My Name & Quest

Today is day one of the January 2015 Blogging 101 class, and guess who joined up this time?  I’ve had blogs for more than a decade now. I even help others with WordPress!  While I understand all of the technical aspects of running a site, I have never focused on learning how to blog well.  I’ve recommended the Blogging 101 course to many friends, customers, and acquaintances, so as one of my new year’s resolutions, I decided it’s high time I take my own advice and join this course myself.

My first task is to write a post, and then to state my name. Well, if the domain name didn’t give it away, it’s Velda. Yup, really. Like Zelda, with a V. Since this page has everything you’d ever want to know about me personally, and since I rather like my title and tagline, I’ll focus on the purpose of this blog instead.

I’ll be honest: I made this blog solely because my coworkers suggested this awesome domain name.  I have been very indecisive as to what to write here. And when people started following, I really froze up because I wasn’t sure that I had anything important to say. Like my intro says, I really am shy. Plus, the name is pretty cool if you’re a geek like me who happens to have a weird first name, but does it sound to you like it’s supposed to be something so awesome it’s practically legendary?

So today I shall establish this blogs purpose, and it is not to be legendary. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Its purpose is simply to be.

I’ve told myself before I don’t have to write anything extraordinary, and that it’s enough to do my best. And I’ve told myself too, that if I’ll simply write often, I will get better. No pressure. But apparently zero pressure isn’t quite enough to get me over my hangups and on to writing, so here I am in a Blogging 101 class. Feel free to follow along!

geeks on vacataion

I get my kids all week this week, so I took some time off work for “vacation.” But did I take them to Disneyland? No.

Amid hikes, home organization, a birthday (mine!), a wedding (not mine!), and a dozen other random things we have going, I challenged my kids to build a Pokémon Database.

That’s not a new challenge, by the way. But they hadn’t grokked databases before, and even now the tutorials online left them frustrated. So I sat them down with a pencil and paper and did my feeble best to explain them myself. Mind you, I’m no expert. But this time the lights went on. We jumped to a computer, and I showed them a super basic two-table example and how to do some different queries. They were astounded. Yay vacation!

After showing them what happens when you select fields from two tables without a where clause, which in our case indicated that everybody’s favorite ice cream is every single flavor:

M. “Wait… I could use that to solve those math problems where they make me list all possible combinations!”

E. “Yeah! And Order By is WAY easier than alphabetizing the old fashioned way!”

V. “Guys… you are NOT gonna make technology do your homework for you.”

They both sighed dramatically and stared at the screen.

I silently justified myself — surely the hours we spend every day doing menial tasks are worth it, right? Kids have to learn to be self disciplined enough to do busy work, right? And it’s not busy work anyway … it’s practice, right?

… right?

School, and its hours-on-end of repetitive homework, starts in just a few weeks now. Realizing that, I sighed too. E must have read my thoughts, and presently piped up:

“Honestly, the only homework I can’t stand is homework I could do faster with programming.”

I can’t concede this out loud, but the kid makes a fine point, and not just about homework. I mean, that’s why we program, right?

I don’t have another adult around for feedback, so I’ll ask you: what would you do?

What is FOSS?

Mm. Cupcakes. This frosting is really good, and its recipe is all yours!
I’m speaking at Utah Open Source conference next weekend. Yes, it will be a geekfest, but to say FOSS is only for geeks is like saying cupcakes are only for bakers.

This is a cupcake I made recently. I found a frosting recipe online, tweaked it to my liking, and then shared my changes with the world.

No offense to my favorite little bakery, but I dare say this cupcake was every bit as good as what I could have bought there.

“FOSS” stands for “Free and Open Source Software.” That is free as in free of charge, but it’s also free as in freedom.

All cupcakes have a list of ingredients and steps to make them, whether the baker chooses to share the recipe or not. All software has source code that makes it work, too.

Using closed source software is like eating from a bakery that never shares its recipes. Not a bad thing, really. But not very empowering, either.

Using open source software is like using a recipe. You can download it and use it as-is, or tweak it to your liking. Yes, it might require a bit of skill, time, and the right equipment. Just because I have a recipe does not mean I have a cupcake, instantly. But having a recipe DOES make it easier for me to make my own cupcakes when I’d like.

Are they just as good as what I could buy from the pros? Maybe. I would argue that when it comes to open source software, it can become even BETTER than what’s sold as closed-source, because you can have a whole community contributing their ideas to make it better.

Do I still buy cupcakes at Flour Girls and Dough Boys? Every now and then. Am I an expert baker? Not in the least. But because some expert bakers shared their knowledge with me, I do make a great cupcake.

I’m no more a software expert than I am an expert baker, but because of Open Source, I am all the more free. That’s what it’s all about.

Nerds Gone Wild

My wildest spring break ever involved an impromptu road trip to Tuscon with my little brother just a few months before I got married. We alternated listening to cassette tapes of Simon and Garfunkel and the first Matrix soundtrack, drove through a crazy blizzard, and bought a wicked chess set in Nogales. Yes I know, nerdy girls do crazy things when the winds of change are at gale force. Continue reading “Nerds Gone Wild”

“You know you’re a geek when…”

What a day. This morning I woke up to a missing NTLDR that turned out to be a corrupt MBR. I didn’t have an MCE CD because this is a newer HP that wants me to make full drive backups to use for FDISK/Format in lieu of reinstalling. So I tried making a bootable flash card, but couldn’t get it to fly. Then I went down to compusa, where I bought this laptop, thinking they’d have a bootable disc I could use there. No such luck. They had me call HP, who had me run a S.M.A.R.T. test in the bios prior to agreeing to ship an OEM CD.

And then I found the recovery partition (maniacal laugh). Several hours later, and no thanks to long conversations with the darlings in Calcutta who didn’t even MENTION this partition’s existence, MCE is up… Continue reading ““You know you’re a geek when…””

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