As mentioned a while ago in another blogpost of mine, I received a copy of a Typo3 book for reviewing. Tons of time has passed and I have now finally managed to do the review (yes, I know, it's a month and half late ... or more). Anyway ... on to the reading.
The book I'm reviewing here is TYPO3 4.3 Multimedia Cookbook by Dan Osipov, published by Packt Publishing. The title gives you a good idea as to the content but if you were in doubt, the sub title spells it out: ”Over 50 great recipes for effectively managing multimedia content to create an organized website in TYPO3”. The aim of the book is thus to help you take care of the more or less typical problems connected with handling multimedia in Typo3, by giving you step-by-step recipes for putting solutions in place. How well the book achieves that is what I'll be looking at here.
Before I dive into the recipes, there are a two general points to make. First, for a book about multimedia, it unfortunately comes across a bit lacking: the images in the book (of which there are a few) are consistently too dark. It might have been a tradeoff to make sure the graphics stands out better, but it just doesn't look good and hence gives the book a slightly unfinished or rushed feel.
Another thing to note is the approach to code sections the author has taken. A book like this could easily fill up most of it's pages with code, leading either to a very large book or very short descriptions. The approach chosen here is another: most of the recipes that involve code of some size direct you to download the appropriate code, after which the most important parts are explained. Whether you see this as a positive thing or not depends mainly on taste, I suppose – personally I prefer being able to look at all the code that makes up a given recipe, instead of having to move to another media to get an overview.
The book is divided into eight categories: Getting Started, Managing Digital Assets, Operating with Metadata in Media Files, Rendering Images, Rendering Video and Audio, Connecting to External APIs, Creating Services, and Automating Processes. As should be obvious given the list, it's covering a lot of different situations, which is both positive and negative. It's great because it gives the book a lot of diversity and you're almost certain to get inspired by some of the recipes – too much ground is covered for there not to be something interesting for everyone.
However, among all the things the book covers you'll also find things that seem irrelevant to the topic. For instance, the first chapter has a total of eight recipes – only three of these actually deal with Typo3. The rest are short recipes on how to setup a web server or an NFS share – not exactly everyday topics when running your Typo3 site. The three recipes that do deal with Typo3 focus on setting Typo3 up and creating a template – again, not something you're likely to be looking for when you're having multimedia problems. It seems as though the first chapter aims to create a common ground, so the Typo3 newbie can join the party as well – but that's not the premise of the book. The second chapter is better but also has some chapters that suffer from this. The third chapter is a mix: two recipes explain how to set metadata in image and audio files using tools like Photoshop, while the rest explain how you can extract the data in Typo3. After that, the rest of the book is on topic.
That's about the negative I have to note about the book – the rest is positive. The remaining recipes range from ”Good to know” or ”I can use that” to ”Hey, that's pretty cool!”. The chapters on rendering images and audio/videofall into the first category, while the last three chapters (Connecting to External APIs, Creating Services and Automating Processes) are in the latter. For instance, the recipes on using Amazons S3 services are pretty nifty as are the recipes on creating services (especially the detailed walkthrough of how to convert audio using a service).
Overall, the recipes are well written up: they all follow the same useful layout (preparation, step-by-step guide, explanation, further points, references to other recipes) which helps you grasp the information quicker, the language is easy to dig into, and the recipes contain helpful screenshots of interfaces you'll be dealing with (one of the things that might otherwise overwhelm you). As pointed out, most of the recipes do not include all of the code needed for functionality but they do explain the key points and they use enough space to make sure you understand what's going on – which makes it a fair chance you'll be able to use what you learn in other contexts.
I was happy to receive a copy of the Multimedia Cookbook to review: after reading it, I think it's a good guide to multimedia issues and I'm pretty sure I'll be using some of the recipes. As such, it's given me some practical hints on how to do things. It's also given me a better insight into some things Typo3 though, which is another bonus from reading it. I would expect the payoff for experienced Typo3 developers to be less on both accounts, but I still imagine it would be an ok addition to the library, as the cookbook layout makes it ideal for reading whenever you come across a specific multimedia related problem.
That said, it's not the best handbook I've even com across – the problems mentioned (irrelevant recipes and minor layout problems) coupled with the ”get the code online then return to the book”-approach subtract somewhat from it, unfortunately. I still think it's a good guide though and have no trouble recommending it. So if you're wondering how to handle multimedia in Typo3 or just feel like expanding your Typo knowledge, I'd say give it a read.