    • Emails containing specific words commonly found in spam, such as sex, porn, money, free, etc.
    • Emails over a specified size.
    • Emails that contain attachments

    However, while the filters provided with programs such as Outlook and Outlook Express are useful, they will never stop it completely; the spammers know how to circumvent the most common rules set up by users. One such method is to deliberately misspell a keyword. For example, Viaggra instead of Viagra. The recipient knows what is meant but the filter doesn’t, and thus will let the message through. Another problem is that because these filters are literal in the sense that they allow no exceptions, sometimes legitimate emails are blocked.

    A much more efficient type of filter is the Bayesian filter. This is available as a third-party product (meaning you must buy it) and integrates with your email program. Its effectiveness is due to the fact that it is “intelligent”, and thus can be trained, much in the same way as Voice Recognition software. The Bayesian filter examines all aspects of a message, as opposed to keyword checking that classifies a message as spam on the basis of a single word or phrase. Once set up and trained, it will eliminate 99 % of spam.

  3. Add your contacts to your email program’s Safe Senders list. You can then block all other senders with the filters.
  4. Having stopped the flood of spam, make sure it stays stopped. This means never giving your email address to anyone who can’t be trusted. Never do either of the following:
    • Give your address to a website; many sites sell lists of email addresses to the spammers. Furthermore, spammers use automated software that trawl the Internet looking for the @ symbol used in all email addresses. If a particular site requires you to enter your address in order to gain access, give a false one.
      Alternatively, set up an account specifically for this purpose.
    • Click the “Unsubscribe from this mailing list” link in a spam email. This confirms to the spammer that a real address has been reached and could open the floodgates.
  5. Sell the PC and take up residence on a deserted island. It’s probably the only way guaranteed to avoid spam.

About the author

Stuart Yarnold is an electronics engineer who has been working in the industry since leaving college. Originally a marine radio & radar troubleshooter, he now devotes much of his time to playing poker professionally and can usually be found lurking in one of the online poker rooms.

Stuart lives near Cambridge with his wife Pauline and his two staffordshire bull terriers – Jim and George. His hobbies include woodworking and marathon running.

Online Poker – An Overview

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

By Stuart Yarnold

Quite apart from being an invaluable information resource, the Internet provides many means of recreation, one of the most popular of which is gambling. This comes in various forms: spread betting, casino games such as blackjack and roulette, stocks and shares, etc. The one we are going to look at here is poker.

Currently, there are four to five hundred poker sites and the first step is to choose one, download and install the software, and then open an account. Making sure you use a reputable poker room is important as some do not play by the rules, i.e. they are not to be trusted. Slow pay-outs, and refusal to answer queries, are typical examples of this. Also, the software provided by some sites is buggy and prone to frequent crashing. As a recommendation, we suggest the following sites:

  • PartyPoker
  • PokerStars
  • Ladbrokes
  • UltimateBet

These are all well established, use efficient and reliable software, and offer good customer support and fast pay-outs. Those of you who want to play purely for fun with little financial risk are advised to use sites like UltimateBet and Ladbrokes, which offer micro-limit tables where you can play for a few cents.

Online poker rooms offer three main games – Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Seven-Card Stud. Texas Hold’em is the one most commonly played as it is the most straightforward, and thus the easiest to learn. This is the one featured on the TV channels.

Probably the most popular form of online poker is the tournaments. With these, you buy-in for a fixed amount, get a stack of chips, and play until you are either eliminated or win the tournament. Multi-table tournaments offer the chance to win serious sums of money but can take many hours of your time. Plus, you may have several thousand players to beat. Single-table tournaments are quick (usually an hour or less) and are always available (as soon as you’ve finished one, you can start another). To be in the money, you need to finish in the top two or three depending on the initial number of players. Single-tables are the most popular as you ‘know where you are’ in terms of outlay and time. You also have a much higher chance of finishing in the money as you only have a few players to beat.

Be aware that there is a lot more to poker than might be apparent. To play this game successfully demands a good grasp of strategy, experience, plus human qualities such as patience and common sense. If you jump in before you are ready, you will lose.

