Books, books, books

I’ve been asked how many books have I written to date. The answer is that twelve have been published so far, all with Digital Press, and now I’m working on #13 for Microsoft Press.

Digital Press started as the technical publishing arm of Digital Equipment Corporation. When I started working with them, everything was done with paper. I would print off my text and send it to them and receive revisions from the copy editor by FedEx. This cycle would continue until we had finished edits and arrived at the final copy. The first time I received marked up pages back from the copy editor, I thought that I had failed an exam because there were so many marks on the pages to indicate places where I had erred! Gradually I have learned how to write in a style that is less like the way I speak and more appropriate to the written page – or at least that’s what my copy editors say. Of course, everything is done electronically these days and the publishing cycle is getting faster. It’s still not as quick as I would like or what I think it needs to be in a world where iPads and Kindles make ebooks so approachable, but it is getting better.

My first book was “ALL-IN-1, A Technical Odyssey”, which appeared in 1992. I wrote this book using DECwrite, a document publishing tool that ran on DECwindows on VAX/VMS workstations. The book covered ALL-IN-1 V2.4, Digital’s Office Automation system. I had worked on two of the ALL-IN-1 subsystems, the Customization Management system that separated the code shipped by Digital and the customizations applied by customers, and the integration with the VAX Notes conferencing system. I’d actually written an “ALL-IN-1 Handbook” in the 1988-90 period that was shared with other Digital employees (and some customers); this became the basis of my first book. Looking back on the text, I cringe at some of the things that I wrote. Then again, this shouldn’t be a surprise to me because I have subsequently cringed at something in each of my books. I guess it goes with the territory – when you write and commit thoughts to text, you have to be prepared to be wrong sometimes.

I then wrote “ALL-IN-1: Managing and Programming” in 3.0″ in 1993. This book was generated with DECwrite again (and boy, did I learn a lot about DECwrite’s journaling facility because the program crashed so often…). ALL-IN-1 V3.0 marked the high point in some respects for ALL-IN-1, but the writing was on the wall because PCs were becoming so much more important for corporate networks. Digital did its best to connect PCs to ALL-IN-1 and bought software such as OATmail (which became PC ALL-IN-1), a DOS-based program that boasted a character-cell interface. However, nothing really worked as well as it should…

Digital was busy with Windows-based Office software too and shipped TeamLinks in early 1994. TeamLinks 1.0 ran on Windows 3.0 and connected to DEC Mailworks, an X.400-based email system. Digital made a major strategic error by selecting Mailworks as the target email server for TeamLinks. Mailworks had a much smaller installed base than ALL-IN-1, even if it was the more modern server.  I wrote “Working with TeamLinks” using Microsoft Word 2.0 (writing a book is a great way to learn a new word processor) using a DEC 320p laptop PC (the first that I owned) equipped with a 386 MHz processor. I actually started to write the book using DECwrite for Windows but transitioned to Word for Windows about a third of the way through. The book shipped complete with a 3.5″ diskette containing sample programs written in Visual Basic.

“Working with TeamLinks 2nd Edition” arrived in 1995 to go along with TeamLinks 2.0. The big thing here was that Digital now had a Windows-based client that could connect to ALL-IN-1. Alas, we were only about four years too late in terms of providing a solid PC client for ALL-IN-1.

My fifth book was the first to cover Exchange. Microsoft and Digital had concluded the “Alliance for Enterprise Computing” in August 1995 and one of the outcomes from the agreement was a push to bring Microsoft’s new email server to Digital’s enterprise customers. Exchange 4.0 duly appeared in March 1996 and my book “Microsoft Exchange Server: Planning, Design, and Implemention” followed soon after. It was a pretty slim volume, which testified to the knowledge that we had about Exchange at that point!

Exchange 5.0 came in 1997 and I had a major rewrite to produce “Microsoft Exchange Server 5.0: Planning, Design, and Implementation”. I then produced a further update to produce “Microsoft Exchange 5.5: Planning, Design, and Implementation” and this volume was translated into a number of languages, including Italian, German, and Japanese. The last translation was very impressive as the company that did the work took enormous care to replicate all of the screen shots using a Japanese version of Exchange 5.5.

Book #8 was “Microsoft Exchange Server for Windows 2000”. This was a big undertaking because Exchange 2000 was such a different animal to its predecessor. The advent of Active Directory was especially important. This volume was also translated into a number of languages.

Book #9 was an update for Exchange 2003. This was a very solid version because it fixed many of the problems that deployments had revealed in the new architecture introduced in Exchange 2000.

I revised the Exchange 2003 book in 2004 to take account of Exchange 2003 Service Pack 1. A trend started at this point whereby the first version of a new version of Exchange had a number of shortcomings that were addressed with a service pack that emerged nine or ten months after the initial release.

Book #11 covered Exchange 2007. I then updated this book for Exchange 2007 SP1 in early 2008 as book #12.

So the Exchange 2010 book is #13. I hope that it won’t be unlucky!

The interesting thing that I have learned over this period is that despite the fact that information is more available than ever before, especially about technical topics, people still like to have books that they can consult – just in case.

– Tony


About Tony Redmond ("Thoughts of an Idle Mind")

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
This entry was posted in Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Books, books, books

  1. Tony

    Interesting. Yes the amount of online information, wikis, blogs, etc – all new sources of information. However I think many of us look to an expert for their comprehensive approach in books such as your own re Exchange. Something about the structure or thoroughness of the approach followed by a professional with subject matter expertise. I have experienced this recently in tackling both Python and Ruby on Rails. Lots (unlimited) amounts for info available – but most progress made in the company of two authoritative books.

    Keep up the writing.

  2. At this risk of sounding like a stalker, I own 9 of these books! I have had the privilege of working on/with all of these products; ALL-IN-1, TeamLinks and Exchange, and have always found your books to be both informative and somehow entertaining.
    One of your books about ALL-IN-1 is listed on Amazon now for $236! Is it possible there are people still using ALL-IN-1?
    We recently purchased your book on Exchange 2010 SP1 and it has proved invaluable to us already… Thanks for all the great writing!


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