From Dev Bootcamp to Tribune Publishing

It was a busy year. It began after accepting contract work that called for developing a Rails application that I wrote while finishing up Dev Bootcamp. I was working other contract work already throughout my time at DBC, which is something I regret but it couldn’t be helped. All the contract work led to more that really culminated in my job at Tribune Publishing this past April. Although I haven’t been able to contribute much code while at Tribune, I have finally managed to collect my career together the way I want: Involvement in digital marketing and developing great websites and apps as Director.

From Karel to Java

While there is conceivably gads to learn just in programming Karel to do assignments, or invent problems to solve with the simply robot, the goal is to learn Java itself. At Stanford the class leaves Karel behind after the first week, and the class moves pretty fast. Last week I got interested in extending Karel, almost cheating by using more advanced solutions than called for and exploring things in Karel that aren’t covered in class, like her paint methods.

At the same time, I want to continue learning at the speed of the class or if possible, faster. I’ve done Java before, so much of this I’ve seen before. I would say thus far I have gained in some experience solving more problems in the assignments than I did when I originally set out to learn Java almost twenty years ago more than learn anything. At lecture 7, I’ve still not seen anything truly new for me. Going through the lectures certainly helps clarify and clear memory cobwebs from the first go around.

While going through lecture 7, I know that very soon I’m going to bump into things that I may have seen before which perplexed me and was never used. That is the true value for me taking new stuff that hearkens old stuff I learned a long time ago. I am wiser, if not smarter today than I’ve ever been. My life experience lets me review materials that I’ve gone over before given new light from learning outside the discipline of programming. This is easily explained by something from somewhere else.

There is a great analogy about filling a big jar with pebbles, one at a time. This instance of the analogy might not be perfect, it’s simply how I think of it. When you want to go fast, you want to avoid grains of sand and start with bigger pebbles the size of the biggest rocks that fit. You’ll filling as much space as possible. You’re also not filling as much space as you could with sand. When you can only go one pebble at a time, start with the big stuff and eventually you will only have enough room for small pebbles and sand.

If what I know about programming is silo’d into a metaphorical jar, twenty years ago I got the big rocks in and largely filled programming Java. I knew generally how Java worked to do things, what some of its limitations were and where it would be extremely useful. The learning long ago informed my thinking around the Search Return Sidecar. The big concept is write once, run anywhere, including applet implementations that live client-side on the browser. It’s a truly platform independent software programming language. Now it’s time for me to work on filling the rest of my jar. There’s a terrible pun there, if you see it.

Shortcuts With Karel The Robot

Looking for shortcuts in the programming assignments for Karel the Robot taking Stanford’s CS106A online. The instructor knows Karel doesn’t have full functionality of the Java language but a good portion of them. They also intentionally offer two versions of the class: Karel and SuperKarel. I’ll jump ahead.

The class and instructor move as quickly as possible through the material, so sometimes there are things which should be forgiven. In my case, I came to the class having some experience almost twenty years ago programming Java and I can’t help but remember what I learned. In the instructor’s case, there is one small error I noticed that flies by and no one seems to catch it.

It doesn’t matter either way, as long as I get the value from the class material I’m going through in order to better prepare my capability to take Sidecar 2.0 to the next level. Karel the Robot doesn’t turn around, or turn right in order to teach us to program those methods. In the case of the instructor teaching us to program a method for turning left three times for turn right, he said 6 lefts turns would do the same thing.

That’s not true. It would take seven left turns for Karel to have rotated to the effect of ultimately turning right. No big deal right? Well when I was going through to complete the code assignments for class, I realized after looking at the solutions that I was cheating with Karel the Robot. After a class where I was reminded how to use the ‘for’ loop for counting, I used it for assignments that involved counting.

When the class solutions were revealed, often I realized that I missed the concept of the instruction by way of my cheating using counting. For example, I was to drop a ‘beeper’ in the middle of a street. I simply counted steps to the end of the street using a ‘for’ loop for the move() method, divided by two, turned around and used the count variable to walk halfway back, dropping the beeper. If only I could do that with my taxes 🙂

Creating Worlds for Karel the Robot in Java

One of the things you’ll find taking CS106A at Stanford online, is that the version of Eclipse Stanford uses for teaching the course comes with Karel the Robot. You can probably figure out how to get it to work in any version of Eclipse, or run Karel the Robot in any Java IDE but I learned a valuable lesson trying to do this that to save time, I should just stick to the program as set out by the school.

