Book Review – Gamestorming

Gamestorming review by Richard D. Hamilton












Gamestorming provides a great collection of games to assist a group in approaching and resolving challenges.


The book is setup into three major areas:


1. Explanation of Gamestorming – For those that would like to understand gamestorming and how it can assist your organization, the first three chapters provide you with all the details that you will want to know (and then some) about games, the essentials for gamestorming and the core gamestorming skills. I also think these chapters are essential reading for anyone who will be overseeing a gamestorming session;


2. The Games – The following four chapters provide you with approximately 90 games that you could jump right into. Each game stands on its own and you are therefore free to pick and choose the games for your particular situation. I was very impressed with the amount of information and explanation that the authors provided. For example, for each game they discussed: Object of Play; Number of Players; Duration of Play; How to Play; and Strategy; and


3. Putting Gamestorm to Work – This was my favorite chapter. They discussed a real-life example of how a group used gamestorming to consider solutions to a specific problem, including the games played, the outcomes and the benefits to the group.


I recommend Gamestorming to everyone who is looking for alternatives to help their organization “solve complex problems through collaborative play”. To purchase this book or to obtain additional information click here: http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596804183/


Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me as part of the O’Reilly’s Blogger Review Program on the understanding that I would read it and provide an honest review. If you are looking to join a review program, I highly recommend that you consider O’Reilly’s. Full details of the program can be found by clicking on the following:

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Posted in Book Reviews by Richard on March 13th, 2011 at 23:57.

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Video Review – Crap Detection 101

Crap Detection 101 review by Richard Hamilton




The Video Crap Detection 101: How to Distinguish Good and Bad Information Online is targeted at parents, educators and high schools students to provide them with the tools to identify the difference between accurate and inaccurate information online. While I think it achieves its stated purpose, the question and answer (“Q&A”) format between Mr. Rheingold and Mr. Brokering of Safari Books Online makes watching the video difficult at times, especially for high school students.


Saturday afternoon my wife, 16 year-old step-daughter and myself gathered around the monitor in the living room to watch the video. The video starts out very strong and we could all relate as Mr. Rheingold explains the discussion he held with his 12 year-old daughter and the steps she should take in questioning information online. Unfortunately, the format then changed to a Q&A and we felt that we were sitting in a classroom lecture.


It was very interesting to hear the steps that one could take to protect themselves against a number of online issues, including phishing, hoaxes, spam, and incorrect or misleading online information. The video also explored online healthcare information, children on the web, teaching and learning about critical thinking and using Wikipedia. However, in our opinion the video was too long and at times we lost interest. While Mr. Rheingold showed some actual examples of websites, we suggest that it would have been beneficial if there were more examples and/or information to look at while Mr. Rheingold talked. My step-daughter said that she would have found the video more interesting if there were interviews with “young” people and included information about Facebook (which surprisingly seemed to be missing in the video).


While there is a lot of great information and tools to help one distinguish good and bad information online, the way it was presented and the cost of the video makes it difficult for me to recommend the video. To purchase this video or to obtain additional information click here: http://oreilly.com/catalog/0636920015031/


Disclosure: A free copy of the video Crap Detection 101: How to Distinguish Good and Bad Information Online was provided to me as part of the O’Reilly’s Blogger Review Program on the understanding that I would review the video.  It is a great program that I highly recommend.  Full details of the program can be found by clicking on the following:

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Posted in Video Reviews by Richard on January 29th, 2011 at 17:55.

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Book Review – The Facebook Marketing Book

The Facebook Marketing Book review by Richard Hamilton




The Facebook Marketing Book provides a comprehensive overview of Facebook and provides excellent suggestions and examples for those who are considering using Facebook as part of their marketing strategy.


The book starts with the basics: Profiles, Pages, Groups, Events and builds from there into Facebook applications, developing a content strategy, cross-promoting content, advertising on Facebook and concludes with ways that you can track and measure your Facebook marketing efforts. While the book does not delve into any one area in any great depth, it provides a comprehensive overview of Facebook and will have you marketing on Facebook in no time. However, if you are looking for a lot of specifics, you might be disappointed. For those areas that you may be interested in exploring further, such as building your own Facebook application or obtaining additional information on analytics, the book provides you with a solid base to build upon. I found the book to be well written, easy to read, with a nice balance of graphics and screen shots from Facebook. I also liked how the authors provide their thoughts on what might and might not work in particular areas.



