Archive for category Boring Stuff

Which Programming Language Should I Learn?

This question is asked by many new aspiring programmers. There's been many different answers to this question. Some people explain that the language isn't as important as a basic understanding of algorithms and programming paradigms. I agree with this, but it's no the complete picture.

What are you going to be doing with your programming skill? Are you going to use it to obtain a full-time job? Are you going to use it to work on your own projects in your free time? Many people would answer that they have some great app idea that they want to implement. Others can't even tell you why they want to learn to program.

If you are planning to make money in some way from your new skill, you'll probably want to look into which languages are most in demand. For instance, I program in PHP and Javascript because that seems to be what I can find the most work doing. The slippery slope of this is that you eventually move into specializing in a specific language even more. If you are working with PHP as a full time job, you rarely have an opportunity to explore new languages. You're also unable to claim experience in other languages because you've spent years working with one in particular.

So, my advice is to explore other languages as often as possible. If you are starting out, pick a language that has a lot of online discussion. Something like Java or Python would do nicely. These are well supported, very commonly discussed, and are easy enough to learn. Use this first language to learn specific things about programming. You can learn the syntax of the language as you learn algorithms and paradigms. Explore the language enough to understand the concepts of programming. You don't have to become an expert in the language, but you should focus on understanding the abstract ideas used in modern programming.

I started out learning Perl and Bash scripting a long time ago. I soon changed over to VBScript and VB.NET because I was working for a Microsoft shop and needed to do some scripting and app development. I lacked a lot of the basic knowledge that I should have been working on, but I thought that I needed to learn languages.

A language is nothing more than a set of syntactical rules for structuring your thoughts. Think of learning French. You could teach someone all the words needed to speak French. You could teach them how to structure a sentence, but that isn't enough for the person to know how to communicate. Take this English sentence as an example:

You jumped over the computer.

It's a complete sentence. It has a subject, a verb, and is a complete thought. However it wouldn't make sense if you were to say that after being asked:

Are you coming over after work?

You have all the necessary skills to create a full working sentence, but you have no idea how to communicate with another human. That is similar to learning a programming language. You can write "Hello, World", but can you do something as simple as writing a recursive algorithm? Can you find more efficient ways to do things? There's a lot more to programming than the language. The language is only important later on when you need to choose a better tool for a specific task. You may need to write a website with a lot of real time interactions. NodeJS. You may want to write a game for iOS. Objective C or Swift. You may need to write an Android app. Java. You may need to write some mission critical optimized system code. C, C++, or Assembly. You may need to interface with some off the wall E-Ticket system and generate some Excel reports on a Windows-only domain. VBScript or .NET.

The point is unless you are in the same job for the rest of your life and the world doesn't change, you'll probably end up needing to know a dozen or so languages at least. An introduction to programming, should be in pure pseudocode, because I think beginning programmers get too caught up in the language and miss the more important details of programming that is being taught.

At the same time, I've had introductory to programming type classes that I look back on now and realize that the teachers had no idea what they were trying to teach. They didn't even understand the concepts themselves enough to explain them to someone else.

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Another Music Post

The other day I wrote an alcohol-influenced post about music in video games and movies. I have another observation about music in regard to television shows. Today I started watching Star Trek: Enterprise on Netflix. This series was canceled after four seasons. After only a few episodes, I can say that I really like the show, and I wonder why it failed as a series.

Of course, you can probably guess where I'm going with this if you've ever seen the show. The opening title music is terrible. It's terrible enough to kill the show. The song isn't so bad on it's own merit, but it's awful for a Star Trek series. The theme music for the original Star Trek and the Next Generation was great. Why didn't they work on a form of that same theme. A variant which sounded either older, clumsier, or simpler, perhaps a single instrument rendition of the theme, would have been better. I feel, it would have made a difference in the overall show performance.

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Getting rid of Hiccups

I found a secret to the universe some years ago as I discovered the secret to getting rid of hiccups. I could tell you how to do it, but I can't. The reason I can't tell you right now is because I'm intoxicated by Samuel Adams Boston Lager. When I'm drunk, I can't control my hiccups. It's the only time I can't control my hiccups by the way. It's a good indicator that I've been drinking too much. At any rate, when I'm sober, it's easy to control my hiccups. It consists primarily with controlling my breathing. You must take deep controlled breaths and make sure that you concentrate on the exhalation of air. It has to be slow and controlled. You have to concentrate on breathing hard and holding the hiccups back. It's hard for me to describe how it's done at the moment because I'm drunk and unable to perform the task, but it will be something that I can talk about more in later posts. This is no old-wives-tell cure for hiccups. I can honestly stop hiccups at will.

