Asked — Edited

Some Of Us Still Read Books

I think the title speaks for itself... ;-)

Not all of us are kids with the diminished attention span induced by video games. Would be nice to have written documentation along with videos.

BTW...I've written a couple point-here-click-there books, also grad student in computer science program. Say I was to write a book, more programming focused than controls (although would have chapter on controls), think that is something folks might be interested in? Of course, I'd be wanting to sell the book, either through a publisher or ezrobot direct. Just tossing it around, as some of us still like the written word....not that the videos are bad, they are good.

Creating a robotic head concierge/Jeff Dunham style personality named Cicero (after the Roman Orator) for my robotics class project. Will post videos soon.

Shout out to Robotics Squared....the inexpensive head really causes some double takes by folks given the uncanny valley.

James A. Brannan Brannan Technical Solutions LLC Hood College Graduate Student


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#1  

Hey James,

The idea of a book is a great idea, but the issue that you will have is that the information in the book would need to be updated quite often as new features are added to ARC very regularly. I face the same thing with my EZ-AI app and find that it is much easier to try to provide instructions on a webpage, and then videos to demonstrate how a feature is used.

I think you would find that most active people on this forum learn better with written materials. I just don't know how feasible it would be to keep them up to date with all of the improvements that are made very regularly.

I cant wait to see the robotic head. Please post about it when you are ready. We all love to see what others are doing.

#2  

Hmm...I could see that. The iPhone books I wrote a few years ago were both outdated within a month after release. Of course, publishers like that....but you can get some interesting hate mail when somebody buys your book a year after publication and find it outdated. ;-)

But a more general coding book/documentation/tutorial would IMHO help get college buy in, as the point-here-click-there controls isn't going to fly. I know my professor was interested when I showed him ARC. But he was leery, if there were some written code documentation, that would have addressed his concerns I'm sure (especially if it was Python or C++).

Don't take any of this as criticism btw, I realize the goal is to make it all easy. And I might find my gut impression wrong as I delve into thescripting, the C++ and the Python (wish there was a Java API) more. But my initial reaction thus far is its great, but I'd like to skip the controls and jump right into code/script....but the documentation doesn't seem to support diving in like that. Of course the controls are fun and really work well, so not complaining.

James A. Brannan

#3  

I have been a programmer for about 20 years and understand what you are saying. What I do is use the controls for what they do. When something isn't there that I want, I code it and interface it to ARC. It is simple to pass information too and from ARC and let it do what it does very well. This let's me program what I want to program and leave the other stuff that I don't care about programming to ARC. It works well.

I think the book would be outdated by the time you got through the first few chapters. Honestly, new features are added multiple times a month. The idea has been mentioned multiple times, but nobody has figured out how to get past this issue.

PRO
Synthiam
#4  

Every scripting control has the entire manual of every command displayed in the right pane. Simply scroll or use the search feature to find your command. The documentation of every command is very well written with syntax examples.

If there is something you are looking for, ask here and someone will answer your question. Sure, you can find documented commands but we have a community which is more helpful than anywhere else. Additionally EZ-Robot invests financially in paying our community to help the community, which you will by find anywhere else.

The learn section is full of tutorials that are written as well. Every control has a ? (Question mark) that when pressed brings you to the appropriate help page with written text explaining the control.

If you're looking for specific help, our initiative is to encourage you to ask on the forum - which helps others in a public manner.

There is also a search feature on the forum and learn section that can help you find what you're looking for.

Hope that helps!

#5  

James, download the sdk. There are a lot of examples that will get you going. I think you will see that the SDK is great and easy to work with.

United Kingdom
#6  

I've toyed with the idea of an unofficial book many times. Every time it's not been feasible for one reason or another (the main reason being everything you need is already right here, in text).

Practically everything you need to know, and more is posted in the forum, learn section or manuals. So much so that I've found that currently I do not even need to check the forum as there are many others who know where to look now but more importantly, there are much less real questions (as opposed to users just not really taking the time to look or users not understanding properly).

The forum is also full of user tutorials for various third party devices etc. You need to know how to do something different with a H-Bridge or just how they work, boom there's a tutorial. Or you need to get a relay to switch with the EZ-B, it's there. How to ramp speeds, how to flicker LEDs, how to fetch external data, it's all there.

