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Comment: Read "Introducing GitHub" by Bell and Beer 2014 (Score 1) 343

by shmorhay (#49076201) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Version Control For Non-Developers?
The 125-page book "Introducing GitHub" by Bell and Beer published by O'Reilly in November 2014 is a great introduction to version control and GitHub in particular for non-technical people. It is specifically aimed at an audience of project managers and product managers. ISBN 9781491949740. Well worth the twenty-five dollars, and the quiet weekend you will spend on it.

Comment: The Transparent Society by David Brin 1998 (Score 1) 140

David Brin's 1998 book "The Transparent Society" (ISBN 9780738201443) is cogent and still timely -- and see also -- consider mentioning it as supplementary reading at least.

Comment: Willpower is the key (Score 1) 418

by shmorhay (#41562857) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Am I Too Old To Retrain?
Bang away for ninety minutes a day upgrading your skillset. Make this a habit first thing in the morning. An extremely useful book is "Willpower" which discusses the daily depletion of will, and how to compensate for that, and enhance it -- Just as folks tend to sleep in ninety minute cycles, so too is studying best done in uninterrupted ninety minute chunks. Microsoft toolsets mutate often, but they share a common design philosophy, so if you know VB and an older edition of .NET you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can "upgrade" to C# and the latest .NET. Forge the habit of an early morning hideout study period of ninety minutes with your laptop and a computer book, and work your way through tutorials. And whatever worked for you to get you to your current level of knowledge is probably still a valid approach. Remember too that you are over the biggest hurdle, which is understanding how the edit-build-run-repeat cycle works in your IDE (likely Visual Studio).

+ - Tethr puts disaster-zone worldwide connectivity into your backpack->

Submitted by
shmorhay writes "Aaron Huslage, an experienced disaster-zone communications expert, has used the lessons learned from setting up wireless networks in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to create an open-source communications hub packed in a waterproof Pelican box that will help first responders link to the outside world from within crisis zones. See the BBC news article at and see his application for funding at and also at ."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Harwani's recent PyQT intro to Python programming (Score 1) 525

B. M. Harwani just came out with a very nice introductory Python programming book that covers Python basics in the first part, and then focuses on using PyQT to build GUI applications that link to a MySQL database. This combination of Python, PyQT, and MySQL works well on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The full title is "Introduction to Python Programming and Developing GUI Applications with PyQT" by B.M. Harwani, Dec. 2011, ISBN-13: 9781435460973, 300 pages, $30 --

Comment: Zenna Henderson's Ingathering (Score 1) 1244

by shmorhay (#39277513) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Good, Forgotten Fantasy & Science Fiction Novels?
Zenna Henderson's stories of The People were published as a single volume, titled "Ingathering", which I highly recommend. Trivia bit -- a 1972 made-for-TV movie was filmed of one of the stories starring William Shatner as the non-alien doctor who performs psi-augmented emergency surgery on a child, plus Kim Darby (of "True Grit" fame). But read the book first to immerse yourself in a delicate female perspective on alien contact. Deeply moving in many parts.

Comment: Interview village elders (Score 1) 157

by shmorhay (#37319180) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Classroom Eco-Projects Suited To Alaska?
Bring along digital voice recorders such as those used for dictation, a couple of laptops, plus digital still cameras, possible a small and cheap digital video camera. Get your students to interview the village elders about THEIR knowledge, and post the results to the web on your return. After all, these folks are part of a culture that survives in a hostile world right next door to Mars. Let them show and tell YOU what arctic science is all about.

Comment: Knowledgebase toolsets (Score 1) 401

by shmorhay (#26921633) Attached to: How Do You Document Technical Procedures?

Having been a technical writer in the computer industry for over twenty years, I can tell you from experience that the best approach is to (1) set up a wiki for technical folks to contribute content and simultaneously (2) use a professional technical writer to build and maintain a knowledgebase drawn from that wiki content and code comments, plus their own interviews, research, diagramming, and writing.

Do not try to solve this problem using traditional desktop publishing tools, except as a short-term stop-gap measure. Find a technical writer who understands both relational database and XML technology, and put them to work using their preferred toolset.

Some knowledgebase toolset notes follow.

Adobe RoboHelp Server 8 can be the delivery mechanism for an enterprise-wide knowledgebase and RoboHelp 8 can be the authoring environment --

with various additional authoring and diagramming tools serving as content creation editors, especially to cope with producing documents needed urgently, albeit in desktop publishing mode.

While RoboHelp got its start as a Windows online help editor, it has, like the gawky teenager next door, grown into an impressive adult over the past few years.

A competing product you (and your technical writer) should also look at is Macap Flare, which was developed by a group of software developers who spun off from RoboHelp a while back.

(RoboHelp had been successively owned by Blue Sky, eHelp, Macromedia, and now Adobe, with the all the personal stress such corporate buy-outs, and the resulting rebranding code-churn, can induce.)

Madcap Flare is also part of a knowledgebase-creation toolset that will soon have its own content management server as a delivery and workflow mechanism --

The Altova XMLSpy toolset is also worth evaluating --

Don't expect your techies to spend their time in Altova, Flare, RoboHelp (or whatever), since their time is much better spent writing code and comments and any descriptions they can generate, in tools they already know and love, such as wikis and their favorite IDEs.

But do expect your technical writer to follow along and clean things up in a high-end knowledgebase toolset, and, eventually, to set up a workflow process for copyediting and approving new and updated material, but in as unobtrusive a manner as possible.

Also be aware that your knowledgebase will likely need to be translated into multiple languages, with the advice and assistance of localization specialists.

It sounds like your technical writer will be doing catch-up -- it has typically taken me about 18 months to get things under control and flowing smoothly in any company that neglected to hire a technical writer from the beginning, all the while jamming out whatever documents were needed for product delivery using standard desktop publishing tools.

This is not a life to envy, or for the faint of heart, but it can be an adventure for the truly dedicated. Bringing order out of chaos with your keyboard can be a rush.

Comment: Re:Exploratorium Cookbooks (Score 3, Informative) 249

by shmorhay (#26883421) Attached to: Physics Experiments To Inspire Undergraduates?
To save you some digging, here are the direct links for buying each of the volumes directly from the Exploratorium itself (these show up when you search that website) --,622.html and,775.html and,760.html and for all three as a [discounted] full set (for $350) --,19.html These may be overkill for your immediate needs, but if you are ever tasked with starting your own hands-on science museum, the Exploratorium folks have very kindly documented their approach.

Comment: Exploratorium Cookbooks (Score 2, Informative) 249

by shmorhay (#26883099) Attached to: Physics Experiments To Inspire Undergraduates?
The San Francisco Exploratorium, an interactive, hands-on science museum, published a three-volume set of instructions for creating useful and educational (and sturdy) projects for children and adults to manipulate and study, although these are now hard to find, and expensive. Search the used books website for "Exploratorium Cookbook" (and grab any copies you can) and see also the Exploratorium website at . See also the very recently published book "Laboratory Experiments in College Physics" by C. Bernard and C. Epp, published in December 2008 (ISBN 978-0471002512) available on

If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you. -- Muhammad Ali