Comments are most useful when talking about data and its semantics. For some reason, we've gotten so obsessed with the operations, we've forgotten that we're operating on data with real meanings that are usually left to some magic combination of guesswork and discernment.
He was my freshman advisor at UCB. He's a great guy and very much deserves this award.
Sometimes, you find the best stuff outside the heavy lifting tech world. I've been going to South by Southwest Interactive for the past 5 years. It's been a nice counter balance to nuts and bolts tech conferences. I get inspiration and some notion of Good Things to Do. There are plenty of smart people, and that's a major refreshment for me. The focus isn't on tech as much as interesting ways to use it.
There's now an education conference under the SXSW umbrella. That may be worthwhile to you, and easier to get funded.
That's a good list of subject areas, and articles for technical areas, but if you're going to be an effective programmer, you need to venture out a bit. There are a couple of good books by Gerald Weinberg that will change the way you look at your profession. First is The Psychology of Computer Programming. It's a bit long in the tooth, but the lessons are still relevant. Same goes for Quality Software Management, Volume 1. Be warned, QSM, in particular, will make you dissatisfied with your managers.
I've been using Evernote for almost 4 years now. Overall, I like it. Having access to the same information on my desktop, laptop, tablet and phone is amazingly handy, especially at events where I go through multiple sets of batteries in a day. (SXSW comes to mind.)
The key to using Evernote, or probably any personal content management system, is organizing your data so you can find it later. I started using notebooks, but have evolved to a combination of notebooks and tags. It's important to spend some time up front, and create some management system and stick to it. It will evolve, but as with many things, if you have a good base, it will grow well. I use the notebooks to separate major contexts; like work and my various hobbies. I use the tags to keep track of individual subjects. This is handy when a given item can fall into more than one category.
I like that you can use the camera to embed pictures into notes. You can also embed other files. The free version has a fairly modest limit on the amount of data you can upload, but it's been adequate for me. You can upgrade to the pro version for $45/yr, which gives you a lot more upload and I think some enhanced OCR capabilities as well.
I also like the web clipper plug-in. It will extract the content and put it into a note. This is very useful if the content changes or even disappears. They've been steadily adding features. I'm getting into the shortcuts and reminders and finding both useful.
Going back to your original application though; if you want to keep a journal, keep a journal. Adding organized, indexed notes to it will be amazingly useful. I do keep an irregular journal on Evernote. Though, if I have an ongoing need for detailed tracking, I switch to pen and paper, usually in the form of a Daytimer. I do this for legal reasons, and not operational ones.
My only major criticism is that the iOS app is very slow on my iPhone 4.
Please don't construe the above as a diss on One Note. I haven't used it, and haven't been motivated to try it.
My rule of thumb is that most everything you know now will be useful, but mostly obsolete in ten years or less. That makes extracurricular learning a constant and ongoing process. There are a multiple ways to accomplish this. The best way will depend on your learning style. The areas you study will depend on both your interests and available opportunities.
You already have a Bachelor's from a good school. An additional degree in computer technology isn't going to deliver a lot of value. You've been working in embedded systems, which can be its own little world sometimes. But at least where I live, good opportunities abound. If you like it, you can stay there, or you can branch out. I moved from embedded, to systems software, to application software. I still like embedded programming.
If you want to branch out, it's vital that you know your goal. It can be exploratory, or it can be more concrete. There's room for both. But, be prepared for some major time commitments. You can find lots of resources for self directed learning with a little searching. If you need a classroom setting, Extension courses are good resource, albeit expensive. Don't forget to check your local community college. Our local CC offers an excellent introduction to the Java programming language. It's always filled.
Online tutorials in most subjects are plentiful, and there are more traditional books and study guides. Study groups are another resource, if you find a good one. They have the advantage of expanding your social and professional network too.
My personal mix is mostly books, online articles, and fiddling around doing something useful for someone else. I also attend a couple of conferences I find particularly useful. However, I do appreciate that there are times when a structured approach is best. I find it most useful in abstract areas like UML, or other methodologies and particulary complicated subjects like optical engineering. You get to determine what's best for you. There's no canonically right way.
I'll toss in some more suggestions:
$2B is a lot of money, but not that significant, relative to their cash on hand. So, they aren't putting much at risk. As problematic as Dell can be, their organization works better than HP, and MS execs don't need clown suits for management meetings.
Microsoft gets some interesting things in return:
If Microsoft is going to start investing in partners, it signals a real sea-change in the PC market. Up til now, they've been critically dependent on OEMs to make compatible hardware. Instead, they've been hurt by lousy drivers for incompatible hardware. Dell has enough clout to steer the market. But that assumes this deal produces more than just promises.
Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggy" until you can find a rock.