Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Presenting (with) Bruce

When I present at a meeting, I like to use plenty of live demos. I can get away with this, because I type very, very well. (I did get into IT via the secretarial pool, after all.) Still, even I get a little nervous about whether I can keep up typing speed and accuracy with the pressure of a whole audience staring at me.

Fortunately, This blog post by Andy Todd (You do read his blog, don't you?) pointed me to Bruce, a wonderful presentation tool freshly created by Richard Jones.

Bruce lets you wrap up decent-looking slides, graphics, and Python interpreter sessions all into a single presentation that scrolls smoothly along at your command. (Simply being spared the fuss of flipping between Presentation slides and a command-prompt window is a blessing.) For demos, you can pre-enter the text you want to type, then Bruce sends it to the interpreter one character at a time. You type 'dfjkasfjdska;dfsafd', but 'def plusOne(x): return x+1' appears on the screen, and the audience thinks you're a keyboard goddess.

My one disappointment in Bruce - as I understand it (I just found it, you know) - is that the wonderful interactive session can only be used with a Python session. I'll need to dig into Bruce and PyGame to verify that, and to see if it can be extended elsewhere. I dearly want to use it when I'm demonstrating SQL.

Until Bruce, incidentally, my best bet was TPP, the Text Presentation Program. I've seen presentations done with it, and it looks OK, except it's written in Ruby and has dependencies (ncurses) that need C compiling - not very practical where I am, unfortunately.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Search engines are not Zen

I decided that I should make myself a list of questions I've never been able to resolve, or that were very difficult to research, because they don't "search" well. That is, in everything from Metalink's Search bar to Google, it's hard to come up with relevant results.

For instance,

- I'm trying to use RMAN DUPLICATE, and it does indeed produce the data files on the auxiliary database, but it doesn't create a controlfile. The documentation clearly says it should. Searching on terms like RMAN DUPLICATE controlfile not generated only brings up more pages saying that it should.

- All sorts of questions like such-and-such service DOESN'T start, program WON'T run, logfile ISN'T created. Negation - "not" - is clearly a failing of a typical search. Searching for green eggs no ham will find you 10,000 pages on green eggs AND ham, with the one page on "My green eggs came without ham!" buried anonymously as result #4,312.

I'm not sure what I'll ultimately want to do with this list. But I began to wonder, more broadly, if someone out there had already started assembling issues of unsearchable questions. Ironically, Can't Find On Google is very easy to find on Google.