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Subject: Resource recommendations to extend my IT skillset rss

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Rob
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I’ve been in the IT field for about 20 years now. My core skills are in the Windows server/desktop support and config, as well as major app support (Office, et al). But I know I need to extend and my skillset, and need to get reasonably competent with secondary skills. To that end, I’m posting this to get an idea of the best resources for specific skills. Right now, I’m looking at three targeted skills: Unix/Linux, SQL and Java. For each of these skills, I’d appreciate getting your thoughts on these questions:

- Which is the best version/release to focus on (if any)?

- Which are the best cost-effective resources you’ve come across to learn these skills? For example, this could be self-teach books, online courses, etc.

Just to re-iterate, I’m not looking to become an expert with any of these skills - at least not in the near future - but become reasonably competent in using these as secondary skills on the job. I might add more skills in future. But please, feel free to mention other topics/skills that you think might be crucial for someone in my position to know. Thanks in advance.
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Steve Wagner
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I'd skip Java. Doesn't fit in with anything else that you are already doing. If you were to learn a server side language I'd recommend PHP or ASP (I'm a Windows programmer, so my bias is towards ASP, but PHP is needed if you're going towards Unix.)

I'd highly recommend learning SQL, Javascript and CSS. Everything is going web based and those are the technologies being widely used on any OS.

Self teach books are good, but I like video tutorials the best. That's the free way to go. iTunes University and Channel 9 (by Microsoft) are some of the best free tutorials\classes I know of.

Edit: I forgot about json and xml. Learning one or both of those are also good to know. json is used more now, but xml has some uses that json doesn't.
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Chris
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I'll tell you what I've used: I'm no expert but this has served my purpose of learning a bit well:

Ubuntu: www.ubuntu.com
An easy to use, easy to install Linux OS, well supported and pretty popular.

the LAMP stack:
http://www.turnkeylinux.org/lampstack
http://www.linux.com/learn/tutorials/288158-easy-lamp-server...
https://library.linode.com/lamp-guides/ubuntu-12.04-precise-...

This will require you to use PHP (or I think Perl works as well), but these are both well documented and not hard to use.
http://php.net
http://perldoc.perl.org/

This should provide you with the tools to set up a proper environment to learn a bit of what you need. I've never really messed with Java though, so I've got nothing there.
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Rob
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Please elaborate: you mention learning Javascript, but not Java. Can you learn one without the other?
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Chris
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Just because I'm looking right now and the answer is simple, I'm going to jump in with this: Java and Javascript have no relationship besides Java in the name.

Javascript is strictly used for client-side scripting for web pages, and is pretty much ubiquitous when it comes to most modern sites. Java is just a programming language that can be used to write some object-oriented logic on the backend, though I don't think it really is used much (or at all) for web sites other than for applets which get embedded through some method or other (like I said, haven't really done much with it).
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fightcitymayor
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SQL is always in-demand to some degree, and it's a pretty easy language to learn. It's all just some derivation of SELECT * FROM, so you can pick up a book and learn the basics, then maybe fire up SQL Server Management Studio and try a few on your own. Since you aren't actually programming anything, you are just querying existing data, it doesn't require a huge time commitment to figure out what to do, it simply exists to manipulate data.



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Lee Fisher
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ColdFrog wrote:


Javascript is strictly used for client-side scripting for web pages, and is pretty much ubiquitous when it comes to most modern sites.


Not so strictly any more, server-side Javascript is growing rapidly.
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Chris
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lfisher wrote:
ColdFrog wrote:


Javascript is strictly used for client-side scripting for web pages, and is pretty much ubiquitous when it comes to most modern sites.


Not so strictly any more, server-side Javascript is growing rapidly.


Server-side javascript? You're talking about AJAX calls maybe? Or something else altogether? I'm generally a C# person myself, so I'm not really sure what you're talking about here.
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Steve Wagner
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Really, you want to be learning about jquery. It's an add-on (for lack of better word) for Javascript that does almost anything you want. It uses Javascript syntax while introducing some other stuff to it. It's probably too much to explain here, but find some good tutorials (like at channel9) which will explain it much better.

Also, keep an eye out on the GO programming language. This is Google's attempt at combining the browser side with the server side. I haven't tried it yet and doubt it will be ready for a few years, but it could be the future of web design.
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Rob
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Is SQL open-source, like Linux? And does one customized version, like Microsoft SQL, dominate the market and is more preferable to learn?
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Steve Wagner
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The short answer is that most SQL commands are used by both major SQL versions. Microsoft, MySQL and Oracle are the major versions that I know of. Each may have some different commands, but those aren't necessary to know. MySQL is the open version, to my knowledge.

