A Chick Update (Part 7)

If you’ve been keeping up with this series of posts, you know from A Chick Update (Part 6) that the chickens are now in the coop with the older hens and that the hens are doing everything possible to teach them how to be better chickens. A funny thing started happening this past week. The chicks are starting to recognize that the hens sit in a certain manner in the nest box. Of course, like children everywhere, the chicks have decided to emulate the behavior. So, they get up into the nest box, fluff out their feathers, and proceed to sit with the greatest of care. Unfortunately, all of them are sitting in the same nest box for the most part, which was amusing enough when they were smaller, but is absolutely hysterical now because one or two of the chicks usually end up falling out. The chicks will eventually get the idea.

These young hens are experimenting with the nest box, but they're all trying to use the same one.
Young Hens Experimenting with the Nest Box

Today is a sort of graduation day for the chicks as well. As of tomorrow, the chicks will have spent two weeks with the hens in the coop. Not only are the hens getting a bit irritable, but the chicks need to start growing beyond the coop as well. As of tomorrow, the chicks will have the opportunity to go out into the run and get some sunshine, along with a little freedom from the hens. However, I can’t just let them crawl out under the run fence as the hens have been doing for the last while (just so you know, chickens are excellent at tunneling under fences), so I’ve cleared all the brush and made sure that the fence will keep the chicks inside—at least for now. The hens can still get out by flying over the top of the fence. That was my original idea anyway to keep predators at bay.

I’m sure the chicks will be absolutely terrified when I open the run door. Once they get past the usual surprise though, they’ll go outside and run about. They still peep, but it’s not hard to hear them yelling, “I’m free! I’m free!” or the equivalent in chicken anyway.

Trying to get them back into the coop will be interesting. The last time I had chicks, getting them back into the coop consisted of chasing them back up the ramp at the end of the day. Nothing would prompt the chicks to go back inside. The hens may try to help me out, which would be nice. I’ve noticed that they herd the chicks about in the coop. If not, I’ll be out there again with my fishing net to catch any chicks that won’t go into the coop no matter how nicely I ask. After about two weeks, the chicks will get the idea that when I call from inside the coop, it really is time to come in for the day. Everything takes time.

As the chicks continue to grow, they’ll also gain more knowledge of what it means to be a chicken. It’s interesting to think about chickens going to a school of sorts, but that’s how things end up working out. Let me know your thoughts about all things chicken at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.


Java 7 Patches and Future

It’s always important to keep your software updated with the latest patches. This is especially true with Java because so many hackers target even the smallest weaknesses. According to a recent ComputerWorld article, Java 7 has reached the end of its public life for updates. You need to upgrade to Java 8 in order to continue receiving free updates from Oracle. The rapid pace of updates that vendors rely on now is made necessary by hackers who apparently create malware updates even faster. Even at the fast release pace that Oracle is using, the malware just keeps rolling out. In other words, as a developer you need to exercise proactive coding to keep security risks at bay, in addition to relying on Oracle and other vendors for help.

A number of people have asked me about updates to Java eLearning Kit for Dummies. As far as I know, the publisher currently doesn’t have plans for an update. Of course, that could change at some point. Until the next update, however, the examples I’ve tested with Java 8 work fine on a Windows system. I’ll be performing additional testing on both OS X and Linux. However, I don’t have quite the number of people testing the book code as I had when I wrote it. If anyone does encounter a problem with the code, I’d greatly appreciate hearing about it at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to fix absolutely every issue, but I’ll try to find workarounds and publish them on the blog for you.

As always, please don’t send me your personal code—I only work with book-specific code. Using the downloadable source is always the best way to get the most you can from a book. I’ve also created the Using My Coding Books Effectively post to help you get the most from my books. It’s important to me that you get the most you can from my books.


Thinking About the Cost of Freedom

For many people, Memorial Day, which is also known as Decoration Day, is simply another day to spend time with friends and family. Of course, every veteran would agree that the reason for the sacrifice is so that people could spend time with friends and family. Everyone loves a good picnic or barbecue and being free to gather as we wish is important. The freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it, is an important right. Memorial Day is all about remembering, at least for a moment, the cost of that freedom.

