Getting your hands dirty

Getting your hands dirty

Food for Thought, lessons of life, Updates

Being a designer / developer means always keeping your knowledge updated and challenging yourself to the next level. It takes more than just mere knowledge of HTML and CSS to be sought after. You are expected to move your magic mouse and create amazing websites and applications (at least that is what the clients expect).

Although I have considered my knowledge of PHP/MySQL/ WordPress sufficient to get me through most situations, I knew it wasn’t enough. I have always known this, which is why I always kept Design Playground around for practice. While browsing tutorials, I stumbled upon Sitepoint‘s e-books for web development. I always have been a fan of Sitepoint’s tutorials. They explain each step with a good reason. So I decided to go ahead and buy their PHP E-Book: Jump Start PHP Environment

While reading their book I came upon a paragraph from their book. Here’s the link to that statement . What it mean was that using Windows based environment software (such as XAMPP, WAMP etc.) was actually bad developer practice. It was nearly like you have the whole kitchen with you to bake that cake. Quick, easy, good for practice and testing – yes ; production – not really. Here are some arguments for why using XAMPP is a bad practice : –

  • You share environment between all of your projects which leave a lot of potential bugs.
  • You save time of setting up environment only to avoid the world of Linux
  • You do not practice Linux Commands frequently, even you will never do it when you deploy your website via FTP on a shared host with support control panel
  • Your test server is not same as the production server.
  • You will use PHPMyAdmin quite frequently for database administration practices.
  • You will depend on it for updating any new libraries, updates from the dynamic LAMP communities such as testing performance of WordPress or Magento on PHP7

So in a nutshell, if you continue to use XAMPP or any similar software, you will get by for a while, but this dependency is going to bite you in the butt in the long run. Let me share a personal experience with you.

We had a crucial client that we were dealing with. My mentor had been shifted to marketing and my other senior project managers were just project managers of name i.e. no help at all. So now I had been tasked with getting this clients web application deployed on a vanilla Red Hat Linux web server. I had always used XAMPP and knew not a thing about Linux, nor did anyone else in the workplace. With a lot of requests and great difficulty , we got the server changed from Red Hat to Windows Server, only to install XAMPP on it. We did get it running, but somehow I felt it wasn’t the right way. That was one of my last projects before leaving the company in 2015. Surprisingly despite the goof up, the head chief of the client said it was great working with me (whether this was heartfelt or just a polite business way of saying “Fuck You”, I wasn’t sure).

Fast forward to July 2017

I am doing a course in Big Data ( I talked about it in my previous post). Turns out setting up the software environment (Hadoop) recommends Linux. It can be done on Windows but it wouldn’t be that efficient and effective and most certainly not production grade. We had been introduced to Virtual Box and had implemented the quick start virtual machines which were available for download from Cloudera. One of the tasks we were told to perform was installing a database on a new virtual machine in Virtual Box. To be honest, it seemed daunting at first but then it seemed similar to loading Windows on a new laptop. Even though I had installed Ubuntu Desktop version of Linux and it did have Graphical User Interface, the thing about Linux was that it is command line driven. So I needed to as someone would say “get my hands dirty”.

When you are stepping out of your comfort zone and you are trying something new, it is difficult at first but then when you don’t quit you get better. I started to get a hang of what command did what or how to run a particular command for installing certain software into it. Not many of them had installers but some of them didn’t even need them as it was downloaded to your system in a location and all it took was just one command to extract the files and install it on the system. Comparatively it was way faster than windows installer and lesser chances of crappy malicious software being installed.

As I started to practice more on it bit by bit, I started to quite appreciate it. After a few interactions, it wasn’t that bad as I had initially assumed. Once upon a time it struck me about the PHP book I had been reading. While the book guys said to use Vagrant for the projects, the idea was to use the command line interface instead of the popular Windows GUI. For me, setting up a Linux virtual machine and using the command line felt easier than using Vagrant, but that’s just me.

Another thing that I realized at that time was that PHP frameworks were trending. Maybe I had been living under a rock but knowledge of frameworks was preferred over just some core code snippets. I had worked mostly on WordPress CMS projects while there were many developers out there using these frameworks to create amazing web applications from scratch. I was fearful that if I did not at least acquaint myself with one or two these frameworks, I was going to be rendered obsolete ( the fear is what made me take the Big Data course in the first place).

