Friday, 18 May 2007

O'Reilly's Book sales

As we write and publish books on programming, we were very interested to read Tim O'Reilly's recent article about the demographics of books sales with respect to programming languages:

Although this obviously took quite a bit of analysis, it is interesting that the article only counts cheap books and disregards profits.

If you recount in terms of profits and include books for professionals like OCaml for Scientists then the results are completely different. Looking at OCaml books, the inclusion of Flying Frog Consultancy doubles the sales figures quoted by O'Reilly and increases profits ten fold.

This is a very interesting result for authors because it indicates that mainstream publishers like O'Reilly are not suitable for books covering non-mainstream programming languages like OCaml. We would advise authors to seek more specialist publishers like APress, or found their own publishing house as we did.

Moreover, books are often used as an advertising medium by authors wanting to promote themselves and their other products. In this case, it is worth noting that the readership of journals, magazines and newspapers is vastly higher than the top-selling O'Reilly books. So writing a few magazine articles is not only easier but is also a more effective way to increase visibility.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

F# for Visualization moved into beta release

With our current push to provide better visualization libraries for scientists on the .NET platform, we have moved our library into commercial beta release:

As the demos on that page show, the library already allows real-time interactive visualization of static 3D scenes. We'll be uploading our first dynamic demo later today and we hope to showcase our hardware-accelerated LaTeX/MathML and 2D vector graphics engine by the end of next week. Then we can start on Silverlight integration.

The F# programming language is allowing us to develop at a tremendous speed.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Don't buy Lexmark!

As we publish most of the books that we write and we make maximal use of graphic design and color, we need high-quality printers that can create our books reliably on demand. Consequently, we invested great time and effort into looking at the manufacturers specifications for the latest batch of color laser printers when our main workhorse started to show her age.

We made the mistake of buying a Lexmark printer and our error cost us around $5,000 in wasted materials and time. Specifically, we bought their C530dn color laser printer. Although the speed is good, the quality is awful, the reliability is awful and, of course, the support is non-existent. In the month that we had the printer, it printed 5,000 pages and fewer than 500 were good enough to sell.

Contrary to the manufacturers claims, Lexmark toner costs four times as much as HP toner. The Lexmark cartridges were visibly poorly made whereas the HP cartridges are almost always of excellent quality (about 1% are half empty!).

One of the main problems with the C530dn printer is that (we believe) it overheats after only 400 pages, causing a powerful internal fan to startup which serves to blow the toner around inside the printer. In only one month, the inside of the printer was filthy and every page it printed had a murky brown background.

We ended up forking out an extra £500 for a Hewlett Package CLJ 3800dn and so far so good. No problems with reliability, despite record book sales, and the quality is fantastic. This printer is also quieter and smaller!

So if you want a decent printer, don't buy Lexmark!

F# for Visualization

The F# programming language from Microsoft Research provides an excellent basis for a modern technical computing environment:

Specifically, the core language is wonderfully elegant and, as a .NET language, interoperability with existing libraries couldn't be simpler.

We intend to boost the functionality of F# by providing add-on libraries for numerical computing, visualization and symbolic mathematics. In fact, work has already begun on a graphics library that combines lightning-fast access to DirectX with the simplicity of BASIC programming.

For a limited time only, a beta release of this software is freely available on our site, with three demo programs (complete with Visual Studio projects) and even a tutorial video!

Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) for .NET

We recently reviewed the current state-of-the-art in technical software for the .NET platform and were surprised to discover several gaps in important numerical algorithms.

The Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) is ubiquitous in signal analysis because it underpins most spectral methods. Surprisingly, we found no reliable free implementations and the expensive commercial solutions were too slow.

So we wrote our own implementation for use in our future products and we are making it available to you in DLL form:

In the future, we shall offer complete signal processing and analysis tools as standalone applications with built-in visualization, based upon this library.

New blog!

Welcome to the company blog of Flying Frog Consultancy.

We are a consultancy, software and book firm based in Cambridge, UK. In particular, we are keenly promoting the adoption of modern functional programming languages in industry, including the OCaml and F# languages.

If you're looking for resources on any of the above topics, please let us know.