Saturday, 21 May 2011

PHP Pandemonium

Like lots of geeky engineers we have all put together web pages at one point or another. Most of us have come to grips with HTML but lots of degree students are having to complete a unit on PHP with little or no help.
So about four years ago I got myself a old PC and loaded a Linux server onto it and started playing around with hosting my own web site on it. As part of this I found PHP and started to teach myself it along with learning a bit of MySQL.
I was then lucky enough to be part of a recognised course on PHP, SQL and XML at work. This course was great as I could expand on what I had already learned myself and understand more about the options available. PHP is a lot like C in my option so found it really easy to pick up having been programming in C for nearly 20 years now.
However programming takes time. Its not just about learning syntax but also about learning a new way of thinking. So I was really surprised when I was first approached by a uni student though work who asked for help in writing PHP pages that access a MySQL database and display results. My horror was however the lack of help and support the student got.
The course they were taking was a business degree so firstly wondered why they were doing this unit at all. What I found is that there appear to be a number of core units these students go though including learning logic gates.! WTF.? Anyway I now seam to keep bumping into these students now and each time with the same comment - please help!
My issue is not with helping them - I enjoy teaching this stuff even if I’m not a expert PHP programmer. My issue is that the Uni’s are not helping or supporting them to get though it. There appears to be a major lack of guidance of where to start and how to go about programming in PHP. Then once you try adding on layers of HTML and SQL its can all get very confusing very quickly. I can understand that at Uni you should do a lot of research and self learning but come on guys - talk about in the deep end!
My other point I’d like to make is that I have found that each of these students has been put off doing any HTML, PHP or SQL programming ever again. Is this what the Uni’s are trying to do, turn people away from engineering skills?
Engineering really is fun you know and for anyone who has been turned off programming or any engineering - well that because you had crap lectures with no passion!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Return of the Engineer | Error 404

Its been some time since I last posted a blog on here so I guessed it was about time I got back on here.

For anyone that has followed me closely on twitter will know that I’ve been doing a lot of in house training. This has been an opportunity for me to show our sales and technical the full details of our products. Its not like they did not know already but I was allowed to go into a much higher level of detail as to how they work. For some it was all shinny and new, as we have a number of new people on board.

From my point of view its been hard work. I’m an engineer after all so not one for writing training material and standing up doing death by power point. However everyone was happy with what I did and I can say that we, and that includes me, have all learned a lot from the 6 months and 200+ hours I’ve done!

So now that's all out the way I’ve got back to spending time at work as an engineer! YAY ME! and talk about back in the deep end. I now have a major project to get done and few hours left between now and the deadline. So on Monday its going to be full on and I’m looking forward to it!

The other thing I wanted to comment on is our dependence on the Internet now. Friday it may have not passed you by to notice it was the 13th. So to stop the bad luck I filled my bike up at pump number 13. However it seams that Friday the 13th was planning on getting at millions of us.

The first I noticed was that I could no log into blogger. The site was not down but all blogs were offline. There was no hacking of accounts as i had first guessed or DoS attach but natural, if you can call it that, engineering IT issues. According to the official blogger page this outage was caused by maintenance which damaged some data and they then spent ages fixing it - I can just imagine the team of engineers working on this and the Oh Sh.... moment when they saw what had happened.

Latter that day I noticed that twitter started to be serving up lots of images of whales, ie over capacity. After doing a bit of a search I found that lots of people were also getting little or no response from the twitter servers. It also transpired that YouTube also seamed for many to be down too. One comment on twitter read “first blogger and now twitter and youtube, what the hell is happening!” which is funny as they posted it on twitter so it was not down.!?

It seams that none of these sites were effected by any one thing, they just all had their own problems, just all on the same day, Friday the 13th. Thank god they are back online - How would we live without them!