Technology and I

Warning: this post might be long

Many have asked why the name Savvy Kenya? Well, a few years back I wanted to be computer savvy. When I was in high school I studied computer studies dropping French in the process. I just couldn’t deal with pronouncing r as eerrrrgh! Like it’s something disgusting! I remember doing my form four project in Pascal, and the days when we’d make the console beautiful by displaying green/yellow text on the black background. There was no internet connection in the labs those days, so there was no place to copy paste code from! How things have changed in just over 5 years!

We were only six of us taking computer studies, and we’d spend lots of time in the lab, experimenting with the console while playing Mario Mike, Dangerous Dave and Pacman. If you never played these games you’ll never know the joy of real gaming!

Image from guestgarden.com

So after form four, I finally got an email address. That was in 2006, the same year I got my Safaricom line which I retain to this date (you know the trials and tribulations of Kuhama, I could write a book about this). Of course those days, it was all about Yahoo!.com. If you needed to join Gmail you needed an invite. I became a frequenter on Yahoo! Answers where I called myself Comp Savvy.

I started blogging in 2007 when I met this guy on whose programming ground I worshipped. He could code in all the languages I knew and he had a really funny blog. He’s the one who sent me an invite to Gmail. Anyway, in May 2007 I was finally admitted as a regular student at JKUAT to do BSc. Computer Science and started blogging about my campus life in 2008. I still used the name Savvy but someone at wordpress already had that ID so I chose savvy08.

I joined Facebook, but it has never really caught on with me. When I did join twitter in 2009, I found someone already using Savvy as their username so I decided Savvy Kenya. Well, enough history. So, am I really computer savvy?

Booksmart Vs Streetsmart

When you go to study computer science in university, you go to learn the mathematics and the science behind computers. You learn about how the first computers were designed on pen and paper theoretically long before the technology to build them was created (think Turing Machine). You learn to understand how operating systems work, how to evaluate the running time of an algorithm (big O notations and such) etc. To assist you in visualizing all this you have to do a number of mathematical units including Calculus, numerical linear algebra, scientific computing, probability and statistics etc.

You’ll be introduced to the basics of everything- computer technology is a wide and growing field- so you’ll be introduced to the mother(s) of all current programming languages- C, C++ and Java. If you’re doing IT, Visual Basic (got to make it soft for the er… I better not complete this). You’ll get to know networking concepts, hardware (switches, routers) and software(protocols). You’ll be given the basics in databases and you might be given an assignment in Ms Access (who uses that anymore?). No, you will not be taught Ms Word, try XYZetech College maybe.

After this, you will be given at least 3 hours per unit to do your lab work. For most students, they will take the time to look for the latest website that will allow them to bypass the proxy server so they can log onto Facebook. For a few, they will sit down and do some assignments. Some will Google, copy, paste and run the code.

Usually, university work is 90% theoretical. Assignments (if and when marked) carry only 10%. The continuous assessment tests (which you write on pen and paper) are about 20% of your final and the final written exam is 70%.

Should this system change? Should students learn more practical stuff so that they can be ready for the industry out there? Are there people who score highly in exams yet cannot do anything practical? What about modern technologies, should they be incorporated into the curriculum?

Incorporating modern technologies into the curriculum in university is like writing a book in Sheng. In a few years, it will be obsolete. So they syllabus should be based on the ‘science and mathematics’ behind computers, subject to regular revision, of course.

Should students learn more practical stuff? Yes. I would suggest the practical assignments be made to contribute at least 40% of the final score. Do away with CATs instead and let students do projects. Let them do their own research and develop a new method/application/anything useful.

Are there people who score highly in exams yet cannot do anything practical? Is the reverse possible?
Yes on both accounts. There are people who get first class honours degrees but cannot code and do not know how a crossover and straight through ethernet cable looks like except on paper. There are people that can code in languages like prolog but cannot hold pen and paper straight during exams.

My Advice?

