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What are the three most important things non-programmers should know about programming?
 
Written by Brian Knapp, credit and reprint CodeCareerGenius
 
 
Since you asked for the three most important things that non-programmers should know about, and I’ve spent most of my career working with more non-programmers than programmers, I have a few interesting things that would help.
 
Number One - It Is Impossible To Accurately Estimate Software Projects
 
No matter what is tried. No matter what tool, agile approach, or magic fairy dust people try to apply to creating software… accurately predicting software project timelines is basically impossible.
 
There are many good reasons for this. Usually, requirements and feature ideas change on a daily/weekly basis. Often it is impossible to know what needs to be done without actually digging into the code itself. Debugging and QA can take an extraordinary amount of time.
 
And worst of all…
 
Project Managers are always pushing for shorter timelines. They largely have no respect for reality. So, at some point they are given estimates just to make them feel better about planning.
 
No matter how much planning and estimation you do, it will be wrong. At best it will be directionally correct +/- 300% of what you estimated. So, a one year project could actually take anywhere between 0 and 5 years, maybe even 10 years.
 
If you think I’m joking, look at how many major ERP projects that go over time and over budget by many years and many hundreds of millions of dollars. Look at the F-35 fighter jet software issues.
 
Or in the small, you can find many cases where a “simple bug fix” can take days when you thought it was hours.
 
All estimates are lies made up to make everyone feel better. I’ve never met a developer or manager who could accurately estimate software projects even as well as the local weatherman(or woman) predicts the weather.
 
Number Two - Productivity Is Unevenly Distributed
 
What if I told you that in the average eight hour work day the majority of the work will get done in a 30 minute timeframe? Sound crazy?
 
Well, for most programmers there is a 30–90 minute window where you are extraordinarily productive. We call this the flow state.
 
Being in the flow state is wonderful and amazing. It often is where the “magic” of building software happens.
 
Getting into flow can be difficult. It’s akin to meditation in that you have to have a period of uninterrupted focus of say 30 minutes to “get in” the flow, but a tiny interruption can pull you right out.
 
Now consider the modern workplace environment. Programmers work in open office environments where they are invited to distract each other constantly.
 
Most people need a 1–2 hour uninterrupted block to get 30–90 minutes of flow.
 
Take the 8 hour day and break it in half with a lunch break, and then pile in a few meetings and all of a sudden you are lucky to get one decent flow state session in place.
 
That is why I say that most of the work that gets done happens in a 30 minute timeframe. The other 7–8 hours are spent being distracted, answering email, going to meetings, hanging around the water cooler, going to the bathroom, and trying to remember what you were working on before all these distractions.
 
Ironically, writers, musicians, and other creative professionals have their own version of this problem and largely work alone and away from other people when they are creating new things.
 
Someday the programming world might catch on, but I doubt it.
 
Even if this became obvious, it doesn’t sit well with most companies to think that programmers would be paid for an 8 hour day and only be cranking out code for a few hours on a good day. Some corporate middle manager would probably get the bright idea to have mandatory flow state training where a guru came in and then there would be a corporate policy from a pointy haired boss mandating that programmers are now required to spend 8 hours a day in flow state and they must fill out forms to track their time and notify their superiors of their flow state activities, otherwise there would be more meetings about the current flow state reports not being filed correctly and that programmers were spending too much time “zoning out” instead of being in flow.
 
Thus, programmers would spent 7–8 hours a day pretending to be in flow state, reporting on their progress, and getting all their work done in 30 minutes of accidental flow state somewhere in the middle of all that flow state reporting.
 
If you think I’m joking about this, I’m not. I promise you this is what would happen to any company of more than 2 employees. (Even the ones run by programmers.)
 
Number Three - It Will Cost 10x What You Think
 
Being a programmer, I get a lot of non-programmers telling me about their brilliant app ideas. Usually they want me to build something for free and are so generous as to pay me up to 5% of the profits for doing 100% of the work.
 
Their ideas are just that good.
 
Now, I gently tell them that I’m not interested in building anything for free.
 
At that point they get angry, but a few ask how much it will cost. I give them a reasonable (and very incorrect) estimate of what it would cost to create the incredibly simple version of their app idea.
 
Let’s say it’s some number like $25,000.
 
They look at me like I’m a lunatic, and so I explain how much it costs to hire a contract programmer and how long it will actually take. For example’s sake let’s say it is $100/hr for 250 hours.
 
To be clear, these are made up numbers and bad estimates (See Number One for details…)
 
In actuality, to build the actual thing they want might cost $250,000, or even $2,500,000 when it’s all said and done.
 
