What does the intro image mean? I don’t know. Don’t feel like uploading anything. It’s from the Leisure Times
This is an article on IT Education for Deshan’s Student Times. I’m not sure what his policy is on pre-press posting, but this is read by like 4 Sri Lankans I’m not related to, probably Harsha, Nalaka, and Chanuka. Plus I think that online content is a better advertiser for offline stuff than anything else. But not really my decision. As a carrot I will ceremonially beat down www.srilanka.com for plagiarizing D’s shit. He can be assured that Chanuka, Nalaka, and Harsha will never go there again.
As true Sri Lankans, www.srilanka.com has completely lifted listings from The Leisure Times. Srilanka.com is a traditional Sri Lankan site with 1997 design and the standard animated gifs that give small children seizures. Usually Sri Lankan websites steal stupid shit, so this may actually be a positive thing. Herein is the text of Deshan’s email:
below is content written by leah and myself sometime in 2002. there’s a site called www.srilanka.com that’s stolen it and is running it on their page. it even looks like the shameless, lazy sods have stolen our listings heirarchy. here’s a few samples.
Details: With verve and grace Koluu’s took its place in Colombo’s plethora of fine dining establishments in late 2001. With a menu that embraces indonesian, French, Malaysian and haute cuisine amongst others you can eat at Koluu’s countless times before you need to cycle through the dished a second time. The restaurant boasts a formidable cocktail list and no drink is served below 50ml. With a very reasonable pricing structure and an in-house bar (see Nightlife for details of the Kiss Kiss Bar) Koluu’s is very popular on the weekends as a preclub warm up. The prawn linguini and cous cous are particularly attractive and the desserts, if you have room for them are splendid. Hours 12 PM – 3 PM, 7 PM – 11 PM on Week Days / 12 PM- 3 PM, 7 PM – 12 PM on Week Ends.
Address : 32B Sir Mohamed Macan Markar, Mawatha, Colombo 3
Phone : 446589
well shit, look at that, here’s another one…
Inexpensive drinks, proper bar stools and lots of people on a Friday night welcome to the Horse.
Details: With a history dating back generations the Horse has been the target of nocturnal groups of young and old seeking a place to drink before they venture out to darker pastures. Hours 4 PM Onwards
Address : 2 Nawam Mawatha, Colombo 2
Phone : 304922
and another one. am now getting bored.
Barefoot has originality like no other with a wide range of items for sale.
Details: A wide range of well designed furniture, artifacts and crafts to handmade toys, household linen. Barefoot Bookshop, offering a phenomenal collection of books from art, photography and design to travel and fiction.
Address : 706, Galle Road, Colombo 03
Phone : 589305
am copying this letter to them just for fun. i hope they’ll cc you on the replies. maybe we can run this on your site as a feature – Visit indi.ca for the latest in theft in colombo! what do you reckon?
… and now the article
In a field as fast-moving as Information Technology, anything that a teacher can poke with a stick is probably dead. In picking any IT Course, try to make sure that the course gives you a theoretical foundation that won’t get stale as you enter the job market. In fact, the most solid foundation is the most general – Math, Science, or Arts. What you put on that foundation is experience, and that you can start accumulating now. Whether you’re in Sri Lanka or America you can learn specific computer skills from the best on the Net. This article is about some skills you can pick up on your own to supplement the IT Course you enroll in. If you have a degree and experience that will put you one step closer to actually getting paid.
As a brief primer, there is a Geek Food Chain. It’s important to understand this so you can get in where you fit in. Just picture an ocean with blind, scary creatures in the depths and more colorful fish at the surface. Most Sri Lankan IT Courses train you for the Middle, which is a pretty good place to be.
* Bottom: Here you have the fish that can turn compressed turds and hot-air vents into energy. These are the uber-geeks like Linus Torvalds (Linux) and Richard Stallman (GNU). They are capable of writing Operating System kernels or creating their own programming languages. If you have had sex or seen sunlight this probably isn’t you. If it is, then awesome. Feel free to look down on all of the below.
* Middle: These are the Geeks that write software. It might be in C#, Java, PHP, or ASP, but they do write code. These are people like Shawn Fanning (Napster), Matt Mullenweg (WordPress), and the creators of Kazaa, Plesk, etc. They build actual products that humans might want to use. They can also become rich and famous and are the most powerful type of geek to be. However, if you know only code and are not especially creative you’re ripe for exploitation.
