Why database should be taught before programming in universities?

Database Programming
Learn Database before Coding

Often students from the initial semester ask me how do we store our data in our programming projects? When students join university to learn about computer science and technology they are usually taught programming first in courses like introduction to programming. As part of the coursework, students are required to work on a project. The majority of the projects, in fact almost all projects involve data handling and that data needs to be stored somewhere, usually in databases.

Problems Students Face

As a novice students don’t know how to store data. One option is to store data in plain text files if filing is taught to them but in that case, their project becomes too complex for them. In my opinion, file format is an advanced topic for students that have just started learning how to program. So, students get stuck on where and how to store data. They create variables and arrays to store data in memory but that is not very useful until they have the option to store their data somewhere permanently that they can retrieve later. Otherwise, every time they run their project they have to feed data from the beginning.

Teach Database Before Programming

If universities modify their courses and add database in the first semester and replace programming courses with it then it would be easier for students to get started in computer science degree. Introduction to databases is a relatively easier course than programming and students will know what a database is, how to store data in the database, and how to retrieve it later using SQL. Then in the next semester if they do a programming course then it will require only one lecture to teach them how to access a database from your code and how to store and retrieve data. That will make their projects more valuable and make more sense to them and they can take it to an advanced level in forthcoming courses.

Your Take?

What is your opinion? Please, let me know in the comments.

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Rollover image – Change image on hover/mouse over

Often when designing websites static or dynamic, PHP or ASP.Net, Laravel or WordPress, you have to design in a way that if the user hovers an image it gets changed and an alternate image is displayed. This can be easily achieved via simple HTML events. Here is the trick:

<img src="FIRST IMAGE URL GOES HERE"
onmouseover="this.src='SECOND IMAGE URL GOES HERE'"
onmouseout="this.src='FIRST IMAGE URL GOES HERE - AGAIN'" />

It is simple as that.

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One reason why you should refactor your code often

Once upon a time, a consultant made a visit to a development project. The consultant looked at some of the code that had been written; there was a class hierarchy at the center of the system. As he wandered through the hierarchy, the consultant saw that it was rather messy. The higher level classes made certain assumptions about how the classes would work, assumptions that were embodied in inherited code. That code didn’t suit all the subclasses, however, and was overridden quite heavily. If the superclass had been modified a little, then much less overriding would have been necessary. In other places, some of the intentions of the superclass had not been properly understood, and the behaviour present in the superclass was duplicated. In yet other places several subclasses did the same thing with code that could clearly be moved up the hierarchy.

The consultant recommended to the project management that the code be looked at and cleaned up, but the project management didn’t seem enthusiastic. The code seemed to work and there were considerable schedule pressures. The managers said they would get around to it at some later point.

The consultant had also shown the programmers who had worked on the hierarchy what was
going on. The programmers were keen and saw the problem. They knew that it wasn’t really their fault; sometimes a new pair of eyes is needed to spot the problem. So the programmers spent a day or two cleaning up the hierarchy. When they were finished, the programmers removed half the code in the hierarchy without reducing its functionality. They were pleased with the result and found that it became quicker and easier both to add new classes to the hierarchy and to use the classes in the rest of the system.

The project management was not pleased. Schedules were tight and there was a lot of work to
do. These two programmers had spent two days doing work that had done nothing to add the
many features the system had to deliver in a few months’ time. The old code had worked just fine. So the design was a bit more “pure” and a bit more “clean.” The project had to ship code that worked, not code that would please an academic. The consultant suggested that this cleaning up be done on other central parts of the system. Such an activity might halt the project for a week or two. All this activity was devoted to making the code look better, not to make it do anything that it didn’t already do.

How do you feel about this story? Do you think the consultant was right to suggest further clean-up? Or do you follow that old engineering adage, “if it works, don’t fix it”?

Six months later the project failed, in large part because the code was too complex to debug or to tune to acceptable performance. The consultant was brought in to restart the project, an exercise that involved rewriting almost the whole system from scratch. He did several things differently, but one of the most important was to insist on continuous cleaning up of the code using refactoring.

This is an excerpt from the book preface “Refactoring – by Martin Fowler”.

Resolving error in installing any gem by Ruby

After installing the Ruby installer you might need to install some gems. For example, if you are developing with RedHat OpenShift you want to install ‘rhc’ gem to access remote files on OpenShift. To install ‘rhc’ you would run the following command.

>gem install rhc

But you might get the following error, especially on a Windows machine.

>gem install rhc
ERROR:  Could not find a valid gem 'rhc' (>= 0), here is why:
          Unable to download data from https://rubygems.org/ - SSL_connect retur
ned=1 errno=0 state=SSLv3 read server certificate B: certificate verify failed (
https://rubygems.global.ssl.fastly.net/quick/Marshal.4.8/rhc-1.15.6.gemspec.rz)
ERROR:  Possible alternatives: rhc

Solution

The problem is due to running over a secure (https) connection to rubygems.org. Look at the help for “gem sources –h”, remove the https version and add http://rubygems.org

Run the following commands to do this.

>gem sources --remove https://rubygems.org/
>gem sources --add http://rubygems.org/

And now you can easily install any gem.

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