Building software can be incredibly complex and expensive. What most people can’t wrap their head around is the fact that a company like Google, Apple, or Microsoft has spent BILLIONS of dollars to create something that looks so simple to the end user.
 
Somehow, the assumption is that something that looks simple is cheap and fast to build.
 
Building something simple and easy for the end user is time consuming and expensive. Most people just can’t do it.
 
So, the average person with a brilliant app idea thinks it will cost a few hundred or maybe a few thousand dollars to make and it will be done in a weekend is so off the mark it’s not worth considering their ideas.
 
And programmers are too eager to play along with these bad ideas (by making bad estimates and under charging for their time) that this notion is perpetuated to the average non-programmer.
 
So, a good rule of thumb is that software will cost 10 times as much as you think and take 10 times as long to finish.
 
And that leads to a bonus point…
 
BONUS - Software Is Never Done
 
Programmers never complete a software project, they only stop working on it. Software is never done.
 
I’ve worked at many software companies and I’ve never seen a software project “completed”.
 
Sure, software gets released and used. But, it is always changing, being updated, bugs get fixed, and there are always new customer requests for features.
 
Look at your favorite software and you’ll quickly realize how true this is. Facebook, Instagram, Google Search, Google Maps, GMail, iOS, Android, Windows, and now even most video games are never done.
 
There are small armies of developers just trying to keep all the software you use every day stable and bug free. Add on the fact that there are always feature requests, small changes, and new platforms to deal with, it’s a treadmill.
 
So, the only way out of the game is to stop working on software. At that point, the software begins to decay until it is no longer secure or supported.
 
Think about old Windows 3.1 software or maybe old Nintendo Cartridge video games. The current computers and video game consoles don’t even attempt to run that software anymore.
 
You can’t put an old video game in your new Nintendo Switch and have it “just work”. That is what happens when you think software is done.
 
When programmers stop working on software the software starts to die. The code itself is probably fine, but all the other software keeps moving forward until your software is no longer compatible with the current technology.
 
So, those are the four most important things that non-programmers should know about programming. I know you asked for only three, so I hope the bonus was valuable to you as well.

With stiff penalties for being caught and the whiff of secretive underground or even nefarious acts, computer hacking can be seen as a somewhat dubious pursuit. Not all hackers operate with the motive of emptying your Paypal account, however; there are many hackers who utilize their skills to aid companies in locating security flaws ("penetration testing") or engage in hacking with the goal of becoming cyber-freedom-fighters that champion simple human freedoms, such as the right to free speech.

Computer hacking is as much an art as it is a skill. At its simplest distillation, hacking is the systematic search for chinks in programming armor. While advanced problem-solving, intuition and sophisticated understanding of programming languages are a distinct advantage, there does exist a number of push-button programs that computing wizards have written allowing those less sophisticated in the art of hacking to break into remote computers in a variety of ways. Because of this new ubiquity, today's hackers no longer need to be a programming Wunderkind; they simply need to know where to download software and be able to turn on a computer. It really is that simple and the implications can be disturbing.

Phishing, Push-Button Programs and Brute Force Tactics

There's no need to crack a company's firewall if you have direct physical access to their computers. One aspect of hacking is the impersonation of an employee or service worker with the goal of gaining access to a company's database, where the hacker can then unleash whatever havoc he or she has planned into the system. Another is to engage in simple phishing techniques, such as impersonating an employee who forgot their password and needs help logging into the system.

Because such impersonations often fail thanks to companies becoming more security-conscious, taking over operations of a computer remotely is often the preferred method of gaining access. Such attempts can be facilitated in a variety of ways. One is the brute-force method, in which a program such as SQLmap, Nmap or Burpsuite is used; running one of these programs is analogous to trying every doorknob in a neighborhood to see which house is unlocked. Using a variety of different parameters, these programs can find access to a vulnerable computer or network in less than a minute.

Hackers can also attempt to gain access with a program like Metasploit. With literally a few clicks of a mouse, access to a remote and vulnerable computer can be achieved by a relative newbie. With a related hacking aid, called Meterpreter, a backdoor is created that allows access into an operating system. It does not install itself onto the remote computer, running instead using the computer's memory; in fact, Meterpreter can hide itself inside the operations of a perfectly valid program, so it cannot be detected even by sophisticated programmers. Once engaged, it allows a remote user carte blanche access to the system in question.