Technology is a field of passion. If you do not have the passion for it, you’re in the wrong field! Unless you want to get stuck giving ‘user support’ to Ms Word users in government offices, I suggest you choose a different career path. If however, you are satisfied with working the phones at an ISP then go and do your Diploma in IT in peace :)

Does it have to be coding?

No. There are many computer-related jobs out there that do not require your coding. They however, need your brilliance, creativity and analytical skills. Database administrators, network specialists, software engineers (believe it or not, these guys are important), system analysts…. The choice is yours. Just because coding is not your first choice does not mean you suck at computer science!

Is Computer Science and IT the same thing?

It’s like saying Landscape Architecture and plain old Architecture are the same thing. Ask an Arch student in JKUAT and they’ll explain the difference to you. It’s like saying a Mercedes Benz and a Toyota are the same, iPhone 3Gs and IDEOS U8150 are the same thing. I could give you more examples but by now you get the difference. If you don’t you’re an IT graduate. IT graduates help users understand systems that computer science graduates develop. IT graduates install the OS, comp science graduates build the OS.

That’s not how it works in real life though! In the IT field, it’s a level playing ground. As I said, passion will get you anywhere.

So What About Me?

No, I am not totally clueless when it comes to coding. I understand all the intricate stuff. Trouble is, when in school, I did the minimum I needed to do to pass (okay, so I got all As in my math units). I mean I didn’t go the extra mile to learn stuff outside the coursework. I have a basic understanding of a number of languages but I am not a pro (for now) in any. I needed to find my niche. Will I specialize in network programming? Web programming? Mobile programming? Should I branch into networks? Databases? Security (na si G4S)?

Then this course chose me. I made a hurried application last minute and here I am!

I proved myself on paper when I got a first class honours degree. I did make a 2D game (desktop) for my final year project in Java and here, click to download and play it for yourself I hope you learn/remind yourself of some HIV/AIDS info from the background images.

It seems I am headed into the field of Mobile Programming (and telecoms in general) and this time, I go hard. Look out!

  • http://waithash.wordpress.com/ waithash

    So, whats the HIV virus doing in a Savvy blog?
    Brilliant piece. But the strange life has a funny way of dealing with us, sometimes you don’t end up doing what you studied in Campus.
    In my view mobile programming (apps development) is the future.

    Everyone needs to learn about HIV/AIDS, whether they are computer scientists or not! Thanks for the comment…

  • http://Www.twitter.com/kennedyKE KennedyKE

    I have a different opinion on that I.T vs Computer science issue. A Benz vs a Toyota? Really? But everyone is entitled to his/her opinion,right?

    You must have done IT?

    • Suprised

      Yes, they do Calculus in IT. And programming beyond Visual Basic. Go back and do your research.
      You seem to look down on IT and seem to think that IT graduates feel lesser than Comp Science graduates. That’s laughable.
      Carry on.

      I do not know how IT graduates feel, I know how comp science grads do though, ask me!

      Surprise (no pun intended on your name) me with a list of the units they do… and tell me why they have no renamed the course to Computer Science?

      If you look closely I said it’s a level playing field, anyone can do anything they want to do.

      • Suprised

        Not all Comp Sci graduates ‘feel’ like you do. Rename the course? Why?
        Anyway, all the best.

        because if IT is like computer science, there is no need to have a different name… And no, I don’t ‘feel’

  • ken

    great piece as always only that I feel belittled, surely Toyota n Benz is too much a difference (though u said IT guys wud differ). don’t u think may be Benz n a Volvo will do. I live wit comp science guyz n most of the time we complement each other, yeah i do learn frm them bt they learn frm me too. the big difference is jst on paper n as u said “That’s not how it works in real life”

    It’s just a status thing. A Toyota can do anything a Benz can do, I agree :) The only difference is how well

    • ken

      u win (and u r stubborn ) all the best in mobile programming, as 4 me I’m still confused on which path to take, now that u confuse me more with the Toyota thing I think I will install ur applications.

      Thanks for offering to install my apps even before I develop them! Don’t worry about the IT and Toyota and cars thing, I just like to win arguments. It doesn’t really matter which course you do, as I said, passion is the key.