Noting this, I looked into the current PHP frameworks. I decided to learn at least one of the 3 PHP frameworks: – Code Ignitor, Laravel or Symfony. I had started to learn about Code Ignitor in my previous job but I had not set up a virtual machine for that. While Laravel is said to be an easy framework to work with, It was nothing close to easy when installing it. I spent almost 3 days to get Laravel up and running on my Ubuntu 14.04 virtual machine. This got me frustrated to a boiling point.

Symfony, however, was not that difficult to deal with. I was able to install it in about 15-20 minutes which was OK. I may not know a whole lot about frameworks, but if they trouble you even before you begin working on it, no amount of conviction is going to make you think about giving it another shot. Laravel did work, but only once and only after I had successfully installed Symfony previously without much trouble. Laravel is a fork ( new age term for clone or derivative) of Symfony. WooCommerce was a fork of JigoShop and it was quite independent of its father, not to mention it became hugely more popular to the point that creators of WordPress, Automattic, assimilated the plugin company into itself.

So Code Ignitor didn’t feel powerful and Laravel was a pain in the butt, leaving me Symfony to practice with. I have just started so I cannot say much, but I hope my post is somewhat a guiding light in choosing the right tool for the job. We need a tool that can get the job done within the time frame allotted. If we keep fiddling and fudging up the installations of our tool, when are we going to work on the real deal. Just something my 5 year work experience has taught me.

While using Ubuntu, it also made me wonder. Had I known a bit about Linux back then when I got the project, I would have been able to deploy their project without ever needing to change the server. While that client still complied, had they been adamant or if they did not have the resources to get a new one, what then? I would have been totally fudged. In a way, this Big Data course really did help out.

My pearls of wisdom entering the world of web development: do not shy away from trying something new. Merely doing a course isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you do need to practice coding and setting a web application for your next client, do what I did; Get a virtual machine software, install a Linux desktop or web server and practice on that. You will get a real feel on how to ACTUALLY work on a production server and deploy your client’s application. You can thank me by thinking about my advice carefully and then taking a decision for or against it, as neither I nor anyone else has the power to force you into anything. It is you who calls the final shots. Good luck.

Big Data – Is it worth the switch ?

Big Data – Is it worth the switch ?

Food for Thought, Updates

As per the recent reports, US president Mr. Donald Trump has signed an executive order to prevent further “abuse” of the H1-B visa, which was previously enabling the software developers from India to work in the US. The billion dollar IT Industry had been using this phenomenon for decades without any trouble. The users of this include giants such as TCS, Infosys, HCL, Cognizant, Wipro and others. President Trump wants to revise the H1-B visa laws so that:

  • Americans get the equal opportunity to work fairly in their own country
  • Only skilled software developers and individuals with rare talents are called in the country
  • Prevent further abuse of the H1-B Visa

After announcement of this rule, UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand followed suite, implementing their own rules to make it tough for the “immigrants” to “steal their jobs”.

Soon after, we got to know the report we all have known since a long time : 60% of Indian engineers are unemployable.

Shocking right?

The reason? After the introduction and acceptance of Artificial Intelligence, Analytics and Big Data, the services the IT industry once thrived upon and were once upon a time sought after are becoming redundant. If our IT people do not upskill or upgrade, they will become redundant in the next 5-10 years.

Now, my question: Are the web designers and developers safe from this flood of change ? In all honesty, I was not able to find an answer for this, but I am going to assume that the answer is not in my favor.

How could have I missed this? why did I spend 4 years of my life just to show “Experienced web developer” on my Resume, when the technologies I work on will become redundant in the next 5 years. Somebody did warn me about the Big Data flood, but my adviser was not exactly a role model in my books. Even if they were right all along and I should have listened to them, I chose to stay my path.

Because I was struggling with something else

Because my mind had become so fragile, any subject that forced my brain to think logically (like advanced engineering mathematics, which turned out be absolutely useless in my line of work) would induce fear in me. I really regret not doing MCA (Master’s in Computer Applications) , but I didn’t have many mentors to guide me.

Because no one would hire a person who had not completed his degree.

Because no one would hire a fresher either.

Because I focused on Shut up and learn instead of Question and Earn.

But most of all, I wanted to prove that I am not a failure of life. I contemplated suicide but figured my life was worth way more to my parents and some close friends than ending it because of a difficult phase.

That was in 2012. 5 years and 2 jobs later, I stand a different man but still have a similar dilemma.

Even though the place where I work I am grateful and convenient ( Pay is on time, no reasons for headache, respected as a senior person, no troubles with management; I’m living the dream job), but seeing this news about becoming redundant and see my friends earn higher than I never did, I figured it was time to “upskill”. Then I worried about the HRs asking me about job hopping, but I realize I have bigger concerns ( I have completed 1 year at my current workplace at the time of this writing) so not really worried about that question anymore. 

