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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Dictionary of Multimedia and Internet Applications", Fr

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKDCMMIA.RVW 990415 Dictionary of Multimedia and Internet Applications , Francis Botto, 1999, 0-471-98624-0 %A Francis Botto %C 5353 Dundas Street West,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 1999
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      BKDCMMIA.RVW 990415

      "Dictionary of Multimedia and Internet Applications", Francis Botto,
      1999, 0-471-98624-0
      %A Francis Botto
      %C 5353 Dundas Street West, 4th Floor, Etobicoke, ON M9B 6H8
      %D 1999
      %G 0-471-98624-0
      %I John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
      %O 416-236-4433 fax: 416-236-4448 rlangloi@...
      %P 362 p.
      %T "Dictionary of Multimedia and Internet Applications"

      It might be thought that the title is just an attempt to jump on the
      latest bandwagon. However, the material does seem to concentrate on
      terms related to network based multimedia applications and standards.

      On the other hand, I had a full page of error notes before I got out
      of the "A"s. Frankly, the cover's insistence on "total accuracy" is a
      bit misplaced, since the best you can say about some of the material
      in the book is that it isn't verifiably wrong, mostly because of the
      difficulty in determining just exactly what the passage is supposed to
      mean. Your humble reviewer, world's worst copy editor that he is,
      even found some typos.

      Caxton invented the printing press? Vannevar Bush helped found the
      Internet?

      Many entries have bits and pieces of relevant information, but are not
      really complete. "Absolute addressing" speaks only of CD-ROM
      blocking, there is no entry for the associated concept of relative
      addressing, and the definition for "address" itself is rather
      confusing in its jumps from topic to topic. Under 2B+D, the D (data)
      channel seems to be identified as the ISDN link, while "ISDN" itself
      starts with a BRI (Basic Rate Interface) of two 64 kbps B channels
      (ignoring the North American standard and the D channel) and then,
      without transition, talking about the full T-1 PRI (Primary Rate
      Interface) bandwidth. "BRI" is defined (somewhat, but not entirely,
      better) but there is no listing for PRI. There is an entry for "Java
      Unicode" (which talks about it being "used exclusively by Windows NT
      at the system level"), but not Unicode itself.

      Some inclusions are bizarre and rather pointless. There is an entry
      for "15 in," citing it as a "standard display size." "1000" tells us
      that it is "The number of bits transferred in one second, using the
      unit Kbps." Another listing reads, in its entirety, "AAAS (American
      Association for the Advancement of Sciences) An American organization
      dedicated to the sciences."

      The material is extremely biased in favour of Microsoft. "Cabbing"
      gets a listing (compression into .CAB files), but not archiving or
      compressing. There is, for crying out loud, an entry for "ActiveX
      security!" (Of course, it isn't very long.) For those in the know it
      is fairly obvious, but the definition of "Active Desktop" never
      mentions Microsoft at all, making it seem to be an accepted standard.
      "ActiveX" is defined as a reincarnation of OCX, while "OCX" is stated
      to be a forerunner of ActiveX. There is more detail on ActiveX,
      mostly a list of pedestrian guidelines for developing ActiveX
      controls.

      Some definitions, while not exactly wrong, seem to miss the essential
      point. For example, the entry for "Architecture" seems to imply that
      two of the most important considerations are whether multimedia
      functionality is built in and how big the internal cache is. Others
      use terms in ways that simply do not make sense in the context of the
      technology under discussion. "Bookmark" ignores its use as a personal
      directory of Web pages in Netscape. In talking about cryptography, we
      are told, of the mathematical underpinnings of public key encryption,
      that it is "achieved through a one-way function which describes the
      difficulty of determining input values when given a result."
      Certainly all of those concepts belong in cryptology, but the sentence
      itself does not use them properly.

      The standard mistakes are all there, such as crediting Grace Hopper
      with the invention of the term "bug." (Hopper herself only said it
      was the first *recorded* case of an *actual* bug being found as a
      cause.) Moore's Law initially stated that the number of components
      would double every eighteen months, and has subsequently been updated
      to nine months. It never stood at one year. (And "a single silicon"
      what?)

      The listing for viruses starts out well by mentioning propagation, but
      then degenerates. "Known viruses are said to be `in the wild'."
      (Many known viruses have never been `in the wild'.) "Michelangelo
      [...] alters the size of the DOS COMMAND.COM file." (Michelangelo is
      a boot sector infector.) "[V]iruses may be removed from a system or
      DSM ..." (DSM apparently means disk: digital storage media.) Email
      attachments are apparently "removable media."

      It is refreshing to see, for once, a work that is not specifically
      US-centric. It is disappointing to note that authors outside of the
      States can be every bit as provincial as the worst of their American
      colleagues.

      References to outside sources are few: so few that the author can't
      seem to keep to a consistent format. URLs (Uniform Resource Locators)
      are included in such a manner as to be confused with internal links to
      other terms in the dictionary. Book citations are in a wide variety
      of formats, and even different typefaces. (Of those few texts that
      are mentioned, an astonishing number seem to be written by one
      "Botto, F.")

      While quite up to date, in some areas, the material in this text is
      neither complete enough, nor reliable enough, to recommend as a sole
      source. Despite its age, Stevens' "Quick Reference to Computer
      Graphics Terms" (cf. BKQRFGRP.RVW) remains a much more useful guide if
      you want to know about multimedia.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKDCMMIA.RVW 990415

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of
      tapes hurtling down the highway. - Andrew Tanenbaum
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade

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