I Registered for Hack.Summit() 2016 and 5 Reasons Why You Should Too

The second annual Hack.Summit() 2016 conference coming this February is shaping up to fulfill its goal yet again of being the largest programming conference in history.  Over 64,000 people participated in the conference during its inauguration, and the organizers are hoping to increase that number.  I’ve gotten feedback from others who participated last year that they really enjoyed the speakers’ insight on the industry and specifically learning more about how contribute to the open-source community.  Not wanting to miss it, I registered and hope you all join me.  Here’s 5 reasons why you should:

1.  Some of the creators of the world’s top technology are keynote speakers.  The creators of Ruby on Rails, Drupal, Google Glass, TDD, Sass, and Apache Storm will all be speaking.  Founders such as Joel Spolsky of Trello and Stack Overflow, Brian Fox of GNU Bash Shell, and Orion Henry of Heroku will also lead keynotes and sessions.

2.  The hackathon involves solving real problems for non-profit organizations and companies.  According to one of the event’s main organizers, 30,000 developers from 900+ cities have signed up for it so far.  The winning team prize pool is $150,000.

3.  It’s virtual, so you don’t have to worry about travel and lodging expenses. The conference will be streamed entirely online through Crowdcast, and if you have a ticket code, you can access the videos at a later time once posted.

4.  Can’t afford it? No problem! Tweet or donate to an org to earn a ticket.  The goal is to raise at least $50,000 for great organizations such as Coder Dojo that has established free programming clubs all over America, and Code.org which works to expand computer science education in schools. Tweeting about the conference helps improve participation and visibility, but donate if you can to earn a ticket as well.

5.  The presenters have noted they want to help developers “find their dream job”. Improving mentorship between seasoned and new developers is a goal of the event.  If that means participants will have the chance to connect with potential employers than it’s definitely worth it to attend if you can. Plus there is a *bonus gift* if you register that could help boost your resume skills immensely, but I’ll keep that secret to myself for now 😉

If you stream it, send me a shout out in the chat and I’ll answer back.  I’ll also make my username known on twitter the day of, so follow me @SheThrives11 to keep up. Conference information below.

Hack.Summit() 2016

When: February 22-25, 2016

Where: Online, livestreamed through Crowdcast

Register here and make sure you check the box if you plan to join the hackathon

 

 

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Part II of Andrea’s Raspberry Pi Adventures!

Fellow Our Code reader Andrea shares the latest update on video tracking project built with RaspPi in today’s Part II post.  In the first part of series, Andrea detailed her planning process, sharing logistics on materials, networking, and getting the microcontroller to connect. Click here to read Part I.

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Where I was at the end of my last post: I had a pineapple, and a Raspberry Pi B+ [along with the camera module], which I had programmed to take a photo at a given time three times each day. I was testing the idea of using a power pack to provide power to the Raspberry Pi.

Using my power pack turned out to be a bit of a fail.  It was a power pack I’d been given for free as a promotion by a mobile network, so I didn’t have the highest of hopes for it. While it did supply adequate power to run the Pi without the rainbow square in the corner (which indicates not enough power to the Pi), it didn’t hold enough power for it to run for more than a short amount of time. It was more in terms of hours, than days. Weeks would have been the best scenario for a portable power supply. I ended up moving an existing extension lead, and used a charging cable I had for a previous phone, secured with a bit of Blu-tack to make sure it wouldn’t move the Pi around at all. Plugged in, I left the Raspberry Pi running for a few days to see what it would produce.

I also had to play around with the placement of the Raspberry Pi. I’ve played around with cameras a lot, but I wasn’t sure what the camera module would be like. The official documentation told me that the camera was fixed focus, with the depth of field being from 1m in front of the lens to infinity.  You can read a little about focal length and depth of field here.

Placing the pineapple 1m in front of the lens wasn’t going to work. For one thing, my window sill wasn’t that long, and it would make the pineapple much too small in each photo. It was time to get creative! I knew other people must have had the same issue; time lapse photography is a pretty popular Raspberry Pi project, so I took to the internet to see how they were dealing with it.

A few sites and forum posts tried to reassure me that I could in fact change the focal length of the lens by delicately turning it, but considering I’d just managed to snap the small plastic frame I’d bought to hold the camera module, I wasn’t about to go anywhere near the lens with a pair of pliers! Some of the more DIY Raspberry Pi discussions online introduced me to the idea of using a lens from a cheap pair of reading glasses. Suddenly it was like the clouds were parting above me! I consider photography a hobby of mine, so I was familiar with the idea of using lenses to bring a subject in closer and fill the frame. I also knew of a camera shop around the corner from where I work, so I decided to drop in and discuss what I wanted to do with someone.

lensI prefaced my explanation with “Now, this may sounds a bit odd, just bear with me!..”  Thankfully the guy had heard of the Raspberry Pi before, and thought my project sounded kind of cool! He wasn’t too familiar with the camera module itself, but when I explained that the lens was pretty small, (around 1cm wide- just estimating), he pulled out a drawer of various lenses. For someone who loves photography, the sight of that drawer was pretty sweet! I explained that the depth of field started around 1m but I wanted to bring that in to probably about half that distance, but that I wasn’t completely sure exactly how close the subject would be. I ended up getting two Hoya lenses, a +2 dioptre lens, and a +4 dioptre lens- because the effect of the lenses is cumulative, that meant I would be able to get the effect of +2, +4, or +6, depending on how far I decided to sit the subject from the camera. You can read about dioptres here.