My knowledge of the different systems is limited outside of Microsoft. I played with MySQL once and heard stories of Oracle. Someone else may be able to fill in more.

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Mark Smith
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You might look at Sharepoint config/management. Personally, as a developer, I loathe it, but it seems like a good match with your server and app support skills.
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Hammock Backpacker
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Javascript is *not* just for the client any more. There are many applications of Javascript and Javascript like languages in the server. Some even run inside database engines (see MongoDB).
Javascript is *not* Java. They're completely different languages that unfortunately share a common prefix.
There is a new-found love for Javascript and dynamically typed languages especially in the area of testing. You can write bad Javascript just like you can write write bad Java but you can also write some pretty bad-ass OO stuff if you just use the tools the language provides that you might not necessarily be aware of.

In my opinion, Database/SQL people are a dime a dozen (no slams intended). I code Java all day long but Java is becoming the modern day COBOL of enterprise systems.

You might want to consider dipping your toes into the Gherkin/Cucumber/Ruby arena. It seems many Agile shops (mine included) require *lots* of automated testing support and many use this suite of tools to do that. You don't strictly have to understand Ruby code but it helps immensely.

Grab some books about ATDD and TDD and if you become proficient in any of the toolsets you may find yourself in high demand.

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Jeff Wiles
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I keep reading the thread title as IT skillet.
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Sinister Dexter wrote:
Please elaborate: you mention learning Javascript, but not Java. Can you learn one without the other?

Javascript and Java are unrelated except for the name. Javascript is probably the more useful one to learn.

I reckon most IT types could use more SQL knowledge (especially Oracle flavours), and some basic networking skills.
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fightcitymayor
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matthew.marquand wrote:
In my opinion, Database/SQL people are a dime a dozen (no slams intended).
The optimal word there is "dozen," as in "more opportunities in more industries than your typical code-monkey." And a greater chance to escape the IT ghetto & actually get work on the business side, so your job becomes more secure and less "can't we outsource this guy to India for half-price?"

How do I know this?

I've been a SQL guy for 15 years.



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Hammock Backpacker
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fightcitymayor wrote:
matthew.marquand wrote:
In my opinion, Database/SQL people are a dime a dozen (no slams intended).
The optimal word there is "dozen," as in "more opportunities in more industries than your typical code-monkey." And a greater chance to escape the IT ghetto & actually get work on the business side, so your job becomes more secure and less "can't we outsource this guy to India for half-price?"

How do I know this?

I've been a SQL guy for 15 years.





Well, I've been a "Java guy" and a "code monkey" working as an independent contractor for 15 years after working previously as a salaried "code monkey" for 11 years. I don't doubt that database guys are needed and are useful but IMHO, there aren't the number of openings that you'd find for a coder/tester and/or code monkey.

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matthew.marquand wrote:
Well, I've been a "Java guy" and a "code monkey" working as an independent contractor for 15 years after working previously as a salaried "code monkey" for 11 years. I don't doubt that database guys are needed and are useful but IMHO, there aren't the number of openings that you'd find for a coder/tester and/or code monkey.

I'm pretty sure it's the opposite. Off the shelf products, in house products, reporting, BI, data warehousing etc all need database people. Setting up and maintaining a DR site needs database people. Even just running Exchange or Sharepoint or Citrix needs a DBA.
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Steve Wagner
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Diverse skills is the way to go these days. At my current job, I'm the DBA, web designer and the programmer, while also dealing with AX also. I believe the reason I was hired was because I had a diverse skill set.

Also, I second learning Sharepoint. It's everywhere now and seems to be the current and future way that Microsoft (and others) is heading. Learning about the cloud is probably a good idea also.
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Hiding Tiger
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On the off-chance that a mining engineer's opinion counts for anything here, I vote SQL.

I taught myself Transact-SQL (Microsoft) using the help files in the SQl Server 2000 Query Analyzer (now SQL Server Management Studio - the Express version is a free download and does everything you're likely to need), and with the assistance of the old MSDN forums. I offered assistance on the VBA forum while getting assistance from the SQL forum, but rarely had to actually ask anything because I could usually find the answer by searching what was already there.
BUT I learnt it in bits and pieces. As I wanted to do something I found out how, rather than dedicating myself to learning it. I'm hardly a guru but it's rare now that I can't do what I need to do. The skill is very useful - we have a tremendous amount of data collected by our fleet management system (Modular Mining in case anyone cares) - and what's the point of collecting it if nobody has the skills to analyse and learn from it? Standard reporting is all well and good, but there are times that you want to relate data from different sources to either make better predictions/planning assumptions or improve performance.
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