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A Journal about the experiences I have developing little applications in C#, Perl, Html and Javascript and talking about things new things that I use. Always Geeky; Always Nerdy; Always poor Grammer!

I am a Software Analyst Developer working in Southport, England but living in Liverpool. I develop mainly in C# and ASP.Net. I have been developing comercial software for several years now. I maintain this site (hosted at SwitchMedia UK) as a way of exploring new technologies (such as AJAX) and just generally talking about techie geek issues. This site is developed through a host of Perl scripts and a liberal use of Javascript. I enjoy experimenting with new technologies and anything that I make I host here.

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Web www.kinlan.co.uk

Sunday, August 26, 2007

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Topicala People! and Topicala Popular! BETA

I am pleased to announce that I have added some extra features in to my search engine www.topicala.com.

The two services are currently in Beta, and I encourage everyone to join in.

Firstly, Topicala Popular! is designed to help you discover what is popular on the Internet right now. Its kind of like www.digg.com and www.delicious.com but slightly different.  To be listed on Topicala Popular, we need to able to track some of the visitors to your site, we do this by asking you to include an image (<img src="http://www.topicala.com/imageRefer/YOURSITEURL/topicala.png">) on your site that is hosted by Topicala, then when ever anyone downloads this image we can tell that it came from your site.

Secondly, Topicala People! is designed to help you find people on the Internet. It acheives this by looking at information on your page stored in Microformats, more specifically hCards.

There are several ways that you can get your information on to Topicala, all of them are automatic so you have to do as little as possible.

  1. Wrap your information and anyone you link to in the hCard format (See hCard Authoring). You can easily create hCard contact information by using the hCard Creator
  2. Either:
    1. Include the Topicala image  from our servers (paste the following HTML into your page: <img src="http://www.topicala.com/imageRefer/YOURSITEURL/topicala.png"> - replacing YOURSITEURL with your domain name (this is optional, you can just use <img src="http://www.topicala.com/imageRefer/topicala.png">)
    2. Or Ping our servers at the following URL: http://www.topicala.com/ping using your blogging software

Over the coming days these results will be integrated directly into Topicala so that when you search for a topic, you will find all the people associated with what you are searching for.

Topicala People will be great for indexing company information too, it will be like an automatic Yellow Pages that is not controlled by Topicala, but rather by you the user.

Anyway, I encourage you to get your sites on to Topicala and use the site and let me know what you like, dislike and would like to see changed.

Cheers!

Topicala Desktop

I am pleased to announce that the Topicala.com search engine has partnered with Rosetta Software Ltd (UK) to provide Topicala Desktop.  Topicala Desktop is an application that allows users to search Topicala from within any application on Microsoft Windows platform by simply selecting the word and pressing CTRL-T (configurable).

Imagine you are reading an email, and you come across a term you wish to look up on the Internet.  With Topicala Desktop, simply highlight the text in your email program, and hit the Topicala Desktop hotkey. Internet Explorer will appear automatically with your search results!

Topicala Desktop is an extremely handy tool for those who find themselves making frequent Internet searches throughout the day. Journalists and students for example will find Topicala Desktop the ideal tool for getting a large amount of information quickly.

The true power and flexibility of Topicala Desktop becomes apparent when you consider that Internet searches can be performed from almost any Windows application.

Perhaps you are reading a legal agreement in Microsoft Word, and you come across an unknown word or piece of terminology. Hit the Topicala Desktop hotkey, and you can be enlightened immediately.

Topicala Desktop search is created by Rosetta Software Ltd (UK) and provided free of charge to the users of Topicala. It can be downloaded and installed in minutes.

Review: Microsoft XNA Unleashed. By Chad Carter

Note: I received a copy of this book to review from pearsoned.com

51tSOH5BuQL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-dp-500-arrow,TopRight,45,-64_OU01_AA240_SH20_[1] XNA is Microsoft unified gaming development platform for Windows and XBOX 360.  It was released in December 2006 and finally allowed hobbyist developers to program games using c# on the Xbox 360.  The book is aimed at getting people started on the XNA by showing them the basic concepts of

It took me a little while to read this book, only because I was busy all the time and never got around to reading it.  However, I sat down one evening an went through the whole book.

