Monday, October 29, 2012

Book review: "Windows 8 Administration Pocket Consultant" by William Stanek

The best way to think of Stanek's Windows 8 Administration Pocket Consultant (O'Reilly Media) is to ignore the "pocket" part. At 672 pages, it's much closer to the ______ Bible end of the scale.

And true to the Bible end of the scale, this book truly covers a huge landscape in surprising detail. As I was reading through the material, I got the feeling that this is basically an offline version of Microsoft's TechNet, a vast knowledge base (among other resources) for IT professionals. In the several weeks of using Windows 8, I've perused several TechNet articles about this-or-that. I've found a similar level of thoroughness in this book, for topics ranging from generic to highly exotic.

The difference between TechNet and this book: the latter is portable, better organized, features screenshots, and provides step-by-step instructions where possible.

This leads into my only annoyance with this book. Presumably the audience is an IT professional, or at least a power user. I often feel that the author is too thorough for this audience. He leaves absolutely no room for ambiguity. For example, in Chapter 5 there's a 13-step procedure for enforcing a certain behavior for Group Policy scripts. For 11 of those steps, the author makes sure to tell you, "Tap or click OK." As another example, almost anywhere there's a possibility to save a password (such as in a wireless network security dialog), the author adds a SECURITY ALERT informing the reader that this is a poor security practice. No wonder the book is 672 pages long.

On the other hand, I marvel at the wide variety of topics that William Stanek managed to cover in only 672 pages. I found information on how to create a master image of Windows 8. I found a detailed, 19-step breakdown of the Windows 8 startup process, along with a troubleshooting guide to it. I found a good intro to Group Policy and Offline Files, in large part covering Moskowitz' authoritative Group Policy book. I found plentiful information on BitLocker. And so much more.

All in all, while I won't be carrying this book in any pocket, I appreciate it greatly. Its 16 chapters allow the reader to become truly familiar with Windows 8 administration.

(Thanks to O'Reilly Media for providing me with a free copy for review.)