Where to Learn the Art of Hacking

Of course, for those who wish to learn the actual skills rather than download someone else's hack, there are a number of practice sites that pose an increasingly difficult set of challenges intended to train neophytes in the art of hacking. For example, Hack This Site starts beginners with the goal of cracking simple flaws in coding scripts or software such as HTML, Unix, Javascript and Apache. Their structured series of tests increase in complexity, incorporating real-word scenarios and even old-fashioned "phone phreaking" challenges that recall the bygone golden age of hacking skills displayed by Matthew Broderick in "WarGames."

Using just these simple tools and free practice sites, beginners have a powerful array of hacking resources just a simple mouse click away.

In programming, memory leaks are a common issue, and it occurs when a computer uses memory but does not give it back to the operating system. Experienced programmers have the ability to diagnose a leak based on the symptoms. Some believe every undesired increase in memory usage is a memory leak, but this is not an accurate representation of a leak. Certain leaks only run for a short time and are virtually undetectable.

Memory Leak Consequences

Applications that suffer severe memory leaks will eventually exceed the memory resulting in a severe slowdown or a termination of the application.

How to Protect Code from Memory Leaks?

Preventing memory leaks in the first place is more convenient than trying to locate the leak later. To do this, you can use defensive programming techniques such as smart pointers for C++.  A smart pointer is safer than a raw pointer because it provides augmented behavior that raw pointers do not have. This includes garbage collection and checking for nulls.

If you are going to use a raw pointer, avoid operations that are dangerous for specific contexts. This means pointer arithmetic and pointer copying. Smart pointers use a reference count for the object being referred to. Once the reference count reaches zero, the excess goes into garbage collection. The most commonly used smart pointer is shared_ptr from the TR1 extensions of the C++ standard library.

Static Analysis

The second approach to memory leaks is referred to as static analysis and attempts to detect errors in your source-code. CodeSonar is one of the effective tools for detection. It provides checkers for the Power of Ten coding rules, and it is especially competent at procedural analysis. However, some might find it lagging for bigger code bases.

How to Handle a Memory Leak

For some memory leaks, the only solution is to read through the code to find and correct the error. Another one of the common approaches to C++ is to use RAII, which an acronym for Resource Acquisition Is Initialization. This approach means associating scoped objects using the acquired resources, which automatically releases the resources when the objects are no longer within scope. RAII has the advantage of knowing when objects exist and when they do not. This gives it a distinct advantage over garbage collection. Regardless, RAII is not always recommended because some situations require ordinary pointers to manage raw memory and increase performance. Use it with caution.

The Most Serious Leaks

Urgency of a leak depends on the situation, and where the leak has occurred in the operating system. Additionally, it becomes more urgent if the leak occurs where the memory is limited such as in embedded systems and portable devices.

To protect code from memory leaks, people have to stay vigilant and avoid codes that could result in a leak. Memory leaks continue until someone turns the system off, which makes the memory available again, but the slow process of a leak can eventually prejudice a machine that normally runs correctly.

 

Related:

The Five Principles of Performance

In Demand IT Skills

In recent decades, companies have become remarkably different than what they were in the past. The formal hierarchies through which support staff rose towards management positions are largely extinct. Offices are flat and open-plan collaborations between individuals with varying talent who may not ever physically occupy a corporate workspace. Many employed by companies today work from laptops nomadically instead. No one could complain that IT innovation hasn’t been profitable. It’s an industry that is forecasted to rake in $351 billion in 2018, according to recent statistics from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). A leadership dilemma for mid-level IT managers in particular, however, has developed. Being in the middle has always been a professional gray area that only the most driven leverage towards successful outcomes for themselves professionally, but mid-level managers in IT need to develop key skills in order to drive the level of growth that the fast paced companies who employ them need. 

What is a middle manager’s role exactly? 

A typical middle manager in the IT industry is usually someone who has risen up the ranks from a technical related position due to their ability to envision a big picture of what’s required to drive projects forward. A successful middle manager is able to create cohesion across different areas of the company so that projects can be successfully completed. They’re also someone with the focus necessary to track the progress of complex processes and drive them forward at a fast pace as well as ensure that outcomes meet or exceed expectations.

What challenges do middle managers face in being successful in the IT industry today? 

While middle managers are responsible for the teams they oversee to reach key milestones in the life cycle of important projects, they struggle to assert their power to influence closure. Navigating the space between higher-ups and atomized work forces is no easy thing, especially now that workforces often consist of freelancers with unprecedented independence. 

What are the skills most needed for an IT manager to be effective? 

Being educated on a steady basis to handle the constant evolution of tech is absolutely essential if a middle manager expects to thrive professionally in a culture so knowledge oriented that evolves at such a rapid pace. A middle manager who doesn't talk the talk of support roles or understand the nuts and bolts of a project they’re in charge of reaching completion will not be able to catch errors or suggest adequate solutions when needed. 