* Top: These are the Geeks that don’t write code. They simply use or sell it. The fish at the medium level produce enough code that if you simply package it and sell it to the right client you can get some pretty sophisticated work done without understanding code at all. Bloggers, Project Managers, and Corporate Information Officers fall in here. They may not know code, but they’re not scared of it and they’re able to manage coders. If anything, this is the Management level, and it can be lucrative.
* Surface: These are the fat, lazy creatures floating around. Also known as users. They know how to type a document and send an email, but just barely. They also have real jobs and have moved out of their parents houses. This is where the money comes from.
Courses: C (any variant), Java, Lisp, and other core programming languages. Theoretical and Applied Computer Science. Pure Math.
Homework: If you want to get in at the bottom, more power to you. The place to start is Slashdot (www.slashdot.org) – “News For Nerds”. If you’re interested that’s good. If you understand what’s going on, then great. If you can leave a comment without getting torn to shreds, then you’re golden. Slashdot is above all things a community. Every article spawns intense debate among 100s of geeks who also recommends excellent books for in-depth learning. You can live and learn here, and if you’re good you’ll rise to the top. Slashdotters will let you know if you’re naïve, so read for a while before you speak up.
Besides reading you also need to build your own computer. Preferably out of clothes hangers and duct tape. A simple Google Search for ‘Build Own Computer’ will get you started (with store-bought parts, alas), but there is no replacement for fiddling around and breaking things. You should also read www.overclockers.com like it’s Cosmopolitan. The website is ugly, but the forums are where it’s at.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to learn Linux. The whole point of being the bottom of the food chain is that you are in control of every last detail, and only Linux gives you that freedom. The average user doesn’t care whether their distro can boot in ramspace, so they pay Windows to answer that question for them. Bottom-Feeders are not average. If you look at a Linux install it’s literally a bunch of text-files that you can edit with something as simple as Notepad, or more geekily, Emacs. If you want to tweak Linux to run on an X-Box or a cell-phone it is possible and tutorials will tell you how. Actually, you could probably run Linux on a toaster if you tried hard enough. Linux is awesome because it is theoretically infinite and there is a community constantly pushing it there. If you learn Linux then you’ve learned powerful skills that scale all the way up to enterprise-level servers and Deathstars. To start you can visit www.linux.org, but the best bet is the Sri Lankan Linux User Group (www.lug.lk). They will give you live support and maybe even friends.
Courses: C (any variant), Java, Python, and Perl. The more simple languages php and mySQL are very powerful, but they are sorely neglected in Sri Lanka. More taught languages are ASP (Microsoft) and JSP (Java). Even a good Software Design course with limited coding can serve you well at this level.
Homework: Opensource is a giant library of code, hence a good place to study. The top software repository is Sourceforge (www.sourceforge.net) followed by sites like Freshmeat (www.freshmeat.net). At Sourceforge and others you can browse by software type, intended audience, or programming language. This means that you can find fully working code to analyze and hack, and work-in-progress code that you can collaborate on. This give-and-take teaches programming and, more importantly, proper documentation and collaboration. The latter skills are priceless in the working world. Repositories are also useful to avoid reinventing the wheel. Rather than writing your own buggy script to do a simple task you can use a tried-and-true script and focus on your goal. When you finally do produce something you can register it online and get constructive criticism and support from the community at large.
One of the hottest Opensource projects is the Mozilla Firefox web browser, which has gained 5% market-share in less than a year. You can visit www.mozilla.org/developer to see an introduction and some bugs they’d like your help with. Most of Firefox is written in C++ and Java. There is a rich community of developers writing extensions that add functionality like Google integration, chat, music players, etc. Firefox is used every day by millions and it’s a good chance to get your code seen and used.
Another notable project is Open Office (www.openoffice.org). Backed by Sun Microsystems, Open Office is an alternative to the Microsoft Office Suite. It is written primarily in C++, Java, and uses XML extensively. They’ve published a ‘To Do’ list and you can explore any ideas of your own as well.
