Category Archives: Resources

A Couple of Notes on Cloud Computing

2000px-Cloud_computing_icon.svgYears ago, when I was making do with the limited computer equipment that I could afford, I never dreamed that I would one day be able to login to a website, plug in a few specs about the machine I wanted and then, a few minutes later, log into that machine remotely and run whatever programs I needed to. Yet, that’s exactly what today’s cloud computing resources enable me to do.

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A Return to Programming

I’ve been working on a number of different projects lately, from I.T. networking to a book on MySQL, so I haven’t had as much reason to break out the programming tools as I used to. If not used regularly, programming skills can get a little rusty or even disappear like old friends from your college days that you lost contact with.

So, I’ve decided to delve back into the subject and update my status as a .NET programmer. The first step is a quick review of the C# language.  One resource that I can recommend for this is The C# Programming Yellow Book by Rob Miles. It’s just $0.99 for the Kindle version on Amazon.com and you can even get a free PDF version from the author’s website.

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ASP.NET for Beginners

31dfef58-1812-4523-ab35-c8bf20fcfd83If you’ve been wanting to learn how to design websites with ASP.NET, here’s your chance! Check out my latest three-part series on OcalaITPros.com where I explain the basics of Microsoft’s ASP.NET framework and how it’s used to create dynamic websites. This series will guide you through creating and publishing a sample application completely from scratch. The series is based on my speaking notes from a recent meeting of the Ocala I.T. Professionals.

Part I – What is ASP.NET?
Learn about the difference between static and dynamic websites and how ASP.NET is used to serve dynamic content.

Part II – Getting Started with Visual Studio and ASP.NET
Installing Visual Studio 2013 Community and starting your first ASP.NET project.

Part III – Building and Publishing Your ASP.NET Application
Completing your ASP.NET project, testing it on on your local machine and publishing it to a hosting service.

 

Learning a New Language Online

Learning a new language has always been a challenging task whether you’re satisfying a class requirement in school, moving to a new country or adding a new language for work or recreation. The fact is that we take years to become proficient with our first languages from the time we’re learning to recognize language as infants through the time when we’re able to string sentences together as we reach school age. The expectations are much higher with a second or third language as most people would not want to take three or four years to be able to speak basic sentences and longer to communicate effectively in writing.

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Ocala I.T. Professionals – Come Join Us!

The Ocala I.T. Professionals is a new I.T. networking group in Ocala, Florida. It’s purpose is to provide a forum for people from all areas of I.T. and all levels of experience to come together, discuss the latest technologies and work together on projects and new opportunities.

meetupWe’re currently using Meetup.com to organize the group and enable people to sign up and stay informed on the latest meetings. The meetings are being held every two weeks in various locations and the intention is to alternate between presentations on various technology subjects and casual social gatherings where the members can relax, get to know each other and talk shop over food and drink.

So, if you’re in Ocala and have been looking for a group of like-minded I.T. people who will understand you when you talk about the latest programming tools or hardware, come join us!

Find us on Meetup.com … http://www.meetup.com/Ocala-I-T-Professionals/

On Twitter … https://twitter.com/OcalaITPros

On Facebook … https://www.facebook.com/OcalaITPros

Also, check out our site! … http://www.ocalaitpros.com

Problem Steps Recorder control panel

Problem Steps Recorder: Documenting Windows Errors the Easy Way

Screenshots and and programs that create them are one of the most useful tools in the tech support arsenal. Being able to see the exact error message goes a long way toward knowing what’s actually happening on a user’s system. Even more helpful is seeing the exact steps that a user followed to get the error message and the conditions that existed when it appeared. Screen recording software can be expensive, however, and is generally unavailable on personal computers.

A new utility in Windows 7 and 8 offers a handy compromise between the single screenshot and a full screen recording. Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) creates a report that shows all the steps taken by the user, complete with screen images and annotations describing each user action. This comprehensive report is self-contained in a single web page viewable in Internet Explorer which can be copied to tech support for analysis of the problem. It’s also easy enough for users at all skill levels to work with.

