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Thinking about Education, feedback appreciated.


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Guest spazi

I'm at a time of my life where earning low wage income and changing jobs every year just isn't doing it for me anymore.
I want to change my hobby into a lifestyle or at least work with computers for a living.

I have no proper education so it feels like it's time to go back to school, get some proper education and finally pursue my hobby.

I've been looking into the Danish Technical University (DTU)

Since I'm interested in software and hardware, the education I'm looking at is called "IT Electronics" or better known as "ICT Engineering".

It looks to me to be the perfect balance between working with software and hardware. Best of both worlds really.

The programming languages are mostly Java and C++, some Assembly language will be taught also.

I feel that exclusively learning just software or hardware is just too tedious and boring.

I can of course specialize in a certain field afterwards, but it's not necessary.

As of now, I'm too late to apply for this year, but I'm filling out the application for next year as we speak! :)

What you think? Am I missing out of some other awesome education possibilities?
What education do some of you guys have?

Edited by spazi
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I've always been told that the Dutch education system is a bit of an odd beast compared to the rest of the world, so I'm just going to throw my route out there with a bit of US context which you'll have to map onto the Danish school system. Note that they've changed a ton since my school days... If you want more info, feel free to ask.

At the end of "lagere school" (lit: lower school), roughly aged 12 so in US school system that's elementery and possibly a bit of middle school, we get a test called the "Cito" which is a sort-of general intelligence test. Based on that all kids are split into 4 groups: VWO (advanced), HAVO (higher), MAVO (average), Stabilo (low). I managed HAVO which is a 5-year general course of "hogere school" (lit: higher school). For MAVO it was 4 years, VWO was 6. After I think it was 2 years you were allowed to cut your curriculum somewhat so language buffs can drop physics and vice versa, etc. to slightly gear your education towards the thing you want to do when you're a sensible adult (whahaha).

After this stage you're supposed to go to a school for professional education which is either University, HBO (Higher Professional Education, which in case of a technical study would be HTS - Higher Technical School), MBO (Middle. /MTS), LBO (Lower. /LTS) or just straight on to mopping floors in the supermarket for the next 50 years.

Based on your final year of Hogere School you'd be given a recommendation (which you can ignore at your peril) on where to go next. Bright HAVO students are allowed to go to University, slow VWO students are suggested to go to HBO. Generally speaking you're supposed to go straight through at the same level as you were on before, but the best and brightest can jump a level and those having a hard time making the cut can drop down a notch.

I failed my senior year of HAVO and in that year we moved somewhere else. I was struggling, mostly with languages, economics and was generally bored out of my skull due to the lack of practical application for the stuff I'd learned thus far. I wanted to go to the MTS due to the sheer practicality of that sort of school and I felt HTS would be too hard for me. MTS is another 4-year course, but because I had all the curriculum elements needed to advance to the MTS "Technische Informatica" (lit: technical information sciences) at the higher HAVO level, I was allowed to jump in at the second year with a bit of lunchtime tutoring.It was a breeze and a breath of fresh air too. Things began to make sense. I flew through with excellent grades and after the 3rd year (so I had done 2 years of MTS) I had the option to try my hand at HTS "Hogere Informatica" (lit: higher information sciences) - another 4 year course. I'd have to start in the first year and if it would turn out that it was too tough for me, I'd hop back down to do my senior year MTS (=internship) at which point education stops and you're supposed to join the workforce.

Luckily for me, things worked out swimmingly. I was doing what I loved and loved what I was doing. Rather than one full year of internship this school had 2 half year long bouts of internship separated by another half year of regular studies. For my first internship I went to a small, 10 person local company that made software to showcase companies products at events. Sounds like big shit, but it turned out to basically mean they made demos. Visually interesting but otherwise quite dull. I went in among promises of enabling full multimedia experience across the web but ended up being little more than the local webmaster, network admin, cable monkey and jack-of-all-trades so long as it involved electrical equipment. I got bored again to the point where I learned myself the then-new programming language Java. Imagine that, not having to worry about freeing your used memory!

