Using your iPod for learning a new language

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If you’ve every wanted to learn a new language, it’s easier than ever now. There’s dozens of free resources for language lessons including Podcasts (mp3s) and documents (html & PDF). Open Culture provides the

Foreign Language Lesson Podcast Collection. (via Dumb Little Man)

The collection contains downloads and information for the following languages:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Latin
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
  • Tagalog
  • Thai
  • Vietnamese
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Getting the band together… Rock Band (Game Review)

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As readers can tell, I’ve been a bit late getting back into the console video games. My last console (before my new XBOX 360) was a Sega, so that tells some users how long its been.

I’ve looked at the Guitar Hero buzz as something of interest, but I’ve never been one for feats of coordination or rhythm games such as that. So I never experienced the Guitar Hero phenomenon.

This Christmas (2007) I was treated to a Rock Band night with a few family members (some photos on my Facebook profile for friends & family). Rock Band is developed by Harmonix, who also brought us Guitar Hero I & II (but they didn’t develop GH3).

The biggest difference between Guitar Hero and Rock Band is that Guitar Hero is focused on a single instrument (the guitar, duh). Rock Band comes with a drum set, a microphone, and a guitar (with an additional jack for second guitar). The guitar can be either a guitar or bass (but you can only have a maximum of 1 guitar and 1 bass per play).

At first, it took me a while to get the rhythms down. Starting out with old familiar songs such as Wanted Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi) and Epic (Faith No More) helped quite a bit. If you’ve played Guitar Hero series, then you’ll instantly be familiar with the guitars (the guitars of the two games are interchangeable).

I started out with the drums, which I later found to be the most difficult to perform. There’s a kick peddle and four “drums”. As the notes scroll down the screen, you tap the correct drum(s) and/or kick peddle. (If that’s the correct terms…).

At first, I found that coordinate my hands and foot to hit multiple drums a bit difficult. I failed the first few times and needed to be saved by a fellow band member. Luckily, a lot of my family play on expert mode on several of the instruments and could keep the band from getting kicked off the stage almost every time. After a few songs of practice, I was able to score around 85% on the drums on Easy mode.

Moving on to the next instrument, I played the guitar for a bit. I think this was probably the second most difficult instrument. Even on Easy mode, some songs (like Enter Sandman) was just crazy on my fingers. The first two buttons were pretty easy to reach, but the third button played havoc on my finger for at least an hour or so. Finally, I was able to use three fingers (only 3 buttons are used on Easy mode) to reach all of the buttons. I was able to score in the mid-eighties in guitar mode, but usually scored much lower.

Finally, I found my tempo on the bass. The bass uses the same guitar controller as the guitar, but there’s a lot less button combinations. Usually, it’s only one of the three at the same time with a bit more of an interval between the notes. I was rocking the bass with scores in the high-nineties (97% with 187 continuous correct keys on my best).

Lastly, I skipped singing, but from listening to the others sing, you don’t need to be a karaoke master to get a good score here.

I really enjoyed the game and I’m thinking about getting it in a few months after I finish Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Mass Effect. I’m hoping that the rumors are true about the wireless instruments coming out in February 2008. I think that’s the only downside of the game is that there’s a lot of wires involved and you really need at least 3 people to have a fun time, even though only 1 is required.

My only hesitation is that I don’t know if I’ll have enough friends over to actually ever have a Rock Band party. Also, right now the song selection is pretty limited. However, Harmonix is putting out a new download every week with new songs (varies from $0.99 per song or a few dollars for a few songs in a song pack). I’m hoping for some Rage Against the Machine, U2, and an expanded 80s selection.

Rock On.

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Programming perspective

Having the benefit of writing lots of code over the last decade or so, I quickly came to realize that the best written function/application doesn’t mean it will be accepted by the client.

I’ve had some awfully written applications that were loved and my best written applications (using the correct design patterns along with new methologies and techniques) were disliked.

I was even thinking about blogging about this before Jeff Atwood of Coding horror posted the article titled “Nobody Cares What Your Code Looks Like“. Jeff concludes stating:

remember this: nobody cares what your code looks like. Except for us programmers. Yes, well-factored code written in a modern language is a laudable goal. But perhaps we should also focus a bit more on things the customer will see and care about, and less on the things they never will.

This has been my philosophy over the last few years. It doesn’t mean that I need to write poor code – especially since I’m usually the one who needs to maintain the code base. It does mean that nobody really cares how it is written as long as it works the way the client wants it to work.

This is especially true on web development projects. I’ve studied web design trends, usability, navigability, and all those other user experience categories of web design. However, in web development everyone who uses an Internet browser believes themselves to be a certified web designer and can (and does) comment on the page presentation.

So just like in code, clients usually won’t care about your best web design, web standards, or even a standard presentation schema (layout, colors, fonts, etc. across every page of a web site). Just remember, it’s their product and you’re just a vehicle to get there.

I’ve dubbed this egoless programming – putting aside the way you want things to be done in order for your clients to get their product. The clients will ask for things that will result in a sub-par product from your own viewpoint and standards.

But the client doesn’t want your product, they want their product. Even if their product looks like someone used Front Page (or MS Word) to design it. The best we can hope for, is that the product is accepted and used and -maybe- we’ll get another shot at fixing it later…

Unfortunately, these applications usually become showcases and are forever associated with you as the developer. Even if you disagree with how the client wanted it implemented, you’re now stuck with it for better or worse.

I also discovered the Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming as written about in Jerry Weinberg’s book The Psychology of Computer Programming. Commandment number two fits in nicely with this article and should be repeated to yourself on a daily basis. Here’s a few other commandments to keep in mind.

  • You are not your code.
  • Treat people who know less than you with respect, deference, and patience.
  • The only constant in the world is change.
  • Fight for what you believe, but gracefully accept defeat.

Repeat the mantra: you are not your code

Programmers use i, j, and k for looping because…

Mike Nicholaides posted an interesting quote from Wikipedia (via reddit).

In Fortran, all variables starting with the letters I, J, K, L, M and N are integers… (This is the source of the long tradition of using “i”, “j”, “k” etc as the loop indexes of “for loops” in many programming languages — few of which have implicit typing).

I had never really thought about why I’ve always used these letters for loops. It has always just been one of those things that everyone did and all textbooks used as examples. It is interesting to learn why we use the letters i, j, k, etc. instead of starting with a, b, c, etc.

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Pro and Cons of Coffee

Jay White of Little Dumb Man posted an interesting article for consumption of coffee. He lists 10 Pros and Cons of Coffee Drinking. Its an interesting read for us coffee drinkers.

Pro 7. Improved mental performance. Caffeine in coffee is a well-known stimulant. Coffee promotes alertness, attention and wakefulness. The cup of coffee can also increase information processing.

Con 10. Dependence. Caffeine is a drug, a mild central nervous system stimulant, and it produces dependence. Caffeine withdrawal is a real syndrome.

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