From the outset this book focuses on teaching you to at least think about the performance of your application (there is a whole chapter, most of which seemed to be taken up by pointless code).  To be honest it annoyed me a little bit when I was reading it.  However, it does prove a point and it stuck with me for the rest of the book.

I am a big fan of componentisation when it comes to programming (which is one of the key concepts of the XNA), I was expecting this book not to cover any of this.  Luckily, this book is strong in this area, not the for precise details of the API strong, but for pointing out the benefits and sticking to the idea of Game Components and Services.  There are several components that would-be game developers could copy straight from the book and use in their own games.

The whole book is at a sufficiently high level for nearly any level of programmer to get started using the XNA with.

Before I got this book I was expecting it just to be about the graphics side of the XNA, however I was pleasantly surprised that it is really about how to make a complete game using the XNA.  Which is a good thing really, because like myself (and acknowledged at the start of the book) many people who get it to programming, it is because they see a game and wonder how it works.

I remember my father trying to get me into programming as a child and I never really understood it nor was I interested by it.  It wasn't until I played Street Fighter II in an arcade on the River Dee in Chester that I had an epiphany, I worked out what programming meant and how the movements on the Joystick translated to Ryu on the screen throwing fireballs

The quantity of pictures in this book describing the output is minute, I would have loved to see more pictures when describing the 2d blending effects and the HLSL examples.  The quality of the pictures are very poor too, at a minimum they should have been in colour.

There are several non-graphics related chapters: Physics and AI for example.  I expected to not like the physics chapter, however, it is short, too the point and gets everything across that you would need to create basic kinetic effects in your games.  I really liked it; The AI chapter was too short and only really describes how to follow a game character, this should have been removed or extended because as it stands I thought it was one of the books weakest sections. 

Overall, I quite enjoyed the book. I was fairly proficient with the 2d programming aspects of the XNA and the coverage was quite good, it even covered a parallax engine which suspiciously looked like my Codeplex XNA project :)

I really liked his vertex shader and pixel shader introductions and his overview of HLSL (this was one of my weaker areas), however, that is all they are introductions they served me well but a whole book could be devoted to that area.

The structure of this book is quite good too, it starts off simple and gets progressively more advanced.  I believe that the structure of the XNA requires you to know about a lot of little things at the same time (the learning curve isn't linear, it is parallel) and when I was reading this book I was coming from knowing a little about the XNA already and I was questioning the author (in my head) "how is he going to explain this concept without X, Y and Z first.  Luckily it is handled quite well, with enough information to get the reader by with having to understand too much, then later in the book that X, Y and Z concept is explained in more detail (most of the time :))

I believe, that if the XNA existed when I started programming (about 14 years ago) and I would have found this book to it would have been a great help to get me gently in to games programming.  Therefore, I would recommend this book for anyone who has c# experience and wants to start using the XNA to make some cool games.  I would not recommend it to people who have no experience using c#, or are already strong at graphics programming.  If you have used either Managed DirectX or Direct X I think you would get more benefit from the help file that comes with the XNA.

The timing of this book is a little off, unfortunately Microsoft have just released v2 of the XNA which could make some of this book redundant (for instance, the first chapter is about requiring Visual Studio Express).  However, I have not delved into it yet (Chad: Is v2 of Microsoft XNA Unleashed on the horizon? I look forward to it).

Let me know what you thought of the book!

Purchase from Amazon.com

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Looking for some people to help test new features of Topicala

I am looking for people who have small blogs to help me test some new features on http://www.topicala.com/.

The software that I am creating is similar to http://digg.com/, but different. :) And is intended to help the "little guy" (you and me) get more people visiting our sites.

The new features aren't complete yet, but a basic page has been created and I am working on it daily.

So if you are interested, please email me at paul.kinlan@gmail.com, or leave a comment and I will get back to you straight away. I will be also contacting people whose blogs I read to see if they are interested helping the project.

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