Expanding My Skillset

wordpress_bookIf there’s one thing that working in IT has taught me, it’s that learning is never over.  The minute you stop learning, your value to potential employers drops dramatically.  Instead, one must constantly expand one’s horizons and learn new things.

Recently, my company bought me some books on WordPress and web development.  Though I know how to work in WordPress, these covered areas I had never gotten involved in but meant to such as developing themes and plugins from scratch.

One day, during a very rare end-of-day lull, I decided to crack open "WordPress Plugin Development Cookbook."  Within minutes, I had the basics down and was developing my own plugin.  No, it wasn’t fully functional, but the path to that was laid before me and it looked like it was a short path indeed.

Now my head is buzzing with WordPress plugin ideas (both for work and as side projects).  I can’t wait to apply the knowledge I’ve already gained and I can"t wait to finish the book and gain even more knowledge.

Do you often make it a point to learn new things?  If so, what have you learned recently?

The Joys of Debugging

debug_computerOver the past month, I’ve had a problem.  Every morning, at around 9am, my server would slow down to a crawl.  I didn’t know what was causing it, but I must admit I was a bit excited.  You see, I could tell that I was going to have a fun time debugging.

Maybe it’s the geek in me, but I LOVE a good debugging session.  It’s like computer detective work.  There’s a problem somewhere and you need to uncover it.  You round up some suspects, test them out, and narrow down the culprit.

Sometimes, your first round of suspects reveals the guilty party, but sometimes you need to dig deeper.  When this happens, you start searching the Internet.  Maybe someone else has had this problem.  Perhaps there is information on how to uncover more clues.  Either way, you are bound to learn something new.

Finally, the root cause is discovered and a fix is devised.  It is put into place and the problem goes away.  Another solution discovered and your skillset is expanded.

At the time of this writing, I’m not sure if I’ve found the problem.  I’ll need to wait at least one more day to find out if the daily slowdowns continue.  If they have, I’ll have found the answer to a very complicated riddle.  If not, I’ll keep at it.  A degree a stubbornness is essential to debugging, but it helps when you enjoy the process.

NOTE: The image above is a combination of Ant by Andy and Cartoon Computer and Desktop by DTRave.  Both images are available from OpenClipArt.org.

Pickle Weasel Fun

Yesterday, B downloaded and installed a new app onto her iPad: The Pickle Weasel App.

When I had a moment, I quickly snagged her iPad to try it out.  I haven’t tried everything yet, but I did test out the drawing games.  I like how you get a partial picture (either Pickle Weasel or something else) and are prompted to complete the drawing.

For example, my first drawing involved making a carrot look drunk.

drunk_carrot

"I’m not (hic) drunk.  I’m just perflic— perfack— (hic) pefufflely… I’m fine. (hic)"

 

After the carrot, I drew a pickle pirate.

pirate_pickle

Looks like he found his gold. ARRR!!

But wait… What happened to the guy who was guarding the gold?

flesh_wound

I’m sure he’ll be fine.  He just needs a band-aid.  Or thirty.

For my last picture, I sent Pickle Weasel into space.  He was almost perfectly prepared for his trip.  I think I forgot one thing… I just can’t remember what it is.

 

pickles_in_space

As you can see, JC Little – creator of Pickle Weasel and artist-extraordinaire – has nothing to fear from my skills.  I think I’ll keep my day job.  I will, however, have some Pickle Weasel fun on the iPad.  Assuming, that is, that I can get it away from my wife and kids.  (Translation: I shall never get to use it again.)

A Backup Plan

backupYesterday, I wrote about how a DMCA takedown notice was maliciously used to take down legitimate content.  I recommended backing your site to your local computer.  But how do you protect against your computer dying?  After all, your computer might be safe from a DMCA takedown notice, but it encounters all sorts of dangers.  A virus could infect it.  The hard drive might die of old age.  A power surge might fry it.  And if your computer goes belly up, it can mean you lose a lot of data as well (photos, documents, etc).

So what is the best method to avoid digital catastrophe?  I used to burn my data to CD discs.  Since each CD stores 700MB, this can be a good method if you don’t have much data to back up.  You can get a 100 pack of CD-R discs for under $21.

After awhile, I found that I was using too many CDs to easily back up my data so I switched to DVD discs.  Each DVD stores 4.7GB and you can get a 100 pack of DVD discs for under $25.

Of course, as time went on, I found I needed to back up to multiple DVD discs.  This meant that backing up my computer was becoming less and less easy to accomplish.  As it became more difficult, I found I was putting off backing up – a dangerous situation.  Considering that external hard drives are always increasing capacity and dropping in price (you can buy a 3TB hard drive for about $130), I purchased an external hard drive and moved my data there.

Thankfully, when one of my computers experience hard drive failure, my data was safe.  It got me thinking that my external hard drive wasn’t a perfect solution, however.  If that external drive died, it would take all of my data with it.

My solution was to purchase a second 1TB hard drive.  Now, I back our computers up to one drive and back up that drive to the second one.  If one drive dies, the other drive will keep our data safe.  Of course, to make this a near-perfect backup solution, I should move one of the drives "off site" to protect against burglary or fire.

Most recently, I’ve noticed that my 1TB drives are filling up.  It looks like I’m going to have to buy a bigger drive.

What is your backup plan?

NOTE: The links above are Amazon affiliate links.  I will receive a small compensation if you use them to make a purchase.  Also, the "backup" image above is composed of "Cartoon Computer and Desktop" from DTRave and "Hard Disk" by richardomaia.  Both images are available from OpenClipArt.org.

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