The ramblings of an IT student in one concise space.

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My 2nd last semester begins

(Un)fortunately for myself and many other tertiary students, regular university classes will be commencing within a few weeks. Personally I will be balancing a load of 3 subjects in addition to work commitments. That’s 1 more subject than last semester – who knows how I will cope this time? – but I think it is vital for me to finish my degree as soon as humanly possible and fully embrace the professional workforce.

Here’s a short summary of the subjects I am enrolled in:

The Business of IT: As a mandatory subject final year students have to enrol in, the aim of it is to prepare the student for entering the workforce. While throughout an IT degree one does pick up many technical skills, the knowledge of translating these technical skills into value in the business context is rarely well documented or explained. This subject aims to correct that and provide information on strategic business tools.

Information Resources: As information is one of the most valuable commodities in this modern age, there is a demand to be able to correctly obtain, interpret and modify it. I would say that there would be much discussion on optimal retrieval technqiues, as well as best practices to translate data into relevant information.

Co-operative Education: This unit is part of the work experience program I am completing. In a nutshell, I am awarded credit towards my degree for working for a company. Generally the expected output used as assessment is a reflective journal detailing my experiences, workload and any associated skills I have developed or gained in the process.

I think it would be an interesting experiment to see if my intepretation on the content matter is different upon completion of them.I’m sure changes of opinion on educational content occurs in the though processes of every student, but this time I shall document it. It shall be part of my future legacy if war ravishes our world and the internet becomes a relic found by a civilization developed long after us.

Jumping the Facebook ship

In case you have been living under a virtual rock, Google has somewhat recently released their own social networking platform – Google Plus (or Google+ for those who want to be hip and trendy). The funny thing about Google is that, apart from their core business (of which Google has become the colloquial term for search engines) many of their products have been considered to have been half-baked failures. Think back to Google Wave – it had a lot of potential to be a great collaborative tool, but there was no concise direction for it. Hence why it failed – it did not fulfill a business or consumer need adequately.

From initial reports, however, this could be the killer platform to dethrone the mighty Facebook from it’s monopolizing seat. Much like what Facebook did for MySpace. Evidently Facebook is having the same thoughts too, as many Google data exporters are being blocked by Facebook. It’s a shame that Google Plus is in beta only, as I would like to trial it out and jump ship from the sinking titanic that is Facebook. I’m sure that one day someone I know will respectfully send me an invitation for it. Or Google Plus comes out of the beta phase and becomes a consumer product. Whichever comes first.

The newb mechanic playing with his toy

I’ve never considered myself much of a car enthusiast. Sure, I knew most of the makes and models out on the road today, but if you asked me what the state of the differential was like on my Ford Falcon (a part which was known to have a lot of issues) you would have been met with a blank stare.
That was the case, until I set my heart on buying what is considered the most affordable sports car in the world. Recently, I purchased an NB8A Mazda MX-5:

What a car it is. Sure, a vehicle can be considered similar to a household appliance; in that it’s only purpose is the narrow duty of getting you from A to B. But they can do, and can be so much more.

In any case, I digress; the topic of the purpose of cars is a big can of worms all on its own. What I wanted to share is that this morning I began the long and arduous journey of maintaining my MX-5. In the bright sunny mid hours of the morning I rolled out from the local Bridgestone store with my wheel alignment complete (I handed them and received the camber/toe specifications I wanted; and no, I’m not tracking the car!) I stopped by on the way home to the local autoshop to purchase some coolant, which the MX-5 sorely needed.

After about an hour or so I had completed by task of draining and replacing the fluid in the radiator.

Once upon a time that brown coolant would have looked similar to the stuff on the right; now it can have sweet, syrupy fluid running through it. I’m sure I can hear the MX-5 purr at the treatment I’m giving her.

It’s not all good news however: while changing the coolant I noticed the radiator was starting to turn a brownish colour: a signal that the radiator was nearing the end of its usable life. Did that mean my past effort was all for naught? Again, I think it comes down to how you perceive a car. Some may view it as a waste of effort and money; however I see it akin to spending time with a good old friend.

