If you’re an IT pro, you know that the world isn’t standing still. The best way to keep your understanding of the whole technological landscape from becoming stale is to always try out new things. In our fast paced world, even new versions of your favorite tools or programming languages may have a learning curve. In the list below we’ve collected some great resources to help you stay on the ball and develop your skills.
Not yet a programmer? Well, we have tons of apps for that. Do you fancy venting about how annoying computers are? Turns out you’re not alone. Want to learn a new operating system? We’ll suggest a bunch of hardcore, free, open source platforms to build your world on. And, if you prefer to lean back and watch a lecture, we’ve got you covered too.
As long as you have an internet connection, you can find learning resources for almost anything within our field. What are you waiting for? Let’s start learning!
Coursera is for any thinking human with some time to spare, because as we know, learning new things keeps your intellect sharp. Staring at another screen isn’t really akin to taking up an ‘Away from Keyboard’ hobby like cooking or dancing. But streamed university level courses for free may be a fully viable way to replace some TV or gaming binges some of us tend to delve into in our spare time.
Lynda is an ever-growing online library of up to date courses in all kinds of fields relevant to present day knowledge work: the scope of their library covers everything from Adobe’s Creative Suite to setting up Cisco switches to business negotiation tactics. Lynda isn’t free. Then again, this isn’t the kind of random stuff you might find on YouTube, but professionally produced video courses with additional worksheets and other materials attached.
ITPro.tv takes on video tutorials by specializing in prepping students with the skills needed for IT certification exams. Maybe get a subscription to a resource like this for your company? If you’re in charge of IT, we probably don’t need to tell you that in the current, super competitive labor market for skilled people, it’s a top priority to retain employees who are interested in acquiring new skills.
Quora is an all-round Questions and Answers community which has accumulated a lot of interest and input from business and tech minded people. With a great recommendation engine, the site will usually present endless discussions to read once you’ve found something interesting.
Stack Overflow, Serverfault and Superuser have quickly established themselves as a family of superb Q&A communities for solving technical problems. Part of the Stack Exchange network, powered by a site engine obsessively engineered for Q&A sites, the sites cover programming, sysadmin and advanced computer user questions respectively by awarding reputation points to both people asking and answering questions in a well articulated, reusable way. If you’re the self-motivating type, getting hooked on these sites may just add up to solving problems and creating user profiles worth adding to a resume. Indeed, part of Stack Exhange’s business is actually running a job board!
SpiceWorks Community is a discussion site for IT professionals run by a software company. On SpiceWorks, you’ll always find therapeutic, free form discussions on everything from management to quite technical stuff. ‘
Security Now is one of the longest running podcasts out there, in any category. IT podcasts deserve a list of their own on this blog, but we think Steve Gibson’s very approachable work with Leo Laporte stands out as a resource. Gibson never fails to properly balance discussion of security as pure tech with thoughts on user experience, planning, software support and peer-reviewed cryptography. News of the techno-dystopian landscape we live in is padded up with occasional brief mentions of good sci-fi to read and watch. Every show is well prepared and recorded as a conversational lecture with interaction from a chat room. And get this: every episode is transcribed by a professional and posted on Gibson’s site together with a sheet of concise notes.
Learn to code with Codecademy, Codeplace, Udacity, Platzi , Learnable, Code School, Thinkful, Code.org, BaseRails, Treehouse, One Month and Dash. These sites offer both free and paid programming and/or web development classes in lots of languages and tools, like source version control. Of the free ones, Codecademy and Code.org are probably the ones to check out first. Together with documentation and utilities like sandboxes to test code, these services do a lot of different Jedi mind tricks with user profiles, badges and achievements to keep beginners motivated.
Microsoft Virtual Academy collects free course materials on Microsoft technologies, ranging from Windows administration tools to game development.
YouTube Education is an official page, or channel, which collects some of the best learning resources on the world’s default video service. While an IT person might be most interested in science and math, it’s easy finding a lot of other stuff, such as business language related things. The Education page features curated playlists that aren’t endless, but if you start looking into them, you’ll find interesting channels to explore further. And if you start watching this stuff, YouTube will recommend you more. Casual YouTube watchers might want to sign in to catch their watch history and subsequent recommendations on all devices.
Many IT Security conferences post recordings of almost their entire lineups on YouTube. The greats include Blackhat, Defcon, CCC and Usenix Enigma. Security talks can be refreshingly scary, but there’s also a lot of cool stuff to learn about different technologies one wouldn’t run into otherwise. For a fresh example, check out this talk from Chaos Communication Congress 2015, in which an entertaining German researcher takes a chilling look at just how badly configured his ISP’s DOCSIS cable modem network was. Unbelievable!
Pick tinkerer’s OS like Gentoo Linux, Arch Linux or FreeBSD for your next pet project. If your work involves keeping track of servers for something like e-mail, web sites or mobile apps, chances are that you’re using general purpose Linux distributions like Ubuntu or CENTOS/Amazon Linux for ease of use or compatibility with hosting control panel software. But if you want to understand more about Unix-like systems, you might want to find a project where you can tinker with the operating system and actually make some hard choices, like how to compile your own software from source. During this process, it’s advised to rely heavily on the Gentoo and Arch Wikis or the FreeBSD handbook respectively.
HowtoForge and hosting companies like Linode and Digital Ocean have great, quick how-to:s that are easier to grasp than the official documentation of Gentoo, Arch and FreeBSD. Want to configure Nginx or Minecraft? These guys have you covered with guides that, in case of the company sites, mostly aren’t hosting specific.
Guides.co features lots and lots of guides on a variety of subjects, including software and IT. Much of the content is free, while some is for sale.
Virtualize your hobby projects for free with Proxmox or VirtualBox. While the hosting companies mentioned above offer insanely cheap virtual machines, you sometimes need to use your own hardware and local network. VirtualBox is great for running another operating system on your desktop or laptop. Proxmox lets you make a virtualization appliance out of any old PC or server with enough RAM. The features will have you running a small home lab or data center, starting with a web based control panel.
Did we miss your preferred temple of knowledge or tool for exploring computing? Let everyone know in the comment field below!
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