Yearly Archives: 2015

Weekend Project: Chairs Actually Comfortable Enough to Sit On

By Marc|December 19, 2015|Life|

I got an assignment. One I didnt particularly relish doing. Sometimes you have to go with the flow and be a good sport. I dont mind taking a minute or two away from coding and technology, my preferred passions, but this time it got carried a little too far. I was asked to help my parents fix some old furniture so it could be refurbished and reupholstered. I am mindful of how much money it saves to do things yourselves. In their case, it means having your son do things himself.

I am not particularly adept in the fix it department but I can get by. I dutifully agreed to the task and showed up to the garage on time. This was to be my temporary work area, not having one at home I was willing to spare. Computer work areas are quite a different matter. Dust and debris are their mortal enemies. Nevertheless, I took my handy tools kit with me and expected the worst.

In the garage were a few overstuffed club armchairs and a small loveseat in the same fabric. It was all old and frayed and clearly had to go. I knew my role instantly and I started to gnaw at the staples on the underside of each piece. Pick, pick, pick. The stapler remover did its job. Out came the old, making room for the new. After quite some time and a sore right hand and forearm, the fabric was stripped away revealing some ancient padding and lonely bare frames.

Now the fun part–adding new fabric back on. I had agreed to phase one and here I was expected to do phase two without a fight. Dont you want to see the results? I was asked. Dont you want to see it through? I didnt reply, just straightened my shoulders and set my sites on the work ahead. In the corner of the garage was a big bolt of brand new fabric, rather nice actually, if a bit garish. It wasnt hard to cut it in three pieces for the two chairs and the loveseat. Then these pieces were subdivided into seat and back cushions.

My mother had the sewing machine on the kitchen table outfitted with the heavy duty needle. I am glad I was not tagged for the next job. She deftly put piping around the various cushions and it was time to staple the seat fabric to the wood frame beneath. Because I don’t do this all of the time, I decided to settle for a manual staple gun?and it was the savior of the day for this part of the job. It held the fabric securely to the frame until the next round of upgrading some time in the distant future (when I am not around). For the moment, things were looking up. New cushion and seat padding gave the furniture a nice comfy feel and luxurious look. These were chairs actually comfortable enough to sit on.

After all the complaining, I was pretty proud of my contribution and the outstanding, if not stellar, results. With the right tools (a staple gun and the corresponding remover can loosely be so designated I think), you can do just about anything.

Working In Computer Programming

By Marc|October 1, 2015|Computer Programming|

Working In Computer Programming

I have talked to some people in the field that said that they wanted to be computer programmers because they just found computer programs and their languages so fascinating that they wanted to dedicate their lives to unpacking them as often as possible. Most of the people who I addressed on the subject gave me a strange look and then mumbled something about money and job opportunities. Indeed, I’m pretty sure that money and job opportunities motivate most programmers to get started and to get finished even when the going is rough.

I don’t think that this is a bad thing: we all need to eat, even sedentary programmers, and sedentary programming is certainly a ticket to a life of no hunger. However, I like to look on the bright side a little more when I’m thinking about this subject, and I think that one of the great things about learning programming and working in programming is the simple fact that it gives you so much flexibility.

I work for a huge company with regular paychecks and benefits, because that’s the sort of lifestyle that works for me. I’ve gotten a few promotions, and I rose through the ranks. However, if I wanted to quit tomorrow in order to start a freelance career as a programmer, I could do it and I would automatically have all of the skills that I needed.

You can do all sorts of jobs freelance on the Internet these days, and some people seem to make all of their money by doing what used to be known as odd jobs on the Internet. The thing is, if you’re a programmer of some stripe, half of those jobs are going to be for you in one way or another. There’s a certain satisfaction in going on a freelance job board and knowing just how much people want your skills.

There’s also the fact that programming is one of the most useful skills that an entrepreneur can have. Obviously, networking and marketing are going to trump programming any day in the business world, which is full of rich people who know people better than they will ever know computers, even if computers and people merge at some point. However, if you can program your own website or your own software or both, there are so many business opportunities open to you as a result.

