Day 33 – 35 + Weekend

Ah, I have been remiss in my blogging duties. Sad day.

Things have gotten a bit more busy around here. Namely, I finished about as much of the Rails course as I’m going to and I’m starting on my final project. Ben, a former student from two classes ago, is going to work with me on this venture.

We decided to do it all in Node.js and Express. We are going to work on creating a game that can be played by multiple people while they use their phone as a controller. To do this we need a lot of real time action and Node.js and Express are really good at that. Rails is really great for creating deep websites with lots of pages, content, and big databases.

So Friday and all day yesterday we worked at my house. One of my roommates is an Express and Node.js wizard so he helped us get off the ground. A lot of our time is simple researching and learning how to do things. Which makes progress slow but we figure (and hope) that once we overcome the learning curve things should pick up.

I’ve found out that I really prefer to work at home lately for a few reasons: there are less distractions (except in the evening), we have access to someone who is familiar with Express (nobody really at the Dojo does), and I have full access to use the house’s 46″ tv as a second monitor. Woo!

Ok, I’ll try and keep up with my posting duties now that things are getting busy.


Day 31 and 32, Monday and Tuesday

I didnt accomplish much this weekend. I spent about 10ish hours at the dojo on Saturday and probably only did about two hours worth of work. The rest of the time was spent watching half of Hell on Wheels season 2 (AMAZING!), taking a nap, going out to lunch, and hanging out. Sunday wasnt much better but it was good to go relax at church.

The long and short of it is that we didnt finish our project with node.js. We really only had about three or four days of actual work because the rest of the time was spent learning the language. Something that proved to be particularly hard for us. I especially poured myself into learning the language in as fast a time frame as possible. I put in 16ish hour days every day for a week and a half. And I think I blew a fuse in a bad way. I was on a high from being good with PHP and CodeIgniter and I was knocked on my tuff by some serious Javascript. One of my roommates is really good with Node.js but lo and behold it was the first web technology he really ever learned. I guess when you dont know any better its easier to handle!

On Monday I started Ruby and I started on the Models section of the Rails course. First impressions: Ruby is pretty neat. You can do some wild things with it and the documentation is actually really great and intuitive. Rails is a beast. Extremely powerful and is NOT for beginners (I wonder if I technically classify?). Dealing with their method of Active Reccord for generating models from the command line is both awesome and freakishly frustrating. You can create a lot of stuff really fast… and you can screw it up just as quickly. Thats the power of the command line. It may be antiquated and basic, but it is powerful.

Its currently a bit frustrating but I’ll get the hang of it.

I need to get the hang of it quickly though because on Thursday I start project numero two. More details to come.


Day 22, Tuesday

Progress, at last.

I’ve finally achieved functionality on my CodeIgniter assignment. The message board part is now up and working. I’ve put together all the UI/UX for the rest of the assignment, I just now need to connect it to the database. That might take awhile and there are a few different ways I could pull it off.

Therefore, I left it for tomorrow. Time to take a good break.

As I theorized, because of my bush-whacking / forge a new path through the forest mentality, I’ve started to have a good grasp of how CodeIgniter works. There are a lot of really awesome tools and tricks that make it very useful. I’m interested to begin playing with Ruby and Rails. They say that its a big difference.

Apparently, in Rails, you just have to trust that a particular function or tool works. You dont necessarily need to know how it works. This has its benefits and disadvantages. You can develop a lot of applications very quickly. But it doesnt lend itself to customization and you can have a lot of people who are really good at rails, but in truth, terrible programers. I believe that is a distinct advantage of attending Coding Dojo. They knowingly force you to learn the basics and “the hard way” of doing things so that you not only understand but also appreciate the more advanced tools.

I also admit that I am 100% absolutely comfortable with having to learn a new language for my job. I have a solid grasp of the foundations and after that its just a matter of syntax.


Day 17, Tuesday

Ajax? Easy stuff now. CodeIgniter? uuugghh… This might take awhile.

I spent the entire day watching videos on and reading the documentation for CodeIgniter (CI). CI is a development and organizational framework for PHP. It makes it so you can have really big projects that are well organized and developed quickly. Its the PHP equivalent to Ruby’s Rails or Python’s Django.

And since its my first ever experience with an MVC framework, its somewhat painful.

I came home yesterday evening and sat down at the table with my other roommates. I had an exhausted and burnt out look and one of my roommates asked how my day was. I asked if anyone had experience with CI. They asked what it was and I told them it is a PHP framework. They responded with, “PHP? Ugh, so thats why you had a bad day!” I found that quite humorous 🙂

So yes, PHP and CI are a bit of a pain, but like everything here, you eventually conquer it. I realized yesterday that Ajax, formally a tyrant I had to conquer, is now a submissive little pawn at the tips of my fingers. Its really easy to incorporate Ajax now.