For those who are experienced with Facebook, they will most likely find this book to be too basic. However, if you are new to Facebook or would like to understand how you can use Facebook in your marketing, then I highly recommend this book. To purchase the book or to obtain additional information click here: http://oreilly.com/catalog/9781449388485/



Disclosure: A free electronic version of The Facebook Marketing Book was provided to me as part of the O’Reilly’s Blogger Review Program on the understanding that I would review the book.  It is a great program that I also highly recommend.  Full details of the program can be found by clicking on the following:

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

 

Posted in Book Reviews by Richard on January 25th, 2011 at 23:18.

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Head First Programming Review

Head First Programming Review by Richard Hamilton




Head First Programming is unlike any other programming book that I have read; it is an interesting book that uses lots of humor, graphics and real life exercises that teach the reader how to program using the programming language Python 3.




Head First Programming is not a reference book, but a learning experience.   It moves at a quick pace (but not too fast), provides lots of programming exercises and is presented in a fun and enjoyable way.  For this book to be beneficial, you will have to install Python 3 on your computer (it’s easy and free).  However, the authors stress that this is not Head First Python, but they chose Python because in their opinion it is a great programming language to start and grow with.  Each chapter is packed full of useful information which is immediately used in the exercises, and the exercises build upon themselves, as do the chapters.


My one issue with the book is the number of errors.  While none of these are serious errors, they can be frustrating, especially when they affect the exercises. Thankfully, O’Reilly has an errata page (http://oreilly.com/catalog/errata.csp?isbn=9780596802387) where readers have noted mistakes and the authors have responded accordingly.



I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning about programming and have little or no experience in programming.  To purchase the book or to obtain additional information click here: http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596802370/



Disclosure: A free electronic version of Head First Programming was provided to me as part of the O’Reilly’s Blogger Review Program on the understanding that I would review the book.  It is a great program that I also highly recommend.  Full details of the program can be found by clicking on the following:

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Posted in Book Reviews by Richard on December 28th, 2010 at 22:30.

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The New Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

I am excited…I have just ordered Canon’s new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens.  I imagine those that know me are saying…WHAT…a zoom??  You see, for years all I would shoot was primes (also known as fixed focal length lens).  Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of the zooms, but until now, they just didn’t have the same sharpness that the primes gave.  And to say I am a stickler for sharp photos is, well… a rather large understatement.  Primes also have the benefit of being light and because they can be really fast (i.e. where the lens “wide open” is at f/2.8 or larger), they are excellent for low light shooting:

Cayman National Orchestra

Photo was taken on 9 May 2009 at a concert by the Cayman National Orchestra and the Cayman National Choir in low light with a Canon 5D Mark II and 200mm f/2.8L prime lens with no flash

I admit that the main trade-off with using primes is that you have to carry a number of lenses to compared to just one zoom lens.  By way of example, to cover approximately the same range, you can carry a 70-200mm zoom lens while I would have to carry my 85mm f/1.2L II, 135mm f/2.0L and 200mm f/2.8L II. A really great article on primes verses zooms can be found here:  http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Canon-Lenses/Zoom-Vs-Prime-Lens.aspx.  So, when Canon announced the new 70-200mm I started researching the lens, reading all the reviews I could get my hands on (for all those that provide reviews…Thank you, I find them extremely helpful).

What can I say, I love equipment (an no, there is no such thing as too much equipment).  However, I will not buy equipment for the sake of having it.  For me to acquire it, it must bring something to the table that I don’t have and allow me to focus on my photography.   So when I found the 70-200mm MTF chart and considered what the reviewers were stating about the new 70-200mm giving the 135mm and 200mm (two of Canon’s sharpest lens) a run for their money, I started seriously thinking about the lens.   This past week I broke down and placed the order for the 70-200mm.  Time will tell, but I don’t see the zoom replacing my primes, but supplementing them.  Much in the same way that I noticed Jasmine Star shot a wedding this past Friday (27 August 2010) on creativeLive’s online Wedding Photography Course ( http://creativelive.com/courses/jasmine_star/ ).  Essentially, she used primes for the majority of the shots and pulled out the 70-200mm for the actual wedding service.  I saw that and said, yeah, that’s what I had in mind :-)

I am looking forward to adding the lens to my equipment bag and will post some photos once it arrives.