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Edwin Jagger DE89 Review

I've written about my experience with double-edge safety razors in the past, but I felt that I should write another post detailing the advantages of the safety razor over the popular multi-bladed razors of today. You could chalk it up to growing old, but I've realized that a lot of the technology of the past was superior to the modern technology. This is especially true when it comes to razors.

Shaving is one of those fascinating things for the young. I remember wondering what it was like to shave when I was a kid. It seemed like fun. As far back as I can remember, my dad used an electric razor. So, when I grew up, that was what I first tried. Electric razors are great when you first buy them. They don't shave as close as other methods but they are at least simple. I found that after a few uses, they more or less just ripped the hairs out rather than cutting them. They also require lots of cleaning and make a mess.

So I switched to Gillette Sensors. This was one of the first multi-bladed razors, and I liked the results. I would get ingrown hairs and slight irritation, but I was younger then and it didn't bother me that much.

Then I started losing my hair, and I promised myself at an early age that if I ever started going bald that I would help the process along and just start shaving my head. So I started shaving myhead. My hair is very thin on top now but the sides are still rather thick, which makes shaving difficult in those areas at times.

The problem with shaving your head is that ingrown hairs suck on your head. So that problem became a major issue for me. I started reading around and found that the cause of the ingrown hairs was the type of razor I was using.

Multi-bladed razors were advertised as having the ability to raise the hair up before cutting it. This process causes the hair to be cut below the top of the skin. When the hair grows back, it can sometimes grown back into the skin at an angle, especially in areas where the grain of the hair goes in various directions. I have this problem on the back and front of my neck. If I let these hairs grow out, I would have an areas of curly hair.

So I switched to a double-edged safety razor back in September, and I've had great results.

Advantages

Safety razors are good solid tools. The one I bought is chrome and very solid. It is a Edwin Jagger DE89. It is the first and probably the only safety razor I'll ever buy. I bought it, a bar of shaving soap, 100 blades, and a badger hair brush for around $50. That sounds like a high price for a razor, but I've not had to spend another dime on shaving equipment since then and I won't have to buy anything for at least another year. The soap lasts a long time and costs $1.00 a bar. I'm still using the same bar after more than four months. I've only used around 20 blades or so. One hundred blades costs around $9. I still have a lot of blades and they should last me another year or two. Ten bucks for enough blades to last you over a year is awesome, especially if you've ever bought a 4-pack of MachIII or Fusion blades. So cost is a major advantage with the double-edge.

Another advantage is the shaving experience. I take my time. I pay close attention to the shaving process, and it's relaxing. To me, it turned shaving from a chore into a rewarding activity.  I lather up my face, make a single pass with the grain, wash it off, lather again, make another pass against the grain, wash it off, and then do the same thing for my head. I get a super close shave.

I also don't have a problem with ingrown hairs like I used to. I rarely cut myself. There was one occasion when I was shaving my upper lip sideways and ended up cutting my lip a bit, but that was my fault. I don't shave my upper lip very often, and normally keep a Van Dyck. So I wasn't very used to shaving there. Other than that, I get very little nicks from shaving with a double edge. The main thing is to keep your face wet, your razor wet, add lots of lather, and don't press on the razor. Also, take your time.

Disadvantages

"Take your time" leads me to the one and only disadvantage of shaving with a double-edge razor. It takes longer. Shaving with a multi-bladed razor is really fast. With a double-edge you need to take your time and concentrate on what you are doing more. Some people won't like this, but I very much enjoy the added time. I usually take around 10 - 15 minutes to shave my face and head. I always finish it off with an aftershave lotion (non-alcohol-based).

Conclusion

Like old keyboards, old razors are just better than their modern equivalents. You don't have to buy an old razor though. There are plenty of manufacturers still making double-edge razors. The Edwin Jagger DE89 was the razor I selected after much shopping online, and I have been very pleased with it. The weight makes it feel like a knife through butter when you first shave with it. You may be used to pressing down with a Mach III or Fusion razor. With the Edwin Jagger it'll feel like you are just letting it cut the hair for you at first. I was very happy with it from the beginning, and it hasn't let me down since. I strong recommend it. There are many good double-edge razors on the market, but I know you can't go wrong with the Edwin Jagger DE89.

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So you forgot your router password?

A friend messaged me on Facebook yesterday, because she was trying to connect to her home router but had forgotten the password. She offered to pay me to fix it, but somehow I feel dishonest for taking money from people when their problem is so simple. So, in this blog entry I thought I'd take the time to tell everyone how to quickly fix a problem like this.