  • KennedyKE

    Eer, check your edited list on calculus, A.I etc. Against this list
    http://www.jkuat.ac.ke/programme.php?id=13

    • savvy

      That’s the computer technology course, which is one level above IT. Do you see the requirements to get into the course? Compare with the requirements for Computer Science: http://www.jkuat.ac.ke/programme.php?id=12

  • ken

    just to add to this. Savvy its true that in IT(Toyota) there is calculus( 1 n 2), A.I (bbit do this also), data structures, design and analysis of algorithms, system programming(though very poorly taught in jkuat-IT), compiler design aint there.

    Oh.. okay. So maybe they’ve been introduced or I’m ignorant, thanks for the education!

  • rosyrotten

    No. You dint drag this argument here…That’s an outrightly biased opinion on the diff between Comp sci. and I.T…especially the exs. you’ve given,Seriously!!-you gotta restucture your mind set on this.

  • rosyrotten

    Oh!for the sake of people who might need your guidance on career choice!

    • SK-Admin

      Okay, maybe I should say this is a light argument, the difference between CS and IT. I also said It doesn’t really matter which course you do, as I said, passion is the key.

  • collins

    Come meet us. Computer Science is mother of IT yes, Mathematics is the mother of computer science,right? IT was invented to solve issue which were not addressed by computer science and the lop goes on. so where do you apply your calculus in real life specifically in Mobile class? IT is specific, true? or true?

    • SK-Admin

      When I am coming up with a solution that needs analytical thinking, for example to be able to be able to minimize the number of calculations I’d make when developing an app because the phone memory and processor is limited, I’ll need Calculus. Capisce?

      • collins

        not really, convince me or u don’t get it

        • savvy

          Dude, lemme make it simple for you. I hope you’ve done at least the basic Calculus. See, if a resource, let’s say network bandwidth utilization, is defined by a function f(x).

          The question is, when is f(x) maximum? When is it minimum? f’(x)=0 gives you the maximum point, and f”(x)=0 you’ll get the minimum point.

          A very simple example.

          You still don’t get it? Then just stick to er.. whatever course you are doing.

          • ken

            The value of the function at either a max or a min is called an extreme value. f ‘(x) = 0 at both min and max value coz the tangent to the curve is horizontal- a 0 gradient hence the evaluation to 0. both the min and max points r at the extremes of the curve (cant go any further or lesser hence they r turning points).
            at min point f ‘(x) changes sign from − to +, the opposite at max point
            we r not that bad after all

            That’s not bad at all. See, and that’s just the basics. Calculus helps you analyze problems.

          • collins

            exactly its not about the course, it is about how you take the course

    • SK-Admin

      And you’re right. The more user-involved problems can be solved by IT etc.. and there goes the loop. So everyone has their use in the IT world.

  • http://cesily.wordpress.com cesky cess

    You are very right. I’m a software Engineer. But I dont code. I implement an outsourced system, an investment tool for one of the ministries; pushing guys for the input data, identifying the system’s weaknesses, proposing changes and the like.

    What you learn in class is basically just the tip. Each job teaches you something new I’d say.

    Everything you learn in school is just the basics, the tip, as you say. When you join the real world you learn to apply a few of the things you learned, but you also learn so much more on the job.

  • http://www.deveint.com Muraya Kamau

    I know a computer science dude who runs a butchery at Roysambu. @savvy go easy on them.

    I didn’t say comp scientists will all become very successful people!

  • Knowitall

    Savvy you nailed it…. IT is like a grandchild of Computer Science…The child is Computer Technology…

    usinifanywe nichapwe mawe na IT guys… :)

  • Lex

    Ummm while you guys debate, anyone mind answering where such courses, like the one Savvy is taking MSc in belong? Stepchildren may be?

    • savvy

      It’s an MSc, meaning it’s an advanced degree. We go into details and specialize in a certain area. If you don’t understand this… er you did IT?

