The Server

The heart of the beast.

You can read the blog that I kept during tt382 if you want.
It’s the usual collection of vapid opinions, self-serving lies and tiresome details.

Who is this course for?

Those who have completed the other five courses and need this one for the certificate. That’s slightly tongue in cheek, but only slightly, and it was the opinion of a lot of people on the course.

I think that the problem lies in the people who do the certificate and their motives for doing it. Some way into tt382 I produced some guess-timates as to the who and why. Totally unreliable though these guesses were, I think they contain a grain of truth—most people who do the tts want to build websites. A lot of them, like me, did tt280 to learn how to build one site properly and just got sucked in.

What I’m taking a long time in saying is that most, if not all of us, are never going to build a network, tune a server, create an application that is going to need load testing—in short all of the things this course is about. And if we are it’s going to take a lot more than this course to allow us to do so—network engineers get paid big bucks for a reason.

So it’s a waste of time then?

No. Certainly not. There are some important concepts [like proper testing and log analysis] introduced, but even just taking the server part it was useful:

  • It never hurts to have an understanding of the platform that your application is running on. And in the case of a web application that platform is the server.
  • The ability to talk knowledgeably to technical support about the server is a huge bonus.
  • While you may never you may be called on to care for a real server or network, you certainly might find it useful for you own server and home network.

The course brings together a whole lot of information in one place that isn’t available elsewhere; this is the only tt course that I’m going to keep the study notes for.

It was also, for me anyway, an interesting course which got me thinking in directions that I would never have thunk down otherwise.

So to sum up: do it because you have to, but it’s worth doing anyway.

The Course

Is about the server, of course, but it’s about more than that. In fact it covers a vast range of topics:

  • Creating a specification for a web application.
  • Network structure and design.
  • Tuning and securing a web server.
  • Testing a web application.
  • Capacity planning.
  • Public/private key encryption. [Although I didn’t read that one.]

In fact it covers more, even, than that. There’s a foray into Java, a description of how internet protocols work and ‘many many more’ things as they say in adverts for compilation albums. It almost covers too much.

A good course?

Yes, I’d say a fine one. The study guides were available very early [as was the End of Course Assessment] and contained few if any errors. Although there are some caveats to that one:

  • There was no coding; if you are punting code to [cut ‘n paste] students then typos are going to get noticed. Such was not the case this time, so a lot of stuff that might have caused much angst on previous courses may have slipped past.
  • There were a few stushies about wording, particularly the fifteen/thirteen minutes fiasco in the ECA [you had to be there]. My take was that it was a typo but one that wasn’t properly cleared up IMO. However, I took it as something to comment on rather than something to worry about.
  • There was a amusing bit about the campers [outdoor whatever] serving individual pot and pans pages. Clearly a hangover from A & B.
  • The CMAs contained the usual cryptic crossword questions.

But aside from the above it was a well run course and excellently moderated [as always].

As mentioned above, this is the only course from which I’ve kept the study guides. These are excellently written and could almost be published as a book. It’s worth a good chunk of the course fee just to get your hands on these.

What Did you do during tt382 Neil?

Well I managed the first, and as of the moment the last, posts in the cafe, but to be fair people let me do the last post because I have scary eyes.

Apart from that it was a strange course for me. There were periods where I was intensely interested and other periods where I did nothing at all for a long time. There were non-course reasons for this but there were also course related reasons. The main one being the lack of a coding component; there wasn’t anything that I could fiddle with when my interest in the TCP/IP process waned. Tony N. did suggest that a smidgeon of Java might be included [actual coding rather than a fly-by mention], personally I think that that is going too far—this course is already hard enough. But it may have merit.

One difficulty was finding, appropriate, web-reading. There’s, of course, lots out there but none of it seemed to be at a useful level. To use chess as a metaphor, if you want to get better, play people who are better than you, but not so much better that you don’t understand why you were beaten. And most of the web-stuff that I found was way too technical for me.

How are you going to do?

I’m guessing not well. I’ll predict that this will be my lowest mark for all the courses: grade three or four.

Actually I’m not bothered about me; there are some of the cohort on a full-house [six distinctions], I’m willing to “take one for the team”. And in the end that’s what the certificate is about: learning to work together and to care for others, that’s so much more important than a knowledge of any particular programming language.

Worth doing?

For the cert? Yes. But yes for all the other reasons I’ve given above.