Learning Never Stops

Image if a badge showing that Mainplus Technology are attending WordPress Europe in Vienna 2016



An industry that never stands still

I’m a great believer that you should never stop learning.  This IT industry of ours never sleeps and unless we make the effort to educate ourselves we inevitably get left behind.

More to learn, less time to do it in

As I have got older, I have found that I slip behind the learning curve. I like to console myself that this is mostly due to my interests widening so the learning I have to do to keep up with our world, just becomes greater, but my time to do so seems to ever decrease.

Formal courses are all very well….

Formal courses and text books are a well proven education channel, and generally have the benefit of providing some sort of evidential piece of paper to prove that you have completed the learning in question. However, one of the great things about our industry is the willingness of incredibly talented and knowledgeable people to give their time and effort to pass on their knowledge. Often for free.

… but why not take advantage of free knowledge transfer

There are many YouTube videos that act as brilliant learning aids. These “how to” videos are great if you need help doing something specific.  They are instantly available but in general you need to search for a specific topic to make use of them.

In my opinion he best way to take advantage of the generous nature of our industry colleagues, is to go to conferences. While there may not be a presentation dealing with your latest, hair tearing, issue, conferences have presentations that expand your outlook and put you contact with like minded individuals, any one of which may have the “magic bullet” you are looking for.

So, for just a few pounds, or even for free, you can get to see and hear industry experts sharing their knowledge.  Not only do you get real world advice in the form of a presentation, but almost without exception, these experts are incredibly approachable and happy to discuss their field outside the confines of their presentation.

Which conferences?

 WordPress Edinbugh

image of the Edinbugh Wordcamp Wapu 2015

Well let’s start off with the Edinburgh Wordcamp held in November 2015.  A great weekend of talks from some of the best WordPress speakers in the UK.  Including Heather Burns, who is probably the foremost speaker on web law in the UK if not Europe.  I have to declare an interest here though.  My local WordPress group, were the organisers of the event. A nicer bunch of people you couldn’t wish to meet. By the time the event was coming to a close there were already talk of the next one.


image of the fossdem logo

To quote the Fossdem website, “FOSDEM is a free event for software developers to meet, share ideas and collaborate.”.

Fossdem is held in Brussels and is the biggest free and open source conference in Europe. Attended by some 5000 hackers and with over 600 presentations it attracts some big names from all over the world to speak.

This year, 2016, I’m really exited.  It would appear that one of the biggest free software names in the world will be speaking. Richard Stallman, Founder of GNU Project and Free Software Foundation will be giving his thoughts on advanced licensing issues in Free Software projects.

Even though I do not consider myself a developer (and neither do many other attendees of Fossdem) I always get a lot out of the conference which is entirely free of charge.

WordcaMp Europe

imapge of an I'm attending Wordcamp Europe 2016 badgeWordcamp Europe is the premier Wordcamp conference in Europe.

To be honest, I’m not too sure what to expect at Wordcamp Europe.  I have talked to many people who have attended in the past and their enthusiasm and determination to return has made me decide to attend for the first time.  It has to be said that the location of Vienna didn’t hurt any either.

Like Fossdem, the size of the conference (at the time of writing they have sold out all 1500 tickets and trying to secure more space to sell more) draws speakers from all over the world.  These include speakers from Automatic (the owners of WordPress) and other companies, such as iThemes, that are world renowned for their plug-ins and themes.

Don’t just sit there…

Make the most of the generous nature of all these people willing to share these knowledge with you.  I’m sure that I will be attending other, smaller events during the year.  After all you can’t be over educated, can you?

Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail – faster than a speeding bullet

OK, not quite faster than a speeding bullet but way faster than previous releases.logo for raring ringtail 13.04

Last weekend I decided to upgrade to Ubuntu 13.04 “Raring Ringtail” after watching Nixie Pixel’s review of the release.  The key part of the review that prompted me to upgrade was Nixie’s comments about how video works right out the box in Ringtail.  The poor video handling has been a major bugbear of mine ever since I installed my first Ubuntu OS.

My main use of Ubuntu is to breath new life into machines that are considered “unworthy” by other operating systems.  In the past video has been jumpy, out of sync, crash prone and even unplayable on these older boxes.  Things seemed to be getting worse rather than better. I found that Ubuntu 12.10 didn’t even recognise my GeForce 6600 graphics card (it’s not that old, or unusual for heaven’s sake).  It only took me a hour or so of digging around the forums etc. to get it up and running but I have worked in the IT industry for longer than I care to admit and if Canonical want to seriously challenge the major OS players, this is the type of issue they have to sort out.

It was fingers crossed then when Ringtail first booted up.

I was practically jumping for joy when the desktop was displayed with no dodgy offsets, a decent resolution and the system info told me that it had recognised my graphics card correctly.

My next step was to check out how well Ringtail did when playing video.  Would Nixie’s comments only be relevant to newer faster PCs than mine?

All the  YouTube videos I tried played without problem.  No skipping, crashing and no audio sync problems!  I think it may even handle YouTube videos better than Windows 7 running on a newer more powerful machine.

I gave up trying to watch DVDs and movies using Ubuntu long ago because they were just unwatchable.  As a result my expectations were pretty low when I opened my first movie, but what the heck, things were already better than I had been expecting.  I was pretty much blown away when the movie kicked into life and played as smooth as silk!

Whilst going through these tests I noticed that performance in general seemed to be somewhat better than previous releases.

Did this mean that my other major gripe, that the Software Centre essentially hangs my machine when it open, has been resolved.?

Yes! The Ubuntu Software Centre still takes 30 seconds or more to open (I do have a slow broadband connection), but this is much better than previous releasses.  I generally went and made a cup of coffee while it opened.  The really big news is that it doesn’t hang my machine while it opens so I can get on with other tasks while I’m waiting.

So is all now rosy with Ubuntu?  Not quite yet.

Some common third party software packages like Dropbox disappears when you install the release.  Yes, I know you get a warning during the upgrade process that this will happen, but if Canonical wants to lure away the average Windows home user, this is not conducive to that aim.  Having said that, at least Dropbox now appears in the Software Centre.

There are web pages and videos that suggests the “top x things to do once you have updated Ubuntu”.  These suggestions include the loading of additional drivers, software and changes to configuration settings. Most of suggestion pages are release specific, but some common themes crop up in most of the suggestions and across releases.  The suggestions list I used was from Web Upd8.

There are generally good reasons why Canonical doesn’t include the additional drivers and software (e.g. to prevent bloating and to remain true to its open source principals) but perhaps they should consider including a package, as part of the installation, that would allow users to optionally instigate some of the more generic and popular suggestions.

There has been some criticism that Ringtail hasn’t got enough in it to attract new users.  Let’s not forget though that both Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) and 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) are intermediate releases and perhaps Canonical has more up its sleeve for 14.04 the next LTR (Long Term Release) due sometime around April 2014.

I for one will be using my Ubuntu machine far more in the future as a result of Ringtail and this post is evidence of that. I am writing it using Ubuntu whereas I would have normally written it on my Windows machine.