Second internship I went to the complete opposite - IBM. I lucked out and ended up at one of their software R&D departments (school buddy also went with IBM but got in at a boring rote programming group) where we were developing programs that would demonstrate the potential uses of smartcard technology which seemed to be a real up and comer. It was great - we got to imagine something cool that you could do with such cards, and without much questions being asked about it's viability (it's R&D after all) we could go out and make it happen. Good times.

Quite some time of my final year was spent at various employer expo's where companies would try to get you to come work with them, some going so far as bringing along a small carpark and if you signed up then and there, you'd be given the keys to your brand new lease card and on to your first assignment. I'm sure they'd like to say the sky was the limit back then, but in my memory we'd gone past the sky so far by now it was little more than a fleeting memory.

I signed up with my first company 2 months before graduation day. Had to take a day off for that actual graduation. :) At some 400 people this was a reasonably large company, which even to this day is the size I tend to prefer.

That's... Pfff... 15 years ago almost to the day (28 april '99). I only switched jobs once in my life. That was 3.5 years ago and I joined the exact same company I joined the first time (takeovers ripped the company apart and when the dust settled my part was owned by a CAmPy bunch of GErM INfested Idiots and one of the other parts was quickly growing again, reeling in the talent that originally made the company the great place to work at, so I jumped ship).

Enough about me, let's have a look at you.

So far you've said why you think that this school would be best for you. What actual job do you see yourself doing and enjoying once your education is sufficiently complete (by which I mean you might end up choosing to specialize anyways, even if it's not required)? Looking at your interests as you describe them, I'm thinking something like embedded device maker who's also responsible for making the drivers and possibly some applications for said devices. Does that sound right to you?

Which of the odd jobs you've done thus far, if any, did you enjoy doing at least for some time?

I find it strange that you can't apply for this year anymore. School doesn't start until august - well at least here it doesn't. Did you try talking with the dean? Might be a good idea anyways. (S)he could give you some pointers about stuff that you could do during that year if it's indeed impossible to get in.

And let me be the first to wish you the best of luck with this endeavor. I genuinely hope this'll work out well for you.

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Guest spazi

You were right, I can actually still apply. I just double checked the deadlines again :P

I might do that. I might even work for another year and save up some money to buy some new equipment.

I haven't had the luxury to learn programming or about computers in any school. I'm basically self taught

I actually am really interested in embedded devices. I find them fascinating!

Background:

I've been using computers since I was 5. But didn't get my own until I was 21

I wanted to learn how to program but didn't have the proper sources or funds. Libraries were poorly outdated and the internet was expensive at that time.

I've always taken things and toys apart, later on I learned how to reassemble them again. Sometimes even modify them :P

I have almost always been able to solve some kind of computer/software problem. By either research or by trial and error.

Now I think I read about two books every month about programming, hacking or other computer related stuff.

I find myself re-reading every book about two times just to make sure I didn't miss anything.

The only language I'm "good" at is Python.

Some odd jobs I have done mostly involved some kind of builder or manual labor job.
I've made everything from radio shows to bathrooms.

Sadly I have never worked with software development.

I have never truly written an exploit. Most "hacks" I've done were partially social engineering or doing stuff manually. Never by scripts.

Goals:
I want to learn C, C++, Java and Assembly.

I want to learn how to make firmware and drivers for things.

I want to learn the proper way to take things/programs apart and understand how they operate.

I want to write exploits and contribute to the open source community.

Hopefully I can get a job at some computer security firm, but I doubt it. Most jobs where I live involve making software for big companies. It does involve big clients like banks and such. Thankfully I have a friend who works in that company and is willing to pitch in a good word for me. If I complete the education.

I'm pretty sure that we in matter of years will see more satellites in space, I want to know how to communicate with them.

Verdict:
Basically I'm tired of talking about it, enough talk, more action.