I’m writing this post on Friday. Like many people, I won’t be in my office today. In fact, I’m making it a true day off—I’m not even bringing my computers up. About now, I’ve spent some time thinking about the guys I served with in the Navy and said a prayer for their well being. I’ve also thought about all those people who came before me and have served since my time—people who gave of themselves. However, I have to wonder just how many people have thought of those who died (or even the veterans who managed to live through it all).

In preparing for the post today, I wanted to find something interesting—something I haven’t discussed in years past. It was a bit surprising that Google returned all sorts of unexpected results. The first entry was from Wikipedia, which is quite nice, but hardly noteworthy. However, the next several entries were about the things that could (and should) surround Memorial Day, but didn’t discuss the main event at all. There were entries about the weather, finding the food you need for your picnic, the potential for wet conditions ruining the Memorial Day celebration, and an ad for Travelocity. At least I didn’t go ten straight entries without finding something worthwhile. The next entry was a CNN presentation of the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. I then went another 14 entries before I found something that was actually related to Memorial Day. So, out of the top 20 hits on Google, 18 of them talked about the weather, picnics, travel, television shows, and all sorts of things that really don’t have anything to do with Memorial Day.

Fortunately, you don’t have to follow the crowd. You can choose to celebrate the true meaning of Memorial Day, which is to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure you have the freedom to live as you wish to live. Take time this Memorial Day to provide a moment of silence at your picnic or other festivity. No one is asking you to be somber for the rest of the day, just to take a quick time out in remembrance. After all, all those fellows in Arlington (and other cemeteries worldwide) thought your freedom was worth far more than a moment of silence, they gave their lives to attain it.


A Chick Update (Part 6)

The chicks are now in the coop. Moving them was akin to watching a keystone cops movie—anyone who has tried to catch chickens knows precisely what I mean. The cage I built is nice because it gives the chickens plenty of space to run. However, getting the chickens out of there when it’s time for them to go is another story. I’ve found over the years that using the end of the brooder insert to corral them does help significantly. Even so, you’ve got to be really fast to grab the chicken, yet really gentle to avoid hurting them.

All the chicks did calm down once I had them in my hand. Picking them up regularly as they grew did help significantly. I’m not entirely sure why they make such a big deal out of being picked up, but having them settle right down is nice. I got them over to the coop one at a time.

Of course, one chick always has to make my life interesting. She deftly flew out of the top of the coop when I tried to get her. So, I had a chick running around the garage examining absolutely everything. I was prepared and closed the garage door. The chick is now frantically running about and the garage door noise didn’t help matters. In this case, I used a landing net, the rubber type, used for fishing. It has a long reach and the rubber net lets me catch the chick without hurting her. I’ve used the net a number of times to catch chickens and never hurt any of them.

The chicks ran into a corner when I put them inside the coop. They looked straight into the corner, probably figuring that if they couldn’t see the big hens, the big hens couldn’t see them. My new approach of placing a hen with a tendency to be broody in with the chicks worked well. She didn’t precisely defend them all the time, but she kept the other hens, especially Violet, from getting too bossy. Both Hyacinth and Daisy took turns watching over the chicks—mothering them sometimes, teaching them at others. Unlike my first experience adding chicks to the coop, this experience is going exceptionally well.

Saturday will mark the one week point for the chicks. I’ll keep the chicks and hens shut up together for two weeks so that they can get used to each other and establish a pecking order. So far I haven’t seen a single instance where a chick has been pecked to the point of bleeding or even lost any feathers. This morning I went in to see several of the chicks trying out the lower nest boxes (they still can’t fly to the upper nest boxes). Even though it will be August or September before they start laying, I like the idea of them getting the feel of things sooner than later.

As a point of interest, the hens will definitely teach the chicks how to behave in the coop. I have changed the feeding schedule so that the chicks are sure to get their fill each day. I also stand in the coop during the first feeding of the day and keep the hens and chicks separated. Otherwise, the chicks have learned that the hens eat first and they eat second. They’re also learning to leave the hens alone when they’re sitting in the nest box. Like all young things, the chicks have a lot to learn and I’m sure now that the hens will teach them (rather than hurt them).