Generally speaking, all home routers have a reset in the back. It may be a small button or a recessed pin-hole button. Either way, to reset your router to factory defaults, simple press and hold this button for a few seconds. You can also Google search for your particular router model to find specific details about this. Some routers require the power to be plugged into the router while this is happening. Some require that you hold the button for ten seconds, while other models can be messed up by doing this. Simply search for your router model and find out how to reset it from the manufacturer.

After you have reset the router, you can either login to it using a default login (also available from a Google search of the router model) or you can use the supplied router software to set it back up for your home network.

I know there are plenty of people who make a living at fixing simple things like this for people, but these are really things that people should try to fix themselves. I sense a general fear of technology from a lot of people, and I want to eventually change this. When someone approaches me to fix something for them, I usually judge from experience how much knowledge is required to fix the problem. If it's something that can be fixed with very little knowledge and only the ability to read, I usually point them to another resource. Of course, most people want an expert to fix something so they know that it is done correctly, but most of the technology today isn't geared toward experts. It's geared toward normal users. Sometimes I wish this was not the case, for various reasons.

Such is the case with desktop computers in general. Windows is an OS that can be used by just about anyone, but it's also very easy for anyone to mess up their computer through their actions. The easy desktop is a double edged sword.

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Hard Drives and Rice

In 2008 there was a major rice shortage in the world. Prices surged, and people were hurt/killed. This year (2011) we had another rice shortage, except this time it wasn't a shortage. The world had a surplus of rice, yet the supply was cut off from the consumer. Governments refused to export rice, mainly from fear that they wouldn't have enough for their citizens, but some also stopped exports because they knew they could profit from a shortage under-the-table. Some government officials in Southeast Asia profited by selling their stockpiled rice at very high prices. By stopping their exports, they created a fake shortage. There was plenty of rice to go around. Yet many people couldn't buy rice for their family.

Recently I've been reading about the upcoming hard drive shortage. Thailand, one of the world's largest manufacturers of hard drives has been suffering from heavy flooding. This has created a shortage. There's no doubt about it. However, that shortage was projected to increase prices by around 10%. Instead, tech merchants started sounding an alarm that there was about to be a major shortage, and prices have jumped by as much as 180%. Many people I know are rushing to buy hard drives that they don't actually need, just to avoid paying much higher prices for them later. This is a terrible time to buy hard drives. Sure their prices will be higher for a few quarters but eventually they'll drop back down to what they are now. In fact, they'll probably plummet as soon as production kicks back in to top gear. There will be a huge surplus of drives as everyone realizes they don't really need as many as they bought. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Weight Loss Time

About four years ago, I gave up drinking as a hobby. I was drinking around a 12-pack per day. I had been doing that for about three years is my best guess. I didn't give up drinking altogether. I just stop drinking daily. I actually haven't had a drink in a few months, and before then it was months since I'd had one. So, all-in-all I'm completely broken from that habit.

That was my first goal. Once I was able to go months without drinking, I decided it would be a good time to stop smoking. That was my primary goal. I knew that, as long as I was still drinking, I would never be able to stop smoking. So, I went to my company's nurse practitioner and she set me up with a prescription to Chantix.

Now, I don't have an affiliation with Chantix. I make nothing from saying this. That medicine was awesome. I went into the whole thing thinking I'd like to quit smoking. I wasn't very determined. I just thought it would be a good idea to try. Maybe I really had more determination than I thought. Who knows? At any rate, I started taking the Chantix and set my quit date for a week into the treatment. This is how I was instructed to do it. Within three days of taking the Chantix, I stopped smoking. I didn't even finish the whole week. Smoking started to make me nauseous. I continued to take the Chantix for about three weeks. The instructions I received were to keep taking it for at least two months. I couldn't handle the sick feelings I got from it, and I was certain I had quit smoking for good.

That was September 13, 2008. I have smoked half a cigarette since then. I hated it. Now I'm smoke-free but I have a new problem.

At the time I quit smoking, I was working in an office position. I was already gaining weight from that. I'm about 5'9" and when I quit smoking I was up to 220 lbs. Within four months of quitting, I was up to 240 lbs. My weight equalised at that point. That is much heavier than I've ever been. Just 6 years ago, I was around 180 lbs. Three years before that, I was around 150 lbs. So, less than a decade ago, I was around 90 lbs lighter than I am today.

I know it's corny, but my new years resolution is to loss weight. I'm cutting my calorie intake down to less than 1200 per day, and I'm jumping on the treadmill twice a day for no less than 100 calories burned each time. Also, my calorie intake has to be limited to mostly snacks of 100 calories or less spaced out at least one hour apart. There will be exceptions to this and I'm not going to kill myself trying to stick to these rules but those are my general rules for the weight loss program. I'll probably be eating lots of tuna straight. Hopefully I can stick to this. It's about the only thing left for me to fix about myself.

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