Soon, I’ll be looking at CodeIgniter in the same way…

It just might take a while longer.


The Future and The Dojo

Time to catch up a wee bit.

The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity in applying to a number of “coding bootcamps.” (9 – 12 week long intensive programs designed to train you to be junior developers). I applied to App Academy first, took both their coding challenges, and I was rejected.

I was contacted by another group however called Coding Dojo. They are based out of San Francisco (by area) and are a newer program. They’ve had a few test classes, a part time program, and this last February started their first full time bootcamp class. The class recently graduated so its too early to have stats on job placement, but its promising. The program is growing quickly it appears because they are already overlapping classes.

To be accepted I had to fill out an application and create a video that explained a bit about myself as well as answer a few questions. I then interviewed with one of their head guys last Thursday and today (Monday) I received my acceptance!


So here’s more of the skinny on the Dojo: yes, its a bit of a silly name. However, when you look at other similar programs its not that far out there. The course is nine weeks long, and I will attend from June 24 to August 23. Schedule wise, this works out pretty wild because I will get back from some military commitments a week prior to the start, and my sister gets married a week after. In short, my summer is going to be packed.

A few things stuck out to me about Coding Dojo that I liked: First off, they feed you! And the food looks pretty great. They provide lunch and dinner as well as healthy snacks (fruits, veggies, etc). This may sound silly but its a big deal when you think about how much money I would spend on food alone over the course of nine weeks. Second, where other programs focus heavialy on Ruby on Rails and largely only that (because its the hot tech right now) Coding Dojo’s focus is to train you how to learn any programing language. Their philosophy is to train you for a great lifelong career, not just a great decade as a Ruby on Rails developer who panics when its no longer the hot item. They also structure their demo days with employers differently. They have more than one demo day (to my knowledge) so that prospective employers can snag students early and have them start focusing on a particular technology that they use. A sort of pre job placement. They also have guest speakers come in a lot from the industry and talk about various aspects of what they do. They build relationships and reputability.

The other side of the coin is that its a huge gamble for my family and I. The price tag of $8750 is pretty rough but its actually cheaper than many other similar programs. We still have to save up the full amount somehow, sell off half our stuff, put the other half into storage, the wife and kids will probably move in with my parents in AK, I have to drive to Cali, and find a place to stay that is within budget.

This is going to be very difficult.

But the wife and I have prayed about it. We asked God for an opportunity for us to change our stars. We found these programs and it all just seemed to click and fall into place. At this point, we are truly trusting God for his provision, protection, and guidance.

More will follow…


P.S. heres a link to the program: http://codingdojo.co


Dev Bootcamp and App Academy

So I’ve been a bit remiss about my wee blog this past week. Reason being that I’ve been throwing myself into studying Ruby in order to take a coding challenge for App Academy.

What is App Academy or Dev Bootcamp you ask?

Well in short, they are both nine week intensive courses designed to train you to effectively code Ruby on Rails. The intent is that you graduate with enough skills to be “a world class beginner” and a successful member of a development team. In short, they both are freaking awesome. The only real difference between them that I can tell is their pricing structure. Dev Bootcamp requires payment upfront, App Academy only requires payment once you get a job. Either way, both are truly exceptional programs.

I’ve been in the process of applying to both of them this week. Dev Bootcamp requires a video submission where you tell a bit about yourself and you also teach them how to do something. I’m teetering between changing a diaper or making a fire (I lean towards making a fire for somewhat obvious reasons…). I plan on completing this during the weekend.

App Academy requires you to take a coding challenge in Ruby. They provide prep materials via Ruby Monk (www.rubmonk.com) and Code Academy (www.codeacademy.org). I went the Code Academy route and I thought the instruction rocked. They also provide practice problems.

I did really well on the practice problems and when I compared them with their suggested answers I walked away really confident. My answers were well more developed than what they were looking for. Supposedly this was to prepare me for the actual challenge.

It sorta did…

The challenge was harder than I expected probably due to the time limit and the “HOLY CRAP I CANT FAIL! I NEED TO SUCCEED IN THIS FOR MY FAMILY’S SAKE!” So I get nervous once in a while. But over all I think I did well.

After that there was a second challenge. This one sucked. Hard.

Honestly, the prep material didnt cover this level of work. However, I pieced together as much as I could and submitted answers to 2 / 4 problems. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that this was a test to see what I could do when faced with a “OMG, WTF do I do now?” scenario.

All in all, I’m rather confident. I know that I can do this very well if given the training and the time. I also know that I LOVE learning this stuff. I truly find it fascinating and wonderful (in the literal sense of the word). I WANT to have a career as a programmer, I NEED to have a career as a programmer. The next step in the App Academy application process is a Skype interview. I just hope I can convince them that I fit the profile of the guys they are looking for.

We’ll see where this all leads. Its in the Lords hands now.