Thursday, November 29, 2007


Perth .NET User Group meeting: The Disability Divide with Dr Scott Hollier

Join us at the Perth .NET Users Group, December 6th, to hear Dr Scott Hollier present on the Disability Divide. People with disabilities, and in particular people who are blind or vision impaired, are not embracing computing and Internet-related technologies at the same rate as the able-bodied population. This presentation will explain the reasons behind the disability divide and how software developers can significantly improve the independence of people with disabilities.

TOPIC: Accessibilty and the Disability Divide with Dr Scott Hollier
DATE: Dec 6th, 5:30pm
VENUE: Excom, Level 2, 23 Barrack Street, Perth
COST: Free. All Welcome.

Scott, a published author in the field, has recently completed a PhD titled ‘The Disability Divide: an examination into the needs of computing and Internet-related technologies by people who are blind or vision impaired’. He has an undergraduate Computer Science degree and six years experience in the Information Technology industry. Scott, who is legally blind, is a Researcher for Employment and Equity, at the Association for the Blind of WA.

Whoops! Almost forgot. On Tuesday, December 4th 5:30pm (same venue), Rob Farley will be talking about some of the new SQL Server 2008 features and a few of his favourite (and useful) TSQL language features.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Visual Studio 2008 Training Kit

You've probably already seen this by now - Microsoft have made the Visual Studio 2008 Training Kit available as a download (it was previously offered to ISVs only). It contains 20 hands-on labs, 28 presentations, and 20 scripted demos. The technologies covered in the kit include: LINQ, C# 3.0, VB 9, WCF, WF, WPF, Windows CardSpace, Silverlight, ASP.NET Ajax, .NET Compact Framework 3.5, VSTO 3.0, Visual Studio Team System, and Team Foundation Server.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Kindle: If Only Santa Knew About These!

Earlier in the year I joked with Cheryl Martinez, who coordinates Apress’s user group affilliation program, about the possibility of someone finding a decent electronic solution to hard copy books. Well, it seems Amazon may well have done just that with the release of the Kindle. According to the blurb, Kindle is a “portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers”. It’s not the first device to try and capture this huge market; Sony has had one out for some time which retails for around US$100 less than the Kindle.

It apparently sold out in the first 5.5 hours, but is it just hype or has someone finally found the design sweetspot like the Apple iPod did?

Whilst I haven’t got my grubby paws on one, it seems it might succeed where others have failed due to the fact that it works more like a portable media reader, with the ability to wirelessly download content such as blogs, newspapers over the 3G network, in addition to storing and displaying electronic books.

After reading through only a portion of the huge number of of highly polarised comments (a good thing according to Kathy Sierra) over at Amazon, it seems the negative points are:

1) Books are DRM’ed and in a third party propietry format.
2) Price: US$400.
3) Network coverage (I suspect here in backwater Perth, this might be a big issue).
4) Black and White screen: seems a strange design choice.
5) Book availability: obviously this would hopefully grow quickly as the product matures?

The killer for me is the DRM issue. If I buy a paper book, I expect to be able to read it anytime between now and either it or me crumbles into dust!. I do not want to pay for something that will become unreadable at some point in time (although with technology books becoming out of date very quickly this is not an issue for what would be its main use for me).

Wonder if they have thought of including an automatic speech translator, turning print into audio books?

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Solving Mathematical Problems: A personal perspective. 2nd Edition, Terence Tao. Oxford University Press

The Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – Lao Tzu
Every so often, you come across a book that really stands out. I have recently been very fortunate to come across several such books, this being one of them. “Solving mathematical problems” was written by Terence Tao when he was a 15 year old student and has now been slightly revised in this second edition. Like another of the reviewers at Amazon, I also came across this book after reading an article about Terence Tao winning the Fields medal (a bit like the Nobel prize for mathematics).

Not only does it give a wonderful insight into the mind of a young Terence Tao, but also into the techniques used to elegantly solve some reasonably difficult problems, such as those posed as questions for the Maths Olympiad contests. [Terence competed in these challenges in his teens, winning bronze, silver and then gold.]

Mathematical researchers are not always great educators. Thankfully, Prof. Tao is.
Mainly assuming only basic high-school pure mathematics, worked solutions to the problems are clearly and expertly described. Not only does he solve the problems but he also examines the steps, false starts and other solution possibilities that are part of the general approach to problem solving.

I was only slightly disappointed that there were a handful of corrections in this second edition (available at Prof Tao’s blog here); one or two could perplex an unwary reader who might expect the work to be flawless.

If you have an interest in mathematics, either as a high school student or a hobbyist, I would highly recommended reading this book.

In the preface, Prof Tao remarks that if he wrote a book on the subject of competition problem-solving now, it would very different; now that is definitely a book I would like to read!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


.NET Framework 3.5 Common Namespaces and Types Poster and Whitepapers Available

With the imminent release of Visual Studio 2008 RTM, the teams at Microsoft are busy creating support material. Paul Andrew has links to several resources over at his blog. The direct link to the .NET Framework 3.5 Namespaces Poster is here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Building Technical User Communities. Dr Greg Low. Rational Press

Greg Low has been involved with technical user communities for some time. He is well known in Australian developer circles (and further afield) and is a frequent speaker at conferences as well as a Microsoft regional director. I’m currently helping to run the Perth .NET user group, so I was glad to receive a review copy of this book from Greg, curious to see if there was something we could be doing, but currently were not.

The writing style is conversational, easy to read and interspersed with recounted stories. The book is divided into the following chapters:
  1. People, Not Technology
  2. Something for Everyone
  3. Finding Speakers
  4. Tried and True
  5. Pizza Does Not Define a User Group
  6. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
  7. Recruiting Members
  8. Content and Handouts
  9. Using Technology
  10. Recruiting Volunteers
  11. Conducting Meetings
  12. Tips for Presenters
  13. The Fine Print
  14. Funding
The book makes it clear from Chapter 1 that “Communities, whether technical or not, are about people” and the reasons why people are motivated to get involved with a user group are examined.

In Chapter 2, “Something for Everyone”, Greg describes his strategies for making meetings have relevance to all attendees:
  • Avoid Single Topic Meetings
  • Avoid Increasing Depth
  • Some Repetition is OK
This advice might seem to fly in the face of how many user groups are organised but his explanations make good sense. I think this chapter could be summed up by the following quotes, which in other settings might seem cliché or hackneyed: “Participation is very important” and “Everyone wants to feel valued”.

I think Greg did a good job of keeping the book short and easy going; I read it in 2 sessions over 3 nights. Not all of the advice will fit every user group, but I would be surprised if a single user group did not found something of interest that they can put to use. There are many valuable ideas that can be quickly put into practice. It was pleasing to find out that our group seems to be following much of the advice given in this book.

The only negative thing I found that was that there were a few short paragraphs that were repeated, but maybe that was just to drill in the message!

If you are thinking of starting a technical community or even already involved in one, this book is certainly worth reading.

[BTW Greg, the tale of the Avocado mouse pads made me smile!]

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Acropolis: Pining for the Fjords?

Not dead, but it seems Acropolis is to be absorbed into other projects according to the official blog.


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