You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.” -- Steve Jobs, June 2005
Monday, January 28, 2013
Saturday, January 5, 2013
In 2008, Google sponsored a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible. Project 10100 (or “ten to the one hundredth”, which, by definition, is a “googol”) selected 16 of the best ideas received and submitted them to a public vote. The top five vote-getters were awarded a grant of $2 million each to turn those ideas into reality. One of the winning ideas was to “make educational content available online for free.” While the goal is a lofty one, its beginnings can be traced back to the fulfillment of a simple need—math tutoring.
In the summer of 2004, Salman Khan got a request from his aunt to tutor her 7th-grade daughter (his cousin) in advanced math. Salman possesses an MBA from Harvard and three math and engineering degrees from M.I.T. He lived in Boston and his cousin lived in New Orleans, so sessions were held via telephone and online chalkboard. The tutoring worked out so well, Salman expanded his digital classroom to include other family members and friends. Due to scheduling challenges and the growth of his virtual roll book, he began making short lesson videos which he posted on YouTube. To supplement his material, he wrote software to generate sample problems and a tracking database to monitor his students’ progress.
Eventually, Salman compiled all of his videos with his practice tools and formed the Khan Academy, a non-profit organization providing free online education. As of the date of this post, the Academy’s library currently contains almost 4,000 videos, each with an average length of 8-10 minutes each. He covers all levels of math from basic arithmetic through calculus, including statistics and probability. He also covers chemistry, physics, economics, banking and finance, history, and test preparation. Since the videos are short, you can view as few or as many as you have time for in one sitting. I have watched a few hundred of his videos, primarily the financial and statistics lessons. I am a huge fan of his work, and continue to be impressed with his breadth of knowledge and his determination to fulfill his vision.
But, don’t take my word for it…why not set aside ten minutes and watch a video or two? Having your (or any) teenager come to you for help with their math or science homework can be a very good feeling. Being able to actually help them is priceless.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
I feel like I'm making pretty good progress, which means I haven't totally abandoned the idea on running Linux on one of my computers. As I get deeper into the environment, I have developed a new sympathy and understanding for those just coming into the Windows arena. All things take time to master, and I accept I have only really been at this for just eight days, part time. However, I also recognize just how much Windows isn't just an operating system. It's a philosophy based in trying to strike a reasonable balance between functionality, legacy, and ease of use. It's a constant challenge to add features without complicating the process, while still supporting your long-standing customers who may not be as patient to what they may perceive as the "dumbing-down" of their tools.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Sometimes, I just dive into a project without in-depth planning, because I don’t want to be restricted by a pre-established path. For those excursions, it’s more important for me to view outcomes than reach a particular destination. After successfully installing Ubuntu, I installed Google Chrome, Eclipse, and LastPass. I even installed Dropbox, and allowed my folder to synchronize. It took three days, but it worked. I was very pleased with the results. At times, the experience was so seamless, I had to remind myself I was on Ubuntu, and not Windows.
Once I realized that Linux had the potential to be a real option for me, I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to wipe out what I had built and start again, but this time, I would take things a little slower and really try to understand what I was doing. The moment it hit home that I was truly in another world was during the reinstall. I was having a late dinner with my girlfriend at a local restaurant. She brought some of her client files to work on, and I brought my flash drive and laptop. With only battery power for my laptop and the wireless hotspot from my cell phone, I was able to successfully reinstall Ubuntu, download the third-party proprietary drivers necessary to support a wireless connection, and apply the 160+ updates to the operating system.
One of the first takeaways from my initial experience with Linux dealt with the installation of new applications. You shouldn’t assume every setup process will go as smoothly as it does for the majority of Windows programs. In some cases, it will, but it will require a bit of preparation by the software authors to make it so. Take Java, for example. I need Java for Android development, but if you don’t require it, don’t feel like you have to install it. There are some distributions of Linux which include Java by default...Ubuntu is not one of them. Because of this, you must install it yourself, but the process is not as simple as it is with Windows. After searching for a couple days, I discovered this article that walked me through the process. It was very clear and concise, and I especially enjoyed that it told me what to look for after executing each command. It made it very easy for me to check my progress as I went along and keep confident I was doing it right.
Now, with Java installed, I can look at installing Eclipse Classic again.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
It’s been just over 48 hours since I made the plunge. I chose Ubuntu for my first Linux experience, based on numerous claims it is one of the easiest entry points for Windows users. I'm sure there are many factors skewing my individual experience-a higher comfort level with computer operations in general, existing technical knowledge, the desire to learn rather than the need, and the benefits associated with learning an established technology. All that being said, if you have been on the fence about learning Linux, now's the best time to jump off and do it.
I'm going to try to document my experience as much as I can, which means I may go slower than some may wish. I anticipate a number of bumps as I open my mind to allow something other than Windows in. It's not for lack of trying...old habits are just hard to break. Also, I need to earn a living, so I'll be ping-ponging mentally between Microsoft and Linux on a regular basis. Please forgive me if I need to break service every now and then.
For the techies, the converted laptop is not the strongest system I could have acquired, but it is relatively current and technically solid. It is more powerful than entry level, but not a desktop replacement, unless you bought your desktop preconfigured and paid around $700 USD. It's 64-bit, and I upgraded the memory to 8GB and the hard drive to a 500GB 5400RPM. It ran Windows 7 with little to no hiccups, though the video performance lagged slightly in high definition. Since this would eventually a development machine, I felt confident it would be sufficient for my needs.
I'll keep you posted on the interesting things I find...
Sunday, October 21, 2012
After a hearty birthday celebration, some people take stock and really think about their next big life adventure. A few will do something healthy, like start an exercise program or cut back on carbohydrates. Others will start saving for their first cruise, or plan a trip to Europe. Some people make a conscious decision to start a business, or study a new subject, like financial investing or French cooking. These are all noble pursuits, and after past birthdays, I tried many of these endeavors and more.
This year, however, I decided to go completely off-book. I did something I never thought I would ever have the courage to do, nor have the need to do. You can only run into walls for so long before you have to decide to take a leap of faith. This birthday, I leapt. It took a long time for me to finally do it, but it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. As a software developer, one would have assumed I had done it years ago, but it never seemed like the right time to do it...until now. One day after my 49th birthday, I finally installed Linux on one of my laptops.
I can only imagine the response I'm receiving to that last statement, but hear me out first. My career started back in 1984, in the pseudo-Jurassic period of desktop computing when 30MB hard drives cost $900. I’ve seen them come and go...MS-DOS, CompuServe, dBase, 1-2-3, Ventura Publisher, Pagemaker, WordPerfect, Sidekick, Prodigy, QuickBASIC, QEMM, Paradox...the list is vast. The one stable force during all that change for me was Microsoft. Whether it was DOS, Windows, Word, Excel, or even Flight Simulator, one name was a constant fixture. Even during my eight-year love affair with Borland Delphi, Microsoft development tools were the products I loved to hate.
I understood there were companies that did it better. I accepted the instabilities that come with legacy support. I tolerated being the focal point of constant attacks by script kitties and virus authors. I survived years worth of “Patch Tuesdays”. I appreciated when they did things right. I let them know when they did things wrong. Thanks to Microsoft, I’ve been able to get paid to do what I always wanted to do ever since I was 16 years old. I just turned 49 yesterday. I’m not giving up on what once was “The Evil Empire”, because, to be honest, there’s nothing evil about them anymore. Microsoft and I have been together a long time, and that will not change. I’ve got too much time invested and the demand for talent is still high. As far as Linux goes, I doubt we will ever be exclusive. I’m fine with being polyamorous.