About books, beautiful books

I believe there are mainly three things that change and shape our soul and body:

  • Experiences we live
  • People we meet
  • Books we read

Now, if you look at these three categories you may feel that the last category, books, seems a bit out of place when placed alongside people and life experiences. I mean there is a first person angle, a directness in your personal experiences and the relationship you forged over time with other people that doesn’t exist in a bunch of paper sheets and some black ink.

And yet, there will be always books that manage to surpass these constraints and reach to our mind and soul.

In this post I want to talk about one book that I strongly believe belongs in that last category: Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte. If you haven’t read it, please do.

Usually, the kind of books that you hear that are life-changing are those who roughly fall under religion, philosophy, or maybe psychology. And you know what, you’d be right thinking this. Because what else could a technical book be than a dry, insipid, narrow window to some subject that most of us don’t care about at all.

The thing is that this book is the opposite. Or to be 100% accurate it is opposite in areas that matter. Yes, it is a technical book and yes, it is about how to create modern web sites. But the way it is written, the way that it frames the problems and solutions, the brevity and richness, all these make this book something special.

It shows that even technical writing can be totally awesome with the right ingredients. Above all, I think this is the lesson I took from this book: There are no dry subjects. There are only dry approaches. Any book, on any topic can be as amazing as we dare to dream.

PS. Even the foreword, written by Jeremy Keith, is ridiculously good. Once you finish reading the book you’ll understand why Jeremy wrote what he wrote.

The perfect Flex and PHP book

If you follow my blog or sessions you probably know that I’ve been writing about Flex and PHP integration since 2008. And during this time, one of my mantras has been to look at the topic
through the eyes of a PHP developer. Thus most of my articles/sessions are answers for this question: what do you need to know to be successful with Flex if you are a PHP programmer?

Earlier this year I thought that it would be pretty cool if I’d put all this experience into a formal book about this topic. While I haven’t started yet :D, I have spent time thinking about the content. And to tell you the truth I have yet to fill in some blank spots before starting the work.

Thus I would like to ask you this question: what does the perfect Flex and PHP book look like for you? Your comments will be much appreciated!

Later Update: Almost forgot to remind you about my session at MAX LA 2010: Flex & PHP – beyond the basics. If you plan to attend, I’d be happy to meet you in person. See you there!

About User Experience

I recently returned from vacation. I spent about two weeks on a Greek island trying to stay away from computers among other things :D. I had to fill up all the spare time I had with something (I mean there is a limit on how much time you can spend sleeping, eating, talking, or swimming). Reading something interesting is definitely both enjoyable and useful. So, I took two books with me: one on Flex and another one on user experience.

And what a delightful surprise was the one on user experience. If you build software products or web applications then you should definitely read Bill Buxton’s book. “Sketching User Experiences”. It doesn’t matter if you are a designer, a developer, or a program manager. This book will most likely surprise you on many levels. My personal interest on the subject is quite obvious: I wanted to better understand the design process and different techniques you can use. Also, I was looking for a different angle to understand why so many Flash projects shine when it comes to user experience. Well, Buxton thinks that what happens between states is as important as what happens in each state (trust me there are so many interesting lessons, this is only one small example). In other words the way you design the transitions is important for the overall experience.

I think this is one important reason for why so many Flash projects are so brilliant. Think about it. If your background is in developing web applications then you are trained to see the application as a graph of pages. The user chooses some item from the menu and boom, a new page is displayed. On that page he clicks on a link and boom another page is displayed. Every time you destroy the current page and bring up the next page in a succession.

When you build Rich Internet Applications, you tend to take into consideration the space in between the states as well the states: what happens while a particular piece of the application is loading or what happens when a user chooses the Contact section. Animations, transitions, lazy loading, and modularizing the app – all come together in order to shape the overall experience.

The second book wasn’t that good. Hence my advice to you: when you know you’ll have time to really focus on reading and understanding what you’re reading, don’t take with you only one book. Never! Take at least two. Because this is a fact: only one of them could be the worst book you’ve read lately :D

What great books on the subject of user experience have you read?

New book on Flex 4: Flex 4 Fun by Chet Haase

Chet Haase (an engineer on the Flex SDK team) has published a book on Flex 4 called “Flex 4 Fun”. If you know anything about Chet’s passion for graphics you won’t be surprised to find chapters on graphics, filters, states, transitions, component skinning, and animations.

You can get a taste of the book itself by reading this excerpts: Pixel Bender with Flex 4 or states and components. You can buy the book from here and you can see the content and the application examples here.

Enjoy!

New ActionScript 3 Book in Romanian

My friend, Cosmin Varlan, a professor at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University published a book about ActionScript 3 – web programming with Flash and Flex. It is in Romanian, so I guess for many of you it is not too useful :D. For the others, you can buy it from the bookstores across Romania (it is published at Polirom) and it costs 42 RON (10 Euro). You have 400+ pages to  ramp up your ActionScript 3 skills quickly.

coperta1

Here are some of the topics:

  • Rich Internet Applications
  • Processing XML documents
  • Event Model in Flash and Flash connectivity
  • Graphics and Multimedia, filters
  • Creating a puzzle game in ActionScript 3

Book on Flex 4

I have to say that I love books, actually I love reading books. Although, lately, I find less and less time for reading literature, I still have fun reading a good technical or business book. For those of you who have the same passion, here comes a title: Hello!Flex 4 by Peter Armstrong (and as Flex 4 is closing in fast you have an additional incentive). I think this is one of the first books on Flex 4, and although it isn’t published yet, you can have early access to the book. This enables you to read the chapters as they are written and provide feedback to the author.

Here you can find info about the book.

"First Steps in Flex", MAX Sessions, and iTunes

Last week I was asked about good resources for learning Flex/AIR. So I have some more resources for you: First Steps in Flex is available for purchase. This book is written by Bruce Eckel and James Ward. I read this book this summer, because I was a member of the review team. And I can tell you this book can really help you get up to speed with Flex/ActionScript/AIR very quickly. So, if you are new to Flex world, and you want to learn, then maybe this is the book for you.

First Steps in Flex First Steps in Flex

As I said in another post, all the MAX sessions will be available. As a matter of fact, we’ve started to publish them in batches. You can find them on Adobe TV:

If you prefer to use iTunes, then you can find them in the iTunes as well. Enjoy!

iTunes and MAX Sessions

Later Update: You can enjoy these recordings in Adobe Media Player too. Click on My Favorites, and click on the ADD RSS FEED button and add these feeds:

amp

tostring.org : AIR / RIA books online

Mike Chambers launched an interesting site: http://www.tostring.org/ Mike explains what is this site:

“Well, I am happy to announce a new site that I have been working on called tostring.org, which in addition to containing the entire Adobe AIR for JavaScript Developers Pocketguide online, also provides an infrastructure for the community to contribute to the books, both through hosting translated versions of the books, as well as allowing comments on individual chapters.”

Here you can find more about this project in his own words.