Dear Reader,

After a long hiatus, I have returned to blogging.  I’m taking a bit of a 'The boss wants me to create a computer algorithm that can convert hindsight into foresight.'departure from writing about technical issues for the average reader and focusing on a more technical subject in this post.  As a part of my studies at the University of Rhode Island for my BS in Computer Science, I’m taking CSC 440: Design and Analysis of Algorithms, an advanced programming class about how to make efficient use of the hardware resources in computers.  The teacher has chosen Python so he can provide frameworks to work in for projects.  The exercise for the student (me and my classmates) is in choosing / setting up a dev environment to work in.

So far, none of my coursework required me to code in Python so I emailed my teacher for advice.  His recommendation is to code from the command line.  Further, he said that Python release 2.7.14 was the most stable and least likely to case me issues while doing coursework.  Since Windows does not natively support Linux and Python, I knew I would have to do a bit of configuration work.

The last time I used Linux on a PC was about ten years ago – the days of Windows XP and Windows Vista using a virtual machine environment or a dual boot setup.  I quickly discovered the shiny new toy that Microsoft has created!  Googling Windows 10 and Linux led me to the Windows Subsystem for Linux.  “The Windows Subsystem for Linux lets developers run Linux environments — including most command-line tools, utilities, and applications — directly on Windows, unmodified, without the overhead of a virtual machine.”

So the question remained: should I use the Windows Subsystem or install Python and run it in Windows directly?  My first instinct was to run on Windows without the Linux subsystem.  Why create the added overhead and more complexity if it was not necessary?  I researched a bit further by googling Windows 10, Python and had more emails with my teacher.  The collective vote among URI faculty was to utilize the subsystem.   My teacher felt that the subsystem would be configured to run Python and would work much better.  He said that Python didn’t download to Windows very well.

The next item on the agenda was to research Linux distros to find the one I wanted to work with.  It turns out I wound up wasting a bit of time on this exercise.  The Linux distros for this environment are limited; however, the results of my research are interesting so I will mention it in this post.  Another google search led me to “The Best Linux Distributions for 2018” and “The best Linux distros for developers in 2018“.  Since this blog post came from the Linux website and was a trusted source, I decided not to research the original data to save myself time.  For those interested, I’ve listed the sites in the notes at the end of this post.  The choices were overwhelming so I Tweeted and emailed.  My teacher recommended Ubuntu and that is one of the distros that Microsoft has added to this feature.

My machine is  a Dell Insprion 15 – 5568 and the build version is well-supported as I’m running the most recently updated version of Windows 10.

Specs

I decided to follow the instructions in MSDN and ran into problems right away.  I needed to enable the Windows Subsystem for Linux and reboot.  I opened a command window as directed and typed the command.  The system wouldn’t recognize it.  I copied and pasted the command.  Still no luck.  I decided not to troubleshoot that problem due to the semester starting in less than a week.

One of Microsoft’s enduring qualities is that they never have just one way of doing things.  I found an older blog post from when the Subsystem was in Beta release and I manually set my computer to developer mode and enabled the Linux Subsystem via the control panel and rebooted.  After the fact, I decided to troubleshoot the failed command.  It turns out that the directive in the MSDN docs was to use the Windows PowerShell not the CMD terminal window.  I opened the PowerShell and typed the previously failed command.  It ran successfully, but required no system reboot because of my previous work.

The next task was to download Ubuntu.  This was a very simple matter of going to the Windows Store and downloading and running the app I needed.  The install of Ubuntu went seamlessly.

Time to make sure Python was functioning for use.  Contrary to the collective
information, typing “python” and “python2” at the command line resulted in downloadrebukes from the OS.  It WAS familiar with “python3”.  Since my teacher recommended python2 and they could both safely run in the same enviornment, I went about downloading python2.   I found Tim Reilly’s Blog post “Python with Ubuntu on Windows”  and used those intructions.  I paused to do some additional reading along the way on what Python virtual enviornments were and why they were necessary.  I downloaded and installed PIP to manage packages for Python.  I was able to open a Python virtual enviornment, enter the Python enviornment and write instructions from the command line.  With the install completed and successful, I left the other packages as an exercise for another day.

The next order of business would be to work through some Python tutorials; however, that is another story for another time.

