Friday, September 30, 2016

Education in IT, the state of teachers in after school centers; Are the computer instructors qualified? The password is 'Linux'.

In the 25 years I've been in IT (that's Information Technology for those figuring out the IT factor ;-) ) I'm one of those old school self starters. And funny enough, that in itself seems to be a good indication whether an IT potential employee is going to thrive or wash out in this industry because while the foundations aren't changing anytime soon, the abstract layers covering those principles are.  Without digressing too much into all the layers you don't see when using your smartphone app (I recommend opensource only but most of you will ignore that advice...), your website, your OS (stick to Linux, Linux Mint is good for first timers, but most of you will get stuck with Windows 10 which sends all your data sent to the USA for processing by the intelligence community there. Vladimir Putin has just gone on record encouraging the world embrace open source and get rid of MS Windows there, so he's very aware of things). ) But aside for small advice for people in the "consumer" level of IT, back to education. 

An interesting conversation took place: Recently I setup and left formatting (as I had other work to do) a QNAP NAS RAID 1 device. Pretty basic and easy to use. The device appeared to be formatting (setting up) the 2 disks inside for awhile or so it appeared on the web portal. The computer instructor was asking ME for how to work with the device, which is odd as any computer instructor qualified in teaching should be able to do a quick lookup, login into the device using SSH, and look into the device inner workings. Puzzled why he hadn't done this, I ask if he was familiar with Linux. He answer was "I've heard the name" to which I quickly replied rather annoyed "Okay, you don't". Now I understood why a "computer instructor" was calling me at all. Any of my colleagues, even the most junior would have gotten a lot farther before calling me. The next day when things still weren't set up I said I could come by after work and in the future if a computer instructor doesn't know Linux they shouldn't work there. I was called "judgmental". I found this amusing, and concerning for a school owner, claiming to teach kids to be ready for the future, hiring computer instructors who were barely qualified for a junior position at the Rogers tech support hotline. Given the rather exorbitant prices being charged as schools like this, you'd think there would be move concern about actually educating the students. But the mighty dollar wins out here and it's clear if a teacher is cheap and eager to please they will get hired because as long as parents pay, they'll take a skeleton in a suit if it passes. 

For parents to be aware let me give a little history and evolution of IT and why Linux is a corner stone: In 25 years Linux has gone from being a geek only operating system only the tech savvy could use, to running over 70% of the world's infrastructure. Here is a list of things you probably have heard of: Apple: MacOS was built from BSD which was created fromUnix and shares many features of Linux (I've run Linux apps on the MacOS). And the same for iOS which runs on iPhones also from BSD Unix. Android was built using Linux. Amazon, Ebay and Google could not exist without Linux. The well know NSA turned whistleblower, Edward Snowden said in a lecture his job could not have existed without open source software including Linux. More than half the worlds cells phones, websites, printers, scanners, most robots/drones (if not all) are running a version of Linux. The vast majority of the geek communities are all using Linux. the reason is simple: Faster/More Powerful than MS Windows, open to improvement/modification by the public, free for all to use, and a great way to make a name for yourself be making something like...WordPress. (you've heard of that right? If not, Google it). Virtually all routers you get from Bell or Rogers when you sign up with them are running a modified version of Linux or FreeBSD as are most wireless routers in the store. So, if you know Linux, you know a KEY part of the IT World know the underlying structure of how IT systems work togeter,.. The job market for tech people who only know MS Windows get's smaller with every tablet and smartphone sold. Microsoft knows this, but could not break into the cell phone/tablet market, even when they offered free us of the smartphone version of MS Windows. Google and Apple had gained far too much. And why pay MS for license to learn when you can learn more for free with Linux and the Internet? 

So parents, when you go to some after school center hoping to give your child a competitive edge and you sign up for a computer, ask the school if their computer instructors can show your kids how to use Linux. (which is easy by the say, just look at Linux Mint, easier than MS windows)  It's a quick easy way for IT companies recruiters, and managers to eliminate those lacking the knowledge,expertise and self-starting qualities required for a IT professional to do well in an constantly changing world. It can also tell parents if the school has actually done their due dilligance in knowing what future generations need to have an edge in todays workforce, or whether they are just faking their with with fancy colored ads and slick sales staff. This could the difference between whether your child fly with those on the cutting edge, or make the barely make the grade to talk an Internet customer using a script written, most likely be someone who know Linux. :D