Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Experience with Kindle Direct Publishing

My Experience Publishing with Kindle Direct

Every year I have made it a point to try something new.  One year I took up painting, while another year I began learning the arts of ethical hacking and then for two years I decided to go back for my Masters in Education.  I am of the firm opinion that everyone should learn at least one new major thing per year if not more.  Over the last five months I decided to jump into the pool of authors that self publish on Kindle Direct Publishing from Amazon.  I have never actually considered myself an author and can remember a time (before pursuing my Masters) that I thought writing more than ten pages was a daunting task.  Last year my Bosses daughter decided to pursue a career in Self Publishing and has had great success!  Her Amazon page is under the name Bethany Claire and can be found HERE. I haven't made tons of money, nor did I expect to be a top author on Amazon.  From my understanding it takes a lot of work to not only write the books but also to spend time advertising and promoting them.  I have however been pleasantly surprised at how successful I have been and what I have learned both about the process and myself in becoming an author.

You can find me at http://amazon.com/author/michaelkeough.  So far all my books have been of a technical nature since much of what I do is of a technical nature.  I have written three books now and have found the process to be extremely rewarding.  I have been able to not only share my knowledge with others, but its also been exciting to watch the sales come in.  I find myself checking the reports nearly daily and in anticipation of a new sale and somewhat in shock as to how well I am doing.  In fact, as of the time I am writing this blog, when you search "Adobe Muse" on Amazon, my book appears in the top three results.  In my limited experience I have developed a few ideas why some of my books are successful while others don't do quite as well.

Being thrilled at the rapid success of my first book, I decided I would just continue the process and compound my income by writing a second book.  In my second book I spend lots of time and focused heavily on detail (its a programming book so I wanted to make sure I was very accurate).  I submitted this one with high hopes, but was shocked that even after months I was getting very little sales while my first book was selling almost daily.  Why the stark difference in success between books?  One notable things I  found was the number of books on Kindle available for Adobe Muse.  I found hundreds.  When doing the same search on PHP I found thousands.  Adobe Muse is a relatively new software program that is growing more and more popular all the time.  PHP has been around for years and has many established authors selling books on Amazon.  My first piece of advice is to research before you write.  Find books that have a "niche marker" in the store where you can stand out as unique.  Granted there may not be as many people in this smaller market buying books, but you will get better exposure.  If you can be successful in smaller easier to approach markets it will open the doors to larger markets as you get return customers and a growing fan base.

Secondly, take advise from the movie industry.  In nearly every major movie (Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, Twilight, Star Wars, etc...) come in a series.  Its difficult to approach this when you are a technical writer like myself, but if you are writing fiction books, try to make it longer then break it in to three books with a strong cliff hanger.  I have also been told on good authority that when you create these trilogies you should not release just one book.  Release them all at the same time.  

You are not Michael Crichton so don't charge like you are.  My books sell for between $2.99 and $5.00.  I am not saying this is how you should price your books, but keep in mind that most people can easily part with $500 but are much less willing to drop $20.00 on a book from an author they know noting about.  

My books tend to be fairly short.  Typically 40 - 60 written pages.  Maybe someday I will branch out into more exhaustive topics but I take the philosophy that most people just don't have the time to read extremely long exhaustive content so why not just start small and short and just focus on writing well.  I would much rather read a well thought out book that is shorter and to the point than a long exhaustive, and time consuming book that never actually gets to the point.

Most of all, I would suggest everyone at least try writing a book on something they are interested in and selling in on Kindle Direct Publishing.  You will be surprised at how fulfilling it is and how much you can actually write when you decide to sit down and actually do it.  If you don't make any money, who cares.  It looks great on a resume, and its a way for you to personally express yourself and your opinions.  Until recent years even great authors had a very hard time breaking into the publishing business.  With Amazon you know suddenly have hundreds of millions of people you can market to without ever having to fight publishers.  Also with Amazon you get 70% of your sales as opposed to traditional publishers who only give you around 30% if you are lucky.

So get out there and write something, and have fun!!!