Because I’ve positioned the camera module inside the Raspberry Pi case, I had no real way to attach the new lenses. There are small clips at the top/front to hold it, which is quite nice–keeps it all together.  The Raspberry Pi inside the case and the cables were already Blu-tack’ed into place, so I thought that Blu-tack’ing the lens to the front of the case seemed like an okay solution. I had previously considered using black electrical tape, thinking that it also might cut down on any glare, but was worried that it might leave a residue on the Pi case and also on the lenses, so decided against it.

admin-ajaxI attached the +2 lens to the front of the Pi case and the difference was obvious! I was super impressed with the images that were being produced! It felt great to have images that were so well-focused on the first try after fighting with the camera module for so long to get ones that were almost okay. I stayed with the +2 lens: the subject filled the frame nicely and the lines and edges in the image were crisp.

The HDMI cable I used to connect the Pi to the TV I was using as a monitor doesn’t get left in place when I’m not using it- it’s a pretty awkward location, and the cable is quite thick. Whenever I’m finished tinkering around with the Pi for a while I unplug the cable, and then use my phone as an overpriced level to make sure that the Pi’s case (and the camera inside!) are level.  This just makes sure that the photos are as consistent as possible when I stitch them together to make a video.  It would be kind of funny/weird if someone got seasick from watching it though!

Now I had to leave the Raspberry Pi and the pineapple, cross my fingers and hope for the best!

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A Kulbaba: When she’s not playing with sugar or getting covered in chocolate in my day job as a pastry chef,  she’s busy with all sorts of geekery!  Andrea blogs mainly about learning to be a front-end web developer, and her tinkerings with a raspberry pi.  Follow her on Twitter @AKulbaba and read her blog Part Timer here.

Andrea’s Raspberry Pi Adventures

Next to my hackathon series, the most read series on Our Code was #MarchIsForMakers, where I offered an introduction to microcontrollers and wearable projects for newbies.  Due to the success of that series, I made a mental note to do more posts about computer hardware, specifically microcontrollers such as the Arduino and Raspberry Pi.  What I love about microcontrollers is that they are essentially micro PCs that can be programmed using Ruby (with Artoo or the SerialPort gem) and Python.  Things you can make with microcontrollers, such as heart monitors, small robots, drones, and casual wearables have caused an uptick in Internet of Things (#IoT) programmers and tinkerers.

Fellow coder and Our Code reader, Andrea, has been using RaspPi to create a video tracking project.  I thought it would be great to showcase her project for others who want to follow along and learn more about RaspPi’s capabilities.  She politely agreed.   Here’s Part I in Andrea’s Raspberry Pi Adventures.

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I’ve been really excited about one of my personal projects for the past couple of weeks, but haven’t wanted to say too much in case it wasn’t going to be feasible for whatever reason.

My project: I’m a bit of a windowsill gardener, and I thought it would be pretty cool to create a time lapse video tracking the growth of a couple of my plants. A combination of confidence in my green thumb (courtesy of one of my friends) and too much time spent on Pinterest has resulted in a pineapple plant growing in my living room. We go through a lot of pineapples at my day job (working in a hotel), so sourcing one wasn’t hard. I just cut off the top of the pineapple, cut away all of the flesh from the stem, peeled away some leaves and trimmed away until I could see some of the roots.  At that point the pineapple stem was placed in a jar of water.  The remaining leaves stick out and sit on the edge of the jar, keeping the stem from going too far into the glass. The stem sits in the water for a few weeks while the roots grow, and once they’ve reached a few inches in length I moved the stem to a plant pot with soil. Slowly new leaves start to grow, and I’m at this point with my pineapple now.

The logistics: I decided to use a Raspberry Pi for this project. It’s an extremely cool, adaptable microcomputer, and you can learn more about it from their official site. I’ve been wanting to play around with one of these for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity! I was originally planning on using a wifi adapter to send the images (taken two or three times each day) directly to cloud storage, but in the interest of power consumption I’m just going to be saving the images to the Pi, and harvesting them weekly. Looking at power- power supply is cited as an source in a lot of online posts about Raspberry Pi issues, so I was happy to see that my power supply and cable did supply adequate power.  The Pi makes this obvious by displaying a rainbow-coloured square in the upper right corner of the display if it isn’t receiving what it deems to be enough power.

