Friday, July 27, 2007

If I would've looked at this image, knowing that these are important C# 3.0 features, I would've read the accompanying article like medicine: something good for you but not too tasty.

Instead, this is from a screencast where Daniel Moth cleverly explains that this new LINQ stuff is really just a concise syntax of existing .NET 2.0/3.0 syntax and new seemingly minor specialty .NET 3.5 syntax.

This to me is one example where a screen demo is an efficient way to learn something.

I think it's a well-thought out example of using video for technical instruction.

Instructional demos ordinarily begin with the simplest case, then progressively add features, details, alternatives, complexities to adorn the bare-bones 'hello world' example.

In this case, the instructor takes something hairy and complex and shows how it's logically derived. He breaks down the syntax of this seemingly magic expression to show how all the pieces (keywords, variables, and operators) are just concise representations of standard syntax.

Check out either link:

Channel 9
Decomposing LINQ
Monday, July 23, 2007
Is your place dusty?

I used to wonder why a thin film of dust accumulated on window ledges and horizontal surfaces where I used to live in Portland and to a lesser degree, in my Bellevue apartment. I found out why.

Rarely do I see a TV commercial for a new product and buy it the next day. But I did with a new Dyson vacuum (Dyson Slim DC-18, lightweight upright vacuum). The commercial showed some smaller upright vacuums pushed back and forth accompanied by an annoying squeaky sound. It then showed the Dyson model with a soft but powerful sound proclaiming it was the one that really had the power to clean and was easy to maneuver.

I looked up this vacuum on Amazon and 20 customer reviews -- mostly from housewives who are serious about their housekeeping -- almost all commented that they couldn't believe how much dust this vacuum picked up even after they had just used their old vacuum on a section of rug.

I get these 20% off anything-in-the-store coupons From Bed Bath and Beyond and use them when I want to make an expensive gadget purchase for an item not generally discounted. Still, the $450 ended up costing me about $400 with tax included.

Some of my ideas turn out to be not as good as hoped for, but after letting my Roomba loose on the living room and hallway, I assembled the Dyson and ran over those areas to give it a true test. Sure enough, I ended up dumping maybe half a cup of fine powder it picked up (and because it has a HEPA filter, did not shoot back into the air). This must have been the stuff I used to stir up by walking around that settled on everything.

Now I realize you may have a spouse or significant other who takes care of the cleaning and general household maintenance, but try this little test: take a moistened paper towel and fold it over several times. Wipe on top of an opened door or that little piece of wood that forms a ledge over where the door closes. If that's the only dusty place in your abode, get a few paper towels and do all the door tops and door top ledges. But if you or your spouse notice a lot of dust that seems to come from nowhere, you might consider investing the $450. If you have respiratory problems, as I do, it's a priceless thing to have cleaner air to breathe.

I bought Microsoft's Expression Blend and downloaded some training videos, and will post my thoughts on a more technical subject in the next few days. My preliminary thoughts (as someone who explored Flash previously) are that designers will grudgingly absorb enough knowledge of WPF after using this application to do some nice UI design work, but developers will still need a rock-solid foundation in WPF for the coding side of things.
Friday, July 06, 2007

Samsung YP-K5

Here's an MP3 player with one added feature: When you slide it open, it has built-in speakers.

From reviews, people find having a built-in speaker useless or ingenious. It also comes with earbuds, and Samsung now even makes a similar model without the speaker.

If you have private space and don't like to fuss with earphones, you might enjoy having it. The sound quality is pretty good. People reviewing it all seem to comment that the sound is surprisingly rich and full and not tinny as you'd expect from the tiny speakers.

I listen to podcasts (for fun). As a documentation guy who's a contractor, I record info-gathering meetings with engineers and project leaders and developers (with an Olympus digital voice recorder, the Samsung YP-K5 is just for playback), then listen back. It improves my retention of info significantly.

It accepts WMA files as well as MP3. It also displays JPGs, but I've never tried that feature.

Thursday, July 05, 2007
Two birds.

One of the benefits people selling fax machines long ago touted was that, in a pinch, you could also use it to make a copy of a piece of paper. Yes I did make one or two copies of something I was going to mail away, but fuzzy text on glossy rolled-up fax paper wasn't the same as what a copy machine produced for 5 or 10 cents.

One "added feature" I use more than I expected is the timer function on a microwave oven. It's great to get an audio reminder of something I don't want to forget needs doing in the near future, and it's easy to set.

I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking for composing informal e-mails (and these blog posts). An added benefit I use occasionally is the text-to-speech functionality. If I see an article online, and it's not too filled with technical jargon, I sometimes paste it into Dragon's scratchpad, Select All, and choose Read That.

I delete any code and hyperlinks (I don't want the URL of where something is in the MSDN Library read to me). It's not very good figuring out compound words. I once listened to an article about BizTalk, though it read that as bees talk. For .NET it says point net. To avoid the annoyance, I searched and replaced BizTalk with "BizzTalk" and .NET with " dot net" before having it read aloud.

It sounds like a lot of trouble, but I'm used to listening to audio books, and I'm amused and impressed by how-close-to-human sounding digitized text is getting. It uses punctuation to guide its vocal inflection and does a respectable job on words it's never encountered before (my last name being a good test).

It just needs a way to let someone correct its pronounciation (other than my brute force approach) and then remember that correction. It has to have built-in corrected audio-symbols associated with ordinary dictionary words, otherwise it would pronounce the 's' in 'island' if it interpreted every word merely by the letters.
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