Almost anything that you can imagine can be coded using your skills, which should make a huge difference for the people who want to start their own businesses at some point and just haven’t settled on a plan yet. You don’t need to have your plan figured out yet: you just need to have the skills that will actually allow you to execute that plan. It’s hard to go wrong with computer programming in any language. If you’re young and you’re not sure that you know what to do with your life, I recommend learning programming. It will keep your options open and create new options for you.

Are You Better Off Learning JavaScript or Python?

By Marc|September 1, 2015|Computer Programming|

JavaScript or Python

Many people will debate about whether Python or JavaScript is the most useful programming language, particularly in the context of advising beginners about how they should get started when it comes to learning programming languages themselves. Both programming languages are going to have their avid fans and supporters, which is just going to make things that much more confusing for beginners. Beginners will eventually have enough information to make their own decisions, but that won’t be the case for a while. At first, if you’re a beginner, you’re going to have to rely on the opinions of others in order to plan out your next move or make decisions regarding how to educate yourself in programming languages.

Really, I think you’re better off getting the full story on both of these programming languages, because I don’t think it’s fair to say that one of them is strictly better than the other one. I really think that it’s a good idea to learn both of them if you really want to get a job in this field and you’re interested in trying to diversify as much as possible. Naturally, not all beginners are going to have the time or the energy to learn two different programming languages, which is going to be difficult for a lot of people at the best of times anyway.

Ultimately, I think that the simple act of learning how to learn programming in the first place is a useful skill on a meta level. Programming languages are constantly changing. The utility of them is changing even more rapidly. If I told someone years ago that JavaScript was going to be widely regarded as one of the most important programming languages to master, I think that I probably would have been treated with skepticism at best and outright mockery at worst. JavaScript is more useful now and has a much better image, to say the least. However, the fact that this change happened in the first place is more or less proof that these kinds of changes do happen in a way that is difficult to predict, and a similar change is liable to happen again. You’re better off not really getting stuck with any particular programming language if you really want to manage to stay relevant in the field for years.

I recommend that beginners learn Python in part because of the sheer usefulness of Python, but also because it’s just a good language for beginners to learn. People need to be able to work their way up to the more challenging programming languages, and that means that they need to be good at learning programming languages in the first place. People need to get in the habit of learning these programming languages in order to become skilled at learning them, and that is what they’re going to be able to do if they start out with the sort of programming languages that will offer them some immediate rewards for all of their efforts.

Jumping Into Learning Computer Code

By Marc|August 15, 2015|Computer Programming|

Learning Computer Code

One of the great things about learning code today is that the logistical aspect is at least easier than it has ever been before this point. You don’t necessarily have to go back to school for it. In fact, depending upon where you’re going to school, it may not even be cost-effective to go down that route in the first place. You really can just teach yourself coding today, which is at least going to remove some of the barriers involved with learning code.

I recommend taking an online course. A lot of these are free today, but they’re still going to provide some structure in the form of required tutorials and assignments. If you just pick up a book and start reading about the subject, it’s going to be that much more difficult to motivate yourself. Knowing the material intellectually is also not the same thing as knowing how to actually implement it. A good portion of computer programmers know more about the mechanics of computer programming than the theory, which is going to make them better programmers than someone who is simply well-versed in how computer programming works on a theoretical level and what people are supposed to do with it.

Some people might think that they’re going to need a lot of formal education in order to get a job in computer programming, but this is not necessarily the case. Naturally, the people who can program well are going to have an advantage if they also have degrees. However, potential employers ultimately just care that the people in question can do the work. If you’re a good programmer and you can really get the job done, you shouldn’t have any problem finding work.

Newer Coding Languages Versus Older Coding Languages

By Marc|August 8, 2015|Computer Programming|

People might think that the newer programming languages are always going to be more complicated and more advanced, given the typical trajectory of technological progress and the trend towards the fact that more complex systems are also usually proportionately more complex to learn in the first place. However, a lot of the early programming languages are full of bugs and problems. They were made with less technological input than many of the more modern programming languages, for starters.