Since I’m planning on having the Pi on a window sill, and would like it to still be fairly discreet, I’m actually going to try using a power bank to power the Pi. Ideally, I would like the Pi to send me a notification (perhaps via Bluetooth, or over the internet) when the power drops below a certain level, but that may be slightly beyond me for the time being. I’m currently testing my power bank to see how long it can supply power for before it needs recharging.

A few weeks ago I ordered a Raspberry Pi B+, along with the camera module, and last week ordered a micro SD card, mount for the camera, and a case for the Pi itself.

Raspberry Pi microcontroller

Raspberry Pi microcontroller

 

RPV

Initially, I had hoped to set up the Pi using SSH, but I got a bit frustrated after a few failed connection messages, so picked up an HDMI cable this week, and set up the Pi using a television for a monitor, and a controller that we have for one of our other devices. Suddenly I was making great headway! It took a few tries, but I set up the camera and wrote the command to take a photo and save the file to a certain directory, and then edited the crontab file so that the script runs three times each day.

Raspberry Pi Welcome Screen

This is the point that I’m at, so tonight when I get home from work I’ll see if the Pi is still running and on my next day off, or when I next have time, I’ll connect it back up to the telly so I can see how many photos were taken, also helping me figure out exactly how long the power pack will last.

It’s also worth noting that everything here was bought separately- you can buy kits, but I wanted these specific cases: the one for the Pi itself, and that particular one for the camera.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has used a Raspberry Pi before! They seem really versatile, and I’ve been reading about some of the really creative things people have been doing with them!

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Stay tuned to read more about Andrea’s RaspPi project.  I will be posting any followups here in the future.

A Kulbaba: When she’s not playing with sugar or getting covered in chocolate in my day job as a pastry chef,  she’s busy with all sorts of geekery!  Andrea blogs mainly about learning to be a front-end web developer, and her tinkerings with a raspberry pi.  Follow her on Twitter @AKulbaba and read her blog Part Timer here.

#MotivationMonday Series: From Back to Front-end…Again

This guest post is part of Our Code’s new #MotivationMonday series.  In this series, featured writers will be documenting their coding journeys as they prepare to become established and seek jobs in web development.  Our guest today is Rashida Thompson, who’s love for blogging and design fuels her ambition to become a front-end developer.

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My name is Rashida, and I guess you could call me the comeback coding kid.  I *officially* declared my desire to learn to code at the beginning of 2014.  It’s now nearing the end of 2015 (what?!) and I’m in the same place that I started…at least it feels that way.

So begins my struggle story…

I’ve had a love for tech practically my entire life.  From constantly upgrading gadgets, creating numerous blogs, and considering majoring in engineering in college, I just knew I had to find my place in the tech world.  Flashback to 2011, I became serious about blogging and created my first WordPress blog.  Personal branding was a super big deal at the time, and I needed something to get my name out there so I could get my dream job.

I’ve always loved writing so I thought I’d be great at blogging.  Instead, I found myself becoming more interested in tweaking my theme than I did actually creating content.  Hmm…maybe I was on to something. I continued playing around with WordPress off and on for the next year and a half, but I needed more.

Enter Codecademy in 2014.  I discovered Codecademy online and decided to give it a shot.  I finished the HTML & CSS courses like a boss.  All of a sudden, I felt more confident that I could actually learn this scary code stuff and get a job!  Soon after Codecademy, I took the Skillcrush Web Designer Career Blueprint and sharpened my HTML & CSS skills even more.  I’m a visual person, so seeing the fruits of my efforts directly in the browser was exciting.  Until something didn’t work, and then it became frustrating.  Nevertheless, it was a rush.

Later into 2014, I kept hearing amazing things about a programming language called Ruby and how it encouraged developer happiness with its syntax.  Oh, and if you also learned Ruby on Rails, there was an abundance of jobs waiting on you for the picking.

Did someone say abundance of jobs and they pay well?  Where do I start?!

Long story long, I joined Rails Girls Atlanta, started looking up Ruby and Rails tutorials online and got to learning.  Except, it wasn’t very fun. This back-end stuff was supposed to be fun and exciting…right?

Regardless, I continued to spend copious amounts of time studying and set unrealistic goals for myself to really learn Ruby on Rails.  It just wasn’t sticking.  I kept taking hiatuses for coding in ridiculous acts of desperation.  Was I that desperate for a dev job that I forgot the real reason why I wanted to learn to code? It seemed so.

