Total Training – Expression Blend Review Part 1
This post is the first in a new category called “Product Reviews”. When I can, I will post reviews like this on the products I buy and use.
I mentioned previously that I purchased and ordered Total Training’s Expression Bundle. The package arrived with 6 DVD’s containing over 40 hours of Video Training. Since I am most interested in WPF, I began with the 2 DVD set for Expression Blend, each with 8.5 hours of training videos. I still have over 10 hours to go in the Blend series, but here are my first impressions.
I was impressed right away: the instructor for the Blend series is Dante Gagne. According to his introduction, Dante worked in development and testing on the Blend project and later became the instructor to the Microsoft Evangelists for Blend. In other words, he has serious credentials for training others how to use Blend.
The videos are pretty slick. There is good production value and the lessons follow a well laid out script. The supporting examples are on task and appropriate with little superfluous content. It is obvious that Dante knows this product, and the videos are replete with valuable tidbits such as Keyboard Shortcuts, alt-Mouse clicks, and other such goodies. Unfortunately, some of these go by so fast, and there are so many of them, that I know I won’t remember half of them when I start actually using Blend.
The DVDs came complete with Code Samples and Projects. These are laid out well in a folder structure that matches the lesson plan.
I occasionally got bored while Dante covered some basics, but those periods are blissfully short and necessary given the diverse target audience. This is especially true later when he begins to include a little code behind and has to explain some C# concepts. As a C# developer myself, I would disagree with the way he characterizes some of the elements, but I can let it slide since according to Microsoft the Blend audience are Designers and not Developers.
The videos are broken up into three parts: Parts, Lessons, and Topics. The Topics range from 30 seconds to a few minutes in length. This can get annoying, because it forces a short break in between each Topic while the program loads the next one. The program is a proprietary Total Training viewer which must be installed one time before you can view any of the videos. I honestly do not see the value add for the end user: I’m sure the program gives TT more control over the presentation, such as jumping from one lesson to the next, but most likely its primary function is to ensure that the videos can not be viewed by those who have not purchased a Total Training package.
Unfortunately, this program is the worst part of the deal. If I begin the tutorial and do nothing else, the program works fine. The problem occurs when I need to do something else. I can pause the video and restart it, but as soon as I activate any other Window, the Total Training program no longer functions. If I activate another window while the video is running, the sound will continue to function but the video freezes and will not recover.
Once I return to the TT program and click on anything, I receive the traditional “(Not Responding)” message and the only recourse is to kill the program and start over. I can locate and start from the last lesson I was on, but this is a really bad problem, especially considering the length on these DVDs. I need to be able to pause the application and do other things (at least my boss seems to think so!) I had really intended on writing this review as I went through the material, which would have allowed me to be much more specific. Obviously, this issue makes that essentially impossible.
I will report this problem to Total Training, so it looks like we’ll have a chance to review their customer support as well. The training videos themselves are such a good product, I hate to see them brought down by something so trivial. I’ll keep you all informed of the situation. In the meantime, I will continue to struggle though.
I went to the Total Training website and found a section on “Windows Vista FAQs” under Tech Support.? There, I found an entry that I used to solve the problem.? The entry was not correct, but it gave enough clues to solve the issue, which appears to be specific to Vista.
1)? The FAQ says to change “Launchpad.exe” on the DVD.? I could not find that file, and the DVD would not be writable anyway, so that did not make a lot of sense.
2) Instead, I went to the install location, in my case this is “C:\Program Files\Total Training” and there I found another folder called “TT Expression Blend Ess”.? In that folder, I changed the properties on TEBES.exe according to the link above, setting it to run in Windows XP Service Pack 2 compatibility mode.
After doing that, I can now pause and restart the training with no problem.? I anticipate doing this with each Product group.
So my review for their Tech Support will be short: I was able to quickly locate, diagnose, and solve my issue based on the information on their website.