      • Lex

        I do get what you’re saying and side with you on the differences between IT and CS. There are some courses in the computing field that are neither IT nor CS not even CT but still relating to computing – at the undergrad and diploma level. No I did not do IT.

  • http://mcheko.blogspot.com kentheone

    Savvy this is hate speech Kibunja where are you??? The diff with it is say for example we did Marketing while I doubt you guyz did it. It is more business oriented like 4 someone who wants to start a cyber(cyber ni bizna ya maana) or ISP maybe. While comp science is specialised mainly for people who want to be technocrats.

  • http://mcheko.blogspot.com kentheone

    What’s the diff between a Toyota and BMW? Depends. Do you know the cost of developing a Toyota and BMW is almost the same. The Diff is negligible sasa kama mutu anaskia moosooori sana ati coz you have a BMW well I hope you realise the extra expense is just the perception of prestige otherwise wewe ni fala.

    • savvy

      I didn’t say a BMW, I said Merc :-)

      Did you read the part where I said it doesn’t matter which course you do, passion will get you anywhere you want to go? If not, please re-read the post.

      • http://mcheko.blogspot.com kentheone

        I was actually responding to someone else n’way peace…………………….
        BTW I do webdesign in PHP and was nnever taught that in BSC IT, well we did C++, algorithim and design data structures(Remember Gatheri?) For example to create a plugin u must understand OOP(Classes, abstraction……)
        Nway the concept is what matters details can be downloaded from the lib etc

  • http://www.mistaguy.com mistaguy

    Well said savvy its like as if I went to school with u.I like this post

    • savvy

      I like this comment!

  • Collins

    Are you saying CS students are many than IT students in the Msc program u r taking.

    • savvy

      No, I did not say that. Where would you get the idea from?

      • collins

        if(superior(cs>IT)){
        System.out.print(“Msc course has more CS quys”+cs.getCs());
        }
        else
        {
        System.out.print(“Msc course has more IT quys”+IT.getIT());
        }

        Debate is not over yet? Okay, here is the output

        MSc course has more CS guys than IT guys 20

        The total class number is 30, btw

        • collins

          okey! so all u’ve posted is such a lie, Good riddance

          a lie? I said it doesn’t matter. That does not mean it is a lie.

  • Jumbo Junior

    Maybe Dr. Waweru can solve this debate once and for all. Si u get him to do a guest post. Seems everyone needs an ego boost by claiming they do the superior course.
    But seriously people as pointed out “passion” is the bottom line. Most guyz graduating in CS/ IT/ CT couldn’t write a quick sort algorithm if their lives depended on it (no google) or tell a router from the cardboard box it came in . Its up to you to make the extra step: get books, code for fun, enroll for CISCO, etc.etc. otherwise degree is just piece of paper.

    You have spoken wisely!

    I admit, this whole course debate thing is an ego boost. That’s where it ends. The rest, is passion.

  • PhilomenaNyaboke

    Please take down this post

    Why?

  • W42010

    Pascal? (Turbo Pascal) wow! am a product of that too. your very rare if u did that and damn good. The days of WRITELN(“SAVVY KENYA”) were the best. Nice game though, mobile programming is awsome…want an intro?

    I could do with an intro, yeah! Thanks for liking the game!

  • http://5goodexcuses.wordpress.com/ Danzo

    I have no problem being an IT guy. I use stuff that CS guys develop to develop mine. It does not affect my self esteem in any way to be unable to do or to be uninterested in what CS people do. You are right that it all boils down to passion and not who is better/sharper/brighter than who. I have seen BMWs with a poor self image and Toyotas that can really kick ass. Passion really does not care how you look to others.

    • Anonymous

      I wish everyone understood this… this whole ‘my course is better than yours’ is just an ego boost and if you need an ego boost then you have a poor self image!

      • Lex

        Aha! Now I get it!

  • http://techratic.blogspot.com/ techratic

    great ideological and practical thinkin in ya part. i even copied and pasted all this in me blog @http://techratic.blogspot.com/. chec it out

  • J

    interesting read.awesome