Monday, January 19, 2015

PWK - Penetration Testing with Kali Linux (Class Begins)

For several years now I have been intrigued with the idea of penetration testing and computer security.  In my pursuits I came accrues a Linux distribution called "Backtrack".  This has recently be renamed to "Kali", but the premise is still the same.  Kali is supported by a group called "Offensive Securities" who specializes in Penetration Testing (Ethical hacking), and training.  If you do a Google search on top IT certifications you will likely find the OSCP (offensive securities certified professional) listed among the top ten.

I finally took the plunge and began my journey with OSCP and so far I have been extremely impressed with the program.  Currently I am on day 5 of 60 and am already wishing I would have signed up for the 90 day course rather than the 60 day.  I probably will not post again on this topic until I have finished the course and with any luck and lots of time passed the final exam which is 24 hours long!!!!

Don't expect any hints or direction from me here except some details on my experience.  I have worked in IT for around 10 years and have a good understanding of Linux, Windows and Mac.  I have a good understanding of TCP/IP and networking protocols with are beneficial in this course.  Finally I have limited knowledge of python, fair knowledge of BASH scripting and exceptional understanding of PHP scripting.  I say all this because so anyone looking to follow this course can gage themselves somewhat against me.

Since the course began five days ago I have spent nearly 8 hours a day studying the material.  There is a lot of new concepts and a huge PDF.  Let me recommend from the start of the course to PRINT your PDF file.  I spent the first few days working with it digitally on the computer and that is simply not the best way to approach this course.  I recommend getting a three ring binder with tabs and get ready to spend LOTS of time on the material.  So far what I have found most helpful is actually going through the book several times.  I start by watching the videos associated with the chapters and then go through the chapters practicing what I have learned.   After about four chapters I go back and start over and complete the homework and required documentation for those sections.  This allows me to practice the material and then essentially come back for a refresher and practical application of the material.  Along the way, I have played with some of the lab machines and have actually gained root access on one of them, but it is not my primary objective starting out.

I find lots of people online asking if they should do the 30, 60, or 90 day course.  Even though I am not far in the program let me suggest NOT to do the 30 day course.  It is simply not enough time unless you have been through this type of thing before and have extensive knowledge in penetration testing.  I will be able to comment on the 60 and 90 day option after I finish the program but I know most people don't have 6-8 hours in a day to spend learning the material and you will need that time especially if you are new to this like me.  The most basic google search on this certification reveals people who address the fact that you better have understanding family members before attempting this.  I would have to agree!  It is time consuming and worth while.

Again this is only my initial reactions to the program and will provide a more thorough review upon completion.  Until them feel free to post question, but understand I will not answer anything that could compromise the program or details that offensive securities prohibits me from sharing.  Taking this certification is about LEARNING not getting a notch in your belt.  If thats all you want look the other direction because you will not enjoy this!  If you want to learn and have a ton of fun then jump on in.

One last thought.  I have found the IRC channel invaluable!  Make sure to register and participate as it make the experience that much better.  Also it is extremely important that you take notes and take them often.  I can already not stress this enough!  I have grown to love "keepnote"  Its built rite into Kali and uses XML and HTML format for notes.  So I simply save the notes to a flash drive.

Cheers!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Google Certified Educator

Its 2:00am and I just completed my Google Educator Certification.  I have been running Google Apps for Education in my School for the last 5 years and have used Google products like Gmail, Calendar, and Apps since their BETA days so it was not the most difficult cert I have ever attempted but it did present some challenges.  

What I love about Google is that they pretty much standardized the user experience through all their products so even if you have not personally used a product such as "Sites" you can still navigate through it based on experience with Gmail or Drive.  

The certification requires some time even for a strong Google user.  There are a lot of things that you probably do or have done that you don't have stored in your permanent memory banks.  I recommend taking the time to read through the lessons and watch the videos provided by the training courses.  It also helps to have a dual screen monitor so you can have the applications up as you are taking the exam.  This was extremely beneficial for me as I could navigate the system and find the answers most of the time.  you will also need some uninterrupted time since you only have 90 minutes to complete each of the 5 tests at 60 questions each.  I am a glutton for punishment so I just blocked out about 6 hours and pushed through.  After some eye strain and a slight migraine, I am certified.  

