J. Michael Ward

Web Developer, Drummer, and Teller of Bad Jokes

Spring is Almost Here

Historically, March is the second snowiest month in Minneapolis behind only January. I thought last winter was far more bleak and depressing, because we got fewer than two feet of snow, when the Twin Cities traditionally gets around 50 inches. I’m grateful for the snowfall this month, but naturally understand that most everyone else is ready for spring. I’m antsy for spring to arrive, too, but my impatience comes from a source more closely tied to calendar dates.

Graduation Day at St. Paul College is on Thursday, May 16th, which coincides exactly with my last day of class and the completion of my AAS degree in Computer Programming. Spring Break just wrapped up yesterday, which means there’s only eight weeks between now and the achievement of a goal that’s been put off for far too long. I can’t wait to be finished with classes (for now?) and to step full-time into my new career. That said, I am still pretty excited about two remaining topics this semester:

  • Getting an introduction to Linux networking
  • Using everything I’ve learned over the past few years to build an online message board application

On the day of this writing, I consider myself to have few brand loyalties when it comes to computers and operating systems. Although I’m writing this particular post on a three-year old Apple iMac running OSX Mountain Lion, the system has a dual-boot setup with Windows 8 installed, along with a virtual machine that can run pretty much anything else of interest to me at the time (currently, I can boot up Linux Ubuntu, but have also tried out Linux Mint and the Chrome OS in the past). I also have a budget Acer Aspire One laptop that I purchased at Target two summers ago for $230. It came with a full version of Windows 7, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive, which I’ve since upgraded to Windows 8, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD drive, respectively. I don’t really store anything on the machine, and thus could just as easily purchase a Chromebook or other comparable device, if I wanted (though, actually, I do have a desire for more processing power along with the portability, so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a refresh on Ultrabooks this summer…). As long as we’re going down this path, I may as well mention that I’m also a user of Android mobile devices, but have used a litany of other brands and models on every single network in the past – iPhones, Blackberries, RAZRs, Sidekicks, Nokias on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon – the whole nine yards.

That’s a long way to say that I don’t know much about Linux right now, so I’m looking forward to classes starting up again tomorrow and being able to give it a proper go.

As for the message board, it’s something I’ve been wanting to build for awhile, but haven’t set aside the time to do (and until now, didn’t necessarily feel confident that I could figure out how to do it). This weekend, I put the primary structure in place – one can sign up for an account, look at existing topics, create new topic threads, and reply to existing threads. It’s enjoyable to see it take shape, and it will be a rewarding process to build out the feature set I want to have as well as meet the requirements of the assignment (which to be honest, are pretty vague, so I’m doing this out of my own interest as I want to have fun with it). I have so much to learn about the application design process, and I know there is much to be done to protect the system from invalid data, scripting attacks, form spoofing, and someday in the future, trolling users and other unwanted results. This project is a baby step in the larger journey.

All that said, the next couple of months are going to fly by, and before long we’ll all have forgotten about the snow and we’ll instead be booked with outdoor plans, get togethers, and trips to exotic destinations. For me, I’m eager about newfound employment in my chosen career field and a plethora of exciting projects to work on to help make me a better programmer.