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Not so fast to learn Swift!

Want to learn Apple’s new programming language? You have to pay!
Wednesday 4 June 2014
In order to learn Swift you will need XCode 6. Bizarrely, in order to get the beta of XCode 6 you have to pay $99 each year to join Apple's Developer Program. This is all the more bizarre since XCode 5 is available free. It seems Apple only charges for the pre-release software, not for the finished product. So if you want it now with bugs you pay. If you are prepared to wait until the bugs are ironed out, you get it for free. I wouldn't normally be bothered about getting early access to XCode. However, as this IDE is the only way you can get access to the new programming language, Swift, you either stump up the cash now or you wait until later. I have no idea why Apple is putting barriers in the way of would-be Swift programmers. I would have thought getting as many early adopters as (...)
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Swift - another bite of the programming Apple?

The new way to code iOS and OS X
Tuesday 3 June 2014

This is definitely the most interesting news of the week for developers. Apple has announced a new programming language called Swift.

Up to now, the principal language for OS X and iOS development has been Objective-C. This is a language based on C with a veneer of object orientation derived from Smalltalk. If you think that sounds like a neat and elegant programming language, I can only assume that you've never used Objective-C. The new language, Swift, retains some C-like syntactical features but it attempts to be much simplified (you can write a 'Hello world' program in a single line of code) to make it as accessible as, say, Python or Ruby. But unlike Python or Ruby, Swift is compiled and Apple claims that programs written in Swift run super-fast. While Swift (and the Xcode 6 IDE which supports Swift development) are still in beta, you can start learning them today as both the language documentation and a (...)
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Cyberlink AudioDirector 4

Audio editing software
Monday 12 May 2014

AudioDirector 4 $129.99

If you are serious about video, then you will also need to be serious about audio. In order to optimise the quality of music or speech for online videos you will need a good, specialist audio editing program. AudioDirector 4 from Cyberlink is a fairly low cost Windows-based (XP through to Windows 8) suite that specialises in recording, editing and improving audio tracks for video production. In fact, even though it claims to be aimed specifically at video makers, it is also a suitable for editing and producing standalone audio for podcasts or music. I'm guessing that the company emphasises its application to video editing in order to attract the attention of the very large number of people making YouTube and other online videos. AudioDirector comes from the same company that produces (...)
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From Pop Stars to Programming

My journey...
Saturday 10 May 2014

How did I go from interviewing Duran Duran to programming in Ruby, C and C#?

John Colley's Online Learning Podcast explains all. This video gives a short extract from the interview that John did with me recently. Listen to the complete interview at the Online Learning podcast: http://jbdcolley.com/olp057.
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How to write an adventure game in ActionScript

Fun with Flash!
Tuesday 15 April 2014

Huw Collingbourne goes back to the ’80s to show how to bring adventure games up to date in ActionScript and Flash

Let me take you to a time way before the advent of PlayStation and XBox, when Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto hadn't even been dreamt of. We're going back to the late 1970s and early ‘80s when most computers didn't even have graphics, let alone multimedia! This video gives an overview of how I wrote my simple ActionScript Adventure Game project This was the era of black screens and glowing green text. But even though there were no graphics, there were games – some very good ones too! These were games such as Colossal Castle and Zork. They were called adventure games or “interactive fiction” and they allowed the player to travel around hugely complex worlds, collecting treasures, fighting monsters, breaking into houses or wandering into dark corners and (...)
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Make pro videos on an amateur budget

free video series
Sunday 30 March 2014

Over the past few years I’ve taught multimedia courses on a number of eLearning sites such as Udemy, Skillfeed, CodeProject and Adobe Knowhow.

