Codecademy Completed!

I have officially finished my course on Codecademy! Just in time for the end of the semester! In saying that, though, I think I still have a long way to go! Much more practice is needed! But still, very proud 🙂

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Anchorman 3

With this in mind, and as the semester and this project come to an end (in an official, assessable capacity), I want to take the time to draw some conclusions about this experience.

In a lot of ways this process was nothing like I thought it would be. For one, I didn’t expect to be able to understand a lot of what I did, as quickly as I did. I really expected it to be much harder to make sense of. But it’s all very logically, and it clicks really easily.

However, I think I did underestimate how much practice it would need. Not that I expected to be a master-coder after only a few months, but I didn’t realise just how much there was to learn, and I realise now that I need to be much more consistent with the learning if I’m going to improve.

Throughout this process I’ve had a lot of different opinions from people telling me the best ways to learn. But from actually doing it, what I’ve realised is that there really is no one best way; it’s really down to you and your personal preference. I tried a few different things when it came to learning to code, but I really found Codecademy was the best way for me personally. But that might not be the same for everyone! The point is, no one should feel pressured to do something a certain way. Do what works for you!

I think the major take-out for me was that it’s really not as scary as you think it’s going to be. Yeah, it’s not easy, but it’s not crazy difficult either! Once you start, it all just starts clicking, and you realise you can do it!

Even though this project has come to an end for DIGC202, I will definitely be continuing my coding! It’s actually been really fun and I feel pretty proud of what I’ve achieved. If you remember what I said in my first post, I wanted to try and build my own WordPress theme, which I didn’t quite get around to. So I’d love to keep it going and who knows, maybe even get qualified!

Hope you’ve enjoyed following along with what I’ve done so far, and I hope it’s helped inspire some of you to give it a go, too! 🙂

Molly

Learning More About CSS and Getting Confused

So I’m going along very nicely with my CSS skills, however it’s starting to get a bit tricky.

I’ve learnt a few new things about CSS over the last few days, one being branching.

Branching is basically how all your HTML elements “branch out” like a tree – a family tree, as Codecademy explains it:

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This means you have to be careful how you style each element, because you might just want one certain paragraph to be a certain colour, you have to make sure you enter it right to avoid styling the whole “branch” that it is a part of.

Something else I have been learning about are classes and IDs. Classes are for when “you have a bunch of elements that should all receive the same styling. Rather than applying the same rules to several selectors, you can simply apply the same class to all those HTML elements, then define the styling for that class in the CSS tab” (from Codecademy). IDs, on the other hand, are for when you want a specific, unique styling for one specific element.

I’ve also learnt a lot about margins, padding, borders and so on, which basically controls where each individual element goes on the page.

It’s a lot to take in. It sounds really simple but what’s making it complicated is that there are soooo many things to remember. There are also multiple ways of doing the same thing, so it can be hard to work out what the best way is for what you are doing.

Anyway, I’m nearly done the course, so hopefully I can get my head around it!

Molly

Making Things Pretty with CSS

So I’ve got the basics of HTML down and I’ve been practising away (I would like to say that’s why I haven’t posted about my project over the last two weeks, but that would be a lie – I’ve just been really slack). But anyway, I’m back in action now and starting to learn CSS!

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it’s basically a much easier way to make things pretty. So rather than me having to type the code in HTML over and over and over again for different sections of the code, I can just link it to a CSS file! It makes it easier to make mass changes to a HTML file, and it also makes it easier to make things nicer in general. That’s why HTML and CSS usually go hand in hand.

The syntax of CSS is a little different from HTML. It uses a selector (so, the part of the HTML you want to style), a property (what you want to change about that selector e.g. the colour) and a value (what color you want to change it to).

So, for example, if I have five paragraphs that I want to be purple, rather than typing <p style=”color:purple” **text** </p> five times over, I would just do this in CSS:

p  {

color:purple;

}

…and all my paragraphs would be purple! Much easier, as long as I make sure I link the files properly. In this example, “p” is the selector, “color” is the property, and “purple” is the value. Simple! (The one super-annoying thing about this is that it’s all American spelling. So remember, no U in color!)