I had to reassess my priorities and my own reasons for beginning this journey.  Of course I want a job as a developer, but after having so many jobs that I didn’t like, it was time to actually spend my time on the things that I wanted to do.  So I’m back on the front-end track.  I love HTML & CSS and though JavaScript scares me, I’m ready to take it on, too.  The point is that there’s no point in doing anything if you don’t love it.  With the upcoming birth of my daughter in 3 months, now more than ever am I dedicated to pursue the thing that I love and create a career from it.  This isn’t just for myself anymore. This is for my daughter, who will grow up to see me as a role model, and potentially become interested in STEM herself.   I would be doing a disservice to the both of us by giving up now.  So I’m committed every day to learning even just a little bit.  My goal now is a junior front-end developer position by the beginning of 2016.

Is it lofty?  For me, it definitely is.  Is it possible? Absolutely!  I have a direction, purpose, and nothing can stop me now.

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Rashida is a marketer & mom-to-be transitioning into web development after many years of denying her techie roots. Despite numerous coding hiatuses, she has become the ultimate comeback kid. When she’s not knocking out front-end tuts like a boss, you can often find her on Twitter @rashidathompson.

Insight on Developer Testing

Editor’s note: Our Code will be featuring more guests posts and interviews with web designers, developers, and engineers with experience in order to provide more insight on what it’s like to work in tech. These posts will be career-centered and discuss topics on an expert level. I’ll make sure to mark them for you all in the “News and Views” category. Enjoy!

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Testing is a significant aspect of development. Yet it is often underrated and undervalued. Many developers are of the mindset that testing is only to be done by Quality Assurance professionals. Some even feel it isn’t “their job” to test. Others do it, but only begrudgingly.

Testing code, however, within the greater context of quality assurance, begins with the developer. The old “throw it over the wall” mentality has gone by the wayside in favor of iterative development that aspires to create higher quality systems. This requires a shift in thinking and doing.

Because testing comes in many shapes and forms, it is often a dynamic and expensive activity. But developers, in essence, test code all the time – whether through handling exceptions, fixing compilation errors, or debugging.

Testing that occurs at this level helps assure that the code base is robust and error-free. Integrative testing ensures the system functions as it should and behaves as expected when acted upon in predictable and unpredictable ways.

To what degree, then, should developers test? The most common form of testing is unit testing, writing code against a module with different inputs to test that different scenarios are handled. However, in addition to this, a simple smoke test of one’s developed feature, so-called “golden flow” testing, that runs through the normal end user path can behoove the developer in both assuring quality and expanding his or her comprehension of the system in totality. This kind of testing usually suffices but it depends on the complexity of the feature. In a TDD (Test Driven Development) environment, some Developers work hand-in-hand with QA professionals to feed the system a set of scenarios and then handle for such scenarios in-code, working in reverse from a “quality first” model.

At the very least, if your organization has no unit testing in place it is imperative to make sure your feature passes a basic smoke test before handing it over to QA. This helps increase efficiency by removing an iteration cycle. It also helps Developers think like testers, ultimately making their code more robust and potentially bug free.

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Rice Om. is a technical and content marketing writer based in Los Angeles. She can be reached on Twitter at @OmaryMedia.

Review of ChicagosNEXT Hackathon Storified

Had a great time at the ChicagosNEXT Hackathon this past weekend and decided to do something new when it came to reviewing the event.  Thankfully, Roy Beasley tracked the hashtag we used for the event #CrushingIT and put together this great review on Storify.  Enjoy!

View the story “ChicagosNext Hackathon — 5/2/15 to 5/3/15” on Storify

Upcoming Events: 3D Printing Workshop and the Chicago’s NEXT Hackathon

Chicago has always been like a second home to me.  It’s one of the 3 cities that a frequently visit for business, cons, and tech meetups (St. Louis and Nashville being the others).  Having once been a resident and a Loyola U alumni, I feel comfortable returning there at least twice a month.  Would I ever move back there permanently? I’m not sure, but I have fun every time I visit nonetheless.

For my upcoming trip this week, I wanted to make sure I filled my schedule with plenty of tech learning events.  I signed up to volunteer and participate in Chicago’s NEXT hackathon event this Saturday.  ChicagosNext is a non-profit organization that brings together technologists — designers, developers — anyone who wants to learn through creating ideas and building projects that help local communities.  Hearing about the mission, I wanted to get involved and contribute to making the hackathon a valuable experience.  In addition, I’m interested in learning more about Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, the software used in the challenge.  It’s great that I can give back, learn, and network simultaneously.

I also registered for a short introductory workshop on 3D printing.  I shamelessly geek over news of 3D printing innovation, and I had been looking for a workshop to attend to learn extensively about the hardware and technology for a while.  I did a random event calendar search and voila! I found a *free* Friday event during lunch hours.

I think both opportunities will also allow me to meet Our Code readers in person.  If you’re a reader in the Chicago area and want to join me, click here to learn how to register to the the hackathon, and here to RSVP for the Friday 3D printing workshop. Be sure to introduce yourself and we’ll chat!