Comprehensive information on Linux Distributions:

https://lwn.net/Distributions/
https://distrowatch.com/

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Dear Reader,

This sounds great on a resume!  “A lifelong learner with a demonstrated to quickly adapt to new technologies.”  What better to ComputerWomanUsingLaptophave on your resume for the IT field?

When I originally found that phrase and added it over 10 years ago, I may not have realized how accurate it would become.   In my chosen field, it’s a good thing I enjoy learning!  In addition to my ongoing work for New England Give Camp (six years and counting!); I just dove headfirst into becoming a certified full-stack web developer through the use of an awesome new program dubbed “Free Code Camp“.

Why not?  Does it mean a few extra hours after work at my computer?  Yes.  Do I hate it?  No.  In fact, it’s hard to tear myself away to get sleep.  Thanks to the information from a colleague at New England Give Camp, I found this awesome free program!   I just have to work through the coding homework.   I get to build an online portfolio of my work and at the end I can collaborate on projects to get work experience.

The best part?  Free Code Camp IconThe work I do will continue to benefit more non-profits.   This  program proves that the best things in life really are free.  The hardest year for me at Give Camp was the year of the Boston bombings.  Give Camp was scheduled a week afterwards and I was taking the Commuter Line into Cambridge about a block from where that had happened.  There were at least 100 people doing positive work that would immediately impact hundreds, thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands.  Little children working with Catching Joy decided that the ugliness in the world should not be allowed to continue and immediately took action to fix the world they found themselves in.  I learned that those two bombers did much less damage in proportion to the great deeds of kindness and positive things the volunteers did.

Every time I see some act of cruelty, terror, or horror sensationalized on the news, I remember the overwhelming number of people actively doing positive things that are NOT in the news.  Thanks to Free Code Camp now, I can make a difference more than once a year.

 


Dear Reader,

To my great shock it has been over a year since my last blog update.   My return is inspired by my ong12191934_10207654778633334_5611895828087000928_noing volunteer work with WelcomeNew England Give Camp – aka “How 100 Geeks Form A Perpetual Motion Machine”  Six years and going strong!

This year I had the opportunity to work with The Mystic River Watershed Association! untitled Additionally, I had the distinct privilege of serving as project manager again.   I had an awesome team to work with and they deserve mucho kudos!  Nothing is more rewarding than being able to contribute to the ongoing work towards recovering and preserving the Mystic River Watershed and having a dedicated, talented group to work with.

It was a wonderful weekend filled with hard work, education, and inspiration.   The hard work speaks for itself.   I learned a lot about our natural river watershed in the process and some of the flora and fauna.  Until this weekend, I thought Alewife was the end of the line stop on the Red Line in Boston.   An alewife is a fish and its common name is said to come from comparison with a corpulent female tavernkeeper (“ale-wife”).  My inspiration always comes from the dedicated non-profits we work with.   They devote themselves all year long to work that I’m unable to do myself.  Knowing that I am able to make a difference to them and to those they benefit is reward enough for a weekend out of my life.

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Dear Reader,

logo

My fifth year as a volunteer finds me as a project manager for Transition House at New England Give Camp 2014. Screenshot I feel honored to be able to  serve with an incredibly talented group of individuals – developers, graphic artists, and non-profit organization.  By the end of the weekend, we hope to have a new website built in WordPress and updated with a more modern look from when the site was first created five years ago.  Thanks to my awesome teammates, we are quickly working together to meet our common goals.


imagesCA34F538Dear Reader,

At the start of my career in 2010 I wrote a blog post, The Insouciant Life in The Bit Bucket, wherein I wondered if  “… I have to abandon everything I care about for the practical reality of earning a paycheck?”   At the time, I was yet to land my first full-time job in the field of technology.   I was fortunate to have embarked on my career in the company of individuals possessed of high integrity and character.

Now, working that full-time job as a successful technical professional, I can answer my own question.   No, I do not have to abandon my principles, ideals, and cherished values to earn a paycheck.  “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Matthew 16:26.   This principle which dates back to approximately 70 – 100 A.D.

As I have been in our very competitive workforce, this principal has become very clear to me.  My relationships with my colleagues and my personal integrity are more important to me than money.   There, I’ve said it.   I’ve committed modern heresy.  I knowingly run counter to our modern culture where the pursuit of money is the all-encompassing god of our time.  We worship it, sacrifice for it, and do whatever it takes ethics-and-complianceto have more.  You need to do whatever it takes to get money.  After all, greed is good and generosity is for suckers.  Or is it?

