Finally some real work

I’ve been enjoying college life so much for the last two months that blogging was completely out of my mind. But now that the excitement has died down a bit, I think it’s time that I did started blogging regularly. Though I’ve always been interested in computers and I’ve always loved programming, I never really had the chance to any real work. Sure I’ve done work for CS courses and tried my hand at making a personal website, but nothing really serious.

However that’s changed, as a direct result of coming to college. One of the projects for one of my classes is to make a web biography of an alumnus of our college who went on to win a Nobel Prize. As it turns out, I’m the only one in the class (including the professor) who has even the faintest idea of how to go about setting up a website. So I get to be de facto webmaster. I only started really playing around with HTML and CSS earlier this year, so it’s good to have a real project to work on. Though I don’t intend to be a web designer for a living, it is one of those skills that every self-respecting computer scientist should possess. The project is still in the early stages, but I already have a template designed, and I’ve asked for space on the college servers to put it up and do proper testing. I’ll post a link here once it’s online.

Secondly, I’ve started working with a professor who is the Director of Institutional Research. Part of my job involves routinely searching the websites of other colleges for all sorts of information. Of course, Google is my friend, but manually pointing Google to websites and typing in search terms is dull,  repetitive work, the sort of work that we have computers to do. So I need someway to search all those websites and see the results in one go. I had initially thought about using a Python program to query Google and then process the result into something readable. Unfortunately the only way to query the Google engine, is by using JavaScript, preferably embedded in a web page. This means that I can either attempt to create my own search engine using Python, or learn JavaScript to build upon Google. Both of them would have been quite challenging and would have taught be a lot, but I decided to learn JavaScript. I wasn’t quite sure if I was up to the task of writing a proper search algorithm and though I certainly could have learnt what I needed to, that isn’t an investment I feel like making right now. And since we’re now living in the age of Web 2.0 and AJAX goodness, JavaScript would be a good skill to pick.

Two new projects and quite a bit to learn. And my normal classes along with that. Throw blogging regularly into the mix and things might get nasty, but I’m ready for it. I promised myself that I would get the most out of my college years and it makes sense to start early. See you all tomorrow.

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Published by

Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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