Various things I have been up to

Those of you who follow my blog have probably noticed I haven't had much up here OCS or Speech Server related lately.  The primary reason for this is I just moved to the OCS core team and I am ramping up on the infrastructure and product over there.  Lately I have been reading a lot of specs, which hasn't been extremely exciting.

I have been doing some other reading lately.  I decided to ramp up on Windows Workflow (besides what is necessary for Speech Server) and WCF.  For Workflow I am reading Essential Windows Workflow Foundation by Shukla and Schmidt.  This gives a very good view of how WWF works, but isn't very practical.  I suspect after finishing this book I will need to read a more practical one.

For WCF, I have been reading Windows Communication Foundation Unleashed.  To be honest I think WCF is a bit convoluted but it is good to be aware of what it can do.  At some later date maybe I'll try playing around with it along with one of the OCS APIs, such as UCMA.

Probably the most interesting and relevant book I have been reading is Internet Communications Using SIP.  This is probably the best book I have seen for understanding SIP and the other protocols and technologies that make up OCS.  I have read other SIP books such as SIP Demystified (too simplified), and SIP:Understanding the Session Initiation Protocol (good content, but only slightly less boring than reading the RFC + doesn't cover other related protocols).  For those that are interested in learning more about SIP and the other protocols that OCS makes use of - I highly recommend this book as a good introduction.

On the non-work related front, I have been playing around with my new Canon 16-35mm 2.8L II and I really like this lens. I haven't had much chance to take landscapes with it but I have played around with interiors and an event and it came through.  Last week I attended a party for a friend's son's brit and I decided to take the camera out with this lens and play around.  I put on my 580EX flash and put a diffuser over it since we were inside.  Unfortunately I got more than I bargained for because everyone thought I was the 'official' photographer for the event and I kept getting pulled by different people who wanted their picture taken! The father called up and has asked to pay for the pics now, but I have no intention of charging anything because I was just playing around! On the positive side, those who have seen the pictures already really liked them.  Anyways, for anyone looking for a good wide angle I highly recommend this lens.

On the reading front, I finished book 4 of the Great Books of the World, which contained the surviving plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes.  I have always loved Aristophanes' plays and it was a joy reading them again.  What I find most interesting is it gives a good picture of what life was really like back then - in a way not that much different than now.  For those who want something more serious, read Medea by Euripides - probably the most tense play I have ever read.

Right now I am about 20 pages into book 5 - which contains the Histories of Herodotus and a History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.  Currently I am on Herodotus and would highly recommend it so far for those interested in history. As I have mentioned previously, I plan to write a series of novels in the future but I have vowed to read the entire series of Great Books before I write the first page.

On the language front, I am still plowing through Mandarin and I think I will be finished with Beginning Chinese (and character text) by the end of October.  I am currently on lesson 16 (of 24).  By the time we go to China (currently planned for the summer of 2010) I should be quite capable.  In preparation for going to Italy next year, I need to find some time in my plans to brush up on my Italian - I am still trying to figure out how to best do that.

Last week I put together a buyer's guide for my wife's real estate business.  For those of you who are interested in buying a house, the guide is here.  There are still a few bugs I need to fix, but the content is there and readable.

Anyways, that's what's currently going on.  I hope to have some OCS related blogs up in the near future, but in the meantime expect more miscelaneous and photography related posts.