Friday, February 04, 2005

Dell XPS & Training Visual Environment Tools

I'm using a new Dell Inpiron XPS notebook for my database development wor, testing Yukon, and writing my next book. Wow! What a machine. SQL scripts literally run 10 times faster than my old Dell Latitude notebook (1.4 Gb, 1Gb RAM). The XPS has a 3.4 Gb hyperthread CPU, 1 Gb of dual ported DDR memory, a 7200 rpm 60 Gb hard drive, DVD burner, and an ATI 9800 graphics card.

While I've not had any time for gaming, I did try Rise of Nations, which displays the frame rate. The old Latitude did 6-7 frames per second. The XPS is a steady 75.
The display looks perfect. The images are bright, with vibrant color and can be seen even with indirect sunlight. The resolution is 1920 x 1200, so the fonts are way too small, but setting Windows to large font, and turning on clear font makes it a pleasure to use even with my aging eyes.

One problem was that the resolution made the mouse pointer incredible tiny - about 1 mm in size. And the normal colors of the Windows cursor made it impossible to see. The solution was to buy Cursor XP. This utility is worth the price. The freeware version can load ten strange freeware designed cursors, but the full copy can also alter the cursor size and color. So now I have a very large, bold bright yellow cursor. It has the impact of a yellow bulldozer, but I never have to search for it.

As a trainer, I'm always looking for ways to improve the training experience. Cursor XP also has the cool ability to make a small subtle circle animate from the pointer on clicks or double-clicks, letting the students visually see when I'm clicking somewhere. (At times, I've said, "click" just so students can more easily follow a demo.)

When I was a Learning Tree instructor, they used a way-cool system with three instructor touch screen monitors, and two projectors. It had the freedom to draw or write anywhere on the screen. CP Chalkboard, form is a slick transparent surface that covers the whole screen when it's enabled with a hot-key. Then, the instructor can write, draw, highlight, point, or even spotlight to visually enhance the training. It's dirt simple to use, and looks great.
I'm also using a new DELL MP 2300 projector - DLP 1024x768. This thing is significantly brighter and crisper than nearly every other high-end projector I've seen.

Between PC Chalkboard, Cursor XP, and the Dell projector I'm now satisfied with my live-code training environment.


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