What are your thoughts on primes vs zooms?  Have you tried Canon’s new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II?  Let me know what you think.

Thanks for stopping by.
Richard

Posted in Photography Equipment Reviews by Richard on August 29th, 2010 at 16:56.

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Alternate Style Sheets in WordPress

In designing my website I came across a problem…my wife and I disagreed on the theme color, she liked the black theme and I like the white. Knowing just enough programming to be dangerous, I set out to find a solution, a way that I could offer both options to visitors.


There are a number of sites that provide coding and an explanation of how to install alternative style sheets. While these were all very helpful, none of them seemed to work the way I wanted them to work… I wanted a nice push button option that changed the theme, stored it in a cookie, and worked in IE, Firefox, Chrome and Opera. Okay, realistically, I knew that was a tall order as the browsers don’t all work the same. Code that will work in one, will not work in another and vice verse.


Kudos to Opera as it was the first browser to work the way I wanted using code from: http://www.thesitewizard.com/javascripts/change-style-sheets.shtml. Unfortunately, IE8 refused to play at all. Firefox and Chrome would change for the particular page, but developed amnesia as soon as I moved from one page to another. I also tried the code from: http://www.blogohblog.com/integrating-alternative-stylesheets/. This code would not work at all for me.


I quickly realized that I was not alone, the errors that I was receiving and the problems I was experiencing others had the same ones. The solutions offered never quite fixed all of the issues and sometimes created new ones.


This was going on for a number of months as I could never devote enough hours to work through it. That is, until this past Sunday when I decided enough was enough, I wanted to fix this once and for all (or until IE 9 comes out and Microsoft changes the rules again ;-)). Long story short, I found an article from Paul Sowden: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/alternate/ that worked! The kicker…it was published over 8 1/2 years ago on November 2, 2001.


Here is how I finally got it to work…


1. I uploaded Mr. Sowden’s styleswitcher.js into the following directory: /wp-content/themes/picture-perfect/


2. I decided that the black theme would be the default theme and therefore left it as style.css


3. I made a copy of style.css and renamed the copy to white.css (in wp-content/themes/picture-perfect/). I then changed the colors to suit my white theme.


4. I also created a copy of the ImageMenu.css file and renamed the copy to imageMenuWhite.css (in wp-content/themes/picture-perfect/imagemenu/) (changing again to suit your color tastes…but being consistent with white.css)


5. I added the following code to my header.php file:

<link rel=”alternate stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘template_directory’); ?>/white.css” media=”screen” title=”white” />

<link rel=”alternative stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”<?php echo $url; ?>/imagemenu/imageMenuWhite.css” title=”white” media=”screen” />

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”<?php bloginfo(‘template_directory’); ?>/styleswitcher.js”></script>

[This last one should be just at the end of the head section, just above the /head line ]


6. I then added a Text Widget called “Black or White?” with the following code:

<form>

<input type=”submit”

onclick=”setActiveStyleSheet(‘style’);return false;”

name=”theme” value=”Black” id=”style”>

<input type=”submit”

onclick=”setActiveStyleSheet(‘white’);return false;”

name=”theme” value=”White” id=”white”>

</form>

It is a rather simple process that has only taken me a few months :-).  Hopefully, the above will save you significant amount of time developing your alternative style sheets.


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comment section.


Kind regards,
Richard

Posted in Wordpress by Richard on August 16th, 2010 at 17:38.

