Udemy Class Review: Raspberry Pi Bootcamp


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The Raspberry Pi began life as a simple teaching instrument designed to make it easier for young minds to learn to program. Today that’s still the primary purpose of Raspberry Pi devices, but the product has also taken on a new life as a hobbyist mini computer. In these two capacities, it has been used to create numerous other devices from TV boxes to robots.

Although the Raspberry Pi is relatively easy to program by design, learning to set up the Raspberry PiSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce and create devices with it remains a challenge. That’s where Udemy’s Raspberry Pi Bootcamp: For the Beginner course comes in. This course aims to teach you everything you need to know to enable you to develop your own Raspberry Pi devices.

Course Review

Before diving into the course itself, I should mention that this course predominantly works with the Raspberry Pi 3. Due to the similarities between the various Raspberry Pi devices, however, most if not all of the lessons should be applicable to any model of the Raspberry Pi.

After giving you a brief overview of some of the many things you can learn to do with the Raspberry Pi, the lecturer dives straight into teaching you how to install Raspbian on an SD card for use with a Raspberry Pi. Raspbian is a Linux distribution that has been specifically configured for use on the Raspberry Pi. This is followed by instructions on how to connect the Raspberry Pi to a keyboard, mouse, and display, as well as a step by step guide on setting up the Raspbian software.

If you simply wish to use the Rasberry Pi as a computer for web browsing, multimedia consumption, and light gaming, then you can technically stop the course here. Later in the course there is a section dedicated to setting up the Raspberry Pi as a game system that you may also be interested in, but other than that there is little reason for you to continue the course.

If you plan to use the Raspberry Pi for other purposes beyond just as a media player and gaming device, however, then there is still a lot of useful information in the following lectures. Next up in the course is a lesson over the GPIO pins, which are used to connect various other devices.

Using the GPIO pins and a breadboard, the lecturer instructs you on how to use the GPIO to connect a simple LED. From here the lecturer teaches you how to control the LED using the GPIO pins, and he provides you with downloadable code files from GitHub to make this easier.

The following lectures dive into more detail with dedicated lessons on how to set up an Apache web server, control circuits connected to the Raspberry Pi from a web interface, and creating a Google Home clone.

Conclusion

Throughout these lectures, the information provided is delivered in a clear and easy to understand manner. I didn’t have a Raspberry Pi device on hand to follow along with the instructions given in the course, but using this material as a guide I’m quite certain that I would be able to with ease.

Realistically, this course just scratches the surface of what’s possible with the Raspberry Pi, but it feels well thought out. It focuses on hitting important topics and simple lessons that keep the course easy for everyone to follow. At the same time, after taking the course you will have a solid base for which to build upon as you continue to learn and grow your knowledge of using the Raspberry Pi. If you’ve been wanting to learn how to use a Raspberry Pi, then I’d highly recommend this course. Currently, you can get it from Udemy for $19.99.

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Udemy Class Review: Ubuntu for Beginners


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The operating system market today is dominated by Microsoft and various versions of Windows to such an extent that some people still don’t even know there are alternatives. One of the most popular is Ubuntu, a free OS based on Linux. If you’ve never used Ubuntu, you will likely encounter difficulties performing relatively simple tasks such as installing programs. Not to fear though: The Ubuntu For Beginners course from Udemy aims to teach you exactly what you need to know to get up and running on Ubuntu.

Course Overview

Starting up this lecture series you’ll want to skip straight to section 2. The first section is aptly titled “Course Overview” and will list off the topics that will be covered in the course, but there aren’t any real lessons here. Section 2 explains what Ubuntu is and some of the pros and cons of using it as opposed to other operating systems. An important distinction of Ubuntu is there are versions with long-term support with regular software updates, which is uncommon in the Linux world.

Next, the lecturer will instruct you on how to obtain a copy of Ubuntu and install it. This really isn’t all that different from installing Windows from a flash drive, but for true beginners, this could prove useful. This is followed with some information about using a virtual machine, which will be helpful for students unfamiliar with that software.

