My Virtual Vacation and Free Stuff

Summer vacation has mercifully arrived for me and my students.  Unlike many teachers, I’m at the school through most of the Summer.  My students get three weeks off – I get one week followed by a couple weeks of what will essentially be teacher workdays.  Judging from the sympathetic looks I was getting from other staff members and the sudden, dramatic drop-off in attendance of my classes, I’m thinking the break didn’t come a moment too soon.

Naturally, I did what I usually do when presented with such welcome time off … I compiled a list of tech projects I want to work on so I can see how many I can really do between naps and Netflix binges.

While I was closing up my classroom yesterday, I started thinking that it would be good to convert one of the machines into an ASP.NET web server . After the break, I’ll be adding ASP.NET to my students’ list of Reasons to Consider Careers Other than Software Development. (I’ve tried to reassure them it just builds on their current C# experience but I can tell they’re not buying it.) Having a server will give them experience deploying their projects without having to pay for an account somewhere.

On the other side, my first project was actually to put together a LAMP stack with Linux Mint 18.3,  WordPress and CiviCRM on an old Dell desktop that I’ve had lying around for a couple years.  It all seems to work pretty well on a 2.53 Ghz Celeron and 2 GB of memory which is less than any recent edition of Windows would need. From what I’ve seen, Mint is a pretty good option for extending the usability of older hardware and is fun to play around with, too. I was happy when It instantly recognized and configured my old Belkin USB Wi-Fi adapter.

While consulting my own book, MySQL Explained, for notes on setting up the LAMP system, I realized that the update to that book is even more urgent than I thought. I probably won’t start that in the next few weeks but I might take some time to start some notes. I’m hoping that my classroom experience will result in the next edition being even better.

One lesson I’ve learned through teaching is to see what materials I can find online before investing in actual textbooks.  The C# textbook I included in the course, Starting Out With Visual C# by Tony Gaddis, is excellent and I wouldn’t trade it for anything but the C# Yellow Book by Rob Miles is also very good and free to download.  While it doesn’t have the systematic path through C#, the Q&A and extensive exercises that the Gaddis book does, it goes farther and I’ve started assigning reading from it.

Wise Owl Training also has dozens of excellent videos on YouTube for SQL programming, C# and other subjects. Having a prepared video that the students can refer back to as needed is ten times better than a standard lecture, especially in a night class.

Overlapping with ASP.NET, we’re also going to be looking at JavaScript which does not merit an entire textbook but needs more than the basic treatment that HTML / CSS / JavaScript tutorials often give it. Eloquent JavaScript is another free online textbook with an easy, friendly style and guided projects that I’ll be referring to in class, not only for JS but programming in general. also has complete, free online tutorials for JavaScript, HTML and CSS.