More recently I have self-hosted courses on my own web site, BitwiseCourses. Teaching online can be an interesting and rewarding business. If you do it right, it can also be financially profitable. But how do you get started? And do you need to invest a lot of money to buy cameras and other equipment? The answer to the second question is No!, it really need not cost much to begin making high-quality videos. In answer to the first question: How do you get started?, well, you might want to follow my new YouTube series, The Video Samurai, which will give you the information you need. Two videos have just gone online. More to follow. To keep up to date with all my latest videos, be sure to Subscribe to the BitwiseCourses YouTube (...)
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Designing a GUI in Java

And Netbeans
Tuesday 18 March 2014

If you are used to programming C#, Delphi or Visual Basic, you may be used to creating user interfaces by dragging and dropping buttons and other components onto a form.

So how do you do drag-and-drop design in Java? Well, one simple way is to use the Netbeans IDE. But that doesn't work quite the same as Visual Studio or Delphi. This one-minute video explains the basics.... This is the first video in a new series on Java Programming in 60 Seconds - one minute hints and tips without all the waffle. To keep up to date with all our latest programming videos, be sure to subscribe to the Bitwise Courses YouTube channel.
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Learn to program - Hashes and Dictionaries

Free tutorial video
Tuesday 11 March 2014

Here is the latest video in my free series for novice programmers. It explains Dictionaries and Hashes - which are also called ’associative arrays’ in some languages.

) This is one of many videos for beginner programmers. Follow the whole series HERE. And to be sre never to miss a video in future, Subscribe to the Bitwise Courses YouTube Channel.
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Text Adventures - The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Is Back!

Adventures in gaming - and programming
Monday 10 March 2014

The text adventure is surely the greatest flowering of the programmer’s art. That being so, it is with great joy that I have discovered that the BBC has released Infocom’s great ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ game in an online playable version!

Based on Douglas Adams's comedy science-fiction radio series (which later spawned books, TV shows and a film), The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy was developed by Infocom programmer Steve Meretzky in cahoots with Douglas Adams. The game lets you navigate around a universe as strange as the one in the original radio series, filled with Vogons and towels, space ships and Babelfish. Released in the early ‘80s, the game was a huge success. In the BBC's 30th anniversary edition, the original sparse text-based interface has been spruced up with a metallic virtual keypad and some graphics. You can play it here. It was the old Infocom games (notably classics such as the Zork trilogy and the outer space adventure, Starcross) that first inspired me to learn to program. The first (...)
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Ruby Programming: strings (in 60 seconds)

Wednesday 5 March 2014

There are many ways of creating and using strings in Ruby. But the three most important string types are single-quoted, double-quoted and backquoted.

In the first of a new video series that will cover core Ruby programming topics in one minute flat, I explain these three types of Ruby string....
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Cyberlink PowerDirector 12 Ultimate v Sony Movie Studio Platinum 13

Video Editor Review
Monday 17 February 2014
This is the age of the video. Not so long ago, video making was a specialist art practised by professionals who could afford lots of expensive equipment and software. Now, in the age of YouTube and cheap, hi-definition cameras, professional-quality video making is within everyone's budget. But you need more than just good hardware. You also need the software to edit and produce your videos. Here I look at two packages for Windows that won't break the bank. Sony's Movie Studio 13 Platinum and Cyberlink's PowerDirector 12 Ultimate are two long-established packages that aim to provide a good range of editing and production capabilities for both amateur and professional users. Before I begin, I should make it clear that I am already familiar with a previous release (version 11) of Sony (...)
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The Decline and Fall of The Art Of Programming

Coding crisis?
Thursday 13 February 2014

The world is full of programmers. So why, asks Ila Naqvi, are so many of them so bad at programming?

