Technology Profile

Open Source Software (OSS) has become a prominent part of my technology profile. While in undergraduate school, and for many years afterward, the only computing platform for me was Apple. Many things have changed in the intervening years.

Hardware

I first approached Linux to support home networking with RedHat 4, and to repurpose older Apple Macintosh system with YellowDog Linux. Years later I decided to study PHP/MySQL and I adopted Fedora 9 as my main system. This was a big leap. There was a lot to learn and its the nature of Linux to expect continued learning for many years to come.

Today, I’ve switched to a more technical distribution of Linux named Arch on Lenovo W500. It’s not for the faint of heart; however, the community is responsive to respectful inquiry and is generally well documented.

I’ve also discovered eBay is an incredible resource to pick-up surplus computing equipment (as of this writing, Clients, Servers, & Terminals shows 267,826 open listings). My next system is installed with CentOS Enterprise Linux 6 on IBM eServer 225x RAID.

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Photo. Here’s a re-staging of the day the eServer arrived. Note, two boxes!

Finally, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I’ve not updated, but my last system runs OSX Tiger on Titanium PowerBook G4 (the last PowerBooks able to boot MacOS 9!). I also have a Wacom tablet.

Software

While I still have files for OS9, I’ve not loaded any OS9 apps prolly since 2002. However, what’s installed on this system is Adobe Creative Suite 2 (before the storm cloud) and it works wonderfully for desktop publishing.

The home server is set up as a localhost staging web server with Apache, PHP, & MySQL. The site uses Git version control. I’ve made several attempts at Drupal 6 & Drupal 7 sites, but failed to produce any projects of note (I wish there was a better platform).

Programming Languages

My introduction to programming started with HTML & JavaScript. I enjoyed a few years of professional success only become distracted with Flash ActionScript which ultimately proved a dead-end, professionally. Without formal training in programming, changes to these technologies quickly outpaced my ability to predict trends and maintain a vital skill set.

As briefly mentioned above, I started investigating Drupal which is a PHP/MySQL CMS. I was initially drawn to this open source software for its Module system designed to facilitate customization and contribution. In other words, to customize Drupal functionality there are two paths which ultimately leads site developers to modify and create their own modules. Every developer is encouraged to contribute their modification back to the community. The software is the manifestation-in-product of the Open Source Software model (brief definition). There exists clear paths for developers, site designers, and content authors [1].

Working toward text analysis projects, last year I began learning Python [2]. There is a wonderful community of applications to support text and data analysis, and I outlined some of the big ones in the early Tool Matrix Document.

That’s about the extent of it. I’m sure I’ve missed some things, but better not to overextend myself.


Footnotes

[1]: I believe in the Drupal Project and its goals. I nevertheless discovered Drupal programming has a very high learning curve. This is mentioned often in communities, but what’s not clear is the complexity truly requires fundamental programming training. Then, what I’ve found, the developer community divides into those with the necessary background and those without; the former drives the latter into a consumer relation within the community. Because Drupal has enjoyed tremendous success at the commercial level, there’s no ignoring the hierarchy.

[2]: This community is extremely diverse. Something you won’t hear anyone tell you about Python, nor would you possibly think unless you have a Computer Science background, is just how comprehensible the learning activity becomes when you start learning a mainstream programming language (Ok, purists might try to remind you Python is a scripting language, but the sheer numbers of Python users who might harass them questions or hate mail might give pause.). Its probably because the more you learn about programming as an activity, the more you sense what each platform, framework, language does well. However, the road can be long and may lead to discouragement—IMHO.

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