Just Start

I’ve spent a lot of time dithering around getting started. Waffling about what language/book/resource to begin with, which editor to use, what blogging software to install – all that in spite of the best advice: “Just start.” This is a reminder to myself.

I originally envisioned my coding journey as a slow build – starting from scratch; learning the principles of computers, operating systems, fundamental concepts in programming, etc. Why? I wanted to create for myself a broad curriculum of computer science in general, when really what I want to do is code. I thought I needed to be a Linux expert, but I really just want to code. I thought I needed to read Knuth and Ritchie and Alan Kay, but I JUST WANT TO CODE.

Even now that I’ve committed myself to getting through some basic Ruby then Rails resources as the start of my journey, I still question whether I should start with PHP, primarily so that I can be more effective with WordPress. I’ve finally realized that I can do that – later. I need to get started with the commitment I’ve made, follow through, and then pursue other coding interests. It’ll be there. I don’t have to try to everything all at once, and if I do, that exercise is surely doomed to failure.

On Version Control

No code is an island, and there are certainly areas that overlap with it that are of interest and by necessity will require some occasional tangents. One of my goals is using Github to collect all my exercises/projects. I can add that to my workflow pretty simply, and have, which doesn’t necessitate a huge detour into version control system debates (which I’ve done in the past: git or mercurial? What about Bazaar? They all have public code-sharing sites (at Github, Bitbucket, and Launchpad, respectively); are all DVCSes, and all will get the job done. I couldn’t even make a good judgement about which is ‘best’ at this point because I don’t have the knowledge (or time to acquire the knowledge) that would allow me to make what would at least partially be a subjective choice. IT DOESNT MATTER. Git/Github surely has the largest userbase, but Mercurial/Bitbucket is also fine choice (plus Bitbucket allows free private repositories). Bazaar may be the only one that doesn’t have a compelling use case. Regardless, pick one and MOVE ON.

On editors

I’ve spent way too much time downloading and fiddling around with these damn things. (It became worse once I got a Mac.) On Linux, I’ve tended to use good ole nano, because it’s quick and easy. On Mac, I drifted over to Sublime Text. I can use both with reasonable proficiency. Why learn another? And why is it Emacs?

Well, I don’t have a good reason, other than, “I want to learn to use it.” As for the why… I think I secretly find it appealing in a coder-macho kind of way. I know, I know. But I also just find it a fascinating piece of software – interesting in a way that I don’t think Vim is. It’s complicated, arcane, ancient, and can do almost everything:

M-x butterfly, from XKCD

Whether it’s the snob-appeal, the part that appeals to my 15-year-old D&D-playing self, or just ‘it’s a great editor’ – for me, emacs it is.

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Well, it’s been a long summer full of various family happenings, and here it is some months after my first post, without a thing to show for it. Today is the day for changes and no excuses going forward. That’s the bottom line. There’s a million of these ‘learning to code’ blogs out there, most of which were abandoned after one or two posts. I don’t want to be on that list!

Actually, I do a have a couple things I’ve been doing. I attended my first ever tech/biz conference: the the first ever Prestige Conference. This was possible due to the kindness of Happy Joe, an emerging non-profit dedicated to helping veterans with training, mentorship, and employment opportunities in tech. The conference was great, and primarily dedicated to presentations about businesses based on WordPress. Primary lessons learned:

TALK TO PEOPLE (I was very shy/unsocial and awkward for some reason; I’m not usually either of those things.)

The conference also got me using my long-dormant Twitter account.  I’ve started using it to connect with and reach out to other aspiring developers.  It really helps to feel like you’re part of a community, rather than a single lonely aspirant in your dark garret room.

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Hello world!

Seriously, it’s  time to stop fiddling around and reading too much (there is such a thing!) and actually learning some code, by DOING.

I was gonna write a long thing here about my fascinating life’s journey to this point, but I know all too well how much time I’ve spent from the sidelines, looking in, too afraid/intimidated/lazy to start.  (Mostly lazy.)  If you’re not me, just imagine that one thing you always wanted to do, but never have, and all the years you’ve thought about it.  It’s like that.  I’m blogging:

  • to increase personal accountability (theoretically, anyway – how many abandoned blogs are out there again?)
  • to review, restate, and remember new and important concepts.
  • to connect with other newbie coders, because I like reading *their* blogs.


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