Anyone can become a programmer. But becoming a good programmer is not so easy. It's all very well to be able to drag, drop and code. But these days too many programmers rely on their tools to do the hard work. No wonder there are so many bad programmers! In my view, computer programming is not so much a science as an art. And for learning any art, one needs a lot of skills and abilities. There should be creativity, technical knowledge and proper composition. The same is true of programming. Programming needs creativity, logical thinking, technical knowledge and expertise. Learning how to program and actually being able to program effectively and efficiently are two different things. Proper programming needs proper thinking, experimentation and implementation of code. And such (...)
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Scrivener for writers

Why not just use Word?
Sunday 19 January 2014

A few months ago I reviewed Scrivener, a low-cost word processor which is aimed at writers (of books and articles rather than of memos and letters). While I liked Scrivener, I wasn’t sure that I could really break away from the word processor I’ve been using for so many years past – namely, Microsoft Word. So I decided to get a second opinion from someone who has made the beak and uses Scrivener regularly. Cathy Presland is an author and instructor who not only publishes her own books but also teaches others how to publish theirs. She leads workshops and teaches online: https://www.udemy.com/u/cathypresland/. I asked Cathy why she likes Scrivener so much…

Huw: What do you think is the most useful feature of Scrivener? Cathy: I really began to use Scrivener because of the ability to create a mobi format for kindle. I teach kindle publishing and I'd been testing about a dozen different ways to do this. I wanted a solution that was (relatively) easy to use and also gave the best outcome - without having to know html. Hands down scrivener met both of those criteria. And of course as a bonus it does so much more! I also love the ability to drag and drop sections around, add images through drag and drop and see the "whole book" or just parts. I really feel like I have a lot still to learn about the features but what I know so far I love. Huw: What would you like to see improved? Cathy: I still feel a little uncertain about some of the (...)
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Where Are They Now?

In search of the graveyard of old 3D graphics software
Monday 13 January 2014

Some old software dies of neglect, some is killed and some just fades away…

When I recently wrote a review of the latest release of e-on Software's 3D terrain designer, Vue, I was reminded of another impressive terrain generator called MojoWorld. This seems to be in that sad category of old software which has just been left to fade away. While not officially dead, Pandromeda's MojoWorld doesn't show many obvious signs of life either. The last sign of any activity on the Pandromeda web site is a press release dated April, 2006. You can still download the demo of MojoWorld and, in principle, you can buy the commercial release. However, with the web site itself looking so desolate and forgotten, it is hard to have much confidence in MojoWorld's long-term future. This is a shame. I like MojoWorld. It is different, innovative and beautiful. Whereas other (...)
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Vue Infinite 2014

3D Landscape software - review
Sunday 5 January 2014

Vue Infinite 2014 $1,495
(upgrades from $359)
e-On Software http://www.e-onsoftware.com

If you want to create photo-realistic digital worlds complete with mountains, rivers, canyons and forests, Vue Infinite 2014 will probably do everything you need and a great deal more besides… Even if you've never used Vue, you will no doubt have seen landscapes which it has been created many times on TV and in films. It's been used in Hollywood blockbusters such as Hugo, The Hunger Games and Thor as well as innumerable TV shows including Smallville, Battlestar Galactica, Boardwalk Empire and Heroes. To get an idea of its capabilities, you may want to take a look at this short video showing how Vue was used to create complex locations for the TV series Spartacus… I've used many previous versions of Vue and for a guide to its essential features and capabilities, I (...)
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Now we are nine

Happy 2014 – and a look back to the start of Bitwise in 2005…
Wednesday 1 January 2014

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been publishing Bitwise for almost nine years now. Up until 2005, I had been strictly a paper-printed journalist. I’d edited magazines, made videos for magazine cover discs and written innumerable articles and columns for many of the top-selling computer titles in the UK – PC Plus, PC Pro, Computer Shopper and many others.

But by 2005 it was clear to me that the printed page was no longer the primary medium for conveying technology information. If you want up-to-date information quickly, the place you are likely to look first is online. My initial idea for Bitwise was to create an ‘online magazine' – one which more less mimicked conventional print-based magazines. Accordingly, the early ‘editions' of Bitwise were released monthly. They each came with an editorial, a ‘lead article' and regular monthly columns. In the very first ‘issue' we carried articles about copy protection and reviews of DVD copying software; there were programming columns on Delphi, C# and Visual Basic, an interview with Marc Hoffman (developer of ‘Chrome' Object Pascal for .NET) and an interview (...)
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Festive Woes and My New PC

Bah, humbug…
Friday 20 December 2013

I wasn’t planning to buy a new PC before Christmas – but I had no choice in the matter. My two-year old Dell PC suddenly decided to stop working… or, at any rate, it became so temperamental that I was no longer prepared to trust it with my work. It developed a tendency to reboot itself at unexpected moments. I ran the usual system checks on its memory, graphics and hard disk, but no obvious problems showed up. So I decided that my safest bet was to get a new PC.

