Monday, 29 June 2009

Results for HND

Got results for my HND through now. I did quite well so I am pleased now. I found most of the course fairly easy but the final year Software Development Project was a bit of a bitch. Obviously, as with any programmer, the easy bit is writing the software and the hard bit is the write up.

Got 93% (1st) for it anyway so I can now relax.......

Ah relax! What a joke. You know that will never happen. I am still doing the UCPD and also need to sort out the Masters application ( I have had an acceptance email but not the official letter yet).

Still working on the Emarketing course at the moment. The course is really good but I have been on them for quite a while and my only worry is that my work are getting a bit bored of my day release shenanigans. I am still yet to find the inspiration to help my company though. I think much of the course is based around having traditional services or products to sell. It's often not that simple with Software though.

I have one more course to do after this and although I have agreed with work it would be the SEO course I am wondering whether it would be more prudent to do the graphics for web course.

Anyway we will see. For now Im just happy with my results today.

Ah just before I forget, got this in a tweet today. Seems like some good advice on CSS. Take a look if you get a chance...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Ubuntu Server or not


Ah I really want to have a mess about with a LAMP set up as I have no experience of setting one up or of working with PHP. Not that I want to move into that realm properly as I love ASP.NET stuff too much I think (even though some peeps would say that the Drag and Drop stuff is evil).

I think a basic appreciation of the dark side would be really good as if I ever wanted to host my own stuff I could save a serious amount of money buy using PHP instead of ASP.NET.

I have a day off today but just don't know if I can bring myself to get busy setting one up. I have a spare computer that is just sitting there waiting to be used. Argh!!! but age of Conan is also so tempting.

Better go and get some coffee and decide. For the time being I am just reading up on some AI theory with Artificial Intelligence: A modern approach it really is a good textbook!

That said I think I am prepared to do anything that does not invoplve tidying up my messy house and doing some washing. The washing machine is currently broken and I need to empty the water out of it (old washing machine water is one of the original machinations of Bealzebob, it smells so bad I begin to cry every time I have to do it. My desk has also got so cluttered that I can barley think. Ugh. Perhaps it is time to get a cleaner. I think it would only be about £20 a week. Might mention it to my fiance later (note to Dom: high five yourself on such a good idea!).

My messy desk ->

Monday, 22 June 2009

VBA Data Connection Problems

Although I try and avoid the use of VBA now where I can. It can still come in really handy for the occasional app.
I created a reporting tool that collects stats from various web pages that we have and then displays them in a way that is nice and client friendly. Apart from a couple of niggles it works really well. The biggest problem I find when programming Excel with VBA is that when something changes it can be a bit of a pain to make the changes in VBA to cope with it (such as a design change in the spreadsheet, moving of columns ect.. ).
We are moving over to a new project management / development tool at the moment and as a result my report has had to change what data it collects and where from. Whilst making the change I realised that I had made a foolish error and was not properley cleaning up my data connections when finishing the update (not to mention a couple of other problems). I had been deleting the connections but not the named ranges when doing the tidy up. Anyway, in case anybody else has had this problem something like this should do the trick in the future...



First you delete the connections to the various sites / databases that you have, then you delete the named ranges you have. Obviously if there are named ranges you have that you don't want to be deleted you would need to put in the for next an if statement to step over the ones you want to keep.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Paired Programming

Have a day off today and just having a quick sit at the pc. Have been doing paired programming at work. Something I have been reading about in Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck.

I think it has been working out really well. We took it in turns to write code with one doing the the tests and the other satisfying the tests. Whilst this is undoubtedly good practice I find it strange that it has to get a special mention in programming circles in a way. When I was doing CAD and estimating work we would always sit together, work out the costs, draw it up together and talk about what we were doing ect. I think that was one of the fundamental reasons why I learnt so much about construction in a small space of time.

I definitely think the paired programming gave me a better understanding of how to approach Test Driven Development. Up to now I have approached unit testing the other way round by writing my code and then writing unit tests to cover it. I think that is the main reason why my unit tests did not have full code coverage. The other great thing about paired programming is the confidence it gives you in your code. You have written your tests, they pass and someone has looked over it at the same time. Gives you a very good feeling that nasty defects aren't going to bite you in the ass in 3 months time. I hate that question around the office "who wrote this crap piece of code" and all you can do is close your eyes and say "please don't make it me!"

Course updates

Overview
If you know me then you will know I am a big fan of doing courses. I never stop! The latest in my summer of CPD is the Emarketing course from Axis Centre in Nottingham through De Montfort Uni. It forms part of the UCPD I have been studying towards over the summer. I have started it today and it is one day per week until the end of July.

On another note, I have been looking at what course I was going to do next year in September. I currently have a HND in Computing but have found it almost impossible to do the Top Up to the Bsc (Hons) in the evening. It's really annoying. The universities sometimes have no idea about the needs of people working in business. Anyway, the reason I wanted to do the top up was so I could finally get on to my long awaited Masters course in Artificial Intelligence. Just on the off chance after someone at work suggested it to me, I applied directly to do the Masters at DMU and sent along my CV ect.. I got an email back last Friday saying they felt I would be very suitable for the course so I am really really pleased! I hopefully start that in September (providing I get all the official paperwork sorted out in time). I will begin work on Skynet 2.0 immediately!!!!!