About a quarter of the way through the course you will start to be taught how to use the OS itself. First up is installing applications using the terminal, followed by the commands to uninstall applications. The lecturer then teaches you how to do these tasks using the graphical interface, and then he dives into additional lessons involving the terminal interface such as managing accounts.

Large portions of the next few sections are spent working closely with the terminal, so get used to this above image. The lecturer will teach you how to perform numerous tasks inside of the terminal and focuses on its use for the remainder of the course. Although this is beneficial and likely where new Ubuntu users could use the most instruction, there is a notable lack of information on how to use the graphical user interface.

Conclusion

Evaluating the course as a course is somewhat difficult. The course is well organized and the individual lessons feel well-paced and informative. The high volume of tasks you will learn to perform from inside Ubuntu would undoubtedly prove useful if you plan to use the operating system on a regular basis. But the course as a whole feels like a lot to absorb in just one sitting and far more than you need to just use the OS on a basic level.

I can’t really fault the course for providing too much information, though, and if you want to learn how to use Ubuntu I would recommend it, but I’d also suggest taking the course slowly over an extended period. Students will likely benefit the most from taking just the first half of the course and then taking time to use the operating system and familiarize yourself with the software. The remaining lessons could then be taken as needed, which I feel will ultimately make the course easier and more effective for most students. If you are interested in trying this course, you can get it now from Udemy for $18.99.

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Udemy Class Review: Basics of Embedded C Programming


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In today’s modern world, it’s nearly impossible to go through an entire day without interacting with a device with an embedded controller at some point. These low-power devices are in the vast majority of electronics, including vehicles, vending machines, kitchen appliances, and just about everything in between.

A large number of these devices were also programmed using a language known as Embedded C. The Basics of Embedded C Programming course on Udemy we will be looking at today aims to teach you the basics of this language so that you can learn to program your own embedded circuits.

Course Overview

Getting into the beginning of the course, you’ll want to push the volume up on your system higher than normal. The lecturer is fairly soft-spoken. This isn’t helped by occasional static in the audio recording and a clear mic drop at one point. I think it would have been beneficial if the lecturer had gone back to fix these issues, but for some reason, he opted not to.

After giving an introduction into the types of programming code used on embedded devices, the lecturer dives into the hardware aspect of things. This is beneficial as it gives you an idea of what you should consider when choosing from multiple embedded controllers. Included in this are important considerations like the size of the available memory and the ease with which devices can be maintained.

Another key consideration raised is program portability, which is crucial as you may later want to move or adapt a piece of software from one type of device to work on another. After this, the lecturer next returns to a discussion on the different types of programming languages and he explains the pros and cons of each, which ultimately leads to why learning the embedded C programming language is beneficial.

At this point, roughly 15 minutes into the short two-hour course, the lecturer begins to really teach you to understand the code and provides examples along the way. Included in this is a discussion on data types in Embedded C and lectures dedicated to specific operations, such as asthmatic and a 30-minute section on Bitwise.

The last portion of the course walks you through how to write a simple program using embedded C to make LED lights blink. After writing the code, the lecturer shows you how to design the hardware configuration using a software utility, after which he teaches you how to actually load the software onto a microcontroller.

Conclusion

Overall I feel this class was highly informative, but it’s far from perfect. I struggled throughout the entire course to understand the lecturer. Due to issues with the audio, I found myself having to read the slides presented in the lecture carefully in order to understand the course. This is far from an ideal situation, as some parts of the course don’t have accompanying text to help you understand. The explanations the lecturer gives are also quite helpful, but I had to listen to parts multiple times in order to fully comprehend what was said. This can get a little tiresome after a while, and you will need to be patient and slowly go through this course if you really want to learn from it.

I would still recommend this course to anyone looking to learn the basics of Embedded C, as I feel I’ve learned more about the language from this course and that I would learn considerably more by going over the course again. Right now you can get it for $9.99, but it typically costs $19.99.