My suspicions will be confirmed by a real mechanic however; as the next service for the MX-5 is looming near. I guess I better get my wallet ready!

Databases and programming, oh my!

Generally I have never considered myself a technical person. My mind crosses to a particular programming subject in first year uni, which I somehow managed to hardcode my way through. I still don’t understand the concept and application of arrays. But here I am, on a Friday night, starting to attempt a small side project of mine.

What I will be doing is creating a database to store some general information provided (voluntarily, of course :P) by approximately 50 people. In addition to that I’ll be creating a UI for the purpose of being able to add, edit and remove data from that database. Since I want to keep it simple, I’ll be using the greatness of open source technology: MySQL and Visual Studio (probably C#).

This sounds like a project fit for a beginner developer, right? Hopefully this business-oriented IT student doesn’t make a shamble of things.

Which is more important: technology or consulting?

Undertaking study for exams is a tedious process even at the best of times. Thankfully for this semester I have one exam only – which deals with the topic of Information Systems Consultancy. As I review the lecture material from the beginning of the course and progress my way through the content I have come to realize how little technical knowledge I have needed to hitherto secure a good grade for the unit.

Have I needed to share information about the latest iOS firmware? No.

Have I needed to share information on ensuring a smooth process for a SAP R/3 implementation? No.

Have I needed to share information on how specific security protocols I recommend ensure more integrity than others? No.

Personally, I think it is funny on how little IS knowledge is required to complete a unit title IS Consulting. Although I find it funny, that does not mean that the unit is without merit; in fact the information it covers is more realistic than it appears to be. This epiphany of mine is supplemented by my experiences of working at a research facility. There are plenty of innovative projects that are being undertaken at the moment; but the key issue in every phase is always this: is there a market for this? No matter what cool hardware or software is utilized, a project/product/service that wants to take off must always have a valid consumer market that is willing to purchase it. Otherwise, how will it meet expected objectives?

This is what I believe the IS Consulting subject I have been undertaking implicitly states. Much of the content covered deals with the engagement section of an agreement, which is in simple terms is winning the client over and securing a contract. Much of the content covered is aimed at helping market ourselves and be more confident in our presentation. After all, how useful is the most innovative and unique product if there is no one with the charisma to push it into the world?

Following on and up again

Like the humble phoenix this blog is going to be restarted. Admittedly I just let it die last year because it had served its purpose: securing a good grade for a university subject. But I’ve been looking back occasionally, and what I found surprised me: people were still actually visiting the site. And why does a project have to stop simply because it is not being monitored for performance anymore?

From now on, I’ll hopefully be posting about particular technology topics that interest me, which won’t be solely bound to digital media. But since this is a restart there is no need to constrict myself to technology only. So what other topics could be presented? Who knows. Stay tuned for more!

Rebirth

It was a cold, dark winter night. Chilled winds cut into the bone; each finger straining against the will of the frigid darkness to move. The fingers win the monumental struggle for dominance; they are freed from the paralytic coldness. Slowly, each finger begins to creak and bend its joints; it is a snail pace at the start but soon snowballs in speed. The fingers forget all thought of the frosty night as the flames of inspiration consume them. The heat of inspiration chases away the chill and the darkness, upon which the approach of hope comes.

And with hope, comes the dawn of rebirth.

A great blow against collaboration (for me)

I was just going about my business, completing work for assignments due in a couple of weeks. As my readers may know I am a great fan of Google Groups because of its simple editing capabilities. As I go to upload a file to share with my fellow student colleagues, I am greeted by this message:

Google Groups will no longer be supporting the Pages and Files features.

Although Google does offer a myriad range of other storage options, Group was definitely my favorite and I’ll be sad to see this particular feature go the way of the dinosaur. Fortunately (or unfortunately as you may see it) technology marches on.

For more information on the announcement see this link.

Simply Enterprise 2.0 (and 1.0 too!)