Even though this is by no means on par with CISCO, OSCP, Apple, or Microsoft Certs, it is still worth your time.  The business and education realms are constantly integrating Google-Based service into their organizations and the fact that you can demonstrate the skills necessary to work in that environment can only benefit you in the long run. 

Feel free to leave comments and I will answer any question about the exam and prep-time, but I will not give any questions or answers away.

Cheers


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Technology Integration in K-12 Instruction



INTRODUCTION
            A cloud of axioms surrounds the gamut of modern K-12 instruction with the focus on technology and integration of technologies into education.  Buzz words like “One to One”, “BYOD” and “Student Centric Learning” permeate the fabric of educational institutions and governances, prompting the need for expanded pedagogical knowledge on the part of teachers and school administrators in order to better facilitate a growing technological culture (Donovan, Green, Hansen, 2011; Leer, Ivanov, 2013).  This technology explosion, while providing expansive benefits and opportunities, is not without its barriers, dangers, and even difficulties.  Often, because of the enormous push to facilitate new and emerging technologies, educators are left with a high level of apprehension due to the lack of professional development, technical support, and initial cognizant knowledge of these new devices or applications (Pritchett, Pritchett, Wohleb, 2013). Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the speed and power of the computer chip and construction of knowledge would eventually double every two years.  Moore was hauntingly accurate as the current knowledge-doubling curve is expected to be around every eighteen months and growing exponentially. (Aronson, 2009; Leer, Ivanov, 2013).  This rapid growth requires educators at all levels to not only adopt technology and new styles of teaching and learning, but also to evaluate the best methods and resources for their students and faculty.  When espousing such programs it must not be assumed that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to integration, but rather each institution must evaluate their own technology needs on a case-by-case basis (Donovan et al., 2011).  This is first accomplished by analyzing the barriers and dangers of technology followed by making calculated preparations and planning initiatives, and finally developing a scope and level of technology proliferation within the institution.
Barriers and Dangers
            Students in the 21st century are native to technology. They have been exposed to social media, complex games, and advanced technologies to a degree unlike any generation before (Prensky, 2010; Ives, 20012 ).  Modern day adults may use technology to a high degree, but they see it from a different standpoint.  For many adults it is a tool but since they have life experiences without technology its application is secondary, and more often than not being introduced after their primary education.  For students, it is a lifeline that dramatically affects all aspects of their social and personal lives because they have never known a life without it (Tettegah, Hunter, 2006).  The vast difference in perceived technological influence among this generational gap engenders a barrier in regards to its implementation since adults function more as “digital immigrants” and require a level of understanding and training that their “digital native” students do not (Pritchett et all, 2013; Ives, 2012).  Understanding this barrier and making proactive steps to overcome it is a critical step in modern education. 
With the creation of the Internet and subsequently the dominance of social media in the early 2000s, a new and growing problem exists among students in the form of cyber bullying and other cyber dangers.  These forms of abuse are not entirely a new, but rather existing ones augmented with modern technology.  Students internalize their virtual world and formulate an identity based on their online presence.  Therefor children are often impacted in ways that are not necessarily clear to people who care for them such as teachers and parents (Tettegah, Hunter, 2006; McQuade, Colt, Meyer, 2009).   Cyber bullying should be of high concern when developing a technology initiative thus requiring parents and school employees to partner in teaching Internet safety and digital citizenship.  Although student have abundant familiarity with social media, devices, and web 2.0 they don’t adherently understand privacy and safety concerns on a long term or even global scope (Ives, 2012).  Mike Ribble (2011) created a four stage reflective model consisting of awareness of technology, guided activities, modeling and demonstration, and feedback and analysis.  Educators that utilize this model can aid students in developing habits in regard to digital citizenship without stifling natural inquisition and discovery.  Teachers who are typically digital immigrants are not necessarily equipped overcome these barriers within the classroom and should therefor be provided professional development in regards to technology, applications, and web 2.0 utilization (Pritchett et all, 2013, p.30).
21st Century Learning: Preparations and Planning
The integration of modern tools can make a dramatic impact on instruction and student responsiveness to learning and engagement.  However, adopting the “best” technologies or newest applications does not guarantee that teachers or students will utilize that technology effectively or that it will bring any perceived return on investment for the district (Potter, Rockinson-Szapkiw, 2012). Since possessing technology in a class does not, in itself, provide a more effective learning environment, David Jonassen proposes that technology and computers are “cognitive tools” through which learners must be self-regulated, and that this learning process has to be organized by a high degree of planning and decision making processes (Jonassen, 1995).  Frequently, because of the perceived drive for school systems to rapidly integrate technology into their structure and curriculum, a greater focus is put on acquiring the technology rather than making sure it is used effectively through professional development and other trainings.  This inadvertently creates feelings of anxiety and frustration for teachers who have the “tools”, but not the ability to facilitate a cognitive learning environment with those tools (Pritchett et al, 2013).  It is for this reason that developing a robust and sustainable professional development plan is essential for educational institutions planning on integrating a 21st century learning environment (Potter, Rockinson-Szapkiw, 2012).