Tips

Observance of the following will get you off to as good a start as possible:

  • Learn the rules and strategies thoroughly by buying a good reference book, such as Online Poker in easy steps
  • Get a feel for the mechanics of both the game itself, and the software, by playing at the free money tables initially
  • Begin at the low-limit tables and don’t be tempted to move up until you can beat them consistently
  • Avoid the no-limit form of the game initially. Unlike fixed-limit poker where the sizes of the bets are restricted, in no-limit games, bets can be huge and the inexperienced player can come unstuck very quickly
  • Don’t chase your losses – on some days the cards will be completely against you and no matter how well you play, you will lose. Put the cards down and try again another day

About the author

Stuart Yarnold is an electronics engineer who has been working in the industry since leaving college. Originally a marine radio & radar troubleshooter, he now devotes much of his time to playing poker professionally and can usually be found lurking in one of the online poker rooms.

Stuart lives near Cambridge with his wife Pauline and his two staffordshire bull terriers – Jim and George. His hobbies include woodworking and marathon running.

Understanding Camera Raw

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

By Robert Shufflebotham

With the relentless advance of digital camera technology, many pro-level and some mid-range digital cameras now allow you to record images as “raw” files. But, do you need camera raw, and what are the advantages and implications if you decide to use it?

Most digital cameras use either CCD (charge-coupled device) or CMOS (complimentary metal oxide semiconductor) sensor technology to capture image data. Raw image files record the precise data captured by the photosensitive sensors of the camera without applying any of the processing that would be required to convert it into JPEG or TIFF file format.

Early digital cameras and most entry level digital cameras convert raw data into a format such as JPEG. This is done by the camera at time of capture by an in-built converter. Typically, this on-board camera processing calculates settings for white balance, gamma correction, noise reduction, anti aliasing and sharpening together with colorimetric rendering. The image is also compressed using the JPEG algorithm.

JPEG compression has a significant disadvantage particularly where high quality, high resolution images are required. To compress image data, the JPEG compression algorithm averages out some of the color information with the potential loss of color values and detail. High JPEG compression settings can also introduce noticeable compression artifacts. These can be particularly visible along hard edges and in high contrast areas. Skin tones and gradients can also prove difficult for JPEG compression.

What is Raw ?
A raw file records the precise data captured by the sensors of the camera without any processing. Raw files consist of data recording color and luminosity values captured by the sensors and image metadata. Metadata is data about data. For example, raw files, as well as JPEG files, contain ExIF (Exchangeable Image Format) metadata which includes information such as camera model, shutter speed, aperture and focal length.

When you capture an image using your camera’s raw format it is only ISO speed, shutter speed and aperture that have an effect on the captured pixels. When you open the raw file using the Adobe Photoshop CS2 Camera Raw dialog box you can control settings for white point, colorimetric rendering, noise reduction sharpening and so on.

In Photoshop CS2, use Adobe Bridge to locate raw image files downloaded to your computer. (See Chapter 3, Opening and Saving Files in Photoshop CS2 in easy steps, for further information on using Adobe Bridge.) Double-click a raw file thumbnail to open the image in the Camera Raw dialog box. Create the settings you require, then click the Open button to convert the image to an RGB image for use in Photoshop.

For professional photographers a significant advantage of raw files is that the sensors on cameras capable of saving raw files can typically record data at at least 12 bits per channel (providing a possible 4096 shades per pixel). JPEG compression reduces color data it records to 8 bits per color channel.

This can become a significant disadvantage for many amateur users in that raw image files are considerably larger than files saved in other file formats – up to 5 or 6 six times greater than the equivalent JPEG. Capturing raw image data can dramatically reduce the number of images you can record to the camera’s storage card.

Camera Raw is a general term which encompasses a range of proprietary files formats from different camera manufacturers, such as Nikon’s .NEF, Olympus’ .ORF or Canon’s .CRW. The Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop CS, which allows you to open and process raw image files, was released in February 2003. An upgraded version supporting more cameras and with added functionality became available in Photoshop CS2.

