Pluralsight Review

Since discovering Pluralsight just over a year ago, I’ve been bowled over by its quality, value and ever increasing range of instructional videos.

I first became aware of the site when I watched a free ASP.NET MVC 3 video course, which is still available. This gave me a taste of the professionalism of the content, and having a browse around, found that there were literally hundreds of hours of videos on subjects ranging from C# to WF.

Some ten or so years ago, my source of learning was books and newsgroups. The current speed and breadth of software development evolution has made it somewhat difficult for traditional book publishers to produce books at the same pace. Pluralsight’s library is expanding at a rapid rate, and for subjects such as Knockout and Orchard, the content is of a much larger scope than for the comparable printed equivalent.

I subscribe to a monthly $29 subscription model, which entitles me to watch the library of videos on a computer or mobile device. The ‘monthly plus’ option adds in exercise files, certificates and offline viewing. Yearly options are also available and offer a typical discount over the monthly charge. Videos load quickly, and Android and iOS apps have the option of increasing playback speed up to twice the normal rate, useful in many situations.

Whilst the library is largely Microsoft-based, this emphasis is changing, as recent additions of PhoneGap, MySQL and Java exemplify. Despite this, the range of material is most likely to benefit developers who are developing with a Microsoft stack of technologies.

I should say that I’m not associated with Pluralsight in any form. You can watch the free MVC video series, and sign up for a free trial, so you can draw your own conclusion.

I love books as much as anyone, but I feel that Pluralsight is the most effective developer training resource available.

Happy learning!

Nexus 7 Quick Review from an Android/Android Tablet Virgin

I’m an iOS user. I’ve owned an iPhone for over four years. I’ve owned an iPad for about 16 months.

I’ve never used Android.

That all changed today, when my pre-ordered Nexus 7 tablet arrived in the post.

So here is literally a quick get-this-typed-out-whilst-my-thoughts-are-fresh initial thoughts on Android and the tablet. Some comparisons may be made with Apple products, and iOS; get over it.

The Packaging

  • Nobody’s claimed the Nexus 7 is expensive. The packaging starts the experience with the feel of ‘this is a premium product you have in your hands’. It doesn’t feel cheap.

The Device

  • It’s feels a little heavier in my hands than I thought it would. Not uncomfortably heavy, but solid, and that’s no bad thing.
  • I’ve enjoyed a retina-display iPhone display for a while, and whilst the DPI is lower on the ’7′, the screen is of very high quality. Perhaps not as good as the iPhone4/4s, but considerably better than the non-retina iPad’s.
  • The screen size is fantastic, and no doubt it’ll be more comfortable to use in bed than the iPad, though it will complement my iPad rather than replace it. Though I’ll have to see how my tablet usage changes.
  • The whole thing definitely feels like a premium product. Maybe not quite, and I mean not quite, as high quality as an iPad, but really not much difference.

Software and UI

  • Opening large movies does take a second or two. Not too annoying, because you’ll spend a lot more time watching than opening, but it’s definitely slower than the equivalent opening time on the iPad.
  • Paging through PDFs with images and other non text-only content wasn’t perceptibly instant. There was a short pause. Longer than the iPad’s for the same PDF.
  • I didn’t need to use iTunes to transfer content from my computer to the device. If you’ve used iTunes, you know this is a big positive.
  • I needed a WMV player. I found one within seconds and it worked. And it was free.
  • I feel I’ll miss the range and lower priced apps of the App Store.
  • It’s a shame I can only rent movies here in the UK
  • Update -Currently no BBC iPlayer, which is a bit of a blow, but I imagine it won’t be too long before that issue is resolved.

It may only have been a couple of hours, but I really like my new tablet; I’ll obviously use it a lot over the coming days, and probably post another update on how I’m finding it.

I’ll still enjoy using my iPad, but I feel a 7 incher complements things very nicely, and I’m glad I’ll be able to evaluate Android properly before deciding whether to ditch my iPhone.

Thanks Apple, for starting something great.

Hide your Orchard ‘Edit’ links

The Orchard theme Contoso ships with rather ugly ‘Edit’ links for editing widgets. They’re convenient, but I’m not of the opinion that they need to be visible all the time.

So, I wrote this little fragment of JavaScript to hide them by default and show when the mouse enters their corresponding widget area.

This behaviour might not be to everybody’s liking, but I provide the jQuery code snippet if you fancy giving it a go:

$(function() {
  $(".manage-actions").hide();
  $(".widget-control").mouseenter(function () {
    $(".manage-actions", this).show();
  }).mouseleave(function () {
    $(".manage-actions", this).hide();
  });
});

It should be easily modified to suit your needs/theme.

Could Google’s Nexus 7 make me dump my iPhone?

There can be little argument (though some folks will argue about anything) that the iPhone has revolutionised the Smartphone industry. And with iOS, Apple has created an ecosystem that has directly contributed to soaring revenue and profitability. Sometimes, it seems as though everybody has an iPhone or and iPad.

I have both, and love them both. But sometimes, I wonder about whether I should ditch my iPhone and get an Android device. That may sound crazy, because I’m happy with my iPhone, and always have been. But I sometimes like to do something different, try something else, and find out for myself what I really think. The Samsung Galaxy S3 has had a good review or two, so why not go for that? I’m out of contract, and could get it tomorrow.

I got my first iPhone in 2008, a few months after its UK launch, and fell in love straight away; there were other phones with a better camera, a better screen, but the whole package, and in particular the user experience was second-to-none. I’ve watched films on my iPhone, listened to music, browsed the internet, and played tens of apps.

I also know I can do this on an Android device, but my current thoughts are that some aspects of the Android user experience may be less polished, and have a more ‘homebrew’ feel to them than their Apple counterparts.

Curiously, none of my friends has an Android device, and I can’t make informed judgements of Android by using a phone for a couple of minutes in a shop. iOS irks me a little, and no doubt Android will too, but how much? On balance, I’d always thought I’d stick with what I know, which is undoubtedly a great phone and OS.

A short time after the release of the iPad 2, I purchased a 16Gb Wifi model. After an initial burst of use, I left it collecting dust for a while, but have once again used it, mainly for e-reading, internet browsing and apps. It’s a familiar device with a great screen and many wonderful apps.

The iPad arguably has fewer legitimate competitors than the iPhone, so I wasn’t expecting to think about buying another tablet, let alone go ahead and do so. But when I saw news of Google’s 7″ form factor Nexus 7 tablet at very low price of £189 (I got a tenner off at Currys), I thought it was the best opportunity to give Android a go.

I placed the order before even reading a review for the Nexus 7, but thankfully, they’ve all been very positive.

And here’s the deal – after using the Nexus 7 for a few weeks, I’ll be perfectly placed to judge Android and compare it with iOS. Before now, it’s been too big a risk to ditch my iPhone and ‘switch sides’, but soon, I’ll have first-hand experience of using Android day-in, day-out. I’m excited about getting my Nexus 7 in the post and to experience something different, something new, and to really make an informed decision about Android.

It could be the the best reason yet to dump my iPhone.