Finally, in terms of web publishing, there are tons of Content Management Systems (CMS). Every professional corporate or government website (outside Sri Lanka) uses a CMS to manage the large amounts of data they produce. The website www.opensourcecms.com has many opensource systems you can try out. One of the most exciting is WordPress (www.wordpress.org). It is mostly used for simple blogs, but people have used it to run companies and Stanford Intranets involving hundreds of projects. The community is incredible, and the plugin architecture makes it easy to write php/mySQL scripts that can add little bits of functionality. Even if you only have basic HTML/CSS expertise you can develop themes for the community and get a little bit of geek fame.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The amount and scope of Opensource projects is mind boggling. If you can master a little C, Java, php/mySQL or even HTML/CSS then the world is yours.
Courses: Almost any IT Course. Even better would be a general education in Literature, Arts, Business, or Law. This level does not typically work in pure IT, but rather applies IT to another field.
Homework: Those at the Top of the Geek Food Chain don’t build, hack, or change software. They simply use it according to the existing specifications, a surprisingly rare skill. Top-Feeders may work in Publishing, Law, or Fishmongering but they use IT to work smarter and better than the rest. Their education is important, but it can be completely non-IT. For current power-user tips a great place to look is the Life Hacker blog (www.lifehacker.com)
First and foremost a Top-Feeder needs to be rich and buy a Mac, or learn Windows properly. That means right-clicking and messing around with control panels. It also means keeping Viruses and Spyware under control. There are many places to look, and Life Hacker provides good links (lifehacker.com/software/spyware-cleaners/). Also, you should use Firefox or know how to use ActiveX and SP2 with Internet Explorer. IE is how computers get infected nowadays. Most computers are so foully infested by now that this skill is as indespensible as basic hygiene. Another power-tool is a desktop search program like Copernic to actually find stuff on your PC.
Second is Google, and insatiable curiosity. Suprisingly few people ask Google when they have questions, and most give up if the going gets a little hard. Top-Feeders will keep looking until they solve their problem. Try google.com/advanced_search to smell what the Rock is cooking. Furthermore, Google has a ton of other products that nobody uses. You should become conversant in Google News, Google Images, Froogle, Google Groups, Google Video, Google Maps, etc. Actually, just read the Cheat Sheet (google.com/help/cheatsheet.html).
Also, basic email and Office (Powerpoint, Excel, etc) literacy are priceless. This can be learned by using that software and asking Google when you have questions. Open Office opens the same files and is faster and more powerful, if you want to really geek out. As for email, you should probably know what Gmail is and get an invite-only account.
Finally, you need to basically know what’s going on in the tech world. That means a) knowing what a blog is b) reading them and c) having one. Good tech blogs are Gizmodo (www.gizmodo.com), Kottke (www.kottke.org), and Binary Bonsai (www.binarybonsai.com). Each of these bloggers links to hundreds of others, so explore. You should also figure out what RSS (Real Simple Syndication) is and use it. RSS makes your life easier by letting you read ‘feeds’ of your favorite websites. When they update, you get a message. Firefox has one built in, and Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) is a good free one.
Whatever level you choose, you have to do your homework. Not this homework, but your homework, whatever interests you enough to pursue on your own time. If you memorize all the advice in this article then you’ve missed the point. If you cram for your exams by learning all the solutions then you missed the point. Your kids aren’t going to eat this article and they’re not going to eat a diploma. Never forget that you are not a doctor or lawyer. You do not grow more venerable with age. You are a piece of hardware. When you get out of date you will be replaced by something faster, better, and cheaper.
An IT Education education is valuable, but you should know what it buys you. Two years, tops. If you don’t hit the ground running the next batch will eat your lunch. Any solutions you memorized in school will be about as useful as a pristine install of Windows 95. To take the metaphor a bit further, nobody expects Windows to write documents and presentations for them. Windows simply gives you the tools to solve problems. In the same way, don’t look for answers in your Education. Look for tools that will help you solve any problem you come across. And always upgrade. Read, blog, code, create, and contribute to the community. This makes IT different from other subjects, but it is also what makes it great. You don’t have the security of titles and steady work, but at this point you’re young and you don’t have anything anyways. The Net doesn’t care. You can be Bill Gates or Linus Torvalds. You can make the next big thing. It doesn’t take money, connections, or even age. It just takes curiosity, and a little homework.