iPhone: The Missing Manual
Having just looked at the iPod touch, with an almost identical interface to that of the iPhone, this is a perfect time to look at a book that has been sitting in my office for the past few weeks: David Pogue's Missing Manual for the iPhone.
The Missing Manual series is of great help to those using Apple products (and others), but the iPhone Missing Manual is a departure from the norm in that, as well as being sold in book format, it is available as a downloadable PDF file.
I originally asked for the PDF and its download requires a password to be entered on the O'Reilly site, then (for me) a slow file transfer. Indeed, the first couple of times I tried, the download failed. In the end, all was well and the file is on my desktop. The book itself is on a shelf.
We had already come across this method of delivery in Dr. Smoke's valuable Troubleshooting Mac OS X. One of the beauties of this format is that the book is searchable. On the other hand, there is nothing like turning pages. The PDF is exactly the same length as the hard copy at 294 pages including the final two blank sheets.
David Pogue is joined again by J.D. Biersdorfer who writes the iPod Missing Manuals and others. Her responsibilities in this book include the iTunes and synchronisation chapters.
In typical Missing Manual style, the book has five sections: the iPhone as Phone; the iPhone as iPod, which includes the camera use; the iPhone online; Beyond iPhone, which in part deals with some of the technical uses, like synchronisation, Web applications and settings; and Appendices, containing information on the Setup and Signup, with a final troubleshooting section.
One of the beauties of the Missing Manuals is that there is always something new to discover and the research is quite thorough. Although I handled the iPhone briefly early in the year and have watched the videos and read some of the (many) articles, I kept finding snippets of information, in the way of Tips or Notes, that would give just that bit extra.
There were also several items that I had not been aware of, such as the section on Call Forwarding, or the ability to handle RSS feeds in Safari. It does this however via an online service and not directly through the browser as on a Mac.
As a testament to the detail of both the manual and the iPhone, the authors explain carefully the way that a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can be set up using the iPhone.
Another item covered the inclusion of a YouTube icon. This is on the iPod touch, but when the iPhone was first announced was not included. Pogue provides some anecdotal information on Steve Jobs' persuasion of YouTube to re-encode the "blurry, mushy" clips which use Flash (which the first version of the iPhone does not recognise) with the H264 codec. This benefits both iPhone and AppleTV users. This is still a work in progress: some 10,000 clips had been converted by the iPhone launch with the rest due later in 2007 according to Pogue.
Appendix A is useful to those who will be using the iPhone in the USA as this details the way to set up the phone, using iTunes, for use on the A T & T system. With the iPhone only just about to arrive in Europe (UK and Germany confirmed for November), there will be some variation on this for these locations.
Asia is due to have the iPhone in 2008 although there are a number already here, particularly in Mahboonkrong, floor 4. As updates to the software and operating system have already broken some unlocked phones and there are rumours of more updates and even hardware changes in the pipeline, these could be expensive paperweights.
While the PDF may be useful for some people, particularly those that need swift answers, it does not take the concept far enough. While Dr. Smoke's PDF book has clickable internal and external links (to other pages and to websites) these do not exist in my copy of this Missing Manual PDF. This is a lost opportunity.
iPhone, the Missing Manual is printed on non-glossy, smooth paper with clear type. It is generously Illustrated with full colour pictures and has the regular indexing back and front.
The whole of the text is in an easy to read style, with no unusual vocabulary, so even those whose first language is not English can grasp the ideas. To assist, each chapter is broken into smaller sections and sub-sections, each covering single points. As such, this can be read from cover to cover, or like a good reference book, can be dipped into if a specific area needs to be examined.
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