How has the concept of middle management changed? 

Middle managers were basically once perceived of as supervisors who motivated and rewarded staff towards meeting goals. They coached. They toggled back and forth between the teams they watched over and upper management in an effort to keep everyone on the same page. It could be said that many got stuck between the lower and upper tier of their companies in doing so. While companies have always had to be result-oriented to be profitable, there’s a much higher expectation for what that means in the IT industry. Future mid-level managers will have to have the same skills as those whose performance they're tracking so they can determine if projects are being executed effectively. They also need to be able to know what new hires that are being on-boarded should know to get up to speed quickly, and that’s just a thumbnail sketch because IT companies are driven forward by skills that are not easy to master and demand constant rejuvenation in the form of education and training. It’s absolutely necessary for those responsible for teams that bring products and services to market to have similar skills in order to truly determine if they’re being deployed well. There’s a growing call for mid-level managers to receive more comprehensive leadership training as well, however. There’s a perception that upper and lower level managers have traditionally been given more attention than managers in the middle. Some say that better prepped middle managers make more valuable successors to higher management roles. That would be a great happy ending, but a growing number of companies in India’s tech sector complain that mid-level managers have lost their relevance in the scheme of the brave new world of IT and may soon be obsolete.

 

 

 

Tech Life in North Carolina

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is the oldest State University in the United States. There are significant ?firsts? in this state one being, the first state to own an art museum and second was to vote in the first African-American member, Hiram Rhoades Revels, into the United States Congress. Higher education is a given with a total of 2,425 public schools in the state, including 99 charter schools.
There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.  ~Willa Cather
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Software developers near Raleigh have ample opportunities to meet like minded techie individuals, collaborate and expend their career choices by participating in Meet-Up Groups. The following is a list of Technology Groups in the area.
Fortune 500 and 1000 companies in North Carolina that offer opportunities for Ajax developers
Company Name City Industry Secondary Industry
Branch Banking and Trust / BBandT Winston Salem Financial Services Banks
UTC Aerospace Systems Charlotte Manufacturing Aerospace and Defense
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Winston Salem Manufacturing Manufacturing Other
Family Dollar Stores, Inc. Matthews Retail Department Stores
Duke Energy Corporation Charlotte Energy and Utilities Gas and Electric Utilities
Lowe's Companies, Inc. Mooresville Retail Hardware and Building Material Dealers
Nucor Corporation Charlotte Manufacturing Metals Manufacturing
VF Corporation Greensboro Manufacturing Textiles, Apparel and Accessories
Bank of America Charlotte Financial Services Banks
Laboratory Corporation of America Burlington Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Biotech Diagnostic Laboratories
Sonic Automotive, Inc. Charlotte Retail Automobile Dealers
SPX Corporation Charlotte Manufacturing Tools, Hardware and Light Machinery
The Pantry, Inc. Cary Retail Gasoline Stations

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the hartmann software group advantage
A successful career as a software developer or other IT professional requires a solid understanding of software development processes, design patterns, enterprise application architectures, web services, security, networking and much more. The progression from novice to expert can be a daunting endeavor; this is especially true when traversing the learning curve without expert guidance. A common experience is that too much time and money is wasted on a career plan or application due to misinformation.

The Hartmann Software Group understands these issues and addresses them and others during any training engagement. Although no IT educational institution can guarantee career or application development success, HSG can get you closer to your goals at a far faster rate than self paced learning and, arguably, than the competition. Here are the reasons why we are so successful at teaching:

  • Learn from the experts.
    1. We have provided software development and other IT related training to many major corporations in North Carolina since 2002.
    2. Our educators have years of consulting and training experience; moreover, we require each trainer to have cross-discipline expertise i.e. be Java and .NET experts so that you get a broad understanding of how industry wide experts work and think.
  • Discover tips and tricks about Ajax programming
  • Get your questions answered by easy to follow, organized Ajax experts
  • Get up to speed with vital Ajax programming tools
  • Save on travel expenses by learning right from your desk or home office. Enroll in an online instructor led class. Nearly all of our classes are offered in this way.
  • Prepare to hit the ground running for a new job or a new position
  • See the big picture and have the instructor fill in the gaps
  • We teach with sophisticated learning tools and provide excellent supporting course material
  • Books and course material are provided in advance
  • Get a book of your choice from the HSG Store as a gift from us when you register for a class
  • Gain a lot of practical skills in a short amount of time
  • We teach what we know…software
  • We care…
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