Just recently I was perusing a blog I read from time to time when I stumbled upon the article titled – ‘Enterprise 2.0‘. A point of interest for me was this particular table summing up the key points of Enterprise 1.0 and 2.0:

This tabulated information of the post-analyzed effectiveness of Enterprise 1.0 and 2.0 doctrines had got me thinking: what was the preceding need/desire for Enterprise 2.0 to emerge? Was it because of these defined limitations or did some savvy entrepreneur see an open market? What were the causes to create Enterprise 2.0?

I decided to look back through the first lecture slides for the QUT unit INB346 – and what did I find? The exact same table emblazoned with the words ‘ paradigm shift’.  This article from one Dion Hinchcliffe explains the key success factors of Enterprise 2.0 – which we all know to be Web 2.0 technologies. From what I can see, Enterprise 2.0 was started by some savvy entrepreneur.

Whichever way you cut the slice though, Enterprise 1.0 must have been viewed as either something generally disliked or something to be greatly improved. Why fix something that isn’t broken? Evidently it was considered broken, and I believe the main causes of its downfall were lack of understanding, training and advertisement. Do these issues seem familiar to you?

How many of you had heard of Enterprise 1.0 before 2.0? I’d wager next to nobody, because I believe there was no clear structure to Enterprise 1.0. No thought was given to it, just a heap of loosely related processes just bundled together. Again, how many of you had seen an article discussing the latest success stories of Enterprise 1.0? No? I didn’t think so. This was because this jumbled collection of processes were not called Enterprise 1.0 at the time. Another point for consideration is that there was no widely available medium of access. Think back to the internet of 10 years ago. Was the internet as big as now? Did people have as much access to the internet as now? Did businesses utilize the internet as much as now?

The fact of the matter is that the rapid and successful development of the internet and related technologies (part those with a major social component) is what caused Enterprise 2.0 to be. Take away the IT infrastructure and there is no Enterprise 2.0. But does that mean if such technology was applied during the golden era of Enterprise 1.0 it would be an exact replica of 2.0? Absolutely not, because of the sole reason that 1.0 dictated technology would work for the business processes in place. 2.0 on the other hand,  defined and created process in lieu of the technology. The end of Enterprise 1.0 and the start of 2.0 is when the moment of successful integration of IT goals and business goals occurred.

To conclude, I wonder how long the impact and effectiveness of Enterprise 2.0 will last. How long until it is considered something broken and in need of repair. While I believe that time is still far away, due to the natural tendencies of IT infrastructure this has to happen sooner or later. But what will Enterprise 3.0 look like? Will it hearken back to 1.0 roots, or continue the development of 2.0 with new fangled technology like virtual reality? Or will it be something so completely unconceivable by todays market or mind? Only time will tell.

My experiences using XWiki

A few weeks ago I posted an article detailing the possible usage of XWiki. Today I finally feel I’m able to share my experiences in using the technology.

XWiki is definitely friendly towards potential developers and testers, as it provides a sandbox for you to operate and test the software in a ‘safe’ environment. This means no moderation or censorship occurs here, but with the added benefit that all content from the sandbox is deleted daily. There is no need to feel compromised if you post something potentially embarrassing there then!

The UI for editing seems to be the stock standard, with one option much like word processing, and another for source code if you’re technically inclined.

There doesn’t seem to be any obvious image editing settings evident, which is upsetting considering the sandbox provides a picture at the very start. However, there is the interesting feature of macro additions:

The sheer amount of options available just goes to show how powerful the wiki editing tool is. Unfortunately macros are not generated based on choice or options, and in fact require some scripting experience to implement. So you won’t see any demonstrations from me!

Another important feature of XWiki is the import and export capabilities. From what I can see the validity of importing is restricted to just word documents, however exporting the pages is supported by pdf, rtf and html extensions. In addition, there is backwards compatibility to XWiki 1.0 software (current version is 2.0).

The last thing I want to touch on is the presentation layout. It is a minimalist setup, with only the most basic editing features evident. This software suite is definitely suited towards those with coding expertise, which would allow for flexible and powerful wikis.