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Udemy Class Review: Windows 10


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Virtually everyone today uses Microsoft Windows on a computer in their day-to-day lives. Over time, as Windows has evolved from the 1980s into the software we know today, a lot has changed. The fundamentals of how you use the OS has remained relatively steady since Windows 95, but at the same time the appearance has changed greatly and countless features have been added or removed. As a result, transitioning to a new OS version can be challenging.

For those experiencing difficulty getting used to Windows 10, Udemy has a $19.95 class that was designed explicitly to get you accustomed to the new layout used by Microsoft and the new features added to the OS to make your life easier. But does it measure up? Let’s take a look.

Course Overview

The lectures start out with a brief overview of the Windows 10 desktop with arrows used to indicate the Start button, shortcuts, and the taskbar. The function of each of these is elaborated upon over the course of the lecture series with small bits of information that may be helpful to more experienced users.

The beginning of the course is really overly simple for anyone familiar with Windows already, but you can skip forward to get information on specific topics. The course is well organized with each software feature broken into its own separate lecture, which makes it exceedingly easy to get information about a specific topic.

Skipping past the “Taskbar” and “Launch Applications” lectures, we start to get some more useful information that pertains to Window 10. Lecture 7 focuses on using Windows 10’s multiple desktop feature, which if you’ve never tried it is exceptionally helpful if you tend to work on several projects at the same time. The following lecture goes into the Windows Snap feature, which automatically sets windows to fit in either one corner or half of the screen. This feature was available on previous versions of Windows, but it’s not something everyone is aware of.

The lectures never get into anything too complex, however, such as managing multiple users, and the various features inside the Control Panel are ignored.

Conclusion

In general, this lecture series will give you a strong grasp on the basic features inside of Windows 10 for just $19.99. If you are moving to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or an older OS and you aren’t a power user, this course would likely be beneficial and help get you up and running faster on the new OS. For everyone else, this lecture may have a few helpful insights about the use of multiple desktops or customizing your start menu, but the course as a whole is simply too basic to be of much use to experienced users.

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Udemy Class Review: How To (Incorrectly) Build a Computer From Scratch, Circa 1999


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For people that work in tech like myself, building a computer is second nature. I often build and tear down two full desktops a week, and others that work in PC repair shops or build custom systems for clients may create a dozen or more computers in the same time period. If you have never built a computer before, however, the task can be quite daunting as the task appears far more complex than it really is.

If you would like to learn how to build a computer, however, a class from Udemy entitled “How To Build A Computer From Scratch” aims to teach you how to do this on your own. Unfortunately, it fails so utterly and completely that this class is nothing short of torture for anyone that actually knows how to build a custom PC already.

Course Overview

The lectures get off to a bumpy start with the lecturer feeding you half truths about the advantages of building a custom PC vs. buying a pre-built system. First, the lecture states that building a custom system will give you the ability to perform more upgrades and change parts over time. The lecturer goes on to say that the upgrade possibilities are endless and the system will have more advanced features. The lecturer insists that pre-built systems lack these attributes with extremely limited upgrade options and a more expensive price tag.

This is only partially true. Many pre-built systems can realistically be upgraded in exactly the same manner as a custom built system. Each motherboard does have its limitations in terms of what CPUs they can support and what type of RAM they are compatible with, but this is true for all computers not just pre-built PCs. Most of the time pre-built systems cost more in the end to upgrade, though certainly not always. An example of when it may be less expensive to buy a pre-built system is the OverPowererd DTW2 from Walmart, which is a fully built system that is frequently available with a price tag that’s lower than what the individual parts would cost.

The lecturer then proceeds to say that you can’t alter any settings on a pre-built system’s BIOS without causing problems, but any custom built PC can have its BIOS modified to make it better. Although I personally feel it’s a better option to build a custom system, I find it highly unnerving the amount of false information presented in the beginning of this course.

