Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Online Video Tutorials

By necessity, I have become quite adept at digging through webspace with search engines like google to figure out "how to do X". But occasionally, it is difficult to get a sense of whether something is easy from written instructions. For example, I recently tried to install PyQT, a Python interface to the popular QT application interface library, and here's the error that I got when trying to use nmake to build the SIP library (which PyQT uses):

Microsoft (R) Program Maintenance Utility Version 8.00.50727.762
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

cl -c -nologo -Zm200 -O2 -MD -W0 -DUNICODE -DWIN32 -DQT_LARGEFILE_SUPPORT -I. -IC:\Python25\include -Fo @C:\DOCUME~1\wehart\LOCALS~1\Temp\nm271.tmp
NMAKE : fatal error U1077: '"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\VC\bin\cl.EXE"' : return code '0xc0000135'

I had more than a little difficulty figuring out what the return code 0xc0000135 meant, especially since this is turned out to be an nmake return error and not an error generated by cl. Go figure.

In many cases, it is much easier to look over someone's shoulder and have them show you the ropes. That is why I have been so impressed with the ShowMeDo tutorial site. This site provides video tutorials where someone walks you through common installation, setup and configuration examples.

I think that this site is particularly useful for an "average" computer user, who is not familiar with manual software installation and configuration. I work with a variety of such users in my work, and I have found that these tutorials provide a convenient reference that it quite accessible. If they cannot look over my shoulder, then at least they can view a video that provides a similar experience!

The site also includes video tutorials for how to create video tutorials! I have not tried this myself, but I hope this type of tutorial catches on.

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