Category Archives: Computer Programming

New Project

By Marc|January 7, 2017|Computer Programming|

Computer software programming is a mystery to many. Just what kinds of programs are you writing and why. Are they helping people do more practical things or are they there just for the heck of it, so much has been done, so what’s left? A lot. There is a whole new generation of young programmers looking for projects. It is still a wide open field and can use new talent right now. All the software is by no means complete. New inventions are waiting in the wings. I want to participate and help others move the field forward. I get freelance jobs that are very particular to a business and their products and services. For an investment firm, I created software for an updatable spreadsheet. It contains the clients stock holdings and is linked to data that can update the prices so it doesn’t have to be done manually. But isn’t it time I help myself? Do I need something that practical, too? Yes, I certainly do.

I am talking about my above ground swimming pool. I enjoy the pleasure of the warm water at night and on weekends and it is the focal point of water parties for friends and family. So it gets used and everyone appreciates that it is heated. The problem is that the temperature does not stay consistent on its own. It varies day to day with the outside temperature and general weather. I have to manually reset the above ground pool heater all the time. It is a pain in the butt. I was now intent on writing a software program that would help regulate the temperature of the swimming pool water on its own. It would operate a trigger in the heater so activate it if the pool ever reached a certain level. It worked both ways. It could make it cooler (if it got too hot on a blazing day) or warmer. The software wasn’t hard to write and it was super practical and would make my life that much easier. I love that I could apply my work talent to something at home. What’s next? One of those houses in which everything works automatically if preset. You know. The coffee machine goes on in the morning, the water heater is always full of hot water for numerous showers, the lights go on and off at will, you can shut the garage door from inside the house, etc. It is the house of the future and more and more people imagine having this advantage. They are used to things like starting the car from a few footsteps away or locking the house if you forgot when you are in the car.

Software isn’t just for complicated computer programs. It is for everyday life as well. Just imagine what can be done. This is my goal in life: to use computers to make a better world. Hence I chose the profession. This is true for many others.

The Future is Now!

By Marc|October 5, 2016|Computer Programming|

My company has this mentoring program—it’s a great program where college students meet with programmers and other IT professionals to learn what it is really like to work in the field—but it has an unhelpful name like “the future is now” or something equally as meaningless. I got into it for the same reason I got into blogging. This can be a confusing and competitive field, and it would have been nice for me to have someone who told it to me straight. I try to be that person for others who are thinking of walking the path behind me.

Anyway, so they had this big, day-long retreat for everyone in the mentoring program right after the college kids finished for the school year. It was early May but it has been oddly chilly, and of course the smart people over in Human Resources booked this as an outdoor thing. So we get there and it is drizzling and cold and the kids are looking at us like we are the absolute worst for making them come out there. And I have to wonder why they’re even there, as they’ve already gotten their college credits for the semester. Then I realize that for some of these kids, it isn’t about the credits. They’re actually looking for something. And that’s really cool. I go into the main office and find a lot of sporting equipment that you can borrow and some grilling supplies. Buried in the corner, though, was a kero heater. I could not believe my luck when I saw that it was fueled up and ready to go. Excellent find!

I brought it over to a reasonably enclosed gazebo and set it on the floor in the middle. I checked to make sure that the wick was wet with the kerosene. Then I borrowed a lighter from one of our friendly smokers and touched it to the wick. It went up on the first try. I gotta say, I certainly felt like a genius. I adjusted the heat so that it was warm but not too warm. Worked like a charm. People started flocking to the heater like moths to a flame. Pretty soon just about every one of the students and half my colleagues were sitting around the heater, warm and chatting about the drudgery of school and some of the more ridiculous computer related questions we have gotten. We talked about how every friend of ours who isn’t in the field always calls us with every single one of their computer problems. How easy or difficult it is to do programming on the side. What the app market might look like in a couple of years. All the stuff that mattered to these kids. It was a really great conversation, and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves. That little heater did a mighty job of beating back the cold, dreary day. It felt like chatting around a cozy campfire. Geek camp, I guess. Everyone hung in until it ran out of fuel, and then we started packing up to go home.

I returned the heater to the main office and let them know we used all the fuel, offered to pay for the kerosene we used. The folks manning the desk didn’t mind at all. I told them that we would probably come back and do this again next year. Even if the company doesn’t, I might invite the kids to do it again on my own time. This was a really cool thing.

That’s me all right, lighting the path to the future and keeping it warm.

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.