The forum is, in essence, a living instruction manual and will always be better than any book anyone out there could put together.

#7  

This is my 2 cents @James, I say go for it. I'm planning to write a book. I'm acknowledging in the book that the interfaces and graphics may change, but the core functions should stay about the same. The book should be somewhat relevant as long as their are v4s in the world.

I would disagree with Rich's opinion because I don't think everything you need is right here. You can always dive deeper into a subject. If we were to take the collection of all of Rich's posts it would not equal a book in quality. It would not share with readers how to build a robot like Rich and it would not articulate fully why Rich chose to do what he did to develop what he did. We get snapshots and glimpses in the forum, but it's not the same as a book.

But I do agree with Rich that the forum is a living instruction manual and archive of knowledge. The forum with its members and the hard work of the EZ-Robot staff to develop the Learn Section and the commitment of Dj and team to embed help information in ARC is absolutely wonderful and critical the success of any project.

But all of that is still not the same as a book. My advice to anyone who enjoys writing and feels they have something to share in a book I say go for it! :)

P.S. And assuming you will be creating and providing .ezb project files to accompany the book and that you would host them online for download, as long as you keep those updated readers should not have an issue overcoming any changes made to ARC.

#8  

A couple of years ago, when all of the tutorials were video based and there were a lot less forum discussions to use as a resource, several of us discussed setting up a WIKI where we could collect the correct answers derived from forum topics, delve deeper into some of hte features than the existing documentation provides, and add tutorials and articles. None of us participating at the time had enough free time or wanted to take away from our own robot building to make it happen. Since EZ-Robot added the tutorial section with written instructions, it also reduced (although I wouldn't say eliminated) the need for better organized and deeper documentation, but I at least still don't have the time to make it happen.

I still think there would be some value to that, or a book, but I think a WIKI would be easier to keep up to date as new features are developed, things are changed, or new topics arise that would benefit from having easy to find answers.

Alan

United Kingdom
#9  

@Justin, my tutorial posts dont tell anyone how to do anything but tell everyone how everything in that topic work. When things need to go deeper there's a reply box;)

A written book would be out of date almost immediately. Not just die to the gui but due to additional features, changes in syntax, changes in controls amongst numerous other things. These plus my previous reasons all made it not feasible to produce a book for the EZ-B.

What may be feasible is how to build a robot and use the EZ-B and ARC as the control for it.

#10  

I was going to write a long response on why Rich is misguided, but I don't want to have my first thread end up a flame war. Let's agree to disagree on the value of written documentation, regardless of the software's lifecycle.

I'm assuming the older guys said yes and the younger guys said no. Shame, soon Plutarch and Shakespeare will be little more than Wikipedia entries. Heck, when I go to my graduate classes I have to sit in the first row, not because I'm the teacher's pet, but so I don't get distracted by all the darn kids Facebooking, playing games, texting, and God only knows what else while the professor is lecturing. Back in my day we got in trouble if we wore Walkmans or aviator shades to class.

Now get off my lawn! :D

United Kingdom
#11  

PLease, proceed with why I am misguided. Provided it's accurate, well thought out, justified and written in such a way that it's not intentionally attempting to belittle or just outright argue then there wont be any kind of flame war (have you not read the forum, it's rare for discussions/disagreements to turn nasty).

Also, I am all for written documentation, hence why I do not make video tutorials. However, in this day and age everything needs to be "living" or "evolving". Hard copy print may not always be the correct medium to publish on.

I would be all for a book if the author would provide accurate and quick updates to it as soon as the software which it is covering changes. In the case of ARC this would mean multiple updates per month hence why I deemed it as not feasible when I looked in to it.

A further "FYI", I already have half of a "dummies guide to" style book written, with screenshots and photos however it is a couple of years old and therefore drastically out dated now. If it was of any use I would have shared this however it is of no use and EZ-Robot's learn section is the better tool.

#12  

I actually prefer documentation of this sort (quickly changing or evolving) to be offered online but in a format that is easily printable. It's just easier for me (yes I am old) to have printed paper in my hand that I can look at rather than have to switch browser tabs or back and forth between apps. I always check before I start a project that I have the latest info then reprint it if I don't. If things are documented with revision dates it makes it pretty easy to know if you need to reprint or not.