Every time I embark on a new project, I learn something interesting. So far, this chick raising experience has taught me the need to introduce the chicks to the coop earlier, to provide them with a surrogate mother, and to ensure I pick them up as often as is possible. Of course, I’ve known of the need to be fast with a fishing net for quite some time now. Let me know your thoughts about introducing new chicks to a coop using this method at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.


Finding the Right Zucchini Seeds

Over the years, I’ve had a number of people write me about my zucchini posts, especially the one entitled, Making Use of Those Oversized Zucchinis. A few people have pointed out that their particular kind of zucchini didn’t work well for chips. It’s true. You can’t use certain types of zucchini for chips. Especially bad are the yellow crooked neck squash that turn hard unless you pick them exceptionally small. The common straight zucchini works quite well, but you must ensure the skin is still soft enough before you make chips. If you can easy stick a fingernail through the skin, you’re probably fine—no matter how big the zucchini is physically (and bigger really is better).

The kind of zucchini I like best is the Lebanese Summer Squash. My previous posts had pointed to a place where you could get the seeds for this type of zucchini, but unfortunately, even though the link still works, the site shows that the seeds are constantly out of stock. The new link in this post will help you find the seeds you need to get started. Unlike many kinds of zucchini, this particular plant grows quickly and you still have time to get your seeds planted. You don’t have to start them in the house—just plant them in the ground and make sure you keep them watered.

Zucchini chips are a healthy alternative to the kinds of chips you get in the store and they’re absolutely delicious. Of course, you can make other sorts of chips too, something I discuss in Making Dehydrated Chips. Let me know if you have any questions about making them at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.


Beta Readers Needed for Security for Web Developers

Are you worried about your web-based applications, web services, and other web endeavors? Web security becomes a more serious problem on an almost daily basis as witnessed by the surge of truly serious hacking events, so developers are looking for a reference they can use to avoid becoming yet another statistic. Many books give you good advice about part of the security problem or provide solutions so generic they aren’t truly useful. Unfortunately, attacking only part of the problem leaves you open to hacking or other security issues. Developers also need specific advice because general advice will no longer meet current security needs. Security for Web Developers provides specific advice for the HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS developer on all areas of security, including new areas not found in any other book, such as microservices. Consequently, you get a complete view of security changes needed to protect web-based code and keep its data safe. Here’s what you’ll see in this book:

  • Part I: Developing a Security Plan
    • Chapter 1: Defining the Application Environment
    • Chapter 2: Embracing User Needs and Expectations
    • Chapter 3: Getting Third Party Assistance
  • Part II: Applying Successful Coding Practices
    • Chapter 4: Developing Successful Interfaces
    • Chapter 5: Building Reliable Code
    • Chapter 6: Incorporating Libraries
    • Chapter 7: Using APIs with Care
    • Chapter 8: Considering the Use of Microservices
  • Part III: Creating Useful and Efficient Testing Strategies
    • Chapter 9: Thinking Like a Hacker
    • Chapter 10: Creating an API Sandbox
    • Chapter 11: Checking Libraries and APIs for Holes
    • Chapter 12: Using Third Party Testing
  • Part IV: Implementing a Maintenance Cycle
    • Chapter 13: Clearly Defining Upgrade Cycles
    • Chapter 14: Considering Update Options
    • Chapter 15: Considering the Need for Reports
  • Part V: Locating Security Resources
    • Chapter 16: Tracking Current Security Threats
    • Chapter 17: Getting Required Training

This book is designed to meet the needs of a wide group of professionals and non-developers will definitely find it useful. If your job title is web designer, front end developer, UI designer, UX designer, interaction designer, art director, content strategist, dev ops, product manager, SEO specialist, data scientist, software engineer, or computer scientist, then you definitely need this book. I’d love to have your input on it as a beta reader because this book is meant to meet your needs. However, even people with other job specialties should send me an e-mail about reading the book because other perspectives are most definitely helpful!

