Category Archives: Computers & Internet

Problem with stand-alone executables?

Well, I just have to share this with whosoever is desperately looking for a solution to this problem and happens to stumble across this post.

It’s not easy being a newbie in any thing, and computing is no exception.

I have written a small program that I will be using for my work in the office and which would also benefit a few staffers. I wrote it in C++ and compiled it using Visual Studio. However, I couldn’t find the executable file (*.exe) anywhere on my computer!

I went over to the MSDN site, as well as StackOverflow, looking for a solution but there was none in sight. To make matters worse, I discovered that MANY beginner programmers were facing the same issue.

Then I found this video on YouTube – and voilá! – problem solved. The answer to my question is ridiculously straightforward; indeed, ignorance is very costly.

If you’re in a bind like I was, I hope this works for you the way it did for me!

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My experience doing R trainings at work

Recently, the office decided to set up a small team to manage its social media presence. Because I had somewhat encouraged the development, I was asked to work with them, at least as a facilitator.

Somewhere down the line, I suggested to some on the team that they should consider carrying out analysis of the social media data, at least beyond the metrics that were already available on most of those sites.

I quickly put together a very rudimentary, but useful, Shiny app, (not without some inspiration from this guy) just to demonstrate a bit of what was possible, and they were eager for me to train them in the use of R. I will share more about the app sometime later.

Application that plots social media data

Screenshot of the Shiny app developed for the team

My aim was (and still is) to get them to a point where they could carry out basic analyses on their own and grow from there. I tried to keep the material as basic and non-intimidating as possible – some of the students admitted to a morbid fear of statistics and I didn’t want to scare them off with anything too tough.

I consider myself a beginner still, so this experience really broadened my own understanding of the language. And I had a lot of fun doing it.

Well, I put together some slides on the training sessions and felt I should share them and hopefully get some feedback. Here they are:

  1. Introduction to R Programming
  2. R Data Structures – starting them off on vectors
  3. R Data Structures (Pt. II) – diving into the basics of data frames
  4. R Data Structures (Pt. III) – examining ways of working with matrices
  5. R Data Structures (Pt. IV) – lists (and lists)

The good thing is that some friends and colleagues (outside the office) have told me that, in the coming year, they would like me to train them as well in the use of R.

It’s only an opportunity for me to, yet, learn the more.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Using IDE [sic]

This is a good blog. I use IDEs, but my take on them is this: It makes a lot of sense for learners to start with manual before moving on to automatic, because the day you’re forced to drive manual, you may find yourself unable to do so.

Expert Wannabe

IDEs are simply programs to write programs. They are generally editing environments with tools
to help programmers write code quickly and efficiently. As an example, we can create PHP-driven
web applications using a combination of Eclipse and PHPEclipse. Core features typically include:

Code completion or code insight: The ability of an IDE to know a language’s
keywords and function names is crucial. The IDE may use this knowledge to do such
things as highlight typographic errors, suggest a list of available functions based on the
appropriate situation, or offer a function’s definition from the official documentation.

Resource management: When creating applications, languages often rely on
certain resources, like library or header files, to be at specific locations. IDEs
should be able to manage these resources. An IDE should be aware of any required
resources so that errors can be spotted at the development stage and not…

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Why you should use the Command Line (a lot…)

My office colleague, “R”, is always on my case: “Ha! I’m always amazed to see you using your command line!” Well, remarks like this, kinda make me feel, geeky, but trust me, I’m no nerd – just some curious cat. It may make one look like they have special powers, but I’m just blessed that the first time I started using (or rather, fooling around) with computers, it was at the command line.

It never did much with it, but that start spared me from the irrational trepidation that many people have towards the console. The only DOS commands I knew back then were CD, DIR, TREE and ROBOCOPY – of which I only used the first three. So, I wasn’t really a user. A few years down the line, atrocious internet connections forced me to do ipconfiging and pinging. But that was it. I’m not a Special One.

I use the command line interface (CLI) nowadays for one simple reason: I’m lazy. Maybe I became lazy since I started doing a lot more programming. Nowadays I work principally from Windows Powershell, which is both a CLI and a scripting environment. It can’t get better than this. But here’s why:

    1. It saves me tons of time: After setting up my Powershell profile, whenever I want to read my Bible, I just type in bible. When I want to log onto my WiFi, I pass the instruction smile, and when I’m done I tell my machine to smileoff. How long did it take me to write the script that enables me to do this? Just a few minutes. How much time is it saving me? Cumulatively, hours!

