Saturday, August 18, 2012

edX: College-quality computer science education


A soft  drum roll can be heard throughout the realm. It slowly grows louder as a herald appears on your screen. The Announcer sounds her trumpet, clears her throat. Drums stop and she exclaims:

    - "The blog heretofore known as 'Damien Learns Perl' is now to be referred to as 'Damien Learns Programming'. This broader title means greater variety and more life (or so it is hoped) to the speculations and musings of an eternal student of computer programming."

Crowd cheers.

    - "No camel was hurt in this process. Go home and spread the good word."

The herald lets out a content sigh then disappears in a puff.


-------

I feel like writing about other topics than just Perl. I contemplated starting a new blog for a few seconds but it made more sense to give a new direction to this site.


Evolve or become irrelevant

This could be the motto of the computing/computer science/IT industry.
Tools keep popping out of thin air, new programming languages are invented, operating systems evolve rapidly, new devices appear that can be programmed, etc.
Those changes answer people's ever demanding requests.

You want to keep up but how to go about updating your skills?

The best motivator is to build something that you need. When my wife became pregnant, I started to build a "Baby Tracker" app to learn C++ and to keep tab on the baby's vaccination schedule, teeth growth, stool color, etc. I eventually abandoned the project because (believe it or not) taking actual care of my first daughter became a higher priority. By the time I had bandwidth again, the "baby tracker" need was moot.
Having a purpose makes you want to keep learning and carry on after you have hit a few too many obstacles.

This self-learning path resembles an obstacle course: the end line is visible but you first have to jump over all those hurdles to attain it.

Another way to learn new skills is through online education. Several sites already exist that put emphasis on learning in a fun way:

  • Codecademy (for beginning web programmers)
  • Khan Academy (originally created to teach mathematics but now proposing many subjects, including computer science)
  • Memrise (to help you learn vocabulary for new languages, including programming languages)
  • LCodeTHW (despite its name, offers a great way to start learning about programming)
  • etc.
Those are quality sites and I encourage you to visit them if you are looking for a first acquaintance with a new topic.
However, I want to share here something that I am truly excited about: online computer science college-quality education for free. Back in 2000 I got involved in the PEOI project whose mission was to bring professional education online to the masses (provided access to an internet link). The site still exists but the design has not evolved since its creation and course content was created by volunteers. Its noble goal though has found a champion today: edX.


Get a quality education

edX is a joint online interactive educational project from MIT, Berkeley and Harvard University, some of the best US universities. You can earn certificates along with knowledge. New classes are about to start this fall and include:

So go forth and upgrade your computing education. 
Evolve and ride the relevance wave!



edX: College-quality computer science education


A soft  drum roll can be heard throughout the realm. It slowly grows louder as a herald appears on your screen. The Announcer sounds her trumpet, clears her throat. Drums stop and she exclaims:

    - "The blog heretofore known as 'Damien Learns Perl' is now to be referred to as 'Damien Learns Programming'. This broader title means greater variety and more life (or so it is hoped) to the speculations and musings of an eternal student of computer programming."

Crowd cheers.

    - "No camel was hurt in this process. Go home and spread the good word."

The herald lets out a content sigh then disappears in a puff.


-------

I feel like writing about other topics than just Perl. I contemplated starting a new blog for a few seconds but it made more sense to give a new direction to this site.


Evolve or become irrelevant

This could be the motto of the computing/computer science/IT industry.
Tools keep popping out of thin air, new programming languages are invented, operating systems evolve rapidly, new devices appear that can be programmed, etc.
Those changes answer people's ever demanding requests.

You want to keep up but how to go about updating your skills?

The best motivator is to build something that you need. When my wife became pregnant, I started to build a "Baby Tracker" app to learn C++ and to keep tab on the baby's vaccination schedule, teeth growth, stool color, etc. I eventually abandoned the project because (believe it or not) taking actual care of my first daughter became a higher priority. By the time I had bandwidth again, the "baby tracker" need was moot.
Having a purpose makes you want to keep learning and carry on after you have hit a few too many obstacles.

This self-learning path resembles an obstacle course: the end line is visible but you first have to jump over all those hurdles to attain it.

Another way to learn new skills is through online education. Several sites already exist that put emphasis on learning in a fun way:

  • Codecademy (for beginning web programmers)
  • Khan Academy (originally created to teach mathematics but now proposing many subjects, including computer science)
  • Memrise (to help you learn vocabulary for new languages, including programming languages)
  • LCodeTHW (despite its name, offers a great way to start learning about programming)
  • etc.
Those are quality sites and I encourage you to visit them if you are looking for a first acquaintance with a new topic.
However, I want to share here something that I am truly excited about: online computer science college-quality education for free. Back in 2000 I got involved in the PEOI project whose mission was to bring professional education online to the masses (provided access to an internet link). The site still exists but the design has not evolved since its creation and course content was created by volunteers. Its noble goal though has found a champion today: edX.


Get a quality education

edX is a joint online interactive educational project from MIT, Berkeley and Harvard University, some of the best US universities. You can earn certificates along with knowledge. New classes are about to start this fall and include:

So go forth and upgrade your computing education. 
Evolve and ride the relevance wave!



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rebel Code

I just finished reading "Rebel Code" by Glyn Moody and I really enjoyed it so here's a short review.
"Rebel Code" is an older book which relates the story of high profile Open Source projects from the beginning of the free software movement up until 2001.
I picked it up at a local Atlanta library and I had little idea about what I was going to find inside. I saw that it talked about the story of GNU/Linux and that was enough to arouse my curiosity.
The book is a great read for those wanting a short history of Open Source development. The author did a good job transitioning between various stories (The Free Software Foundation, Linux, Perl, etc.) and the result is a fun and instructive read. I finished it in 4 days.
It makes me want to read an hypothetical volume two that would span from 2001 up to the present day.

I highly recommend "Rebel Code - Inside Linux and the Open Source revolution" to all those who want to learn about the mythical free software coding feats, all the way from Richard Stallman's and Linus Torvald's first works.


Rebel Code

I just finished reading "Rebel Code" by Glyn Moody and I really enjoyed it so here's a short review.
"Rebel Code" is an older book which relates the story of high profile Open Source projects from the beginning of the free software movement up until 2001.
I picked it up at a local Atlanta library and I had little idea about what I was going to find inside. I saw that it talked about the story of GNU/Linux and that was enough to arouse my curiosity.
The book is a great read for those wanting a short history of Open Source development. The author did a good job transitioning between various stories (The Free Software Foundation, Linux, Perl, etc.) and the result is a fun and instructive read. I finished it in 4 days.
It makes me want to read an hypothetical volume two that would span from 2001 up to the present day.

I highly recommend "Rebel Code - Inside Linux and the Open Source revolution" to all those who want to learn about the mythical free software coding feats, all the way from Richard Stallman's and Linus Torvald's first works.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Google AI Challenge, Fall 2011 edition

It is this time of the year again. Google has set up its Fall 2011 Artificial Intelligence (AI) challenge.
The goal is to protect your ant hill and gather food while destroying the enemy's hills.

There are starter packages for 25 languages, including Perl, for Windows and Linux environments.

The contest closes on December 18th. Submit your best efforts to move Perl up the rankings!
Here is the ranking table for Perl, there were 35 entries at the moment this post was written with a best position of 198th by grand_sbor.