As always, I want your input to help avoid making any errors in the book. If you have any desire whatsoever to work with any sort of web-based code, please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. In consideration of your time and effort, your name will appear in the Acknowledgements (unless you specifically request that I not provide it). You also get to read the book free of charge. Being a beta reader is both fun and educational.


A Chick Update (Part 5)

In the continuing saga of the developing chicks (see A Chick Update (Part 4) you last saw the chicks exploring a world without walls. Of course, they felt instantly overwhelmed by all the new space at their disposal. When the full grown chickens appeared on the scene, the chicks were quite beside themselves. Such is the world of chicks. Everything is new and frightening. I keep emphasizing that chicks are suspicious of everything because people seem surprised at some of their reactions.

The chicks are having more of the full grown chickens visit with them (I started out with a Buff Orpington named Hyacinth). In fact, I’m letting the chickens sit with the chicks in their cage, one at a time. I keep looking for ways of easing this whole issue of establishing a pecking order.

Of course, establishing a pecking order brings me to another topic. Up until now, the amount of fighting between the chicks has been minimal, probably because they’re too small to care and because they were grouping together to keep warm and fight off the hoards of perceived enemies. This week I started seeing a little more fighting amongst the chicks. They’re starting to establish a pecking order between themselves. My need to help them through this transition is becoming more important.

Breeds come into play at this point. The Buff Orpingtons are called gentle giants for a reason. First, you can already see that there is a small size difference between the buffs and their fellow chicks. The size different will increase. The Buff Orpingtons (which can come in at about 9 pounds processed weight) will never get as big as a meat chicken (which can easily exceed 12 pounds processed weight), but they will get a little larger than most of the hens in the coop (with an average processed weight of 6 pounds). They also tend to lay relatively large eggs, assuming you can keep them from getting broody. In the fight for dominance though, they just don’t seem to get the idea. The three buffs will end up at the bottom of the pecking order. Then again, in the coop I’ve noticed that even though the buffs are at the bottom of the pecking order (basically because they don’t care), no one really messes with them much either.

In watching the chicks, it’s starting to look like the Barred Plymouth Rock chicks will be the most aggressive. They aren’t completely overwhelming the three Americaunas, but they do seem intent on having their way at the food dish and the watering pan. I’ll have to see how things work out. At this point, I haven’t introduced the chicks to the queen of the coop, a Black Australorp named Violet. She’s loud, she’s bossy, she keeps the other hens in line. I’ll definitely save her visit until last.

I’m still trying to decide on that magic moment to move the chicks from the cage to the coop.  I’ll want to do it soon, before they get too big.  They’ll stay in a cage in the coop for about a week and then I’ll try letting them out.  I’m thinking that if I introduce them to the coop when they’re younger, perhaps the other hens will be easier on them. Let me know your thoughts on raising chickens at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.


C++ Switch Statement Using Strings

Readers sometimes ask me the same question often enough that I feel compelled to provide the answer on my blog so that everyone has the benefit of seeing it. C++ does have a switch statement, but you need to use a numeric value with it as described in my book, C++ All-In-One for Dummies, 3rd Edition (see page 233 for details). A number of C# developers who are also learning to use C++ have asked me about using strings in the switch statement, which is clearly impossible without some fancy programming technique.

Fortunately, I have found a method for implementing switches using strings on CodeGuru. As the author states, it’s not a perfect solution and you may not find it works for you, but it is an ingenious coding technique and you should at least look at it. It’s better than saying the goal isn’t achievable using any means. To get a better idea of the methods other coders have used to overcome this problem, check out online discussions, such as Why switch statement cannot be applied on strings?.

Of course, I’m always on the lookout for other good solutions to reader problems. If you have a solution to this issue of using strings with the C++ switch statement, please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. I always want to keep the door open to an even more innovative solutions. In the meantime, keep those e-mails coming!


Selecting a Programming Language Version

Because I have worked with so many programming languages and reported on them in my blog, I get a lot of e-mails from people who wish to know which language they should use. It’s a hard question because I don’t really have inside information about the project, their skills, their organization, or the resources at their disposal. Usually I provide some helpful guidelines and hope that the sender has enough information to make a good selection. Of course, I’ve also discussed the benefits of various programming languages in this blog and direct people here as well. The next question people ask is which version of the language to use.