Professional development obviously involves teaching and demonstrating the functional capacity of the specific technologies being utilized within a school system.  However, while providing technical instruction is critical for effective use, it is much more important that these trainings provide new perspectives and ideas on how to teach in the 21st century.  Educators internalize their role as mentor, teacher, and lecturer, thus building an identity around what they know as traditional education (Sappey, Relf, 2010).  Good professional development stimulates the identity of the teacher, but also provides them with new ways of fulfilling that role in the process of incorporating technology that may not always comply with traditional styles of teaching.  Marc Prensky proposes in his book, Teaching Digital Natives that we must adjust the way we teach, because of technology.  Students want to learn differently, because they also think differently than generations of learners that have come before them (Prensky, 2010). Their exposure to technology at a young age and the rapid accessibility they have to information requires a shift in the way educators relay knowledge.  Prensky proposes that this shift involves a form of partnering between students and teachers, where the focus is directed towards the parts of learning they each do best.  This partnering style of teaching is typically centered on a project-based or student-driven approach where students have more autonomy in their instruction, instead of the traditional lecture method (Prensky, 2010).  For example, through the application and use of various technologies, teachers could facilitate a collaborative and interactive learning environment, where students take a primary role in the learning process by finding their passions and presenting information in their own form of unique expression.  Though Prensky’s ideas are not the definitive guide to technology integration, they do drive home the fact that, when incorporating modern technologies, teachers need to re-think the mode in which students are educated.  Administrative staff should take proactive steps, through professional development, to prepare their educators to use such technological tools, before any device or program is to be initiated within a district.
Scope and Level of Proliferation
            Globally, device per person ratios are expanding at an astounding rate.  Cisco, one of the more dominant networking companies in the world developed a network index forecast for devices and data usage from 2013 – 2018.  Their analysis was astounding.  In 2013 there were 21.7 million wearable devices and they projected that by 2018 that number would increase to 176.9 million.  They also expect that the world will see over 10 billion mobile devices worldwide which is an increase of 3 billion since 2013 (Cisco, 2014).  These estimates represent a number 1.4 times greater than the worlds human population.  Whether we like it or not technology is proliferating our lives and changing traditional methodologies and thinking.  In spite of this growth in accessible devices, educators should also understand that not everyone necessarily has access to the same devices as others.  In a highly tech-driven school system some students may be disenfranchised because of their inability to access the same modern tools as other students.  This affects students as well as parents who may not have the same access to parent portals and web-based communications as others and there for should be a concern for districts interested in heavily promoting emerging tech initiatives (Ribble, 2011).
            Even though all technologies are not available to all people at all times regardless of a communities socioeconomic status, the education system should adhere to, and expect a minimum standard. This may be as simple as expecting all students to have a personal computer or access to one.  Educators should actively seek out technology resources within their district and advocate for the implementation of tools that don’t currently exist  (Prensky, 2010, p.99).  A growing trend many districts are adopting to curb the disadvantages of those who do not have access to personal technology, is the implementation of a one to one program.  Traditionally this takes the form of a standardized devices being distributed to all students.  Such a methodology albeit expensive, provides consistent access to computers for their students, thus completely revolutionizing instruction and school dynamics and potentially providing more evenhanded access to resources.   This ultimately stimulates enhanced learning opportunities that could eventually afford a positive increase in academic performance (Schrum, 2011).  
            Considering the fact that every institution must evaluate the resources that work best for their teachers and students it is evident that all technology programs are not the same or equal.  It is important when evaluating the scope of technology implementation that school employees and community evaluate the districts technology plan in order to determine the most effective use and integration and encourage methodologies that encourage a genuine and concerted effort to apply such tools within the curriculum and provide teachers with the understanding to efficiently and confidently utilize those tools  (Donovan et all, 2011, p.134,123; Pritchett, 2013).
Conclusion
            Technology initiatives are becoming common practice with school systems and while there may be new challenges, it also seems that the potential benefit of such programs can be prodigious if implemented in a planned and thoughtful way.  When considering barriers, preparations and planning, and the implementation of technology there is an overwhelming theme of providing an environment of quality professional development before and while utilizing technology in the classroom.  The world’s technological resources are growing daily and while schools should make efforts to implement such technologies there should be careful evaluation of what resources best suit the needs of the students and community the school system serves. 




