Monthly Archives: July 2012

Unit 11: Post-php thoughts

Well, I feel a little sad now that I finished the last assignment with my virtual practice machine! This last unit,

And here you can see my dorky cat nickname query in its full glory.

And here you can see my dorky cat nickname query in its full glory.

11, was creating some simple php queries for last week’s mysql database assignment. I wanted to make sure I was understanding the syntax, so after I finished the assignment, I went back and did it again with my silly cat database that I made in unit 10.

Looking back on the semester, I can’t believe how much more confident I feel working with all of the LAMP tools. None of it was completely new to me, but the practical exercises starting from the beginning really cemented how everything interrelates, and filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. It also helped me clarify what gaps are remaining: I could tell that the php I was working with in this assignment wasn’t ready for a real website, and I could tell what kind of research I’d have to do regarding security and hardening an actual server. That doesn’t mean that I’m now an expert, or qualified to implement this stuff right away, but it means I know the right questions to ask someone who knows what they’re doing, and also the right questions to eventually become a person who knows what I’m doing. I’m really excited for 675, and to take this new knowledge further.

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Unit 10: MySQL, the sequel

Okay, I’m just going to come right out and admit it: I really enjoyed this week’s assignment. I know that admitting you like database work is probably right on par with saying your dream job’s accounting, or that you would rather read a book than go hang-gliding, but whatever, I do like it. Just like with working with any programming language, there’s the puzzle, and then the little rush from figuring out the puzzle. (This is also why I enjoy Unix and cryptography, which is probably right up there with database work, but whatever.) But beyond enjoying that, there’s something deeply satisfying about organizing things *exactly the way I want*. Which, with MySQL, you do twice: when you create the database, and when you query it.

Don’t get me wrong: this was not one of the easier weeks. It reminded me of another class where I ended up spending hours trying to figure out why my Base queries were returning duplicate results. But I can definitely see myself spending more time with databases in the future. Hey, I bet Indiana Jones loved databases.

P.S. Is it horribly stereotypical that I made a database of cats I know? Oh dear. I think I need to get a tattoo or something.

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Unit 9: Databases

This was probably the most interesting week for me so far. I can definitely see myself doing database work in the future, and although I’ve worked with databases a little bit (for example, I had to create a simple Open Office Base database in 515, and I’ve had to do some SQL queries), I haven’t learned much of the theory behind them. We didn’t really touch on normalizing, for example, beyond the importance of having a primary key. I really liked the video tutorials I watched, and definitely plan on revisiting the rest of them.

I guess the hardest part this week was not having hands-on practice or having a real scenario to create a database for. I tried to imagine something, but in real life, I’m sure there are a lot of things that go into the planning aspect that wouldn’t occur to me, because of my lack of experience with it.

Learning that the SQL language is derived from tuple relational calculus was really interesting, too. I have always found higher math intimidating; because I was an English and Creative Writing major, I never had to take math beyond trig. But knowing that hey, I’ve been able to use SQL databases before and the language doesn’t seem totally foreign to me is a really empowering thought. It made me wonder whether, if I went back to school, if some of the stuff I’ve studied with programming languages would make math less intimidating for me — maybe understanding its applications would help me conceptualize it better.

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Unit 8: Technology Plans

In this week’s reading, I found Chabrow’s discussion of government IT failures and lessons learned (available at http://www.informationweek.com/news/174401550) to be oddly comforting. In my experience working at and volunteering for a public and an academic library, respectively, I have been disappointed with a lot of the IT realities in those organizations. Knowing that this is a common experience throughout government organizations, even ones very different and better-funded, was a relief, in that it means that these common problems will probably be solved by other governmental agencies (perhaps by lessons learned in the corporate world), and libraries won’t necessarily have to discover their own workable solutions, but merely adopt others’.

I hope to be involved in technology planning activities after I graduate, certainly, but I also see this information coming in handy if I end up being invited to join the new electronic resources task force that my library system is putting together. Familiarity with best practices and pitfalls alike will surely help as the team evaluates usage metrics, markets, and plans electronic resource acquisitions.

 

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Unit 7: XML strikes back

Last semester, I took IRLS 588, XML and the Semantic Web. This week’s assignment was a good refresher for me. A number of the resources we were assigned for this class had been part of that one (including the reading on attributes vs. elements, the w3cschools tutorials, and so on). Side note: I know that the latter gets ragged on a lot due to not actually being affiliated with the W3C standards (see http://w3fools.com/ for a good overview of the controversy), but at least in those XML tutorials, especially the XSLT ones, the ability to do in-browser edits is really really nice and helpful. Someone should make a competitive website that does it better, right? I’m hoping Codecademy will get there eventually.

So after doing a general review (I didn’t do anything super fancy, since the assignment was just a plain document, no stylesheet or namespace etc.), I decided to spend some time reviewing the hardest part of that class, for me at least: namespaces. I think that some of the other stuff covered (to a smaller extent in this class, and to a greater extent in that one), like XPath and XSLT, was easier for me because it was similar to other stuff I’d worked with before. XPath was very similar to doing SQL queries, and doing CSS with XSLT was something that I was embarrassingly familiar with from the days of Myspace. However, nothing ever really prepared me for, say, importing the dc namespace, and wrapping my head around which elements and attributes to use and not to use and how. I was a little disappointed to find that the video tutorials on UACBT didn’t really help advance my understanding of this tricky topic. Of course, there’s only so much you can cover in a quick intro course, and I’m sure those videos would have been a godsend last semester!

Still no practice machine to update on the status of, sadly. My VM and ssh skills certainly got a good workout this unit anyway!

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