I’ve also practiced making borders, backgrounds, and even fancy buttons like you often see linking to social media! Yeah, that’s how advanced I am. I am kidding, I’ve just started this, and it looks like it gets pretty detailed from here. This is the lesson I’m up to:

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:S :S :S Wish me luck.

Molly

Trying to Decide Whether IoT is Cool or Creepy

IoT

It is quite scary to think about where the Internet of Things (IoT) is taking us, and I had a lot of conflicting thoughts this week. I decided to create this infographic that looks at both sides of the coin, to get us all thinking a bit about some of its positive opportunities as well as potentially negative consequences.

IoT can definitely provide us with convenience and connectivity. As we saw in the lecture, you could potentially connect your whole house so that it would use the data it collects to more or less wait on you hand and foot. There’s also the potential for things like traffic optimisation, where smart cars and smart traffic infrastructure can talk to each other. On that note, this could also increase safety. Another safety factor here could be parents being able to know their children’s whereabouts.

But when it comes to the Internet, often when there is increased opportunity there is also increased risk. One of the biggest here is security and privacy. What happens when these devices that are constantly collected our data get hacked? Hackers can do a lot with a little info, and it’s scarily easy for them to do, as shown in this post from The Globe And Mail:

“As one group of researchers found out, a hack known as “man in the middle” on a Samsung Smart Refrigerator would allow an attacker to read your e-mail, maybe reset your password and then potentially steal your identity.”

And it’s not even just hackers – we don’t know who within that tech company can see our data and what they can potentially do with it. The other factor here is that this data is being constantly, relentlessly collected and stored. How do you feel about that? I can see the convenience side of your house being able to predict your movements, and it’s kind of cool, but it’s also a bit creepy. I can’t help but think “I, Robot”-style takeover…

There’s also the sociological side of things. It raises a lot of questions about how this changes how we look at physical objects, and likewise how we look at being human. It completely changes the notion of privacy as well. In the near future we may have a society where privacy is virtually non-existent.

As the above quote from Julian Bleecker implies, and as Ted said in the lecture, how will we start to think of objects when they start producing and sharing information online more actively than humans? When your t-shirt tweets more than you?

What are your thoughts? Do you lean more towards pros or cons? And how do you feel about the idea of objects taken on human qualities like communication?

Exploring the Darknet (Not Literally)

This week we touched on the concept of the “Darknet” and I thought I’d do a little more investigation into what this actual is and how it works.

Firstly, there is often confusion about the difference between the Deep Web and the Darknet. The Deep Web “refers to all parts of the Internet which cannot be indexed by search engines, and so can’t be found through Google” etc. The Darknet, however, is more niche and hidden; it’s a part of the Deep Web that is deliberately anonymous and where a lot of the …unsavoury Internet activity takes place.

(source: http://cryptorials.io/how-to-access-the-deep-web-or-darknet-a-beginners-guide/)
(source: http://cryptorials.io/how-to-access-the-deep-web-or-darknet-a-beginners-guide/)

The Darknet is accessed using what’s known as an “onion network”. Unsurprisingly and somewhat ironically, the concept of the onion network was originally developed by the US military, referred to as The Onion Router or ToR (“onion” due to the fact that you have to peel back many layers to reveal the identities of users – get it?) Something like ToR bounces communications between many different computers which hides your identity and location. A lot of people think it’s really difficult to access the Darknet, but apparently it’s as easy as installing software onto your computer, like a different browser. Once you’re in, you can search using hidden directories like The Hidden Wiki (which I cannot link to, for obvious reasons!)

As we all know, the Darknet is home to some questionable behaviour. You can buy anything from drugs to stolen credit card details to hacking services, and much more. An infamous example of this is the Silk Road Trading Post, which reportedly saw $1.2 billion worth of sales before it’s downfall and subsequent shutdown by the FBI (which, for the record, didn’t last long. Silk Road 2.0 was soon up and running. Even though this has also faced similar busts, it just goes to show that when it comes to crime, when one falls, more will take its place).