REFERENCES

(2014, April 4). Cisco Visual Networking Index Forecast Projects Nearly 11-Fold Increase in Global Mobile Data      
        Traffic from 2013 to 2018. Web Newswire (India).

Aronson, M. (2009). Moore of Everything. School Library Journal, 55(6), 26.

Donovan, L., Green, T., & Hansen, L. E. (2011). One-to-One Laptop Teacher Education: Does Involvement Affect 
         Candidate Technology Skills and Dispositions?. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education   
         (International Society For Technology In Education), 44(2), 121-139.

Ives, E. A. (2012, October 1). iGeneration: The Social Cognitive Effects of Digital Technology on Teenagers. 
         Online Submission,.

Jonassen, D. H. (1995). Computers as cognitive tools: Learning with technology, not from technology. Journal of 
        Computing in Higher Education, 6(2), 40-73.

Leer, R., & Ivanov, S. (2013). RETHINKING THE FUTURE OF LEARNING: THE POSSIBILITIES AND 
         LIMITATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY. International Journal Of 
         Organizational Innovation, 5(4), 14-20.

McQuade, S. C., Colt, J. P., & Meyer, N. B. (2009). Cyber Bullying : Protecting Kids and Adults From Online 
        Bullies. Westport, Conn: Praeger Publishers.

Potter, S. L., & Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J. (2012). Technology integration for instructional improvement: The 
        impact of professional development. Performance Improvement, 51(2), 22-27. doi:10.1002/pfi.21246

Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: partnering for real learning. Corwin Press.

Pritchett, C., Pritchett, C., & Wohleb, E. (2013). Usage, Barriers, and Training of Web 2.0 Technology 
        Applications. SRATE Journal, 22(2), 29-38. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from 

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital Citizenship in Schools. Eugene, Or: International Society for Technology in Education.

Sappey, J., & Relf, S. (2010). Digital Technology Education and Its Impact on Traditional Academic Roles and 
       Practice. Journal Of University Teaching And Learning Practice, 7(1).

Schrum, L. (2011). Considerations on Educational Technology Integration : The Best of JRTE. Eugene, Or: 
       International Society for Technology in Education.

Tettegah, S. Y., & Hunter, R. C. (2006). Technology and Education : Issues in Administration, Policy, and 
       Applications in K12 Schools. Amsterdam: Elsevier JAI.









Monday, August 4, 2014

KeoFlex PHP Tutorial 13/13 - Final Solution



Try this yourself before watching the video

In this challenge we need to make a program for a task list. This list should be an array of 3 task locations including

At Home, At Store, and At Work

Each on of these should have a value that is an array of several items. This will require a nested foreach loop. This will be difficult but try your best before watching the solution video. This array will be a "Multidimensional Associative Array".

When looping through the Task locations echo them as an HTML h1

Your result should look like:

At Home


______________________________
laundry
dishes

At Store


______________________________
milk
bread
pasta

At Work


______________________________
change computer password
copy folder 1