What Have I Learned?

Now that introductions are out of the way, let me get into what I have learned. In Ruby, I learned that the syntax it uses is easy to remember. However, after not working with it for three months, ask me how to say Hello World, and I can’t remember. So, easy lesson number 1 is I’d better keep practicing, or I won’t remember how to do a damn simple thing. Alright, lesson learned, keep practicing, keep working, keep trying.

Well, now I’ve moved onto Python. I’ve been following a tutorial called “Learn Python| The Hard Way” and it has been helpful. I’m up to exercise 17. It’s titled More Files and it’s currently trying to get me to learn about the import function in Python. Import allows me to import other people’s code into my script so that I don’t have to code a bunch of stuff that’s already been done. Cool. I like it. It’s overwhelming.

There’s so much going on in programming that I don’t understand how anyone can master a language. I know I’ve read that no one ever “masters” a language because it’s constantly evolving, but to become so proficient is daunting. I’m in the baby steps of remembering how to structure my Python code and to get slapped with import just seems unfair. How do people even know when something has already been done for them? I suppose you just search, but how do you even know what it is you need from the code? Right now it baffles me. I believe I’ll get it. But, it will take time.

So, onto something a little more uplifting. In each of the exercises on “Learn Python| The Hard Way,” there is an extra credit section. Although I haven’t figured out all of the extra credits, which are extra tasks that can be done but aren’t explained, I have managed to wrangle out a few. Once I finish this tutorial I hope to go back through it and nail each and everyone of these extra credits. I’ll definitely update with my success later 😉

So, Python it is. Python it will be. This feels good. This feels right. There is a strong community, an active community, and a bajillion different tutorials I have found. I plan to go through each and every one until I’m confident and capable of figuring out this friggin’ thing!

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Which Language?

I began uncertain of where to begin. I tried to jump into things, but had no idea where to start. My first step was to search, “Which programming language should I learn first,” which ended up being unhelpful. Everyone had different opinions and ideas for where to begin. At the time, the buzz was all about Ruby. So, I thought, what the heck, I’ll start with Ruby. This was three years ago. I began by reading http://rubylearning.com/satishtalim/tutorial.html. I quickly became overwhelmed by the tutorial and sought out other help. I eventually found http://mislav.uniqpath.com/poignant-guide/book/, which was being talked about by the Ruby community.

I went through Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby and read about six chapters, but eventually it became less and less helpful. It got more esoteric and general as the book continued. It wasn’t until I made it through about half of the book that I realized the purpose of the book wasn’t to teach Ruby, but to help people understand the mentality, and viewpoint of a Ruby programmer. I decided to take a break from learning programming as I had to make a website for my father, www.cookiesonupperredlake.com. That break ended up lasting two and a half years.

I finally got going again in November of 2010. I went back to Ruby and tried a different tutorial, http://pine.fm/LearnToProgram/. I made it through most of Learn to Program, but again, didn’t feel like I connected with what I was trying to learn. After two months of reading and re-reading I had to take a break to make another website for an organization I’m involved in. That website is www.seoulplayers.com. I worked on that for three months and finally was ready to start programming again. I wanted to try a different language, so I searched again, “Which programming language should I learn first.” This time I found something helpful. http://lifehacker.com/5401954/programmer-101-teach-yourself-how-to-code. Ahh, so the language doesn’t matter, the understanding is all that matters. Very zen.

So, I jumped into the past and followed my heart into Python. I searched far and wide for tutorials and came up with about a bajillion. I chose one at random, a short tutorial by Richard G. Baldwin at http://www.developer.com/lang/other/article.php/625901/Learn-to-Program-using-Python-Lesson-1-Getting-Started.htm. This was supposed to have a series of tutorials, but I don’t believe the others were ever written. So, I ended lesson 1 no wiser to programming than I began.

Finally I found a tutorial that seemed perfectly suited to me. http://learnpythonthehardway.org/ by Zed A. Shaw. So far it’s been helpful and informative and has a good learning curve. It is recently revised and so I started over to go through the tutorial from the beginning again. Now that I have a good grasp of where I am in my adventures in programming I will discuss what I have learned so far, the troubles I’ve run into in learning programming and where I hope to go. Programming has been a satisfying adventure so far.

The Journey to Program has Begun

Actually, that’s not true. This journey began in 1998. I finally had my first computer and was beyond excited about the prospects. The first thing I bought was Half-Life and I immediately played through it despite my mom protesting about the violent content. I was fascinated with this world. I downloaded Counter-Strike. I played as well as my 56k AOL connection would allow. I learned how the OS worked by breaking it and fixing it. I deleted things I shouldn’t have and downloaded things I shouldn’t have and I wanted to understand. But I didn’t

But I tried. I downloaded the map creation tools for Half-Life. I started designing my own maps. I went through tutorials. I built rooms. I connected the rooms! I textured the walls! I was flying through. I played through my level. It was empty. I was lonely. I wanted something to shoot. I mean that in both ways. My character had nothing in his hand. I added an enemy. It stood there. It looked at me. It started, eyes agape, soulless. I wanted to give it vitality then I wanted to destroy it. I couldn’t figure out how to give my character a gun. But, I got caught up trying to model some objects for my map and slowly I stopped working on my map. My enemy would remain motionless inside that level. Alone.

Later, I was trying to learn how to create my own games. I searched for ways to begin and then I found it. On Ebay. It was a 3-D game maker CD. It was only 5 dollars! I had to have it. I bought it. I waited. I waited…I waited…I forgot about it. I contacted the seller. They said they sent it. I’m still waiting for my 3-D game maker CD. I could have made explosive, charming, hilarious games. I could have. But it was lost.

Programming desires fell off as I finished high school. I went to Graphic Design school. I lasted a year. I didn’t quite have the eye for design I thought I did. I transferred to a University and I decided to go after three! majors! Woah, I was ambitious. I would be an English, Art, and Computer Science major. Four years later, I still did not know how to program. My art was as lifeless as that head crab zombie in my Half-Life map. But hey, I could write a well-structured, grammatically correct essay. That’s an important and valuable life skill…right? Surprisingly, no. Not at all.

From the time I got my first computer I loved adventure games. I played the Monkey Islands, the Maniac Mansions (which was actually my first adventure game experience playing it on the NES), Full Throttle, Loom, Discworld, Hero Quest, King’s Quest, and on and on. When I was in the fifth grade I created an awesome comic book character named Super Wonder Pig. He had fantastic, violent adventures involving Elvis, an evil cow, a tiny hamster, and a giant chicken. I still had those comics. It was time to make an adventure game and I found just the tool. Adventure Game Studio.

I created all the graphics for the game. I was on top of it. I read the tutorials, I completed the tutorials. I understood the scripting. It made sense. I was making progress. Then, I wanted the characters to start interacting, for the player to start making adventurey choices…and it all went to pot. Okay, Super Wonder Pig tell Super Evil Cow that you hate her and she broke your heart. *Click* Uhh, why did you crash. Code check. Everything is fine. No missing parenthesis, no missing brackets, no missing anything. Try again. Crash. Okay, that’s okay. There’s a huge community to help rescue me from ineptitude. Check, “Nope don’t see anything wrong.” “Works for me.” “Nothing wrong, work’s for me.” Frustration. Must punch hard drive. And as if just for thinking it the hard drive crashed. All that work gone. Must start over. Not enough resolve to start again.

Fast forward three more years and here I am. With resolve. Resolve to try again. Join me as I track my journey to finally understand how to program. I’ll be posting my trials and tribulations, but mostly successes and helpful information I find along the road. This is my journey, and it has an end. That end is my journey to program.