# Thursday, 03 January 2019

GCast 29:

Introducing Cognitive Services and Computer Vision

Microsoft Cognitive Services allow you to take advantage of Machine Learning without all the complexities of Machine Learning. In this video, I introduce Cognitive Services by showing how to use Computer Vision to analyze an image, automatically detecting properties of that image.

Thursday, 03 January 2019 12:53:21 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, 02 January 2019

The-Adventures-of-Augie-March-by-Saul-Bellow

Augie March is an unlikely and unassuming hero in an American saga.

Born of a working-class simple-minded single mother in depression-era Chicago during the Great Depression, Augie struggles to rise above his lot in life.

Saul Bellow chronicles his struggles in The Adventures of Augie March.

Augie March begins his way in the world as a small-time criminal - stealing books,

Self-described as "an American, Chicago born", Augie often drifts through life, finding work where he can and seeking love where he can. His adventures often occur because he follows others: He falls in love with a girl who takes him to Mexico to finalize her divorce and train an eagle; he accompanies a friend on a trip to smuggle workers into the US from Canada, but they become stranded when the police discover the friend is driving a stolen car.

But, Augie progresses. He travels the world and experiences life and meets a lot of people. He takes on a number of jobs: Running errands for a corrupt businessman; recruiting workers to a labor union; buying and selling on the European black market; eagle trainer; even a stint in the US Navy; 

Our hero's great hindrance is his desire to do the right thing. For example, his engagement to a rich girl is derailed when he helps a friend escape an abusive relationship and recover from a botched abortion. Augie's fiancé and her family refuse to believe he is not sleeping with the girl he is helping. He knows this will happen, but he does what he believes is right.


chaos.
It's sometimes hard to tell where the story is going. There are so many characters and so much happens that the reader can't always see what is important. March seems to just travel through life experiencing his adventures, with little or no theme running through them all. He tries, and he fails, and he tries again - in his careers and in his romances. Repeatedly, he deals with the chaos that is life and moves on.

But I see Augie's life as a pursuit of the American Dream, which is bold in its reach, but limited in its explicit goals.  March is more self-aware than most, seeing his weaknesses and strengths and he never stops growing. And he never stops trying to move forward. And he never stops dreaming.

Wednesday, 02 January 2019 17:46:58 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 31 December 2018

Episode 544

Elizabeth Graham on Azure Logic Apps

Microsoft Global Black Belt Elizabeth Graham describes Azure Logic Apps and how to use them to solve integration and workflow projects.

Monday, 31 December 2018 09:06:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, 27 December 2018

GCast 28:

Natural Language Processing with LUIS

Learn how to use Microsoft Language Understanding Information Service (LUIS) to build models that provide Natural Language Processing (NLP) for your application.

Thursday, 27 December 2018 09:53:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 24 December 2018

Episode 543

Alex Mang on Azure Durable Functions

Alex Mang describes Azure Durable Functions and some real-world examples of how he uses them.

Monday, 24 December 2018 09:42:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, 20 December 2018
 #
 

GCast 27:

QnAMaker

Learn how to use QnA Maker to create a bot that automatically answers questions.

Azure | Bots | GCast | Screencast
Thursday, 20 December 2018 09:26:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, 18 December 2018

The world of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is a dangerous one. The continent of Roshar on the planet Roshar is filled with perils. Violent "highstorms" destroy nearly everything in their path; giant carnivorous crustaceans roam the chasms; the Parshendi and the Alethi races have been at war for as long as anyone can remember with no victory in sight for either side; and godlike creatures battle each other every few thousand years to decide the fate of the planet.

The Alethi-Parshendi wars take place on the Shattered Planes - a vast series of high plateaus separated by deep chasms. Enslaved "bridgemen" push giant bridges between the plateaus in order for armies to advance and attack. These bridgemen also serve the purpose of drawing enemy fire away from the armies, keeping their survival rate close to zero.

On top of this is the caste system, which decrees at birth the fate of each person - from slave to king. There exist about a dozen specific castes, but they are grouped into two broad categories, based on eye color. The light-eyes are clearly at the top and dark-eyes are decidedly below.

But Roshar also has some marvels. The storms generate a mystical force called "stormlight" that can be captured in stones and other objects and can be harnessed by those with the power to do so. Powerful shardblades can cut through nearly anything and armor made of shardplate can protect the wearer from nearly any attack; soulcasters are devices that allow masters to transmute one object or substance into another; and spren - creatures made of light, who sometimes come to the aid of humans.

