PHP & MongoDB – resources

This is going to be quite a short post, but I will elaborate on some of these topics when I post documentation for my MongoDB geospatial query.  In the meantime, for your viewing and learning pleasure, here are a few excellent resources I found helpful for working with PHP and MongoDB:

PHP.net:

MongoDB for the PHP Mind:

How to install MongoDB on Ubuntu

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OPW – Project update, aka “tenaciousness is key”

The last few weeks have presented a series of extremely trying RL (real-life) challenges to deal with outside of my coding life.  There were a few rounds of very upsetting news, on a personal level.  I had to make a move on short notice, to a remote area where (believe it or not) internet and cell reception are hard to come by.  It took a week and a half to get internet, due to various hold-ups… and since I had no cell reception either, it was very hard to get much done as there was no easy way to look up syntax or examples when I got stuck.  Other obligations are suddenly making increased demands on my time and energy, while a number of things have simultaneously gone awry which have been or will be very time-consuming to sort out.  Staying focused through the trials and upsets has taken a monumental effort at times.

In short, it’s been pretty horrendous.

I’m a determined soul, though, when I have a goal in mind, so I refuse to quit.  It’s just going to take some serious tenacity (and sleep deprivation) to see things through.  I love what I’m doing, I’m enthusiastic about this project, and I want this experience, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got.

An in-depth understanding of Git has been slow in coming, I’m afraid.  I used Subversion, once upon a time in a class far far away, so the concepts of branching and checking out code and merging aren’t new.  Much of the time, technology just kind of innately makes sense to me, and new concepts fall into place with relative ease (considering the complexity of the topic at hand, anyway).  I’ve found it inexplicably difficult, however, to wrap my head around Git.  I know what I want to do in a given situation, but figuring out how to make Git actually do it has taken an inordinately long time.  Recently, some relatively minor fixes were made, but stored on a different repository, and I couldn’t figure out how to pull the changes to my local machine.  I ultimately ended up waiting until the changes were merged into the origin.  By then, unfortunately, I was half-configured for the other repository… so it took time and some fancy dancing to get everything back to normal.  Ick.  Well, mistakes lead to more learning, even if the resulting predicaments can be frustrating at times.  This evening’s learning, however out of place it may be in the middle of this post, was how to pull the latest changes from the remote of a branch you’ve been working on. I want to post it here, now, because I may not remember to do it later:

git fetch upstream yourworkingbranch
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OPW – Miscellaneous web development tips

The Ubuntu virtual machine (VM) I was developing on decided to have a thermonuclear meltdown yesterday. I reappropriated a 16GB thumbdrive and have installed Ubuntu natively on that. Since I have to redo the nice little setup I’d done for myself, I might as well document it while I’m remembering. I can’t take credit for it, as it came from other developers who were nice enough to share their wisdom with me, either directly or indirectly. In the spirit of paying it forward, here ya go.  🙂

First, a bit of background info:

When you clone from a GitHub repository with Git, it automatically creates the main project directory for you.

Rather than cloning to the Apache document root /var/www and fiddling with sudo every time one creates, moves, or edits a file, it’s nice to be able to work from a folder in one’s home directory… but then it’s a pain to keep copying the modified files to /var/www for testing.

Here’s how I made my life a little easier:

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OPW – Forking and Creating a New Branch in Git and GitHub

This week, we are working on getting familiarized with Git and GitHub, and writing up some more detailed documentation to facilitate future deployments of TidePools. I am a complete n00b to Git and GitHub, so here are a few of my notes about them to help me keep things straight. I’m posting them here in the hopes that they may be useful to others, as well.

The TidePools code was recently moved here:

https://github.com/opentechinstitute/TidePools

I was added to the organization as a team member and given permissions to push and pull. I was told that the preferred way to contribute for this project is to add branches, which will then be reviewed before being merged. I didn’t know where to start, and while GitHub’s tutorials are pretty good, I had to read between the lines to figure out how to set up proper branching. Below are the steps I used. I tested functionality by making small modifications to the README file and then checking whether the changes were reflected on GitHub.

The first step was to log in to the GitHub site, go to the TidePools repository on OTI (linked above), click the Fork button at the top, and tell it to fork to g33kgrrl. That creates a copy of the code in my GitHub repositories. Then I make a copy of the forked repository on my local machine:

g33kgrrl@saturn:~/TidePools$ mkdir fork
g33kgrrl@saturn:~/TidePools$ cd fork
g33kgrrl@saturn:~/TidePools/fork$ git clone https://github.com/g33kgrrl/TidePools.git
Cloning into TidePools...
remote: Counting objects: 1788, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (1734/1734), done.
remote: Total 1788 (delta 63), reused 1778 (delta 53)
Receiving objects: 100% (1788/1788), 50.49 MiB | 280 KiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (63/63), done.
g33kgrrl@saturn:~/TidePools/fork$ cd TidePools

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OPW Application Project – Overview

This is the first of my documentation for the application project I submitted to the GNOME Outreach Program for Women.  First, a little background…

In order to apply for the internship, one must make a small contribution to a FOSS project first.  If you are selected, you get a paid 3-month internship where you can continue to hone your skills.  In case you missed the last post, I was one of the fortunate ones!  I’m thrilled beyond measure to have this opportunity.  This internship goes from January 2 to April 2.  I am asked to blog at least once every 2 weeks about my projects and experiences… but knowing me, it’ll probably be more often than that.  This post outlines the contribution I submitted with my application, which was part of the basis for my selection for internship.

