Category: education

Lynda for Libraries in Birmingham

Have you used your local library to learn about tech? Programming? Web site design and construction? If not, why not?

I haven’t been getting those materials from my local library, in Birmingham, AL. They didn’t have what I needed. I’ve bought my own books and training materials. Among them, off and on, was subscription access to Lynda.com.  I’ve used Lynda training materials (first for websites, then for ongoing design software training) for almost 20 years. Until the past few years, it was not easy to afford.

Two and a half years ago, while attending a WordPress conference in Toronto, one of my fellow attendees, Alex Sirota, told me that Lynda.com had a library program (He has a write-up on his professional blog.) It’s been a big success for the Toronto Public Library system, with city residents using it to learn needed skills quickly. This is a great example of the idea of “city-as-a-platform”, in which the city/region/state works to make it easier for more residents to pick up in-demand skills.

I’m currently using Lynda.com to learn about systems administration and security, and Windows 7 & 10 deployments. Since my last use three years ago, they’ve added more IT and programming related materials to their existing design-software core. Most of it is introductory through intermediate, but it’s enough to give me direction as to what I should be studying next. 

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Building a project portfolio – how to get started

In many cities with a tech scene there is a need for programmers and developers who aren’t necessarily computer science (CS) majors. CS is great for understanding the structures underlying programming, how software interacts with hardware, and the mathematics behind compression, encryption, algorithms graphics and topology. Their skills and understanding are needed to build computing and programming structures and frameworks, for working out effective storage techniques, telecommunication methods, encryption and for a lot of security work.  You will always need these specialists. And, if you want to be a CEO of major tech company, the groundwork is vital.

But for the rest of us, a mix of our existing skillsets in combination with either a bootcamp or self-study with tutorials are the most effective ways to start a programming career. Our power is crossover knowledge. We’re going to be working in teams to build and implement using existing tools – and being able to learn quickly, effectively and put existing pieces together to solve people’s problems is the best way we can contribute.

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CS Unplugged

Working on some lesson plans for teaching introductory computer science concepts to middle and high school students this afternoon – and revisiting the CSunplugged.org website for the first time in a long time.

If you haven’t learned the underlying concepts, have a family member who would like to learn (child _or_ elder), the series of videos on the site (also the participation activities and lesson plans) do a really good job of explaining how binary encoding works, compression, image representation, parity (checksums), as well as explaining the origin of many words.

This is a really good series, which demystifies a lot of the techniques developed over the past sixty years that allow us to program computers effectively. Watch it. Even old school pros will be enlightened.

 

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital RevolutionThe Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still digesting this one. Walter Isaacson masterfully links Charles Babbage’s original work and Ada Lovelace’s ideas about computing with Hollerith’s punch card tabulation system, Edison’s systemization of innovation and the developments in circuitry control during the 1930s that laid the groundwork for today’s digital technologies. Good book – I recommend it as essential background reading for anyone interested in understanding how innovation happens, in the history of computing, and in understanding trends going forward.

Computing – A Concise History

Computing: A Concise HistoryComputing: A Concise History by Paul E. Ceruzzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I was back at school, I was desperate for a history of computing that would give me a framework on which to hang all the new information I was acquiring. This is the book I wish I had.

Published in 2012, it’s a tight, well-written, (short!) book, that ties together the technical developments of the 19th century, 1920s, 30s, 40s & 50s into a clear, concise story of how different technical developers (and their resulting tools and ideas) were able to build on earlier work to create systems to first, automate calculations using hardware, and then later, develop the first programs and software.

One of the clearer histories written to date, this will serve as a good beginning orientation for all people who are starting to explore computer technology, and who want a context in which to place current modern devices and software. Shirley Bob gives it two thumbs up.

The Story of Stuxnet

When I started my computer science program, and was taking the first of the introductory classes during fall 2009, our Alice prof mentioned the need for programmers with security training to “harden” critical utility infrastructure. This was before the Stuxnet computer virus did its thing to the Iran centrifuges. Having a bit of life experience, my immediate conclusion was that if the threat had been identified, and was actively being discussed within the U.S., it was because there were tools capable of doing so either in development at a skunkworks, or already deployed against  enemies of the U.S.

Nine months later, Kaspersky Labs first identified the Stuxnet virus used to destabilize the Iranian uranium centrifuges. This article, published by the IEEE’s Spectrum magazine this month, tells the story in some detail.

How to count to 31 on one hand

When I started my computer science studies, as a mature student with no programming experience, I took a class that introduced me to the basic programming and computer science concepts that underpin all computer architecture and programming.

These concepts are:

As part of learning about binary numbers, we learned how to count to 31 on one hand.

This video, from Fuerve, shows you how.

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