They were also made by people who weren’t able to build on all of the experience of others, since they were the ones who were really founding the field to begin with, so they were working out the bugs literally and figuratively. People today have their experience to build on, and they have their own experience to build on, so it isn’t surprising that many of the more recent programming languages are just going to be that much more functional.

I always tell all young programmers that they’re lucky that they didn’t have to grind through a lot of the older systems, especially not in a world where computer programmers were impossibly geeky and mysterious. We’re a lot more mainstream today, and being considered geeky is a good thing today anyway.

However, a lot of young programmers today are going to be telling the programmers of the 2030s or the 2040s about how lucky they have it, when computers are going to be partly programming themselves, or maybe largely programming themselves. A lot of us are still doing everything manually today in a way that might be obsolete in the future. I honestly hope that our approach is going to be antiquated, because I just don’t like the idea of technologically enhanced people in the late twenty-first century still working through endless lines of code looking for errors. I guess I’m one of those older people who wants something better for the new generation rather than wishing that they could suffer as much as I did, and I really hope coding becomes just as easy as expected.

Developing a Balanced Set of Programming Skills

By Marc|August 1, 2015|Computer Programming|

Learning anything that’s overly difficult can get discouraging very quickly, and that’s probably the sort of difficulty that you’re going to have if you start out with a programming language that’s just too challenging. Learning Python is going to give you more immediate rewards, making you more enthusiastic about learning programming languages in the first place, which is going to ultimately lead to better results for you in the future.

Of course, that isn’t the only reason to learn Python. I don’t want to start selling Python short as some sort of training-wheels version of a programming language that’s useful for beginners and not for serious programmers, because that is definitely not the case. Python is actually one of the most versatile programming languages that’s in use today, and it has managed to replace several of the old standbys in the industry already. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I recommend it to beginners so strongly.

There can be something frustrating about education for education’s sake. When kids complain about the fact that they’re never going to learn a good portion of the stuff that they’re struggling with in schools, they’re not entirely off the mark. They get to have grades at least, and these grades can help them get into better schools. If you’re teaching yourself a programming language, you need to be able to work on your own rewards system, and that’s a whole lot easier when you know that you’re actually working for the sake of tangible rewards.

Some adults go back to school for the sake of educational enrichment and self-improvement, but most of them are going back to school for the sake of furthering their careers, gaining the education that they need to change their careers, or broadening their job opportunities. Any of the grades that they receive when they’re actually in college are just personal bonus points. The important thing is that they have earned the sort of credentials that might actually manage to help them earn more money. Python is the sort of programming language that can definitely serve as a gateway to a newer and better job, even for people who already work in programming if they just aren’t familiar with a more profitable programming language.

Python is a programming language that will prove to be instrumental in emerging and existing 3D applications, game scripting, various systems, administration scripting, and the web. People in a wide range of different fields are going to be able to benefit from it, which is why it is such a good introductory language. It’s a newer language than many of the programming languages that you might decide to learn, which is part of why it is relatively easy to learn than many of the others.

However, it is still a good idea to learn JavaScript at one point or another. Ambitious people could still start out with it, and adding it to your repertoire is always going to be a good idea. When you know JavaScript, you will be able to create the sort of applications that can be used all over the world, which is not something that most people can do. It’s the sort of thing that people tend to dream about when they get started with computer programming in the first place. If I could sum up the language of the entire Web, I would probably have to just reference the JavaScript language. It’s hard to go wrong with learning how to speak ‘Internet’ and that’s what can happen to you if you try your hand at JavaScript.

I do recommend that if you’re going to learn JavaScript, really go all the way with it. It’s really not the sort of thing that you can dabble with, and it’s not really the sort of thing that you should dabble with. I honestly think that a lot of buggy websites and buggy web applications can be attributed to programmers who didn’t entirely learn how to do JavaScript in the first place. I’m of the school of thought that we have more than enough programmers like that, and we don’t need more of them.

If you know both Python and JavaScript, you’ll be able to do so much online and elsewhere that it isn’t even funny. Learning how to do both of them is definitely the sort of worthwhile goal that is worth struggling with and setting aside your free time for, even if you don’t have a lot of free time.