When I began my career I was openly jeered at for my work ethic.   I was called a “sucker”.  I was told that hard work was for suckers and the key to getting ahead lay in taking advantage of others.   However, I believe in the timelessness of ethics more than public opinion.  Three years later, I find myself ahead of most of the United States in terms of employment and lifestyle.  I do not have anything I did not earn by hard work and integrity.

So am I writing this merely to brag or be self-aggrandizing?   Not at all.   I’m writing this to assert that contrary to popular opinion, ethics and success are not mutually exclusive and it can be done.   The other advantage is that it brings long-lasting satisfaction and true happiness.   I have my self-respect because I never compromised my personal ethics or integrity to get where I am.  Regardless of the road you take in life there are sacrifices to be made.   I chose not to make the sacrifices of our current culture – that of using others to get ahead at the cost of personal relationships.

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Dear Reader,

Exploration and Innovation have previously been the domain of Universities and Governments marshaling their collective resources.  How does humankind’s drive to colonize Mars in the digital media age take shape?   In the form of a reality show.   Yes, you heard right, Reality show.

It is possible to think that television has been lost in the sea of digital media, but apparently not.   From its inception, television has been leveraged to communicate, bring us together as a digital society, and socially engineer our future selves.   Presidents became closer to mainstream America, we share entertainment, atumblr_mqxvemvpsO1r01w8mo4_1280 (2)nd we witness events as a nation. We all held our breath while Apollo 13 was clinging tenaciously to life.  Broader still, other countries share our adventures into television media.  Although television now has rivals in the Internet, Cell Phones, and Tablets, television has grown to be a dominant force in our global community.

Television with the onset of reality programming has provided  Mars One‘s entrepreneur,  Bas Lansdorp, with the means to finance his dream of colonization of Mars.  Mars One is a non-profit organization working towards the goal of colonizing Mars with the first four people by 2023.   Working within our current technology, Bas, is currently seeking volunteers to go on a one-way trip to Mars.   If anyone ever told you to “Get Lost!” this is the way to do it.

As immediate as 2016, the project will be capable of unmanned demonstration.  The Mars One website showcases a complete list of FAQ’s including the business model, cost of the project, and its feasibility.  Its creator has managed to recruit an incredible amount of support including a Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist, and world-wide suppliers for all the technical resources they will need.

The Journal of Cosmology said, “…, to attain it [an outpost on Mars] would require not only major international cooperation, but a return to the exploration spirit and risk-taking ethos of the great period of Earth exploration, from Columbus to Amundsen, but which has nowadays been replaced with a culture of safety and political  correctness.” in an article exploring the proposal in 2010.   That article goes on to analyze the potential challenges faced in such a venture.

NASA’s footage of Mars Moons passing each other from the Mars surface is beautiful.   There are individuals willing to take the risks involved in a one-way trip to Mars to be able to witness this firsthand:

This will be an epic media event.   mars-one-childrens-t-250The entire worldwide community will watch these events unfold.   Bas Lansdorp has thought of everything.  Where would any pop media event be without T-Shirts?


NewDirectionsInSensoryDeprivationDear Reader,

I often wonder what the introspection of a 20-somthing in the technology age looks like.  Lindsey Arsenault realizes the experiences of life provided by technology pale in comparison to those experienced in reality put her reflections in a recent blog post.  She coined the phrase, “Sensory Deprived Existence” while reflecting on the place of technology in her life.   As an artist, she is a self-proclaimed “raw emotion addict”.   Perhaps its the drive for experience that reinforces the dichotomy of real vs. virtual to her.

40sAs a 40-something adult who remembers rotary dialing telephones and 3 tv networks, technology is not foreign to me; but I conceptualize life as defined by real interactions with people.   When I was 20-something; life consisted of time with friends, family, and real experiences.  For myself, technology is merely a supplement to enhance relationships and my journey through life.   Its a tool not an end of itself.  Even so, there are times that the sensory-deprived existence threatens to encroach on the fullness of days lived out among others.   How often have I been guilty of saying “yes” to the sensory-deprived existence when my love of all things digital takes over?  Saying Yes to a Sensory Deprived Existence.