This month’s Pro is Ryan Klein, Systems Administrator at OnYourMark, LLC. Ryan offers ways to research and learn about technology online.
Endeavoring to learn about technology online can be a tricky task. This is not for the lack of information on the Internet by any means, but the lack of direction on where to look. Over the years I have stumbled upon some pretty in-depth sites to learn about technology, including the latest and greatest. They range from a general overview of a technology or product to a detailed writing and background with future outlook.
If you are interested in learning about a new product or software, the manufacturer’s or developer’s website is the place to start. To highlight these points, here are two examples. If I was looking for information about the upcoming Apple iPhone, I would first look at Apple’s website (www.apple.com/iphone). If I was looking for information on Microsoft Office, I would look at Microsoft’s website (office.microsoft.com). Manufacturer’s and developer’s websites will most often carry the technical specifications of the product along with all of the positive reviews.
For very good, (usually) unbiased opinions, CNET (www.cnet.com) provides technology reviews on manufactured or developed products. CNET’s staff of very intelligent writers break down the ins and outs of a product in language that is comfortable for everyone (not just the geeks in the crowd). A very helpful tool on CNET’s website is the rating system they use. Not only does the writer have a rating, but the community chimes in and rates the product or software according to their real-world experiences.
ZDNet (www.zdnet.com) is a bit more on the technical side, giving the ins and outs of an item but also a history of the product and its technical features. I go to ZDNet when I am looking for the latest news, and to learn about technology in the larger networking and technology fields.
Ars Technica (www.arstechnica.com) gives some very long and almost painfully detailed reviews, coverage, pros and cons, suggestions and much more. It is based around a news site but does do reviews on current ‘hot items’ that have been much talked about. I strongly suggest going to Ars Technica if you are looking to not only learn about technology but to learn about the current state of technology, the tech community and its effect on the world.
Of course, the most commonly used form of obtaining information online today is via search engines. Lets look at a practice example of using Google (www.google.com) to learn about the Ruby programming language. When putting in search terms, you want to be somewhat specific. I searched with “ruby programming language” instead of “ruby” to avoid getting information on gemstones.
Now I browse through what Google returned to me. The first result is from the official Ruby home page (www.ruby-lang.org), the second is from Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_programming_language) detailing the history of Ruby, the creator, versions and just about everything else I want to know about Ruby. The third result is a beginners tutorial on how to start programming Ruby.
Search engines may direct you to documentation websites or forums related to your search. Documentation websites like the Linux Documentation Project (www.tldp.org) contain extensive how-to guides and frequently asked question (FAQ) pages. Forums such as our own WebLoggers (www.webloggers.org) are topical discussion boards that allow users to post questions, answers and other messages related to a topic.
If you are looking to learn about technology, a search engine combined with good results is going to be the single most effective way to learn about any subject. Technology can be a wonderful new science but extremely overwhelming at times. But, if you take your time to do some research, you can learn a lot about a lot of technologies in a very short amount of time. If you have any resources you wish to suggest to me, please feel free to email me at ryan@OnYourMark.com.
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