Emarketing Course
As said I started this today. First impressions are that it will be really good. The training was delivered in a fast to the point and punchy style that I like and not in an airy fairy academic way that lacks any really content. It looks like a lot of the course will be about promoting yourself using the social media and trying to harness your customers to collaborate on the content of your site. The message they are getting across really is the one I like and is very relevant. My only concern is I am not sure yet how we can apply it to our business. One thing I though about today was that our own internal project management tool has better features and looks better than our outward facing website. Crazy I know! I also had the embarrassing thing of where people asked to look at our site and as our site is so fat and full of crazy things, it took about an hour to load up and even then appeared very buggy on the screen. Not cool! As many of the people on these courses are crying out for development people and our company could easily clean up with them. God! We have got to fix it quick.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Professional Membership

I have just applied for professional membership from the BCS (British Computer Society). They are a professional body that looks over the UK IT industry. They have quite a few members (approx 65,000). Although there are other IT professional bodies (IAP and IMIS for example), I feel that the BCS represents IT a little better.

I have been a student member for some time and although I haven't really got the most out of it as of yet. I think the biggest problem with this sort of thing is that there are so many people in IT against it. It's a rather strange industry in that sense. Other industries have well established professional bodies and have chartered levels that people try to attain. For example accountants always strive to become chartered. I think perhaps some people in IT don't want to be regulated because they don't want their unprofessional conduct revealed.

People seem to automatically think of these organisations as out to get you or out to steal your money or holding some secret meetings about mass cover ups. In reality the BCS is what people make of it. It is just a collection of professionals in the IT industry that are trying to help legislate and develop IT. The legislation side is both concerned with protecting people from fraudsters in IT and from unfair practices in IT (every has known at least one crazy IT person that has abused their powers) and also to help protect the industry (from things such as outsourcing). I in no way speak for them so these are just my ideas.

I have been to a couple of BCS meetings as I mentioned and found them to be interesting to a degree. However not enough people of my ilk attend. This is my only gripe with meetings of this type, you tend to get a lot of business facing fools talking at each other in some hope of generating business for themselves or just patting each other on the back. I think one point to make is that the BCS meetings don't really discuss relevant topics in a fast paced technologist way. As an example I went to one meeting regarding Second Life and how it could be used in business. The presentation was a little empty with no real meat in the content and by that time second life had just become a joke. If you want to do the social media thing check out the twitters, the facebooks the blogs and things like that. That said it's up to the members to direct what the meetings are about. It may be worth keeping an eye out for any interesting lectures they may hold. The one I go to is the Nottingham and Derby Branch which is in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

On the subject of meetings, last week I went to a good meeting called Nott Tuesday which is held in the centre of Nottingham on a monthly basis. It is hosted by a company called Essendex (which my girlfriend works for actualy). The subject was Agile programming and so I found it really interesting, they talked about much of the things I am currently reading about in a book about extreme programming at the moment. Met some new people and had a few drinks. It completely contrasted with the meetings at the BCS in that I felt the people realy knew what they were on about and were talking about current topics. I don't know whether I learnt anything but talking about these subjects keeps it in the forefront of your mind which is where it should be!

Another set of meetings (held on a Thursday monthly) is the Axis Centre meetings, which are held through the Axis training centre in Nottingham. I am yet to attend one of these but have the feeling they may be good. The next one is next Thursday. I'll let you know how it goes if I can make it.

So busy

Ugh finished one course but am still currently engaged in another course. It's called a UCPD (university certificate in professional development) through De Montfort Uni. The place where they do the training is called the Axis Centre in Beeston Nottingham. They offer quite a few different courses and if you do a certain amount of them it adds up to this UCPD.

The reason why I am doing this UCPD is that I have decided to make an effort to to some continuing professional development every summer. Not to mention it means I get one day off work per week for a while :-)

I did an MCP course there a couple of years ago and they are very professional and know thier stuff. One thing I find really annoying is the complete and utter lack of reasonable priced professional courses in the Nottinghamshire area that people can attend to develop thier skills in IT.

I am not talking about doing an A-Level or even at HNC/HND level, but short courses that are aimed at professionals trying to develop thier skills. Castle College do a couple of community evening classes on Dreamweaver but I recently found at they are still advocating the arcance use of tables for layout of sites ect.. Whilst this is ok for people in the community it's not really good enough for people in business.

It got me thinking that I might do a basic teaching qualification such as the City and Guild 7303 and then try and do some part time teaching in the evenings if I can. Who knows. I am not sure yet even if there is anyone interested in it but I think I would like to find out.

The other thing I think would be good is to go round schools and do a workshop, something like 'Coding is Cool'. Try and get some young people into programming and not just wanting to study Media Studies (argh!!). I thought I could demonstrate some of the cools things you can do by using an example out of this book or something like it anyway.

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