In section 3 the lecturer begins to teach you about the different parts inside of a computer. This entire section is rather poorly done. The system used as an example has absolutely no cable management system in use. Parts like the RAM are entirely hidden from view. The CPU is referred to, but not shown as it is under a heatsink, and just the edge of the hard drive in the system can be seen. From this, I don’t know how any beginners would know what a hard drive, CPU or RAM are.

The remaining lectures in section 3 focus on the components one at a time and will actually show you what a CPU and RAM sticks look like. These lectures have serious problems as well though. For example, the lecture dedicated to the motherboard uses an ancient example that is from roughly 1998. Almost none of the components shown in this example are still used today including the Slot 1 connector, ISA and AGP slots, the Intel 440BX chipset, SCSI data connectors, and so much more. He shows a real AM3 motherboard afterwards, but then returns to the 1996 board diagram for reasons I can’t explain or understand.

There is so much wrong with this. – Ed

The CPU lecture is informative enough without any real issues, but the lecturer returns to showing outdated hardware in the RAM course. SDRAM, which went out of use around the turn of the millenium, looks more or less the same as modern RAM so this isn’t an all that serious issue, but it is a strange choice when there are images of modern RAM sticks available. This lecture is exceedingly simple without any discussion of the different types of RAM or RAM settings. Clocks? Latency? Slot compatibility? Irrelevant.

The PSU lecturer is similar to the RAM lecture in that it is exceedingly simple. The lecturer says that the unit just needs to have enough power to run the system without any consideration of the quality of the PSU or its efficiency. There is no discussion of 12V rails or how to calculate whether or not a PSU provides enough amperage for a given high-end card.

Section 4 of this course gets into the details of selecting your components, and starting off we have another motherboard lecture. Did you know that Micro-ATX motherboards have almost the same performance as ATX motherboards? I sure didn’t. The form factor of a motherboard in no way alters its performance. It’s possible to have an ATX board and a micro-ATX board with identical performance, and it’s possible for the micro-ATX board to perform better than the ATX board. Size is not a factor when determining performance, but the lecturer states it is.

The CPU section of this course is both inaccurate and too outdated to be of any use. The lecture doesn’t really appear to have any idea what he is talking about. He discusses Intel’s Broadwell processor architecture as an interesting technology that offers better multicore performance and the ability to “power much more potent graphics”. He also refers to Intel’s Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 products as having been out for a long time without any indication that he understands that these products change over time as new processors are introduced. At the time these lectures were made Ryzen hadn’t been released yet, and the discussion of AMD just focuses on the company’s APUs and low price point.

At this point I skipped ahead to the part of these lectures that actually shows you how to build the system. There are more problems here, but in general you will actually learn how to connect the parts together. This is already the longest Udemy class review I’ve ever written, and by now I think you get the point that this course is awful.

Conclusion

I suppose this technically would show you how to build a computer, but you would be horribly prepared to select the appropriate parts to build a system. Even if you did manage to get the correct parts, following these building instructions would leave the system poorly built with numerous potential issues over the years.

You might think that perhaps I simply picked a bad course to review, as there are several Udemy courses that teach you how to build a PC, but I specifically selected this one because it actually has a high user review rating on Udemy of 4.6/5. This is incredibly shocking to me, and I can’t help but wonder if many of these reviews were faked with the purpose of improving this course’s sales.

I can’t express enough how absolutely terrible this course is. I’d consider it dangerous and costly to approach building a modern system with the information in these lectures as your guide. You couldn’t possibly find a worse source of information, and it would be far better to buy a pre-built system than to attempt to build one yourself after taking this course. If you really want to learn how to build a PC, look elsewhere.

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Udemy Class Review: Introduction to Mechanical Engineering


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Engineering is a field of study that affects every aspect of our daily lives. The only reason we’re able to get up in the morning and brush our teeth or cook breakfast is someone somewhere engineered devices that make these tasks possible. Yet despite its importance, most people have little to no understanding of just what goes into engineering even the simplest of machines.

