Friday, August 29, 2008

I guess I have some catching up to do here!

I was a little too busy to post here yesterday, so now it's time to do a little catching up.

First off, I didn't get to dive in to Chapter Four of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML like I wanted to. I got a little tied up in some paperwork, and after that I did some serious thinking about where I really want to go with my life and career.

Someone once told me that there are three ways of looking at work. Work can either be a job, a career, or a calling. When I combine this view of work, with the concept of finding ones purpose as described in Jack Canfield's book "The Success Principles" (which I am reading on the side), I began to map out a strategy about find work that I will really enjoy doing.

I wrote down five things that I find I love doing and give me a sense of purpose, and they are:

1) I love learning and discovering, especially if science is involved.
2) I love organizing and presenting data.
3) I love communicating what I have found to people.
4) I love technology, and using technology to help others.
5) I enjoy helping other, and I feel lost when I am not allowed to help others.

Given these five things that I love doing, I truly belive my calling or purpose if you will, is writing or presenting scientific information to the public in a manner that will be both enjoyable and useful for them, and doing so via a technology such as the internet. Basically a science blogger or writer.

Now pursuing this calling will not imeadiately put food on the table or keep a roof over my head, so here my long term plan.

1) Find a job in software or systems testing that hopefully will involve working with web development to some degree. Something along the lines of testing web applications for embedded systems is my best bet.
2) Use the job to eventually move into a career in web development, quite possibly developing web based applications for embedded systems.
3) While pursuing the job and career, I will continue to learn evrything I can about the field of web development and hone my writing skills for the content side of things. If I follow this path I know I will reach my goal as a science writer (my purpose/calling).

Now from all my conversations with writers that I know, I know that I shouldn't give up my day job, and to be honest, my writing will most likely be something that I will do on the side for quite a long time. I may never get a chance to do it full time until I retire, but this is the path I feel is right for me, and I am going to follow it as best I can. There will be some detours, and delays, but in the end I am going to reach my goal.

So now I am done with the the philosophical rant for the day. I need to do some serious cleaning and organizing around the place, plus I have to dive into Chapter Four and keep the momentum going.

I will post later today if I have the time.

Cheers! ~ Jim

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chapter 3 is done and so am I for the night.

I finished Chapter 3 of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML earlier today, and I am looking forward jumping in to Chapter 4 tomorrow, but only after I get some sleep tonight.

I added some new features to this blog, including a RSS feed for several web development blogs, and some links such as W3 Schools: HTML 4.01 / XHTML 1.0 Reference (a neat list of tags) . I also set up mirrors blog of this blog on both Wordpress and LiveJournal. There may be some original content on those blog, and if so that content will be mirrored back to this blog.

It looks like I am going to have to have multiple versions of my resume. One for "tech" work, another for software testing, and one for entry level web development/testing.

There will be more books added to the Books For Sale list tomorrow, specifically some Windows 2000 books, and maybe more.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hacking away at Chapter 3, and even more books for sale.

I made some good progress with Chapter 3 of "Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML" and plan to dive back into it after completing this post. I learned some concepts about layout and the quote and blockquote tags.

I also learned not to move files and directories around while your editor is still open on pages you are working on. I know better, but I didn't pay attention and due to "clickitis" I ended up deleting some pages and having to redo them. Hey! It was good practice, and I learned from it.

I started a rewrite of my resume as well as starting to compile a list of potential employers.

Lastly, I added more books to the "Books For Sale" list, including some hacking/security books, and some older FreeBSD books. I have more than enough FreeBSD books, and the hacking/security books do not fit into my current plans.

Well, back to my studies. (Pssst! Every book listed is OBO, so make an offer if your are interested)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Some more progress, and more books for sale.

I got going with Chapter 3 of the the Head First book about a half hour ago, and I realized that if I dove in too deep it wouldn't be until the wee hours of the evening before I got to sleep, so I am winding down for the night. It looks like tomorrow is going to be a fun day though.

I finished a short chapter in the MySQL book. It primarily dealt with permissions which given my set up will not be that important (yet). Speaking of MySQL, I found this article on

Protecting your MySQL database from SQL injection attacks with GreenSQL

Maybe it will be of interest to some of the readers of this blog.

I also went through my piles of books and pulled some of the older Linux books out and listed them on the Books For Sale page. Hopefully someone will buy some of the books. I need the space and the extra cash wouldn't hurt either.

Finished chapter 2!

I just finished Chapter 2 of Head First HTML with XHTML & CSS! It was still pretty basic stuff, but I did learn a lot, especially the "href" attribute, and directory structure for web sites.