#13  

I agree...easily printable is the best middle-ground.

As for misguided, its not a personal attack, just that scattered resources doesnt replace a printable web page or book. And all software changes, thats why most used book stores dont buy computer books. Approach a publisher, write it for a pittance. then be prepared to get a request to update it again.

if EZ-Robot's software is being updated several times a month, then that means its not going through a proper release cycle IMHO. Please tell me they arent following Agile! User's want stable software with patches IMHO, not piecemeal rolled out changes.

See, told ya it would digress.

#14  

There are multiple changes a month. They happen when the developer gets time to develop something that has been asked by someone in the community.
These do not follow a schedule per se. I may have missed some in there...

New Release 2015.04.04.00 New Release 2015.03.30.00 New Release 2015.03.07.00 Android/windows Release 2015.01.18.00 Android/windows Release 2015.01.11.00 Android Release 2015.01.08.00 Android/windows Release 2015.01.07.00 Android/windows Release 2015.01.05.00 Android/windows Release 2015.01.03.00 Android/windows Release 2014.12.23.00 Windows/android Release 2014.12.22.00 Windows/android Release 2014.12.20.00 Windows/android Release 2014.12.14.00 Android/windows Release 2014.12.09.00 Windows Release 2014.11.10.00

It has been my experience that the software is very stable. There have been very few times that an update has caused an issue or has caused something else to stop working. They have a great track record.

I can tell that you have been through the education system. I think that until you see issues with the development process from bugs being introduced or poor testing prior to release, the development patterns and project cycles shouldn't be questioned. Just speaking from 20+ years as a programmer and cleaning up a lot of things that were done by products of our comp sci education system. Most of the graduates from these systems I wont hire. I find the couple that actually worked on their projects and let the others who just rode the coat tails of these few good developers choke on the interview, and then send them on their way. I would say that I hire less than 1% of the people I interview because the other +99% understand the terminology but can't apply it. This isn't a bash on you, but if you are one of the few good ones, you will understand what I am talking about.

#16  

"if EZ-Robot's software is being updated several times a month, then that means its not going through a proper release cycle IMHO. Please tell me they aren't following Agile! User's want stable software with patches IMHO, not piecemeal rolled out changes."

This one really gets me. Do you have anything that backs up your idea that ARC does "piecemeal rolled out changes" or is it an assumption that you are making based on your education background? I am not trying to argue here, just trying to see what the basis of the statement is because I can assure you that adding new features to a product on a very frequent basis doesn't demonstrate shotty code or piecemeal changes. It shows how modular the system is and how new features can be added without hurting other features. It demonstrates the passion that the owner of a company has to keep improving the product through frequent updates. If it were piecemeal, you would see a lot of issues with the software which hasn't been the case at all.

Just wondering what the basis for the statement is. Let us know.

#17  

@David and everyone... Don't get baited, it's not worth it... we may have another Dodi here...

#18  

All good, just wanting to know the basis of the statement. I am pretty sure that I know what it is, but just trying to understand. I wont argue. When I went to school, we were taught about forming statements based on facts and not opinions. Just want to see what facts this is based on as I am curious.

#19  

Quote:

if EZ-Robot's software is being updated several times a month, then that means its not going through a proper release cycle IMHO.

That would be a mistaken assumption if you are implying the software is unstable, buggy, and in frequent need of updating. In my experience here, very few of the updates were for broke/fix issues. Most of it has been added features or enhancements. I prefer to get features as soon as they are available, rather than on a set rollout schedule.

United Kingdom
#20  

To address only two items, as the rest do not merit any response (nor do these two but I feel obliged to educate).

  1. "Scattered resources" - Nothing is scattered. The learn section is EZ-Robot's well written, maintained and evolving learn section which will take you from the basics to the intermediate of robot building with their hardware and software. The other place is the forum, again on EZ-Robot website. Nothing is scattered, everything is easy to find.

  2. "proper release cycle" - Obviously you have not checked through the release notes for any of the updates nor have you seen the topics where users request features or flag up minor bugs.

Educate yourself on the EZ-Robot product, including the community/forum which is a live, evolving user manual. This has worked for hundreds/thousands of users for the past 3+ years.