Visit: www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html for a complete list of supported cameras.
Digital Negative (DNG) Format
One of the issues surrounding raw file formats is that they are typically proprietary formats; belonging to the camera manufacturers and not publicly available. Understandably, camera manufacturers that spend large amounts of money on research and development are reluctant to divulge the exact technical details of their own raw file formats as this could prove costly and result in loss of competitive advantage.

The intention of Digital Negative (DNG), developed by Adobe as a file format for raw files, is to establish an open industry standard so that all camera manufactures can work to a common set of specifications which will ultimately benefit the entire industry and especially the end user.

Crucially, DNG has the potential to provide photographers with a format they can use to archive images, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to access these images in the future. This removes the reliance on a proprietary format that may, or may not, be supported in the future.

The success of DNG as an open standard would also make it much easier to transfer and share raw images in complex workflows and between photographers and agencies.
Conclusion
The core consideration, when deciding whether or not to capture images using raw data, is whether or not you want ultimate control over settings such as white balance, brightness and contrast, noise reduction, sharpening and color rendition and are prepared to take the time to make these decisions. The Camera Raw functionality in Adobe Photoshop CS2 gives you access to the set of tools you need if you decide to follow this route.

About the author

Robert Shufflebotham is a software training consultant with over 21 years experience of delivering software training. He trains on a regular basis for some of the largest and most prestigious magazine, book and newspaper publishers in the world. He also has a MA in Electronic Media.

Understanding Regular Expressions By Mike McGrath

Written by In Easy Steps Team on . Posted in Article

A “Regular Expression” is simply a pattern describing a particular string of characters. Regular Expressions are often referred to as “regex” or “regexp” and are supported by most programming languages, such as C++, and scripting languages such as JavaScript. Regular Expressions are useful for text validation and for search-and-replace operations within text by matching their specified pattern to a section of the text.

A Regular Expression pattern may consist entirely of “literal characters” describing a particular character string to match within some text. For example, the Regular Expression ind finds a match in windows – the pattern literally matches the string within the text.

More typically a Regular Expresssion pattern consists of a combination of literal characters and “metacharacters” to describe a particular character string. Metacharacters have special meaning within the pattern rather than any literal meaning. For instance, the character ^ (circumflex or caret) is a metacharacter that has special meaning – it DOES NOT literally represent the actual caret character. It can control at which position in the text the match will be considered valid.

Most languages also support Regular Expression “Abbreviations” for frequently used Character Classes and Position expressions.

Here are 10 frequently used Regular Expressions:

1. Leading whitespace: ^\s+
2. Trailing whitespace: \s+$
3. Numbers from 0 to 999999: ^\d$
4. Valid HTML hexadecimal color values: ^#([a-fA-F0-9])(([a-fA-F0-9]))?$
5. U.S. Zip Code: ^\d(-\d)?$
6. U.S. Currency: ^\$(\d(\,\d)*|\d+)(\.\d)?$
7. U.S. Social Security Number: ^\d-\d-\d$
8. Date as MM/DD/YYYY HH:MM:SS: ^\d\d\/\d\d\/\d\d\d\d \d\d:\d\d:\d\d$
9. Email Address: ^[0-9a-zA-Z]([-.\w]*[0-9a-zA-Z_+])*@([0-9a-zA-Z][-\w]*[0-9a-zA-Z]\.)+[a-zA-Z]$
10. HTTP URL: (https?):\/\/([0-9a-zA-Z][-\w]*[0-9a-zA-Z]\.)+([a-zA-Z])(:\d)?([-\w\/#~:.?+=&%@~]*)

About the author

Mike McGrath now lives in South-east Europe, on the sun-kissed shores of the Aegean Sea. Mike gained his extensive knowledge of computer languages while working as a developer contracting to companies around the world. His interests include coins of ancient Greece, dining-out with friends, and the ongoing evolution of the world wide web.