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Creating Slideshows

Recently I was asked how I created the slideshows in my photoblog as the WordPress theme I am using, Reflection-Mod Photoblog, does not have that capability built in.  As I was preparing to reply to the question, it occurred to me that others who are using the theme may find the steps I took to be beneficial…  In a nutshell, I created Pages and embedded into the Pages the slideshow html code generated from my Zenfolio photography site.  The following are the detailed steps I followed:


1. Create a Main Slideshow Page
I created a Page titled Slideshows with no parent and included the following in the html field:

The photos on this site can all be viewed as slideshows.  Clicking on the links below will take you to the respective slideshow.  Once you arrive at the slideshow, roll your mouse over the slideshow.  If you would like to see the slideshow in full screen mode, please click on the bottom right icon and then press the play button to restart the show.  If you have any questions regarding the slideshow, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or email me.  Kind regards, Richard
<a href=”http://www.richardhamiltonphotography.com/slideshows/slideshow-all-photos/”>- All photos</a>
<a href=”http://www.richardhamiltonphotography.com/slideshows/slideshow-fashion-and-modeling/”>- Fashion and Modeling</a>



2. Create Child Pages for each Slideshow
As you will note from above, I have links on the main Slideshow Page pointing to each individual slideshow.  These are actually links to Pages that I have setup to “house” the code for each slideshow. Therefore I suggest you set up Pages for each slideshow you would like to include in your blog.  On the right hand side of the page under Page Attributes, choose Slideshows as the parent.   I left the Template as Default Template and Order as 0.


3. Link to Slideshow
Here is the magic ;-)  The actual slideshows were created from my Zenfolio account (http://photos.richardhamiltonphotography.com) and I embedded the code generated from Zenfolio’s excellent slideshow maker into the HTML area on each respective slideshow Page. While I used Zenfolio, this should work with any site where you can create and link to slideshows.


As a side note, I use Zenfolio to show my photos, create slideshows, store my photos online and to sell them. I have been with Zenfolio for a number of years and highly recommend them.  If you are thinking about signing up, you can consider their different plans here: http://www.zenfolio.com/zf/pricing.aspx (I have their Premium plan).  If you use my referral code: FTY-NU2-W5E when you sign up, you will save $5.


That’s all there is to it. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.


Kind regards,
Richard

Posted in Wordpress by Richard on August 8th, 2010 at 15:37.

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Viewed 1000 times

In early June of 2009 I set a goal for myself to produce a photo that would be viewed at least 1000 times on my Flickr account. As with any good goal I also included a deadline…the end of 2009. I then proceeded to break my collarbone and stopped shooting. Fortunately, in mid-June I participated in the first assignment of the Strobist.com Book Camp II with a head shot of Suzy and myself floating in a swimming pool. I am very excited to write that the photo, which I have enclosed below, was viewed today for the 1000th time on Flickr!

Headshots of Suzy and Richard for the Strobist Boot Camp II

I would like to thank everyone who viewed the photo, and pay special thanks to those who left their comments.

Richard

Posted in Flickr by Richard on December 30th, 2009 at 03:20.

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Solution to Blank Pages in Zinio Reader

As a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (“NAPP”), I have a subscription to the Photoshop magazine. They provide a digital copy of their magazine through http://www.zinio.com who provides the free Zinio Reader which allows one to read the magazine on the desktop.

Today I updated the Windows (Vista) video drivers and the ATI Catalyst Control Center on my laptop only to find out that I could no longer read my magazines in the Zinio Reader. It was only showing blue lines on blank pages where the content was suppose to be.

If you have used Zinio, you will know that their help area is greatly lacking. The solution? It turns out that you must check the boxes “Use application settings” in the Anti-Aliasing section in the Catalyst Control Center (Graphics -> 3D -> All). Hope this helps you if you experience the same issue.

Aside: If use use Photoshop and are not a member of the NAPP, I strongly urge you to consider joining. The Photoshop magazine is one of the many benefits that you will receive from NAPP. For more detail, please click here.

Kind regards,
Richard

Posted in Software by Richard on December 26th, 2009 at 03:19.

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Caymana Bay Observation Tower – Photo Blog’s topic of the week

Last week I spent the week in New York city on business. I cannot remember ever seeing so many yellow taxis in my life (never mind in one place). I unfortunately did not take my camera with me as I knew that I would not have time to take photos. So this past Sunday, Brigitte and I took a drive and the camera came for the ride :-). One of the places we visited was the Caymana Bay Observation Tower. The Tower is absolutely beautiful and includes a undersea glass mosaic consisting of in excess of 3,000,000 titles. Accordingly, the photo’s in this week’s Photo Blog are of the Observation Tower. To see the photos and learn more about the Observation Tower, please stop by my Photo Blog.

Have a great week.
Richard

Posted in Cayman Islands by Richard on November 24th, 2009 at 03:23.

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