I’m such a rebel. So I want to create my own worlds for Karel just so I know how. The interface is clunky but works fine. You can click and drop construction items like walls and beepers and you can define dimensions. What I liked about looking at world files is that I can do a lot of this in text and skip the interface altogether. The advantages are I don’t have to fight with the clunky click-drag actions on my touchpad.

The things to be aware of is that you still load worlds but can use the file browser to go find worlds you’ve built somewhere in your filesystem. Keeping everything relative to the path where your program resides can save you time navigating. Just remember to name new files the the dot ‘w’ extension, as in filename.w, and Karel the Robot can load your worlds. Be aware of your max 50×50 size limit.

Karel the Robot’s world definitions for Standford CS106A lecture one:

Dimension: (6, 3)
Wall: (4, 1) west
Wall: (4, 1) north
Wall: (5, 1) north
Wall: (6, 1) north
Beeper: (2, 1) 1
Karel: (1, 1) east
BeeperBag: INFINITE
Speed: 0.00

You can use the built-in Textedit program on your Mac (or notepad.exe in Windows) to edit this definition file. The best reason I can think of for writing worlds for Karel the Robot is that, not having physically attended the class, the world from the first lecture is not there by default. A blank Karel the Robot starts with a world that has no objects (except the robot in the starting position) and a 10×10 grid. Knowing how to create worlds should help you follow along the way I did.

Eclipse With Karel The Robot

Bethany Hamilton, survived a shark attack and returned to professional surfing.Last week I decided I would apply myself to revisit being a software engineer more than focus on a career in SEO. I already had a career in SEO and the experience left me with the knowledge as part of my DNA. I am keenly aware how important developers who know about SEO are, and how mixed their skills are. At least with me, I can be confident the SEO instruction set is as simple for me as playing with Legos.

For building more complex systems, I’ve dabbled in SSI and created my own CMS systems, relying only on WordPress for learning how to code custom plugins and themes for SEO clients. I am much more interested in new frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap with Ruby on Rails for my own sites moving forward, and as the backbone of how Sidecar 2.0 works. Search Return is going to be a house that is built with Gems.

In anticipation that I jump in on a summer of code, I’ve needed to install Eclipse.

Computer Science Hacking

It’s hard not to think of hacking computer science classes while essentially taking the courses as a matter of hackademic hacking an computer science education. Having written cryptograms for Kevin Mitnick to use for the paperback version of his Ghost in the Wires, his story that I followed since I was a teenager, all I can think to do is hack my way to accomplish higher goals.

The trouble is, compiled source code is something I only dabbled in before making too much money to care in SEO. I don’t regret a thing but the SEO career made me lazy about sharpening up my code skills. It’s time I changed all that. Even with Sidecar 1.0, the approach uses Javascript in a near pure form and I want to take Sidecar 2.0 much further. The basic hack is in.

To build the full-blown application around Sidecar 2.0, I’m going to need mad skills and polish my rusty old tools. I recall writing Java applets in my twenties starting around 1995. For about two years I worked for a firm that produced multimedia for the Web. In those days, compared to today, I was rolling stones around like they were wheels living in the stone age.

Sometime around when I was scoring top positions for frames-based sites for terms like “disney Collectibles” and “rare coins” I was hired by Multimedia Marketing Group that launched my SEO career. There is no real Java in SEO. Multimedia itself was a bit wrong-headed at the time too. Of course taking a pile of money and looking the other way while you craft SEO for big brands was a great consolation.

Nows the time. SEO is changing so fast it’s actually important that I revisit my old skills and get back in practice. One of the outcomes will be a better backend for Sidecar 2.0 for powering Search Return as a platform concept versus a simpleton robot. I can only really make that clear by demonstration. Still, if you happen upon this post looking for SEO, you’re in the wrong place.

Over the last few years, hacking computer science by way of auditing classes online has dramatically improved. It’s to the point where the venerable Standford University has published CS106A in full form. You can watch the lectures on YouTube, and follow along with all the class material in hand. It’s all completely free. The way to hack is to take these courses as California ramps up.

The governor in the state of California is pushing its universities, offering financial resources for them to more aggressively move towards more online education. The Stanford CS106A cite above is completely free.

There are a number of fast-paced private programs that can cost much less than a University which can leave you in debt. San Francisco’s Dev Bootcamp recently opened in Chicago too. A certificate of completion in one of the better known organizations can be worth a good fraction of a complete degree from University by way of specialization. It is a true foothold in the market if you want to be a developer.