I am working on a cool and philanthropic project called TidePools, through the Open Technology Institute (OTI). In order to understand the following explanation, it’s worth checking out the TidePools website to get an idea what is going on.  Should you wish to see the full code listings for my application project, here is the GitHub repository where my code will be stored.  GitHub has a fancy interface that displays the code with syntax highlighting, which greatly enhances readability, so I won’t clog the blog by reposting my code here.  (You can view the code by clicking on the name of the file you wish to view.)  I will post key sections in future posts along with explanations.

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Online Learning

As promised in my last post, here is a list of some websites with free classes and/or tutorials.  These types of classes are often called Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs for short.  They’re mainly from big-name ivy league universities like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, etc. and cover all kinds of subjects, not just computer science.

  • edX – online classes – I’m taking CS50x (Intro to CS), an excellent class so far, and great for beginners.  There’s still time to enroll in this class if you want to take it.  It’s pass/fail and you get a certificate of completion if you pass.  Scroll down the main page or click “Find Courses” to see what they have.
  • Stanford Engineering Everywhere – online classes – click on Courses
  • Coursera – online classes – click on Courses
  • cplusplus.com – tutorials, discussion forums, and other stuff – in the upper-right box is a link to “C++ Language Tutorial.”  I downloaded the pdf version to my phone and I study C++ while I’m standing in line or what-have-you.
  • Cprogramming.com – tutorials, lots of them
  • MIT OpenCourseWare – online classes – these are online versions of a couple thousand of the classes they teach on campus.  There’s an Intro to C++ class and you can find the rest of their computer science stuff by going to Courses > Find courses by: Department > School of Engineering > Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • OpenCourseWare Consortium – keeps an ongoing list of OpenCourseWare websites offered by universities around the world

Please let me know if there are others that ought to be added here.  Best of luck to you in your endeavors!

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The GNOME Outreach Program for Women

Gee, where to start??  I have so much news to share!  (It just won’t all sound like good news at first, heh.)

I suppose I should begin by saying that the ongoing dearth of jobs within my traditional line of work (sysadmin and computer repair, mainly) has caused me to do quite a bit of soul-searching regarding my chosen career path.  These days, I’m expected to know a lot more and do a lot more than I did in the 1990’s, often for less pay than I got back then.  (!)  Despite years of hacking away on Commodore 64 BASIC as a little girl, and a couple of classes on the LAMP stack and web programming in college, I’ve never really considered myself much of a programmer.  Some recent discussions with a programmer who is near and dear to me, however, made me realize that I’ve probably underestimated my skills in this department.  I decided to give it another look.  After some in-depth research on job prospects, pay scale, necessary skills, and so on, I decided it was time to make a career change and go into programming.

I soon began looking into what kinds of internships and scholarships there might be for women wanting to study computer science (CS).  When I did, I was amazed, pleased, and bewildered to discover that there seem to be plenty.  Why bewildered?  Because CS is apparently crying out for more women, offering abundant aid in an attempt to improve the lopsided gender ratio… and meanwhile, there are almost no women in my own field and no one seems to care much.  Strange, that.  Maybe female hardware/network geeks are so rare that there aren’t enough of us to decry our own rarity with sufficient volume. Maybe people see the lopsidedness here to be so far gone it’s beyond repair.  Maybe too many people just take it for granted that all such geeks are bound to be men.  I don’t know.  What I can say for sure is that when the bubble burst in 2000-2001, it took many of our would-be jobs with it.  Perhaps it’s a moot point, at this stage.  In any case, the apparent wealth of programs to get women into CS was and is very encouraging.  I began joining mailing lists for female developers and taking an online CS class from Harvard University.  (I’ll post the link for this and many other free online courses in a separate post in the near future.)

On a mailing list aimed at women programmers interested in FOSS (which must unfortunately remain nameless due to privacy rules), some members posted information about full-time internships available through the GNOME Foundation called the Outreach Program for Women (OPW).  It’s a worldwide competition for a limited number of internships.  If you win, you get $5000 USD for a 3-month internship from January 2 to April 2.  In order to apply, you have to submit a small contribution to a FOSS project with one of the participating organizations.  The description said you don’t absolutely have to have coding skills to complete a project and apply.  Unfortunately, what little background I have is mostly obsolete (C64 BASIC, anyone? {cue crickets}), with a smattering of PHP and some mostly-forgotten JavaScript. Knowing this, I decided I’d likely have to start off with a web design or documentation task instead, and perhaps that would open up an opportunity along the way to take on a minor programming-related task or two, should I happen to be awarded an internship.

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