So You Need Some Education?

Did you ever wish there was a place where you could get more information than what was in the manuals—examples of what you wanted to try? There are plenty of books at various price levels, most costing well over $30. There are sites on the web, but searching them out and finding useful information that you can relate to can be challenging.

Not too long ago, when you purchased a machine or a major software product like an operating system or an application software package, you received documentation—lots of it. True, much of it was not worth a whole lot, but it was nice to have, and you could, with a little determination, figure things out that you would otherwise have had to call the vendor on. Today, it is difficult at best to get the vendor to pay attention.

So where do you go? There are seminars, training classes, books, etc. Most of which will cost more than you have budgeted, and still more will not really relate to your environment. Someday, vendors will understand that their products’ acceptance in the marketplace is directly related to good, affordable training. Many rely on the revenue from the training too much and it deters many from trying or adopting a new technology because of the cost of education. It can cost as much to get certified in a language as to get an MBA from a major university (well some universities anyway).

Well, there is a place where you can go to get some information that is relevant and pretty cheap (free!): IBM's Redbook site. There is more information on this site than many technical book sections. More importantly, you can get it for the price you can afford. Yes, you can order a CD of the Redbooks which will save download time, but if you can select the topics you are interested in, you can download the PDF files and read at your own pace.

Now understand that even though much of it is tilted toward the Big Blue picture of the world, the practical examples and concepts are universal. I worked on the San Francisco Project a couple of years ago, and know the kind of folks they get involved in these projects. They are usually a combination of IBMers and outside vendors who have practical experience in the technology being discussed. What more could you ask for?

Just about any topic can be found, from data warehousing on a mainframe to an NT platform using UDB. Regardless of the platform, the concepts are the same. Sometimes the examples are a little dated, or a little too tied to the developer working on the book. One example of the UDB SQL on the AS/400 uses examples programmed in PL/1. OK, quick, everyone using PL/1 raise his or her right hand! Now, the two of you, please go outside and ask forgiveness to that great language god in the sky.

Actually, if you can get past some of that, there really are some very good examples and implementations that you can learn from. And of course, the concepts are for the most part, universal. It does not matter what database a data warehouse schema is developed in, the theory is the same. If you want to develop an XML based application, you do not have to be using an IBM product for the Redbook to be useful. Of course it helps if you do, since that is what they are trying to push, but hey, the book is free. If it gets you to use their product—more power to them. At least they have given value to you in the decision making process.

Much of what can be learned is not even IBM technology—Java, XML, Data Warehousing to name a few are not IBM technologies per se, though they may have a vested interested in them. There are topics on Oracle, SAP and even NT!

It is important to always try and keep up with this crazy technology. We all know that that is not as easy as it sounds. I know of no industry where things are changing as fast and for so many. The scary thing is that the speed of the change is accelerating not slowing down. God help our kids!

Take a look at the IBM Redbook site for some great information— You do have to register, but heck, they are giving you good information for a good price. If you have to watch a commercial or two in the process—think of it as a good TV show, one where you might really learn something.