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Interested in MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer)?

A Well Rounded Education

To my way of thinking, a well rounded education consists of two parts:

  1. Finding topics that interest you, then learning all that you can about them, and
  2. Learning the companion skills skills that influence the topics that interest you.

The difference is this: When you concentrate only on the skills that interest you, you develop a sort of framework of skills, a skeleton which lacks the musculature and vascular system between the bones which allows them to efficiently work together.

My method of study, therefore, consists of both parts. On the one hand, I find topics that interest me: website development, Perl, C programming, firewalls, etc., concentrate on them individually and learn all that I can about them. On the other hand, in between the study of specific topics that I find interesting, I study for certifications. Studying for certifications allows someone else to dictate to me what it is that I should be learning. Through studying for certifications, I not only am able to fill in large gaps in my knowledge, but I'm also able to learn about concepts and technologies that I otherwise wouldn't even know exist.

This page is about my study of specific skills that interest me. For information about my certification study, see Training / Self-study for Certifications.

Perl Objects, References, and Modules Perl Objects, References, and Modules: This is one of the most impressive books I've picked up in a long time. I'd bought a couple of other books, Network Programming with Perl and Graphics Programming with Perl, and I found myself encountering Perl code with which I was not yet familiar. Yes, that's why I bought the books in the first place, but I'm not talking about code particular to the subjects of those books, but instead more formal, basic types of expressions. I didn't really need to investigate this code, because it's just something that can be taken for granted within the context of the books in question, but I'm the kind of person who likes to know every little detail about every little detail of what I'm doing. I knew that the unfamiliar code forms had to do with object oriented programming (OOP) in Perl, so I picked up this book. Man, in such a small book, I really learned a lot of good stuff. I've discovered that very complicated websites which I've developed in the past could have been made much more lean with this type of code. I'm really amazed. This book is written in a very "learn by example" sort of way and I'd recommend it to anyone. In fact, it's the second book in what might be considered a series and, after having experienced this book, if I was just starting out with Perl, I think I'd probably give the first book, Learning Perl, my initial attention.

Red Hat Linux 9 Unleashed, Bill Ball and Hoyt Duff,Wrox Beginning Red Hat Linux 9: Like all Wrox books that I've read so far, this book uses a "learn by doing" type of teaching strategy. Each concept builds upon previous concepts (as much as is possible in the context of Linux) and seems easier than expected. At the end of the book I found myself feeling pretty smart about all that I'd learned. Wrox writers are very good at leading the student so easily through the material that learning seems to happen without strife. I like this method because it seems to me that it's better to know a little and understand it all, than to know a lot and barely understand it at all. Linux 9 is no longer supported by Red Hat, however, so wait for Wrox to publish a book on a new Red Hat version before buying.

Red Hat Linux 9 Unleashed, Bill Ball and Hoyt Duff,Wrox Red Hat Linux 9, Unleashed: Silly me, I expected this one-thousand page book to be a book to be read as a whole, much like the Wrox books mentioned on this page. Instead, it turned out to be very modular and written with the intention that a person only read the particular sections which interest him or her. But being the dolt that I am, I read straight through it, a process which became very tedious at times. Nevertheless, this book makes for extremely good reference material. Say, for example, you need to begin learning about the Apache webserver; you'll find a chapter devoted to the Apache webserver which you will start reading on its first page, then read through to the end, trying out the commands while logged into your Linux server, and by the end of the chapter you'll have a pretty good idea about the basics of Apache. Linux 9, however, is no longer supported by Red Hat, so interested parties should opt, instead, for Red Hat Linux Fedora, instead.

Cascading Style Sheets The Designer's Edge, Molly E. Holzschlag, Wrox Cascading Style Sheets, The Designer's Edge: This is the book which made it possible to write this site the way that I have. It begins by discussing standards for website development, and why (easier writing for browser compatibility, particularly the most often neglected text browsers, and accessibility for people with certain disabilities (if a blind person used an audible browser to visit your website, would the material flow in a cogent way?). It then moves on to document type definitions and how to comply with them, and then moves on to the meat of the issue by assisting you in designing your first pages which derive their design entirely from cascading style sheets. It's amazing to me the things that I can do with CSS that I could not do without. This book opened up to me a whole new world in website development.

Beginning JavaScript, Paul Wilton, Wrox Beginning JavaScript: One thousand pages in length! How can that be? The Perl book mentioned below is only 650! About 25% of this book is devoted to appendices, and for good reason: the things to know about JavaScript seem absolutely endless: Browser differences, objects, object methods, object properties, forms, regular expressions...it's endless and very complicated, especially when it comes to writing several sets of different code to support all browser types. Yet, like the Perl book below, this book takes a very effective "learn by doing" approach, one topic building upon another, and before you know it you've learned a mountain of useful information, and more than many JavaScript users may want to know. Still, there's plenty more to learn and I've just purchased a new book to further feed my JavaScript need.

Beginning Perl, Simon Cozens, Wrox Beginning Perl: This is one of the best books I've ever read. I started out knowing nothing, and by the end of this book (and the JavaScript book, above) I was able to create a pretty impressive website for a Perl newbie. Unfortunately, it is out of print. The publisher, Wrox, was purchased by another company and, for whatever reason, this book fell through the cracks of their purchase agreement. It is still available through Amazon, although used. Although I have picked up many Perl books in the bookstore and read through them, I've yet to find another that teaches the language in such a structured, "learn by doing", sort of way.

. Original Copyright, Jun 2004. All Rights Reserved.