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MindQ's An Introduction to programming Java applets
by Rick Smith (November 1997)

An Introduction to programming Java applets from MindQ is an introductory training course from their "Knowledge Odyssey on CD-ROM" training series. It includes many lessons which range from the introduction to Java, cover the Java language basics and continue beyond the basics of the Java language using colorful animations and practical examples.

Out-of-Box Experience
This CD is simply packaged and the documentation consists of 3 4.75"x4.75" black and white pages which covers the installation and describes MindQ's other products. Using Windows 95, the installation is virtually automatic, since this program is shipped on an autostart CD-ROM. This installation does allow you to change the default subdirectory from the default C:\Program Files\MindQ to your desired subdirectory.

The only real annoyance that I had during the installation was when asked "Do you want to read the README file now?", I answered yes, the readme file appeared and I begin reading it. Then BANG - ZOOM, it disappeared and a dialog box displayed that the installation was complete. After I closed this dialog box, the readme file finally reappeared. The readme file describes Windows 3.1x, yet Windows 3.1 is NEVER mentioned in the system requirements listing (appears to require a Windows 95/NT 3.51+ operating system.) The program also wants an 800x600 display and reminds you of this fact during installation, but this is not clearly stated in the requirements (only SVGA monitor is mentioned and this can be subject to misinterpretation.)

A nice feature is that the uninstall is NOT part of the Windows 95 Add/Remove Programs. It is a separate program and it works quite nicely, wish every uninstall went that well.

Unfortunately, the program did not keep the MindQ "group" open after the installation process, to allow an easy "drag out" of the shortcut onto the Windows desktop. To get to the shortcut, I had to drag the icon out of the Windows/Start Menu/Programs/MindQ Knowledge Odysseys directory.

Living with Java CD
The initial opening screen is quite pretty and it has animated steam rising out of the coffee cup. (After all, this is a CD about Java.)

This product, designed for an entire 800x600 display, wastes space at the top of the screen for only a topic title and a small MindQ logo. If the program is run in 640x480 mode, the Windows 95 toolbar needs to be set to "Auto hide" or the navigation arrows and the "area which describes the item currently under the cursor" will NOT be visible.

A nice feature is that the audio portion can be set to audio only, text only (a transcription of the audio content) or both. This "audio text" window can be "rolled up" similar to the "windowshades" feature on the Macintosh computer. This is helpful in noisy locations, for hearing impaired users or on systems that either don't have a sound system or the sound subsystem is not configured. I also found that if you don't have audio card, then you also don't have ANY video!

The program starts with an initial demo, but since is was late and I was tired, I just skipped ahead to see some JAVA!! The training moved at a very pleasant pace, unlike most interactive software courses I have seen, which seem to drag on forever. I was using an IBM 755CE (a 486-100 laptop with a 640x480 active matrix screen). I really don't understand why there was so much screen space dedicated to the title of the topic. (If this were shrunk, I could have easily kept my toolbar on the screen.)

Some of the screen transitions seem to be unnecessary for training. Their effect was pleasant, but this feature wastes time when moving from step to step. The animations were crisp and fluid and were quite pleasant to look at. The artwork of the entire CD was excellent -- much better than any consumer training CD-ROM I have ever seen!

Another unique feature is that during the usage of the CD, it would give one-time tips on how to use a new feature of the CD-ROM would pop up and give you practical information. Unfortunately, to get them to reappear again you must reset them so they all display once again - you can't reset individual tips.

One thing I didn't understand is that the navigation controls lacked a backup one STEP button. I could only go back an entire topic or scroll back within the current topic. But if I accidentally clicked past the last step of the topic, I had to backup to the last topic and then scroll down to the last item in that topic - a single back button would have made it SO easy.

Even with these user interface problems, advancing through the lessons was a very PLEASANT experience. The table of contents viewer had a great feature which allows you to set the detail level of the outline. At the lowest level of detail (no details), the entire Table of Content fits on the screen very nicely.Therefore, for the cost $19.95, I highly recommend this product in order to quickly and interactively begin to learn how to program in Java!

The Company (Updated July 2003)
MindQ also made other CD-ROM products and you were able to order them either online, via the Internet at www.mindq.com or by phone. These CD-ROMs ranged in price from $19.95 (list - with a "special offer" price of $14.95) to $44.95 for the 5 CD-ROM Learning Microsoft Office 95 set.

Pros

Great Content and lots of it

Small disk drive "footprint" (only 329 Kbytes stored on your hard drive)

Includes separate uninstaller

Low cost - cheaper than most books and it's interactive!

Cons

User interface issues with navigation

800x600 mode needed, but screen space was so wasted - could have easily been a 640x480 application

Users without sound cards lose all video features.

Company Information

MindQ Publishing, Inc.
11490 Commerce Park Drive
Suite 400
Reston, Virginia 20191
USA

Main: (703) 262-6600
Toll Free: (800) 646-3008
Fax: (703) 716-0237
Email: info@mindq.com
Web site: http://www.mindq.com

Copyright 1997 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
Overview of this Article
Out-of-Box Experience
Living with Java CD
Recommendation
Pro
Con
Company Information
 

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