Silk Road Mainpage (source: pcworld.com)
Silk Road Mainpage (before it’s downfall) (source: pcworld.com)

So there’s no doubt that the Darknet is home to a lot of anonymous criminals, however what I found really interesting in researching this is that it’s not all about criminal activity. Many people use the Darknet to hold political conversations, post personal opinions and generally chat anonymously. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“The majority of activity on the dark net is benign. Personal blogs, news sites allowing whistleblowers to share documents and communicate anonymously, discussion forums, religious sites, and even radio stations can be found.”

This post on Hubpages also provides this sentiment on the Darknet:

“The Darknet is also popular amongst journalists and bloggers, especially those living in countries where censorship and political imprisonment are commonplace. Online anonymity allows these people, as well as whistleblowers and information-leakers, to communicate with sources and publish information freely without fearing retribution.”

So while the Darknet has gotten a pretty bad wrap, it’s actually not all bad. There is a whole other side of it which links into some of the main themes we have been talking about: cyberlibertarianism, freedom of speech, freedom of information, and so on. Many of its users argue that it is there to fulfil the true purpose of the Internet. However no matter what you choose to do on the Darknet, experts warn it’s always important to be careful. Because everyone is anonymous, you never know what you might be clicking on or who you are talking to. And it’s also still watched heavily by government agencies. I’m actually a bit worried that I’m going to get picked up for Googling “silk road” too many times… Moral of the story: don’t paint all Darknet users with the same brush, but still be wary!

I'm too scared to go on the Darknet because I feel like this would happen to me
I’m too scared to go on the Darknet because I feel like this would happen to me

The Price of Protection?

Can we trust our governments anymore?
Can we trust our governments anymore?

Governments often claim to collect our information for the sake of protection. They can collect metadata about phone calls, text messages, Internet use, emails etc. Not the actual content, but data about the communications, so things like length of calls. This is said to be a way to prevent terrorism, but there are many conflicting statements about whether this actually works. With that in mind, the concept of hacktivism is really important.

A hacktivist is someone who uses computer technology/the Internet as a means of protest. The thing that has been the most valuable about hacktivists like Snowden is that they opened our eyes about what governments are keeping from us. It has raised many concerns about what the government can do with your information, who can access it, and what’s next.

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The NSA leaks showed that we don’t know exactly what governments can collect on us and what they could use it for. Of course, it’s different in every country and that was in the US, but Australia is about to introduce its now infamous metadata laws, so it’s impacting us, too.

My biggest worry is what happens next? First it’s just to protect us from terrorism, but what will the next thing be? How do we know the government isn’t using our information for other things? The Australian government has recently been trying to crack down on Internet piracy – would they start using our data to figure out who’s a pirate?

It sounds very conspiratorial, but hey, we really don’t know! People like Edward Snowden have proven to us that we don’t always know exactly what our governments are doing.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Are you worried about data collection by governments, or do you think it’s a fair price to pay for protection? Do you think hacktivists like Snowden are doing the right thing?

Update: I Thought The Internet Hated Me But It Turned Out It Was My Macbook

I’ve been practising writing my own code outside of the safe haven that is Codecademy, a.k.a. making shit up and typing into a notepad just to see what I really have learned (and what I can remember). However for some reason the text editor I was using on my Mac did not want to play nice with me and I could not get it to actually run my code on my browser. I was getting really frustrated because I thought I had done something wrong and could not figure out what (and I have a feeling this will not be the first time I will feel this way). Anyway, turns out it was just a really awful text editor.

Luckily, my trusty boyfriend recommended Brackets to me. Brackets is a text editor designed specifically for HTML coding. Once you’ve written your code, you can click the Live Preview button to test it. It’s pretty handy and is making this process much easier!

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Now that I have this working, I need to go back to practising because I have broken something in my code and I need to work out how to fix it…

…Things were going so well!

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