Choosing the right programming language version is important because a mistake could actually cause a project to fail. I was asked the question often enough that I decided to write an article recently entitled, How to Choose the Right Programming Language Version for Your Needs. This article helps you understand the various issues surrounding programming language version selection. As with choosing a programming language, I can’t actually tell you which version to choose and for the same reasons I can’t select a language for you. At issue are things like your own personal preferences. In many cases, the language version you choose depends as much on how you feel about a specific version as what the version has to offer you as a developer.

An interesting outcome of programming language selection requirements is that I have one book, Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies that uses Python 3.3 and another book, Python for Data Science for Dummies that uses Python 2.7. Of course, I’ve had books that cover two different versions of a language before, so there is nothing too odd about the version differences until you consider the fact that Python for Data Science for Dummies is the newer of the two books. The reasons for my selections appear in Where is Python 3?. The point is that even book authors need to made version choices at times and they’re almost never easy.

Precisely how do you choose language versions in your organization? Do these criterion differ from techniques you use for you own choices (if so how)? Let me know your thoughts on selecting a programming language version at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.


A Chick Update (Part 4)

This was a week of big changes for the chicks (see A Chick Update (Part 3) for details). The brooder box boards came down and they discovered that their cage is much larger than they thought. Their reaction was to huddle in the corner. Of course, chickens are highly suspicious of anything new. Suddenly, there are no comforting sides to their cage—everything is open. Having an open cage worried the chicks to no end. If you have chicks, you have to think about how scary changes can be for them and encourage them in the right direction, but not get frustrated when it takes time for them to accept the change. Everyone and everything requires time to accept change. I handled the situation by talking softly to them, but I also put their food at the other end of the cage. If they wanted to eat, they’d have to explore their cage to do it. A few hours later I came back into the garage and the chicks where now running back and forth, wings akimbo, chasing each other frantically. It was if they were saying, “I’m free! I’m free!”

Eight chicks of different types at five weeks.
Layer Hens After Five Weeks

The chicks are continuing to get bigger and gain in strength. Most of them can now fly short distances, so I needed to add the top to their cage this week. The top is simply recycled corrugated roof panels from a friend’s roof. They replaced their roof and these particular panels were still in good shape, so there was absolutely no reason to send them off to the landfill. I used other panels as sheathing for my chicken coop. So, now the chicks have a roof over their heads. They don’t like it when I have to move the panels about and will cheep quite loudly at me, telling me how they dislike the noise. I’ve set the panels up so that I provide the minimum of disturbance each day when I feed and water them.

The cage is now covered with a corrugated tin cover and completely open for the chicks.
Opened Cage Using Corrugated Tin Cover

Eventually, the chicks will need to become integrated with my flock—they can’t stay in that cage forever. There is a reason that we talk about pecking orders in life. Chickens can be quite mean toward each other. In fact, during my first integration, one of the new chicks was actually pecked to death by the other hens in the coop. The experience has taught me that I need to introduce new chicks slowly and carefully. This week, I opened the garage door. The hens are free to roam about my property during the day. Being curious and suspicious, they peeked around the end of the garage at the chicks in their cage. After a while, they started spending time in the garage, viewing the chicks. The idea is to get the hens used to seeing the chicks.

I’ve read any number of texts on flock integration and there just doesn’t seem to be any non-confrontational way to do it. The hens must establish a pecking order, deciding who is the boss. However, this time I’ve thought about the idea of placing the hens, one at a time, in with the chicks. When I first place the chicks in the coop, they’ll be in a cage. The integration process will be slow. Unfortunately, despite these precautions, a day of reckoning will come and I’ll have to let the chicks work their way into the flock as a whole. During their first week in the coop, hens and chicks alike will stay together. My goal is to integrate the new chicks with the least amount of trauma.

This week also saw the chicks eating regular laying mash—the same food that the full-sized birds get. The chicks are taking their time adjusting to the new food, which is what I expected. As with all changes, it’s essential to take things slow and understand that all things require time to adjust to change. Let me know your thoughts about chickens and their growing process at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.