I am the kind of person who is always trying out something new, keeping myself engaged. I entered web design so that I can learn SOMETHING, ANYTHING to get through that difficult phase. Choosing to do distance learning MBA was my first well thought decision, something I truly wanted to do. I did a course in Digital Marketing because I believed that SEO was more than just on-page and offpage updation, keywords and article submission. I learned Photoshop,Illustrator and InDesign to keep myself relevant. I worked in WordPress and Core PHP on a daily basis. I wasn’t able to get into other programming languages for the fear of getting confused; plus I wanted a project to actually apply that code. Freelancing is difficult for me as I cannot roast my brain in an IT project after just doing the same thing for the past 8 hrs in my office. I’m sorry but I just can’t do it. Currently working on a self made e-commerce apparel store, because I want to.

Now I’m hearing about Big Data, Analytics and Machine Learning at age 26. It’s not too late to start over, or is it ?

What I want to ask is if I need to be ready for the Big Data flood that is about to hit. I want to do something that matters and pays fairly. I will probably keep web design as my passion, but I wonder if it is worth the switch ? 

Suppose If I did learn big data and got certified, would a fresher get a job in a country who only sniffs for “experienced professionals”. I would like to know what do you think.

Wake up India

Wake up India

Food for Thought

Update: By the time I wrote this post, Behance was up and running again. But the other problems are still prevelant.

So, I was casually patrolling Linkedin when I came across a post asking the link to my work. Of course, I gave my website’s link but I wanted to give link to Behance as well. Surprisingly, the website did not open.

Strange. I just opened the website a month back and it was working fine. I have even updated my projects on it.

I was sure that my internet connection was alright and I had typed in the correct address.

Also, its a decades old website made by the Adobe, so you cannot possibly question that.

But sadly, my thoughts were unable to reason with the blocker in the Indian Government (who decided that Behance was a torrent site and must be blocked) and the website did not become live again…yet.

So let’s just have a brief view at our history in this context, shall we?

  • We already have the CBFC banning fantastic movies or deleting scenes, because we are a “sanskari” (decent) bunch of fellows who can ban a movie about rampant drug abuse in the state, but happily give an A certificate to a movie which doesn’t show women as normal people or humans, but portrays them as gorgeous goddesses sent to Earth for mere “Male Pleasure”.
  • It’s completely fine to  piss (urinate) in public, but not kiss in public.
  • If a woman wears short clothes, goes to clubs, smokes, drinks, has a top that shows her waist and belly button, comes home late at night, among other things, then she is “indecent” and asking for it. While “boys will be boys and make mistakes”.
  • Instead of ensuring strictness in their laws and helping citizens, as the police of the state is supposed to, they are going to parks and beating couples who just want to spend some with each other. I can only wonder if those couples are even safe in the metros.
  • We don’t consider the people from the North Eastern states as Indians
  • We beat the Nigerians black and blue but want girlfriends as “American White”

The list is endless…

Coming back to the point of this post, There are many designers who rely on Behance to show their work to their potential clients and employers. As designers, we have to show what we have done in order to have the next freelance project or job. You not only blocked access to a website, you blocked access to their entire work which they may not have anywhere else. Well played, Indian Government…well played. 

My original idea was to ask about why the government had blocked Behance and to request them to unblock it as the work of many designers (including mine) depends on it, but then I thought there were many other things the Gormint does not approve of. This isn’t the 60’s;  there are now many more job fields other than medical, law and engineering, personal ideas and space matter to people and Indian women CEO’s are a thing. I know it must be hard to accept the changing times, but we only have two options in the is modern race for survival: Adapt or Die.

As much as I applaud India’s technological uprising and innovation, at the same time a democracy old since time immemorial needs to change its patriarchal thinking. I am blessed with the upbringing I have been granted by my family, but the number of good people in this world is dwindling.

How many more young minds will have to commit suicide before you realize there’s something wrong ? How many more rapes need to be reported before you can make your laws stricter ? How many engineers will have to keep searching jobs and keep being rejected before you realize that there’s a flaw that needs to be fixed ASAP.

Just answer: How much more ?

I may be just a mere speck in this nation of billions, but I hope my voice reaches somewhere. I am just a designer of websites, but in my opinion, India desperately needs a “redesign”.

I hope I’ve been able to convey my message and I pray that my voiced concerns will be solved one day. Fingers crossed.

Feel free to let me know your thought in the comments