Archive | October 2014

Learning to code

I first started with coding back when I was … well I was 8 sitting on the living room floor on a Commodore 64 attached to the TV with a scroll (yes it was a scroll of paper) with a bunch of code in Basic on it. My father had brought it back (and several others) from one of the Navy ships he had been on from the computer folks for me to see. I sat for hours typing in the lines of code.

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After hours of typing and hitting “run” the thing would do something extremely simple and I would be frustrated. At this point I began to play with the code and make changes, from that point on coding has been a part of who I.

I’ve seen, heard about and read lots of things lately about how people are starting over in life, careers, etc and learning to code. Whether that is isolated to the circles I travel in or not I thought I would look into a bit more and see exactly how easy it would be for someone to get started and actually learn to code now.

Surprisingly the numbers of resources is rather vast!

Code Combat looks kind of fun and I’ll have to find some time to check it out, learn to code by playing a game sounds like it could be fun – but would it work?

Code Avengers also looks kind of interesting, prompted to do a survey to win a lifetime membership worth $125 (so yep a fee is involved I guess) and they have a bit that will catch your attention right away.

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There area couple of things I have looked into already one of those is Skillcrush. They offer a free 10 day bootcamp that came in via email and was nice and easy to digest and pretty accurate. Nicely presented data and information and I honestly think anyone giving it half a chance would result in a considerable gain in knowledge and chance to head off into the right directions for a digital career but it’s not the end but only a beginning.

One thing that worries me about some of these new sites and “learn today” is the misconception that you’d be skilled coder ready for your first job/contracts within just a few courses. So if you are encouraging someone to start learning or even ready to learn yourself please remember that coding is a skill and a craft and takes years to learn, master and be able to apply appropriately.

With that said though one thing I’ve noticed some of the sites don’t go into or offer is “where” to put your coding, sure some talk about Github and other services but as most focus on “website” technologies none really go into a lot of details there – I guess it’s the separation between operations and development?

There are several options for “getting started” on the actual platform side. You can get a web host (google them), or your own virtual image like one from Digital Ocean (link contains a refferal code of mine), you can also download a package for your computer (WAMP, MAMP, LAMP). The packages actually provide an installable base for web development. The web server, development languages, etc.

These items in themselves however provide their own series of issues – such what happens if I can’t install something on my own laptop (for whatever reason – thinking work laptop and it’s not your in job description) or perhaps you don’t want a monthly cost associated with a host, or maybe that’s a step too far for you at the moment and you are just not sure about how to deal with all of that part?

Well there is another alternative and it’s actually quite cool. It’s a bit more geeky and a bit more technical but also a great learning experience!

I’m referring to the Coder for Raspberry Pi project.

Coder is an experiment for Raspberry Pi, built by a small team of Googlers in New York. It’s a free piece of software that turns a Raspberry Pi into a simple, tiny, personal web server and web-based development environment–just what you need for crafting HTML, CSS, and Javascript while you’re learning to code. It just takes ten minutes to set up and you’re ready to start experimenting with building real web stuff.

They have a simple 3 step process to get started and even without a lot of technical skills you should be able to get up and running within a extremely short period of time!

  1. Download, unzip, and run the Coder Installer. You’ll need a 4GB SD Card.
  2. Insert your new Coder SD card into your Pi, make sure your Pi and your computer are plugged into the network, and power it up.
  3. On your computer, visit http://coder.local/ in Chrome to connect to your new Coder and start playing.

But what is a Raspberry Pi you say? Well that’s it’s a…

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It is a capable little computer which can be used in electronics projects, and for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn how computers work, how to manipulate the electronic world around them, and how to program.

And they run on Amazon at very affordable prices and from other locations as well! Model B would be a good one to start with. Add in a power unit, wifi module (or using a cable connection) and a SD memory card and you are looking at maybe a $50 investment maybe a bit more. A small investment if you want to give your kids or yourself a safe environment to begin learning to code in.

Good luck coding!