A further FYI, the book which I mentioned that I started and have considered numerous times would be free issue, would not require a publisher and would not be, in any shape or form, for profit. Much like everything else I have offered here. There are more important things to some people than earning a quick buck (and yes, while I do receive store credit for the 300+ questions answered I still have a fair amount of store credit which will probably remain unspent for a long time).

#21  

I dunno Rich, you were the one that said it, not me. You said things change so often they don't warrant written documentation. I'm replying to your claims. Don't be so defensive.

United Kingdom
#22  

You misunderstand. I never said written documentation is not warranted, I said a book would not be feasible. Two entirely different things.

P.S. It's not being defensive, it's attempting to educate you on what you don't know but think you do... I was not the only one to correct you on the update schedule for ARC.

#23  

Argh! See what I mean! I was responding to Rich's baiting me, not directing any criticism T ARC. Actually the vehemency of the responses demonstrates my point, the software IS NOT being fundamentally outdated several times a month. Its not as if all the features would suddenly become irrelevant. If what Rich said was true, then most of y'all probably wouldnt be using EZ-Robot's products.

Forgot how protective forum regulars can get.....wasnt saying anything about EZ-Robot!

United Kingdom
#24  

Please clarify what you are talking about with the "if what Rich said was true" as I do not believe that a) Anything I have said is untrue and b) anything that I have said, true or not, would imply people would not use EZ-Robot products.

#25  

All good James, and forums are not the best method of communications, I completely understand.

James, hang out and you will see what people are saying. I personally believe that you will be a tremendous asset to have on the forum. Just hang out and watch a couple of the updates, or search for the updates that I posted earlier and see what they were for. EZ-Robot is a very transparent company with very cooperative people. Its community is much of the same.

I didn't say this earlier, but Welcome to the forum. I look forward to the head and what you will be able to accomplish with the SDK. I think EZ-Robot will surprise you with what is possible.

#26  

One final comment in my defense, then I'll let it rest, there is still a place for release cycles. It does not constitute old, outmoded software engineering nor does it imply incompetence to do so. Not implying EZ-Robot doesn't!

Go ahead and flame, I'm probably banned already...

United Kingdom
#27  

Talk of flame wars and banning, you really have not read much history in the forum.

  1. We never, ever had flame wars since the community are intelligent enough to realise what a waste of resources that is - most probably have no idea what a flame war is.

  2. We never have banned people. I believe there is a single exception to this in the 3+ years the forum has been running and even that exception took over a year to become banned.

As David said, hang out and you will see. Do not presume, they will be wrong. And most importantly, don't ever look at something as an "argument" or "quarrel", they are always discussions. The community is capable of having different opinions, there are many topics where community members have discussed different opinions without it becoming a flame war or whatever.

#28  

I couldn't agree more. I was just pointing out that making an assumption that the way it is done here is a bad thing based on the number of updates doesn't hold up. The releases have been great and the field of robotics is changing daily. New electronics are hitting the street very quickly and new things are added to ARC and the SDK very quickly when requested. I would have no issue at all if DJ said that he was going to a release cycle approach. Either way has its benefits and advantages. Either way allows good code to be produced if good programmers are doing the coding. The approach followed doesn't constitute good or bad code.

Again, welcome to the community. I am sorry if you felt like I was attacking you. That wasn't my intention.

#29  

Cool. But I am rubber and your glue.....

Key word being...update...to me thats different than release. JDK 7 to JDK 8 is a release.

Seriously though, back toc topic. I'll be looking at the API for C++ more this weekend. And if DJ Sures formed a learning robotics company strategy around this ole fart's preferences, he'd go out of business. For learning, the product is the best out there so far as I can see.

But as someone evaluating the platform, and discussing with professor, the impression I come away with is that there is tons of support, but you can't just point to something on the programming API's and say "read this." That's all I was saying. Peace...I'll restrain from "one more thing" here on out regarding this thread. :D blush

#30  

You are correct about programming with the API. What there are quite a few examples in multiple languages on how to do things. This is in the SDK. Good luck!

One more thing:) Here, there are really no updates per se. There are feature additions via releases. The updates are few and far between to fix something that isn't working correctly. The terms are used interchangeably here as you could say that the update and a release are many times done at the same time. The release to add new features and the update to correct an issue are delivered in the same package. Anyway, I think you get what is being said.