# Alias: smile/smileoff. Command for controlling my personal Wi-Fi
function Connect-Smile
{
    (netsh wlan connect name='Smile@Maverick')
}
New-Alias -Name smile -Value Connect-Smile

# ----------------------------------------#

function Disconnect-Smile
{
    (netsh wlan disconnect)
}
New-Alias -Name smileoff -Value Disconnect-Smile


  1. I have a lot more control over my computer: As one begins to use the command line more often, one gathers more and more experience on its features and the different possibilities. I know feel much more in control when I’m using the computer and I can customise it a lot more, so that it actually is MY computer. As I pick up one or two scripts (or scripting skills) from the internet and apply them to my system, I can make it bend a lot more to my whims and caprices, and also selectively shut out prying eyes.
  2. I gain more expressivity: I read this blog on this issue and I agree with the author – since I started using the command line, almost exclusively, when interacting with the operating system, the mindless mouse clicking has turned into an actual semblance between me and the computer. For good measure, I included a greeting message in my Profile, so whenever I fire up the program, I get this greeting. Are these the beginnings of AI for me (á la Mark)?

Powershell startup with personalised greeting.

  1. I have less stress after upgrades: I remember the jump I had to make from Windows XP/7 and Windows 8. The difference was so clear and the learning curve quite steep. I recall having to make the same leap from Windows 2000 to XP. Why, oh why, Microsoft??? I upgraded to Windows 10 a few months ago, but guess what? I never had to bother about the new interface. I can count on one hand the number of times I have used the Start Menu. When I first saw it I was like “What the heck?! I will operate from my blue screen, thank you very much.” On a serious note, if you can learn to carry out your most mundane tasks and launch your commonly used programs from the command line, you will save yourself hours or even days and weeks of trying to figure out how to use your PC’s GUI after major operating system upgrades because the CLI stays basically the same. This works across platforms to (in a way); the other day a friend asked me to do something on her Mac and being a Mac-ignoramus, I opened the shell, BASH, and worked from there. She was just staring at me with utter amazement!
  2. I can run many programs and utilities in the same window: I discovered this one only recently and I’m exploring it. Just like I mentioned about ipconfig earlier, I found out that I could run Git and R right there in the CLI. So, when I want to just do a quick commit, I run gitcmd, which I pre-configured in my Powershell Profile to run git-cmd.exe. Alternatively, I could have pointed the Git directory to $PATH (for more information on how to do this in Windows, read this article).

This post is getting too long, sorry. There are other benefits you can discover on your own on the internet. All I am saying to those who are so accustomed to clicking-and-pointing: Learn to use command line, especially if you’re a professional or in any kind of technical field. It will save you a lot of hassle once you get the hang of it.

Cheers.

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CS50: Learning computer science can be pure, unadulterated fun!

I think I’m reasonably educated (I can still do a lot better) and have sat under a number of teachers in my short lifetime. Recently, I decided to make a move into the field of computing – it’s not been that easy but very rewarding.

First, let me state that I have grown to believe that a deeper knowledge of computing is gradually becoming an absolute necessity for any serious professional. The coming of Big Data, AI and IoT have convinced me of this. On a personal level, my interest in all things statistics and data in my work and business have naturally taken me down this path.

Not that I was completely strange to computers. Being the curious cat that I am, I wrote my first computer program (the creation of a sprite) while visiting a friend in my days in medical school. After compulsory national service, my colleagues couldn’t understand why I was walking around with a book on calculus – and I didn’t understand it either. Perhaps it was the cock in me that was crowing

But, let me get to the point of this post. Recently I’ve been enduring a lot of really boring instructors when learning about R and C++ (I read somewhere that programmers are really poor teachers, as this is evident when you try to decipher the standard documentation that comes with these programming languages). So, the first time I came across Harvard’s CS50, I just skipped it. (I had taken one course in Harvard 2 years ago and it was really lousy.)

When I decided to look at the course again, I was simply blown away. Indeed, CS50’s reputation as the most popular computer science course is well deserved. It is simply a fantastic experience of pure fun and at the same time challenging enough to get one going in learning about computing basics.

The Professor, David Malan, and the rest of the staff are super brilliant and so, so good at teaching computer skills to both neophytes and hackers. I have never seen it done so well!

The good thing is that it’s not about one particular programming language, but about principles and combs quite effectively through low-level C paradigms, to higher level coding such as web programming (HTML, CSS, PHP) and SQL.

So, to sum it all up:

  • Computing is very important and is going to be more important in the years to come.
  • An easy, fun and stimulating introduction to computing (as well as refresher for more experienced programmers) is available with CS50.

You can set aside the 12 weeks-plus to take the course online on edX. The ongoing course will be ending December 31, 2016, but I’m pretty sure there will  be another opportunity soon. To get a whiff of what’s in the course, take a look at this video!

If you’re thinking of learning about programming, go for it. You will never regret it.

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