I didn't want a new operating system: I have no intention of ‘upgrading' from Windows 7 to Windows 8 and, what's more, I have plenty of monitors here too, so I didn't need a PC with yet another monitor. Which explains why I finally decided to get an Asus ‘barebones' system with all the essentials such as 6GB of memory, DVD and so on but none of the added extras such as monitor and OS. One of the attractions of the Asus is that the company had the reputation for making high-quality motherboards and I have a suspicion that the motherboard was to blame for the increasingly unreliability of my last PC. I wanted to attach three monitors and I had initially thought of using two graphics cards capable of running two monitors apiece. When I opened up the Asus, however, I found (...)
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Windows 8.1 – Has it finally won me over?

Hmmm… well, not quite.
Thursday 5 December 2013

Over a year ago, I installed Windows 8, really just to check that our products (my company makes programming tools) worked on the operating system. They did, and because I had no further use for Windows 8, I then forgot all about it. For twelve months or so, Windows 8 has sat unused (and unloved – I loathed the thing). So before trying out Visual Studio 2013, I decided to upgrade Windows 8 to the latest version.

This turned out to be remarkably smooth, with one exception. Let me start with the smooth bit. The upgrade procedure replaced Windows 8 with 8.1 and also managed to correctly detect and configure my 4 monitor workstation. This was a bit weird, because after the installation, only one monitor was active and not at the correct resolution. But as I used the system, my remaining monitors gradually appeared one by one over a period of about five minutes, and with the correct resolution. Strange, but Windows 8.1 did it. The one problem I had was that my multi-OS boot menu had disappeared and for a few terrifying minutes, I thought that the installation had zapped my entire machine. However, having located the Windows 8.1 boot manager, I quickly got my original boot configuration back. It (...)
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Visual Studio 2013 Review

How much better can the best IDE actually get?
Friday 22 November 2013

I was a little surprised when Microsoft announced Visual Studio 2013. In the past, the upgrade cycle has been two to three years: 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012. Now it looks as though it is one year. But it very much depends on what you mean by ’upgrade’. For example, a completely new editor was introduced in with VS2010 – which was a big change. This time, VS2013 looks to me more like an incremental upgrade.

Visual Studio is huge. I suspect there are few developers indeed who work on all the project types it supports – such as ASPs, device drivers, graphics engines, databases and web design. Visual Studio covers all of these and more. I work in C# on language development tools, with some C and XAML thrown in. I never work on graphics or create Windows store applications, but I do create packages using WiX. So what I'm going to cover here is just of interest to me. There's some good stuff in VS 2013. The first thing I noticed (and greatly liked) was a marker in the scroll bar region that indicates where the cursor actually is in a document. This is particularly useful in navigating large files where you are moving about all over the place and can't locate where you left the cursor. (...)
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A Little Course in C. Part 4 - Tests and Comparisons

Getting started with C programming
Wednesday 20 November 2013

In your programs you will often want to assign values to variables and, later on, test those values.

For example, you might write a program in which you test the age of an employee in order to calculate his or her bonus. Here I use the ‘greater than' operator > to test of the value of the age variable is greater than 45: if (age > 45) bonus = 1000; Operators Operators are special symbols that are used to do specific operations such as making comparisons between two values or adding and multiplying numbers. One of the most important operators is the assignment operator, =, which assigns the value on its right to a variable on its left. Note that the type of data assigned must be compatible with the type of the variable. This is an assignment of an integer (10) to an int variable named myintvariable: int myintvariable; myintvariable = 10;   Assignment or Equality? (...)
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