Edited by spazi
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About the programming stuff I can only help you with C and Java. I have knowledge of C++ and a little ASM, but I would consider that knowledge insufficient to confidently point you in a direction hoping it's the 'right' one.

Starting with C, I think your best bet is to go to a library and get a beginners book for coding in C. Don't bother with (X-)Windows programming. It's an advanced topic, environment-specific and at the level you want to operate barely relevant. The goal is that you understand the language, the variable types, structures, core functions, pointers and maybe dabble a bith with list constructs. A book I highly recommend to keep on your bedside table is The Posix.1 Standard: A Programmer's Guide. It's a cheap but quite complete language reference so it won't help you learn the language, but when there's this function you need and you don't quite know which one it is, this book will tell you all about it. Once you've gotten the basics taken care of, the undisputed classic C programming manual is Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment. It's an expensive book, but well worth the money. Any edition will do so perhaps you can find a cheap second-hand one somewhere and maybe even an e-Book of it. The great thing about this book is that each function is explained in great detail and you get a small table with it that shows which function exists on which platform with which restrictions. Sometimes specific OSes have additional flags that you can provide to functions to get additional behaviour unspecified by the Posix people.

Note that POSIX, being a publicly accepted standard, is aggressively ignored by Microsoft but the workaround for that is to build and run your programs under Cygwin which provides the Posix functions and associated behaviour using the various Microsoft DLLs.

Yes, I'm parrotting Posix quite constantly here, but quite a few years ago I wrote a rather naieve brute force key cracking tool, kinda like distributed.net's attempt to break RC5-72, and due to dilligent use of only Posix functions that single program could be built unchanged without a single #ifdef in there for Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX and all the BSDs.

Moving on, if you want to learn Java I would recommend you start here and specifically at the "Trails Covering the Basics" part. I think you only need to go through the first 4. The rest isn't very relevant yet.

The java.time package is new in Java 8 and nothing relevant supports it yet (as an example, you'll have a hard time putting the timestamp value of one of those types in a database's DATETIME type column). The Deployment chapter is about Java Web Start (JWS) which nobody uses and applets which, after all the exploits news of last year, people actively disable in their browsers and again, nobody uses.

The java equivalent of a C Makefile comes, from old to new, in the form of Ant, Maven and Gradle (some would add sbt to the end of that list, but I would look at the other ones first). Of that bunch, maven is the most mature/commonly used. They require your project directory to have a certain structure which, overall, kinda makes sense.

I would also recommend you put some time into learning subversion and/or git.

If you want help with any of these, by all means feel free to ask.

Edited by Cooper
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  • 2 weeks later...

I've always been told that the Dutch education system is a bit of an odd beast compared to the rest of the world, so I'm just going to throw my route out there with a bit of US context which you'll have to map onto the Danish school system. Note that they've changed a ton since my school days... If you want more info, feel free to ask.

At the end of "lagere school" (lit: lower school), roughly aged 12 so in US school system that's elementery and possibly a bit of middle school, we get a test called the "Cito" which is a sort-of general intelligence test. Based on that all kids are split into 4 groups: VWO (advanced), HAVO (higher), MAVO (average), Stabilo (low). I managed HAVO which is a 5-year general course of "hogere school" (lit: higher school). For MAVO it was 4 years, VWO was 6. After I think it was 2 years you were allowed to cut your curriculum somewhat so language buffs can drop physics and vice versa, etc. to slightly gear your education towards the thing you want to do when you're a sensible adult (whahaha).

After this stage you're supposed to go to a school for professional education which is either University, HBO (Higher Professional Education, which in case of a technical study would be HTS - Higher Technical School), MBO (Middle. /MTS), LBO (Lower. /LTS) or just straight on to mopping floors in the supermarket for the next 50 years.

Based on your final year of Hogere School you'd be given a recommendation (which you can ignore at your peril) on where to go next. Bright HAVO students are allowed to go to University, slow VWO students are suggested to go to HBO. Generally speaking you're supposed to go straight through at the same level as you were on before, but the best and brightest can jump a level and those having a hard time making the cut can drop down a notch.