Using a WYSIWYG editor, and browsing the W3 Schools: HTML Tutorial, I had some understanding of how to create links, but the book went a little farther than my previous experience, and now I have a better understanding.

As for directroy structure I think one of the first things I will do with my own sites is create a decent directory structure and replace the blob of files I currently have online. Chapter 2 showed me the error of my ways.

I will start up with Chapter 3 later tonight, but before that I need to take care of some job search stuff, and read then next chapter in the Apache/MySQL/PHP crash course book.

I will say that the Head First book with it's interactive format does get one thinking. I have never been big on writing in books, especially working out exercises, but this book is breaking me of that habit. So much so that the book will be trashed by the time I am done and in this case that is a good thing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Made some progress, but not so much with studies

Before jumping into the Head First book, I decided to wind down my involvement with another project, so that I would have more time to study. This took a little longer than I would have liked, but it is done now, and I can move forward with my studies much faster.

I only got a little ways into Chapter 2 before my eyes got heavy and I started yawning every minute or so. So I am winding down for the night now.

I will say that there are times where my prior experience with both web sites, and blog makes me want to skip some of the material, but I am forcing myself to read it because it does reinforce my understanding of the material. Also actually entering the code in an editor such as Notepad Plus really helps in learning the syntax.

I have used a WYSIWYG editor such as Kompozer in the past, and have looked at the HTML source and made sense of most of it, but building by scratch definitely helps build a good foundation.

Well I am off to catch some Zs.

Took a break.

While I am happy with the progress I have made so far and the direction I am heading, I needed to take a day away from my studies to take a break as well as get some cleaning done.

Taking a break and kicking back (just a bit) along with clearing out the clutter around the house definitely helps clear out your head.

For a long time now I have known that I have way too many books on way too many subjects, so I have decided to get rid of those books I do not need, and possibly make a buck on the side while I am at it. Take a look at the Books For Sale link in my personal links section.

I don't expcet to get rich off of what I sell. I just want to clear out a lot of space, and possibly get some cash while I am at it. I am just getting started with the list, so take a peek now and then if you want some books real cheap.

Later today I plan to dive head first into the second chapter of the "Head First" book. I'll post an entry about how things went some time tonight.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Course change feels right.

I finished the first chapter of Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML, and feel pretty good about the progress. A lot of what was covered I already had a handle on it, but the style of the book helped reinforce what I knew and going through the exercises definitely reinforced my knowledge.

My "Starbuzz Coffee" pages are looking good (You'll only understand if you have read the book)

I received a good tip from one of my Linkedin connections for a new GUI Admin Tool for MySQL. You can find it here: (thanks Marko)

I think the new course is the right one, and with determination and a little luck I will be moving forward with my career and job search.

Making progress and a slight course change.

The weekend Apache/MySQL/PHP crash course is turning into a week long or longer crash course, and actually that is a good thing.

Given the issues with the book being out of date, I have decided to slow down the pace with this course of study, but keep at it. I am not moving it to the back burner, but instead turning down the heat. I have a new book on order: Head First PHP & MySQL. This book is due in mid-September, and I should have the first book done by then and what I learned will help move forward with the new book. I should have read the reviews on Amazon before diving into the first book. If I had I would have started my studies with HTML a lot sooner.

Having said that, I now plan to refocus my efforts on learning HTML, XHTML, and CSS with the Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML from O'Reilly. This is where I should have started in the first place, but as they say - "you live and learn".

I thought that diving into PHP and MySQL with a crash course book would be give me some additional momentum towards my end goal, but unfortunately there were some issues. Fortunately the issues I encountered I was able to turn into good learning experiences.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Staying with it.

I decided to take a break after the late night session on Monday night / Tuesday Morning otherwise my efforts with the crash course book may have resulted in my crashing and burning.

The one thing I have learned from the reading this book so far is always make certain that the material you are reading about is up-to-date. Having said that, I will say that I did learn from my efforts, so I am staying with it. It will just take more than a weekend to finish this book though.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


It may not be a major milestone for many, but it is for me!

Considering I am using a book that references older versions of Apache, PHP, and MySQL, and all the changes that have taken place, I think getting the words "hello world" to appear in my browser by way of a PHP script is pretty good progress especially since that is several chapters down the road. Yeah, I just had to stumble ahead, but it was fun.

There seems to be some issues with getting the PHP CLI to work, though I think I just need to tweak some environment variables. A major change with MySQL is that winmysqladmin.exe is no longer available, and this will require some improvsation on my part, but I will manage.

(It's really late, so please excuse any typos.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Read the documentation Jim!