Udemy’s Introduction To Mechanical Engineering ($11.99) won’t turn you into an engineer overnight, but it aims to give you a basic understanding of the topic. Let’s take a closer look.

Course Overview

This course is primarily divided into two main sections. The first section introduces you to the course but has no real content. Similarly sections 4-8 aren’t lectures, but these instead contain practice questions and solutions to help reinforce what you will learn in sections 2 and 3.

Section 2 technically doesn’t dive into engineering topics, but it serves as an algebra refresher course to help get you up to speed on the type of math problems you will see throughout this course. Especially important here is the Quadratic Formula lecture:

The lecturer shows his work while working through this formula, but he could have done a better job explaining how he got to his answer. As I wasn’t familiar with the quadratic formula before, I was forced to turn to do a little research online to gain a firmer understanding of this topic before continuing the course. If you are already familiar with the quadratic formula, however, and if you have a solid understanding of algebra, then you could skip straight to section 3.

Throughout section 3 a wide range of topics are covered, including free body diagrams, shear force, bending stress, buckling, and more. All of this information is given to you in just two hours, which can make it difficult to get a firm understanding as the subject matter is fairly complex. The lecturer doesn’t rush through any part of this, either; instead, he calmly talks through each point. But I still found the need to re-watch parts of the lectures to truly understand them.

Conclusion

Having completed part of this course I can say that this isn’t a lecture series for the faint of heart. If you are really curious about what goes into engineering something like a bridge then this course will give you a solid idea of just that. That’s not to say that you will be building a large scale bridge anytime soon, but with the information in this course you could probably work out the math required to build a small bridge over a little stream or creek on your property.

This class would also serve as an excellent starting point for someone considering a career as an engineer, as it gives you a solid foundation from which to build upon. But if complex topics and math sound unappealing to you, then it’s probably best you try a different course. This one is currently available from Udemy.

Top image credit: Pexels.com

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Udemy Class Review: Master Microsoft PowerShell


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The Windows PowerShell is a powerful tool that gives you in-depth access to the Windows operating system. It gives you a greater degree of control and eases the task of managing multiple PCs. For system administrators and power-users, PowerShell can prove an invaluable asset, but relatively few people actually know that it exists. Udemy’s “Master Microsoft PowerShell” ($29.99) course aims to correct this oversight by teaching a wide audience of PC users how to use the PowerShell to their benefit.

Course Overview

The lecturer kicks things off by showing you how to install and start PowerShell. During these lessons, the lecturer uses PowerShell version 5.0, the latest version available when these videos were created in 2016. Microsoft has updated PowerShell to version 7.0 over the last few years, which means that this course is a little out of date. Newer versions added features and opened the PowerShell up for use on other platforms including macOS and Linux, but the fundamentals of using the PowerShell remain unchanged. As such, the information presented in these lectures is still relevant for learning how to use it.

After getting PowerShell started, the lecturer then starts things off with a few basic commands such as dir, ipconfig, and CLS, which also work in the standard command prompt. This is followed up with an explanation of how to create and manage variables. After covering the basics, the lecturer begins to teach you how you can use the PowerShell to help with various tasks such as sorting through files by length and size.

Later on, the lecturer turns his focus to the PowerShell ISE to teach you how to write scripts. This software is an extension of the original PowerShell program that gives you a graphical user interface and a test environment for developing scripts.

Conclusion

After completing the bulk of this course, I honestly can’t find a single major aspect of the course to complain about. That’s not to say that these lectures are perfect. The lecture could have slowed down and given a little more explanation on a few points, but in general, I felt the course was well-paced and that it provided plenty of information without overloading me with an excess amount of data. These lectures would also benefit from being updated to account for the recent changes made to PowerShell after the release of version 5.0.

In general, however, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a better course to introduce you to PowerShell and teach you about its key functions and uses. The course is currently available for Udemy, and if you want to learn how to use PowerShell professionally then I would highly recommend taking these lessons.

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