I failed my senior year of HAVO and in that year we moved somewhere else. I was struggling, mostly with languages, economics and was generally bored out of my skull due to the lack of practical application for the stuff I'd learned thus far. I wanted to go to the MTS due to the sheer practicality of that sort of school and I felt HTS would be too hard for me. MTS is another 4-year course, but because I had all the curriculum elements needed to advance to the MTS "Technische Informatica" (lit: technical information sciences) at the higher HAVO level, I was allowed to jump in at the second year with a bit of lunchtime tutoring.It was a breeze and a breath of fresh air too. Things began to make sense. I flew through with excellent grades and after the 3rd year (so I had done 2 years of MTS) I had the option to try my hand at HTS "Hogere Informatica" (lit: higher information sciences) - another 4 year course. I'd have to start in the first year and if it would turn out that it was too tough for me, I'd hop back down to do my senior year MTS (=internship) at which point education stops and you're supposed to join the workforce.

Luckily for me, things worked out swimmingly. I was doing what I loved and loved what I was doing. Rather than one full year of internship this school had 2 half year long bouts of internship separated by another half year of regular studies. For my first internship I went to a small, 10 person local company that made software to showcase companies products at events. Sounds like big shit, but it turned out to basically mean they made demos. Visually interesting but otherwise quite dull. I went in among promises of enabling full multimedia experience across the web but ended up being little more than the local webmaster, network admin, cable monkey and jack-of-all-trades so long as it involved electrical equipment. I got bored again to the point where I learned myself the then-new programming language Java. Imagine that, not having to worry about freeing your used memory!

Second internship I went to the complete opposite - IBM. I lucked out and ended up at one of their software R&D departments (school buddy also went with IBM but got in at a boring rote programming group) where we were developing programs that would demonstrate the potential uses of smartcard technology which seemed to be a real up and comer. It was great - we got to imagine something cool that you could do with such cards, and without much questions being asked about it's viability (it's R&D after all) we could go out and make it happen. Good times.

Quite some time of my final year was spent at various employer expo's where companies would try to get you to come work with them, some going so far as bringing along a small carpark and if you signed up then and there, you'd be given the keys to your brand new lease card and on to your first assignment. I'm sure they'd like to say the sky was the limit back then, but in my memory we'd gone past the sky so far by now it was little more than a fleeting memory.

I signed up with my first company 2 months before graduation day. Had to take a day off for that actual graduation. :) At some 400 people this was a reasonably large company, which even to this day is the size I tend to prefer.

That's... Pfff... 15 years ago almost to the day (28 april '99). I only switched jobs once in my life. That was 3.5 years ago and I joined the exact same company I joined the first time (takeovers ripped the company apart and when the dust settled my part was owned by a CAmPy bunch of GErM INfested Idiots and one of the other parts was quickly growing again, reeling in the talent that originally made the company the great place to work at, so I jumped ship).

Enough about me, let's have a look at you.

So far you've said why you think that this school would be best for you. What actual job do you see yourself doing and enjoying once your education is sufficiently complete (by which I mean you might end up choosing to specialize anyways, even if it's not required)? Looking at your interests as you describe them, I'm thinking something like embedded device maker who's also responsible for making the drivers and possibly some applications for said devices. Does that sound right to you?

Which of the odd jobs you've done thus far, if any, did you enjoy doing at least for some time?

I find it strange that you can't apply for this year anymore. School doesn't start until august - well at least here it doesn't. Did you try talking with the dean? Might be a good idea anyways. (S)he could give you some pointers about stuff that you could do during that year if it's indeed impossible to get in.

And let me be the first to wish you the best of luck with this endeavor. I genuinely hope this'll work out well for you.

Holy crap! I didn't know your schools were that different than ours. Kinda makes more sense than 12 years of school then a kick in the pants with a "good luck"!

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