I finally was able to get PHP up and running with Apache, but the version of PHP I am using is not what the Crash Course book says to use. Instead of completing a manual installation with PHP 4.4.9, I ended up using the installer package for PHP 5.2.6

The book is based PHP 4.X.X. and Apache 2.0, and not Apache 2.2. If I had paid attention to what version of Apache I installed, and this note on the PHP site, I wouldn't have taken so much time to get PHP installed:

"Note: Apache 2.2.x Support
Users of Apache 2.2.x may use the documentation below except the appropriate DLL file is named php5apache2_2.dll and it only exists as of PHP 5.2.0. See also »"

Trying to install php 4.4.9 using the php4apache2.dll in the httpd.conf Apache config file, just isn't going to work.

Was this a waste of time. No! I am certain I can do a manual install of PHP 4.4.9 on another system, but I have to make sure I am using Apache 2.0.x and not Apache 2.2 I may end up doing this if I have some spare cycles later on.

Several notes to anyone else trying this.
  1. Only print out the PHP installation readme if you want to kill off a forest. (35 pages!)
  2. Try to have two systems running when you do this. One system to install PHP on, and the other to read the install instructions on the site (since the book is a little out of date with regards to the latest version of Apache). This luxery may not be available to everyone, but it sure helps to be able to access site on one monitor while you are installing on another system. This can be done with a single system single or dual monitors, but it saves time if you have reboot the system you are installing PHP on.
  3. Check the errata on the book. There was also a typo regarding the php4apache2.dll. The book has phpapache2.dll not php4apache2.dll.
Well now I move on to installing MySQL. This little delay cost me some time, but it was a learning experience.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Made some progress today.

Well I downloaded PHP and MySQL and they are now ready to be installed on the server, and after I install PHP and MySQL, I have still yet to configure and secure Apache.

I also posted the Self study program and Staying positive while unemployed pages today. The links are permanently posted in the "My Links" list on the left sidebar.

(I updated this entry to correct a brain cramp on my part.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Browser bias: Get over it!

For the longest time I was a devout Firefox follower and carried the anti-IE banner. Now that I exploring a career in web development, I realize I will need to use IE along with other browsers (Seamonkey, Safari, Opera, etc) to check my work, and I will have to be proficient in their use. Basically I have to become browser-agnostic.

Most browsers have similar behavior, and from the user's point of view are not all that different. But they do have their quirks, and I will need to learn my way around them. I just have to make sure that my geekitis doesn't flair up, and I spend too much time playing with the new toys.

(One little side note: I originally composed this entry on Seamonkey, and I noticed that the fonts and size were different than entries I created on Firefox. I believe I need to set the font and size in Seamonkey, but this is a good example of why you need to be browser-agnostic and learn the differences between your tools)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Planning your time while unemployed.

Yesterday and classic example of over planning and scheduling on my part. I had intended to do the folloing:
  1. Plan out my self study program and post it on a Google Page.
  2. Start up another Google Page about staying positive while unemployed.
  3. Continue building my network on and other sites.
  4. Add another links list to the sidebar and add links to the Google Pages listed above, and pages I will most likely create later on
  5. Get MySQL and PHP installed on my 2K server and get cracking.
  6. Look into some online programs from a local community college.
No! I didn't waste my time watching TV or just lounging around. Some other issues popped that had a much higher priority and they needed to get done.

Rethinking my scheduling and goal setting is a must now, especially if I want to make my career transition happen.

I plan to work on that list over the weekend. I'll let you know how it goes on Monday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moving forward!

Yesterday I and 60-some other people got the "AX" and were laid-off from work. As I have posted elsewhere, lay-offs are a fact of life, especially in the high tech field. I am surprised as to how positive I am staying about being laid-off.

To be honest I am going to use this as a chance to retool my career and move forward with my plans to learn all I can about web development and content management.

There are several things I plan to do today. The are
  1. Plan out my self study program and post it on a Google Page.
  2. Start up another Google Page about staying positive while unemployed.
  3. Continue building my network on and other sites.
  4. Add another links list to the sidebar and add links to the Google Pages listed above, and pages I will most likely create later on
  5. Get MySQL and PHP installed on my 2K server and get cracking.
  6. Look into some online programs from a local community college.
That's it for now. Check back later on

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Getting Apache installed.

I'm running a little late tonight, but I did take a step forward with my studies and got Apache installed on a Windows 2K system. Installing Apache on is very easy, but I need to secure it before I move forward with my PHP and MySQL studies.

I'm working from the "Apache, MySQL, and PHP Weekend Crash Course" book, and while the book is fairly straight forward, given my schedule I know it will take more than just a weekend to get though it.

Next step, download PHP and MySQL and get them installed on the system.