Category Archives: development

Start before you’re ready

I’ve never quite been ready for anything, I guess.  I just start.

I could never possibly predict all the things that I would encounter when starting something, let alone prep for them.  If I did that, I’d find something and say “err, nope.  I don’t think I’ll be doing this.  Too hard.”  That means I’d completely lose out on learning something (or being forced to, which happens quite a bit).

My dad likes to say “When you have the money, you don’t have time.  When you have time, you don’t have the money.  If you want to go do something, go do it!  Don’t wait!”  It’s taken me to sea, various cities, racing, flying, and a couple of careers.

Like @jlyman said, “It means take a chance, take a leap of faith.”

Well said.  If you’re a christian then it definitely means lean into your faith.

Phobias

Javascript used to scare me.  I simply didn’t understand it, or what was going on.  I had done pretty well just using plug-ins and off-the-shelf solutions.  It was silly but I was comfortable in my phobia.  “This crap doesn’t make sense and I’m not a genius.” and the excuse machine that I maintained well just kept on producing. So there came I time where I was cornered and had to write some custom JS.  “Fine” I said, “whatever gets me through this.”  So I got it to work.  “That’s it?  Why was I afraid of this?”.  I recognized that there isn’t any magic going on, just a logical proceedure.  Phobia removed.

This led to forcing myself to logically review other bits of code, be it JS, PHP, Rails, Python, etc.  There’s always a pattern.  They’re always doing something pretty logical.  For those times where I have no clue, I’m forced to remind myself that “Hey, a human mind built this, so a human mind can solve it”.

Logical thought doesn’t exactly result from any particular training.  It’s just a valuable habit.

A habit that’s deadly against phobias.

Dilligence

I’m helping a student go through the Iron Yard code academy.  It’s good because I not only share what helped me, but I remember the hopeless and lost feeling that came right before those great ‘AHA!’ moments.

So I got to go along for the ride, giving advice, pointing to references, and doing what I can short of giving him the answer.  That’s really what I wanted to do, but he wouldn’t really learn if I did that.

Yesterday they were off from school so he attended 3 different study groups to try and get a handle on some javascript.  All of this is new to him, he just started last week!

Yesterday I was swamped at work and couldn’t help out much so I had to keep putting him off until I got home.  Even then I was so exhausted from work (and sore from running this weekend) that I forgot until about 9pm.

I had a few emails that went like this:

“Hey I’m struggling with this, what’s a callback?”

“Dude I don’t know where to start, have any go-to pointers?”

“I’m going to my 3rd study group today, still don’t have a clue”

Before I could write back, he sent me one more:

“Hey man we figured it out!  I’m so happy that this worked out! We just didn’t give up and now it works! Check out my github and comment!”

This is the best email I could get!  I didn’t help him, he figured it out!  Getting news like this is a breath of fresh air and now I’m revisiting it while telling you.

Nice way to kick off this Tuesday!

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse.”

Yes he is…

and in the news

http://www.wired.com/2015/01/president-obama-waging-war-hackers/?mbid=social_twitter

If you read the above article, hasn’t it pretty much always been this way?

So what constitues a ‘hacker’?  Is it the ability to program?  Is it just having a basic enough understanding of the terminal to throw commands at linux?  Is having kali enough to be arrested nowadays?

I live across the street from some pretty sharp CS majors and I have to scan my wireless a lot.  I live in a small 4 unit building and supply internet to the other 3 tenants, so needless to say I don’t want 10 other people on there as well. So I use a few tools to keep things safe and routinely look for entry points.  I’m breaking into my own network.

So from the point of view of my neighbors, since I provide internet to them and defend it as much as I can, just having the idea that I can slip into their computers and have a look – can they bring legal action against me? We’re all friends, but who’s to say one of them gets mad and calls the cops saying I broke into their computer?  No evidence of intrusion exists.

Maybe the evidence would be the tools I keep on the computers.  Maybe I should delete them and hide my head in the sand and just trust that no one will jump on our wifi again.

Maybe we should all stay inside, lock the doors, and hope nothing ever happens.

