A Disappointing and Amateurish Effort

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Review by 12ftguru posted 08-17-2011 03:02 PM 4787 views 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A Disappointing and Amateurish Effort A Disappointing and Amateurish Effort A Disappointing and Amateurish Effort Click the pictures to enlarge them

When I first ordered the “American Woodworker: 25 Years of Issues” DVD I was pretty excited. I am fairly new to American Woodworker and I had only been reading a year or two. I was really looking forward to exploring the back catalog for interesting articles and ideas.

Unfortunately, the product itself has been a real disappointment.

My first big beef with these DVD’s is the incomprehensible decision to put all of the magazine issues in Adobe’s Flash format. Adobe makes a perfectly good technology for print matter. It’s called a PDF. Flash is good for banner ads and not much else. The first thing you will notice when you launch the magazine viewer is that your fan will immediately spin up to full speed and remain there as long as the magazine is open. I program for a living and I have a pretty beefy machine, but Flash never fails to send my computer into nuclear meltdown. It’s like trying to relax with a magazine while your dust collection is on.

The second big complaint is the quality of the scans. These magazines all appear to have been “lovingly preserved” in milk crates down in someone’s basement. There are obvious creases in the pages, the scans are often crooked or don’t line up correctly. The overall feel is just incredibly amateurish (see photo).

My final strike against this archive is the fact that not a single article is individually linked. Yes, I kid you not… AW actually went to the trouble to use a web browser as the interface for their product, but couldn’t be bothered to link anything beyond the individual issues. This means that if you browse through the list of issues and see something you like, you get to click on the individual issue and go hunting for the article. If you do a search, you get back a list of abbreviated individual sentences that contain your search term and a link to the individual issue the sentence was in (see photo). There’s not even a title for which article the sentence was in. This isn’t search, it’s a customer frustration generator.

It’s truly a shame to see a good magazine, one devoted to craftsmanship and care, take such a shoddy approach to a product. This is one purchase that will be making it’s way to Ebay in short order.

View 12ftguru's profile


31 posts in 4790 days

14 comments so far

View glassyeyes's profile


137 posts in 4545 days

#1 posted 08-17-2011 03:44 PM

Wow; that’s truly pathetic. My sister taught computer science; she would have smacked one of her kids on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper for such lack of care.

And they STILL have the webpage up for a free drawing—that expired May 31, 2011.

-- Now, where did I put those bandaids?

View Bertha's profile


13624 posts in 3909 days

#2 posted 08-17-2011 04:10 PM

It seems like they could rescue this effort, given that they’ve already scanned the originals. I hate Adobe. I tolerate photoshop but I hate everything about Acrobat. An the nag popups? forget it. In the medical field, the same idiots have turned to .pdfs for large documents. I kid you not, I have one that’s over 5000 pages long of hi-res graphics. I’ve got 16 gigs of RAM, dual processors, and crossfired gpus and Adobe still manages to claim a lion’s share of resources. If you’re not on a gaming PC or workstation, I don’t know how you’d open some of these files.

I feel your pain.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4864 days

#3 posted 08-17-2011 04:21 PM

thanks for the review. it is truly remarkable that in todays technologies of OCR scanning that this would be presented in such a manner… and I won’t even start talking about FLASH.. there is a reason why HTML 5 is developed to replace the use of the power savvy flash.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View DocHamm's profile


120 posts in 3907 days

#4 posted 08-17-2011 04:24 PM

While it’s great these are getting preserved before being completely lost, it’s a shame they only input a fraction of effort into, what could have been, a great product. Too many publishers are lagging behind in the e-world and technology. PDF is ok for a few things, but since most files tend to be huge, it’s outdated. Adobe needs to step ahead of the curve, drop Flash and re-vamp Acrobat. Publishers need to create apps and files that are usable by multiple devices and not target just one device and group of customers. Adobe has long fallen behind in technology leadership and gone down the path of other software companies … greed. We don’t need new software every year to shell out money, not unless it’s ahead of the curve, flexible, multi-platform and user friendly. Keep poking Adobe and either they’ll respond or another company will surpass them, as is the way of the computing world.

-- "The Noblest Art is that of making others happy." ~ P.T. Barnum

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4082 days

#5 posted 08-17-2011 04:27 PM

Thanks for the info because I have considered ordering one for myself.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View 12ftguru's profile


31 posts in 4790 days

#6 posted 08-17-2011 04:30 PM

I suspect that unlike Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking, nobody at AW is very technically savvy. This tends to lead to the hiring of “consultants” and other acts of self-mutilation. :)

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4486 days

#7 posted 08-17-2011 05:38 PM

Sad to hear. With all the exciting developments of new technologies, you would think they could at least get a simple text and picture (with database search index) right. I have the FWW compilation and use it all the time with great success – it is one of my favorite reference DVD’s. Hopefully, PW will get it together on the next one? Thanks for a great review and for the heads up.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View llwynog's profile


288 posts in 3794 days

#8 posted 08-17-2011 06:17 PM

Thanks a lot for the review. Glad I learned this beforehand.

-- Fabrice - "On est bien bête mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather

View 12ftguru's profile


31 posts in 4790 days

#9 posted 08-17-2011 07:23 PM

Tried that. The vendor said they had no complaints from other buyers, but they would pass on “my concerns.”

View ChunkyC's profile


856 posts in 4470 days

#10 posted 08-17-2011 07:31 PM

I would talk to AW directly and forgo the middle man. Maybe they could get your money back.

This is to bad. I was looking forward to getting the DVD in the future but I’ll take a pass.

Flash. YUK! What morons…

-- Chunk's Workshop pictures:

View mrg's profile


886 posts in 4215 days

#11 posted 08-18-2011 12:17 AM


Thanks for the review. I design interactive pdfs for a living. The problem is most companies do not know the technologies that are out their or a still 2-3 versions behind. PDF is a great way to publish documents provided that they are set up properly. Adobe has a platform called Livecycle ES2 which is being revamped and relaunched as ADEP which is a powerhouse of an enterprise suite for web and digital media. It is going to take some time for the publishers to catch up and get on board.

FWW has an apology in the electronic mag section for the iPad and some other e-readers do to the fact that the vendor they are using for the conversions have not kept up with the technology and are working on getting everything squared away.

-- mrg

View Tomas's profile


53 posts in 5204 days

#12 posted 08-18-2011 12:36 AM

I know you were looking to something interesting and useful – I am sorry you had to waste your money but thank you for saving our dollars – at least you did a good deed by warning us all.

I have a related beef with popular woodworking – their illustrations are horrible – unllike fine woodworking where I can figure how things are dimensioned, put together, joined, oriented, etc – not with the grade school quality of PW illustrations – this is the only reason I will not subscribe to PW – once they improve I am willing to give it a second thought.

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 4266 days

#13 posted 08-19-2011 06:50 PM

Unfortunately, I’m in the boat with you. I ordered this about a week ago and it showed up on my doorstep earlier this week.

I have not had a chance to look at it yet, but it sounds like it’s going to be a headache. I’ll try to look at it over the weekend or early next week. If it’s as bad as you’ve described, I’ll be lodging a complaint with Peachtree, which is who I ordered it from. Is that where you purchased your copy?

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View 12ftguru's profile


31 posts in 4790 days

#14 posted 08-19-2011 07:23 PM

Yep. I ordered it from Peachtree. I had no luck with them, but I will email AW directly before sending this off to ebay.

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