The book switches points of view between several characters. The most important are:

Kaladin, son of a physician, who goes to war to protect his younger brother. But ends up sold into slavery as a bridgeman - the most expendable people in the army. He begins to acquire powers from stormlight and learn how to use those powers to help his fellow bridgemen.

Shallan Davar, who apprentices herself to the heretic scholar Jasnah Kholin in an attempt to steal her soulcaster.

Dalinar Kholin, a decorated warrior, an honorable man, and the uncle of a king. Dalinar sees visions of ancient gods and begins to question the wisdom of the endless war waged by his countrymen.

By far, the most interesting story is Kaladin's. He progresses from idealist to cynic to reluctant super hero and it is all done with perfect plausibility. Kaladin miraculously survives every danger he faces, but often those closest to him perishes. Despite this, the other bridgemen rally around him and he eventually inspires and unites these dregs of society.

Few of the stories overlap in this book, but we expect them to do so as the series progresses.

As he has done before, Brandon Sanderson does a masterful job of building a world in which to place his characters and stories. In fact, the first two-thirds of this book spends much of its time setting the scene for the final third.

At over 1000 pages, this is an intimidating book - particularly when you consider it is part 1 of a proposed 10-volume series (three volumes have been published as of this writing) It took me nearly a year to finish it as other patrons kept requesting it

But it was worth the time and effort. I loved the characters and the world and the plausibility of the world Sanderson creates. Sanderson doesn't simply allow magic to exist - he provides a source to that magic and a partial explanation of its uses and limits.

The Way of Kings not a perfect book. The story is long and the action is sometimes separated by hundreds of pages of character development. But it never suffers from the flowery language that often bogs down high fantasy stories

There is much to think about in this book. But one of Kaladin's men put it best when Kaladin asked the meaning of a story:

"It means what you want it to mean," Hoid said. "The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think , but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.”

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 09:38:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 17 December 2018

Episode 542

Jim Wooley on Static Analyzers and Roslyn

Microsoft MVP Jim Wooley describes how to use Roslyn to create your own static analyzers to verify the quality of your code.

Monday, 17 December 2018 09:48:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, 16 December 2018

AppointmentInSamarraAppointment in Samarra by John O'Hara takes place over a 72-hour period in the small eastern Pennsylvania town of Gibbsville.

But three days is all it takes for Julian English to destroy everything good in his life.

Julian had it made. He was born into a wealthy family; he owned a car dealer that was successful even during the great depression; and he had a beautiful, faithful wife, who loved him.

But he drank. And one night, at a party, he grew tired of listening to loudmouth boor Harry Reilly and threw a drink in his face.  Julian quickly regretted his actions. Harry was an influential man in Gibbsville and Julian owed him money; but rather than correct the situation, Julian hurtles down a path of self-destruction for the next 3 days, alienating himself from the rest of society, burning bridges in his life, and spiraling quickly downward until he reaches a breaking point.

Appointment is an excellent look at America of the 1930s. It shows us the social castes, the gossip, the overt racism, and life inside a bubble that is small town America.

O'Hara does a masterful job of building the characters of this town and the dynamics between them.  He gives us a backstory about Julian's wife, so we understand why he is lucky to have her and a fool to risk losing her. We learn about Julian's family and the pressure his father places on him, so we understand why he sometimes feels useless and helpless.

Interestingly, none of Julian's acts of self-destruction are described in the book. We hear about them later as characters discuss what happened. Sometimes, it's unclear exactly what Julian did. For example, his wife sees him leave a night club with the girlfriend of a local mobster; then later finds Julian passed out drunk in his car. Did he commit adultery? It probably doesn't matter, as that was clearly his intent. And he is now in trouble with both his wife and the mob.

This is a book that got better as it went along. As the story progresses, Julian's downfall seems inevitable. But I could not look away. Appointment in Samarra is an American tragedy that is well worth watching.

Sunday, 16 December 2018 19:56:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, 13 December 2018

GCast 26:

Creating a Chatbot in the Azure Portal

In this video, I show how to create, deploy, and edit a chatbot completely within your web browser using the Azure Portal. You can event download the source code and edit it in Visual Studio, if you wish.

Thursday, 13 December 2018 09:19:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)