Come on.

How about this, if only there were a freely distributed version of linux that has pen testing already built in?  What if it’s so easy you don’t have to really know what’s up?  What if we just give it to a whole bunch of people, in which case everyone will have at least some basic defense with the option of learning how to protect yourself.

Oh, this has been around?

So everyone’s a hacker I guess.  Hey, if you have terminal on your computer then you’re a hacker.

Didn’t even know it did ya?

If I’m off base, feel free to correct me.  I’m no activist, just observing.

State of the Dev Community

I really do enjoy being a developer!  I mean I’m getting into it more and more each day!  It’s complicated and you have to master several concepts just to get moving but there’s such a great and helpful community around you!

When I got serious into development and decided to make it a profession I immediately ran into a roadblock.  I started at community college and it was so ultra-competitive- which isn’t bad – but no one would share information with anyone.  This is probably because there were about 50(?) of us competing for about 10 jobs.  I really felt like I was on an island and I would have to figure out everything myself.

My last semester I had an instructor who obviously loved teaching.  He taught our network security class.  Talk about someone who really embodied the open-source idea – he wanted ALL of us to know what he knew and build upon it.  That spirit completely engulfed the class and we weren’t trying to beat each other up anymore.

Fast-forward 2 years, after going through code school, I’m working in a start-up where we’re doing a few things new to me.  I’m on deadlines and I’ve got to perform because there’s only 4 of us on the creative team!  Luckily community is huge.  There is always someone who’s been in your shoes before and are willing to take a few minutes to help out!  This really spurrs the idea that ’sky is the limit’.  It’s great!  It’s a great feeling when you can help someone else out as well!

The state of the dev community?  Very good and getting better!

If you’re a developer – remember to pay it forward and help someone.  It’ll completely make their day and they’ll do it for someone else as well.

Blog Maintenance

So the first thing on my list was to actually categorize my posts.  This will definitely force me to focus on a few things rather than ‘everything in the world’.  As I was going through the few posts I have and reorganizing, I noticed that I’ve really not strayed much from a couple of subjects.  It kind of makes me feel very one-dimensional.  Left to my own devices, I would be randomly blogging about everything.

Organization has been a part of the #10daysbetterblog process from the beginning.  I’m consciously trying to stay within a few subjects, writing on a 20 minute timer, resisting starting a blog for each and every interest I have.  Talk about a quick way to spread yourself thin!  I wouldn’t have time to think!

I obviously use wordpress and have the standard metrics that come with it.  I haven’t messed around with that at all.  I did look at them today and I’m not sure if there’s a traffic pattern at all so far.  However, being in this course is making me more aware of such things.  I’m not sure how to use tags, are they for search engines?  I’ll have to read up on that one.

I like today’s project because after organizing a bit, I have a more clear picture on what I should be writing.

Optimal Writing Environment

In search of an optimal writing environment, I’ve noticed that I have 2 different places I like to write.

I’ve recently re-started my tech blog and the best way for me to write that blog better is when I’m actually at work.  I work at a start-up where I can put on my headphones and go to writing about what I was working on, gripes I have about a technology, or my latest experiments with a new technology.  At work, I’m in the weeds of it all.  I feel more like a war reporter on the front line! “This is Andrew reporting from the experiment with Docker!  I don’t really know what’s going on, but it seems I have a virtual dev environment that seems to get all the required files!  This is weird!”

My other set up is very much like Saddington’s.  I have a stand-up desk and wireless headphones.  Wireless because I have to pace around the apartment and think on what I’m writing about.  Music has to mostly be just instrumental because I tend to focus on lyrics and I’ll get distracted. I have a very minimalisticly decorated loft and that seems to help me focus on the task at hand.  If I see a mess or clothes on the floor, I’ll stop what I’m doing and take care of it.  Usually that will wreck my workflow for a few minutes.

I do my best work around lunch or early afternoon, preferrably near a window.  Always have to be able to look outside. I don’t know why but that helps a lot!

That’s a pretty accurate rundown of my writing environment.  I’m definitely open to suggestions, as I’m always experimenting!