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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Peter Coffee Teaches PCs", Peter Coffee

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKPCTEPC.RVW 981108 Peter Coffee Teaches PCs , Peter Coffee, 1998, 0-7897-1703-4, U$19.99/C$28.95/UK#18.49 %A Peter Coffee %C 201 W. 103rd Street,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 1999
      BKPCTEPC.RVW 981108

      "Peter Coffee Teaches PCs", Peter Coffee, 1998, 0-7897-1703-4,
      %A Peter Coffee
      %C 201 W. 103rd Street, Indianapolis, IN 46290
      %D 1998
      %G 0-7897-1703-4
      %I Macmillan Computer Publishing (MCP)
      %O U$19.99/C$28.95/UK#18.49 800-858-7674 http://www.mcp.com
      %P 647 p.
      %T "Peter Coffee Teaches PCs"

      Neither the preface nor the introduction make it really plain who the
      book is written for, but from various indications the text is aimed at
      the novice user of Wintel machines: ISA/BIOS/Intel architecture
      running a version of the Windows operating system. Eventually, as we
      get into the book, this seems to refine to Win95.

      Chapter one, however, seems to reinterpret this novice business.
      First of all, it doesn't quite start at the beginning, but assumes
      that have already dealt with the hardware. There isn't even much
      about how Windows operates before we get into MS-DOS and even DEBUG!
      Now, I'm all for giving people lots of information, but getting them
      to create hex files does seem to be putting the cart before the horse.
      There is a lot of trivia, plus an awful lot about ways that files can
      go wrong, in chapter two. The points about overwriting files with the
      same names, and file extensions, will be very helpful, and are not
      often covered. However, if this book truly is for newcomers, the
      heavy DOS emphasis can possibly get users into trouble on a W95
      machine. Data representation could be useful down the road, but the
      book is not clear about why we deal with it in chapter three. Chapter
      four tells us a lot of interesting things about microprocessors (and
      misses a lot of things as well), but, again, one wonders about the
      utility for new users.

      Chapter five finally gets down to the visible hardware of the machine,
      and does a pretty decent job. Monitors get their own space in chapter
      six, but it seems to be more of a buyer's guide. (There's a lot of
      that in the book; a number of recommendations for commercial software,
      many of which have freeware alternatives.) Modems get a very good
      explanation of modulation, although there is both too much and too
      little information on configuration in chapter seven. There is a
      brief review of sound and vision technology in chapter eight. Chapter
      nine looks at a variety of concerns when dealing with portable

      Chapter ten deals with a lot of issues surrounding troubleshooting and
      support, but misses a number as well. Chapter eleven is mostly an
      opinion piece on software. This is continued in chapter twelve,
      dealing specifically with software suites. "Word processing" is
      really about desktop publishing in chapter thirteen. Chapter fourteen
      reviews spreadsheets and other numeric software, fifteen does
      database, and sixteen does presentation software. Chapter seventeen
      is a mixed bag of Internet history and operations, and security. (The
      very short section on viruses doesn't make many mistakes, but then it
      doesn't tell you much, either.)

      Personally, I have no problem with giving users, even new users, a lot
      of background and technical detail: I approve. However, I suspect
      that a lot of users who just want to know how to make the thing work
      will get annoyed. In addition, for those who do want the facts "right
      down to the metal," you are going to have to arrange and organize the
      material and sequence better, and there are a lot of gaps in the
      content of the book. In the end I would say that this book is
      definitely not for beginners. Intermediate users will probably get
      more use out of it. Bear in mind, though, that while there is a lot
      of information to be had, it isn't complete, and it won't always be
      what you need. This is a book to dip into when you have a chance, in
      order to build background, along with your own experiences, for later

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1998 BKPCTEPC.RVW 981108

      rslade@... rslade@... robertslade@... p1@...
      Find virus, book info http://victoria.tc.ca/int-grps/techrev/rms.html
      Robert Slade's Guide to Computer Viruses, 0-387-94663-2 (800-SPRINGER)

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