Oct 252014

A sure fire way to bring death to a new hobby is to write a blog post about it right?


I recently started teaching myself how to write code in Java.  Here’s a list of my reasons:

  • More exposure to object oriented methodology
  • A recent experience with WPF and that left me annoyed
  • Larger adoption, options and fun (Android apps anyone?)
  • Bored with web based scripting languages

So far it seems a lot easier than the last time I played around with Eclipse.  I’m even playing around wit h uploading my code to github.

Aug 032013

After seeing some of the amazing (and easy to build) things people were making with Arduino I decided to plop down my $48.50 and purchase the SainSmart kit (seen below) from Amazon.

Arduino kit from sainsmart on amazon review

Click the picture to buy your own kit

I was amazed to see how fast I could do things like reading temperature from a sensor or turning a servo.  If you have any experience programming, the code and interface are extremely easy to learn.

While I like the price and variety of components that came in the SainSmart Arduino kit, I was a little disappointed by the  lab documentation it came with.  The English was at times broken and many of the labs listed parts in the “you’ll need this” section that never appeared in the project schematic.

After a few bouts of frustration and a burnt out LED, I decided to poke around the internet and find some new labs.  The nice thing about the Arduino is it is an extremely popular platform and there are TONS of how-to lessons out there.

I really enjoyed the format of the lessons on the Adafruit learning site.  They are very well written and quite easy to follow.

Here is a video of a circuit that I built that blinks an LED when it receives an infrared signal from a remote control

Another lab I finished uses a potentiometer to control a stepper motor.  I modified the code of this lab so that I could limit the range of movement for the servo to keep it from going past the limit of the motor.  This type of circuit can be used to steer an RC car, boat, plane, etc.

I can’t wait to work on more electronics projects.  If you are looking to try your hand at hobby electronics I would fully recommend clicking the picture above and buying this kit from Amazon.

Have you done anything cool with electronics lately?  Let me know in the comments below!


Jul 252013

Recently at work we’ve been using a new (free) CMS called Concrete5.  So far it seems interesting but a far cry from what I’m used to in WordPress.

concrete5 logo

While I don’t really NEED a CMS on this site I’m thinking of converting over to Concrete5 for learning purposes.  I’ve always wanted to fill this site with more technological content, code samples, howto articles, etc. but WordPress never seemed like the right vehicle for anything other than a blog.

Having a CMS on the site would help dumb down the design process a bit and also allow a better structure for static pages.  Being able to focus on content rather than presentation could shave hours off of the writing process.

I have to admit my biggest problem with Concrete5 so far has been adding custom PHP.  I’m just not used to the structure (and simplicity) of having a CMS do the heavy lifting.  Having it installed here on my personal site may be the best way to force me into getting comfortable with the CMS while adding a new skill to my belt.

Are you a Concrete5 user?  Have you succeeded/failed at installing a CMS on your blog?  Want to debate the finer points of CMS vs Blogging platform?  Let me know in the comment section below!


Dec 052012

Well, it has taken me 5 months to decide but I’m giving the O’Reilly school of technology a try.

O’Reilly School of Technology logo

O’Reilly offers some great options for continuing education credits and they also have certificate programs.  While I don’t have the time (or money) to invest in a masters program at a traditional university, O’Reilly’s courses seem like a great way to improve my skills.

My first class is called “Introduction to PHP”.  While I have a working knowledge of PHP I’m excited to approach the topic in a structured classroom/lab environment.

This course is the first out of four towards the PHP/SQL programming certificate.  Getting a better handle on PHP and SQL programming will go a long way to helping me build solutions at work.  I also have a few pet projects that should be much easier with ‘formal’ training.

You can learn more about O’Reilly’s programs here

Wish me luck!

 Posted by at 11:04 pm
Jul 062012

Is it possible to be considered “a REAL programmer” without a computer science degree?  What exactly defines someone as a programmer?  These are questions I’ve been asking myself for a while now.

As an IT manager, most of my programming is done out of necessity and is usually short and sweet.   I work with, HTML, PHP, Codeigniter, javascript, jquery, AJAX, SQL, and even some XML and XSLT for good measure.  I build things, hack my way though problems, fix errors in other people’s code etc.  While I do get time code I always secretly yearn for more.

My ultimate goal is to be be fluent in multiple web programming languages and bend online data to my will.     I want to create content, databases, and user interfaces that are noteworthy.  I want to mold them with ease like a master sculptor handles a blob of clay on a spinning wheel.

Smooth coding like clay on a potter’s wheel

Is it a matter of education?  

I began to test this theory on sites like Codeacademy and Course Hero.  While the learning experience from both of these sites has been valuable I question the end result.  As a college educated man, I have this nagging roadblock in my mind that keeps telling me, “If you aren’t spending $30k for multiple years of study you are wasting your time”.

While I know not all valuable education comes from a college degree, I find myself in search of a compromise.  

After some soul searching (via Google) and recommendations from my peers, I ended up finding the O’Reilly School of Technology.

O’Reilly School of Technology logo

Their online program offers professional development certificates from the University of Illinois upon completion and the price is far lower than even Community College courses.

The O’Reilly School of Technology offers certificates in:

  • Python
  • Perl
  • Database Administration
  • Java
  • Linux/Unix
  • Client Side Programming
  • Web Programming
  • Open Source Programming

Like a starving man at an all you can eat buffet I just want to try it all.  I’m leaning towards either the Client Side Programming or Web Programming certificates as I’m familiar with the languages involved and they should allow me to deepen (and formalize) my existing knowledge.

Although it may just be a piece of paper, the idea of earning a certificate for completing a program is quickly turning into a personal goal.  This is beyond a resume builder, this has become my mission.  I need to do this.


Have you gone back to school to boost your knowledge and career?  Is it possible for an “IT generalist” to ever become a REAL programmer?  Have you tried O’Reilly school?  Let me know in the comments below.

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