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‘Your First Guide to Database Design’ – Now available in Adobe PDF!

firstguidecoverMy latest book is now available on Scribd.com in Adobe PDF format. That means that even if you don’t have a Kindle or a Nook, you can STILL learn how to organize any kind of information and create your own database applications. In a world so completely dependent on the flow of information, this is a valuable career skill and a valuable perspective on how your own information is managed by others. Your First Guide to Database Design is written to present the concepts involved in database design in a clear and logical manner using everyday examples and is available for only $9.99, far less than the average technology guide. Check out the free preview on Scribd.com! If you’d like more information first, you can also check out the book’s official page on AndrewComeau.com which contains links to the free PDF preview and all the locations where you can purchase the book for the Kindle and Nook as well.

Finally Published!

firstguidecoverIt’s finally here!  Your First Guide to Database Design is now available on Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.  Another PDF version will soon be available for purchase on Scribd.com.

Your First Guide to Database Design is a clear, easy-to-use guide to relational database design for both beginners and I.T. professionals who need to know how to organize and store any amount of information on any subject. Whether you’re using SQL Server, MySQL or another database software, this book will show you how to model the data, create a system of tables and use Structured Query Language (SQL) to read and write to your new database. Your First Guide to Database Design uses multiple examples including the Job Search Plus database to help the average user understand the principles behind database design.

For more information, check out the official book page or the support page on AndrewComeau.com. The support page includes full-size diagrams of example databases used in the book and will be updated with answers to reader questions so be sure to bookmark it!

Trello Main Screen

This week’s free resource – Trello.com

I had to research some options for project management software recently and one of the tools I came across was a free online project manager called Trello.  Trello was developed by a New York City company called Fog Creek Software. I’m somewhat familiar with the company from reading the often-entertaining blog of its founder, Joel Spolsky.  I’ve long known that the company had a different way of doing things than many software shops, especially in my experience. Fog Creek sums it up on their website:

“What if the programmers were treated like rock stars? What if management’s number one responsibility was recruiting extremely talented software people, treating them well, and then getting the heck out of the way while they did great work? At Fog Creek Software, management, not coding, is the support function. Management’s first responsibility is to create an abstraction layer for developers: to create the infrastructure so that programmers really just have to program …”

Wow, what a concept!  So simple and yet so many companies find so many ways to screw it up and make programmers’ lives miserable.

Obviously whatever Fog Creek is doing is working for them because from what I’ve seen in the couple weeks I’ve been using it, Trello is an awesome product. The site is built around the concept of an online project board with user-defined lists of task cards.  The site uses HTML5 to create a very user-friendly interface where both the lists and cards can be easily moved around by the user with just the swipe of a mouse.

Trello Main Screen

An example of the main user screen for Trello.com.

The above screenshot shows a sample of my own Trello project board with a few custom lists of items in various stages of development. Off to the right, you can see the side bar that displays management settings for the board. The board actually exists within an organization created by default when the user signs up. This organization could represent anything from a company to a softball league and users can create additional organizations with separate groups of boards and task lists so you could maintain one set of boards for your startup company and another for school or family projects. Each organization can also hold multiple Trello users as members and tasks can be assigned to these members who can be granted various levels of access.

Trello Card

Each Trello card offers a variety of options for card content, due dates and member assignments. (Click for larger view.)

On the sample card shown above, you can see that each card on a list can be a project in itself with the ability to store photos and checklists, add comments and set due dates. This level of functionality within each card and the ability to arrange an unlimited number of cards, lists and even project boards as the user sees fit results in a very powerful tool for managing anything from a home project to a corporate reorganization.

The entire Trello session operates in HTTPS secure mode to protect the transfer of data and the site pledges to respect user privacy so Trello should be reasonably safe although I avoid putting anything sensitive on the web so I’d keep confidential project details offline. Another feature of the site enables users to download their project data in JSON format which is an alternative text format for highly structured data. This backup file could be restored in the event of the loss of your boards or imported to another program that supports JSON.

All in all, I am extremely impressed by Trello, especially for a free service and I recommend it highly. The Trello Business Class is also available which offers extra security and administration features.