Tag: Coding

A well earned break

A well earned break

I’m still here, I promise. It’s been 2 weeks since my last post and until a couple of days ago had been 10 days since I’d done any sort of coding.

It wasn’t an intentional break but in hindsight I think it was need. Since I discovered Free Code Camp my coding life had been pretty full on. Bearing in mind I still hold a full time, non coding related job as well as everything else that goes on in life,  I’d perhaps been neglecting some other aspects of my life. Now I’ve had time to address those as well as get a bit of relaxation time I now feel rejuvenated and ready to crack on.

Im currently working on Javascript algorithms (such as this one), a series of challenges designed to make you think and put various coding elements together to solve a problem. For the first time since leaving school I feel like algebra has a purpose. No, I realise this isn’t algebra but it feels to me like the same way of thinking. If I have a and I want to get to z then I need to combine a with b and make ab do something… That kind of thing.

It’s difficult but I’m learning so much through doing them. Again it’s the idea of solving your own problems and having to apply what you know that makes things stick.

The break has done one thing, it’s made me even more determined to do more of what I love. My current career has taught me a lot but I don’t love it. I look around at work and see people who are more passionate and energised than me about their work. That’s how I feel about coding.


Building a portfolio

In my last post I spoke about building my tribute page on codepen. I have now completed my second project, my portfolio page

It took me so much longer than I thought it would. It turns out that even some of the things you think will be simple are actually more difficult than you think. 

I had to scrap my first layout because it just wasn’t possible, or at least not for me given my current skill level. Once I’d settled on a second layout I spent a long time trying to get my navigation bar to be spaced correctly. Even now it’s not quite perfect but it’s good enough that I’m happy with it for the time being but will go back to it later when I’m more skilled. 

My biggest headache was the buttons to my social media pages. I actually had to use the free code camp forum to ask for help with this. I basically couldn’t get them to align centrally on my page and spent hours on it. In the end I’d missed a simple bit of align:center; coding, which I’d actually tried really early on but had put it in the wrong place. 

I’ve got there in the end though and can always develop the page as I move forward. I thought I’d share with you some tips and hints about the more challenging aspects of this project and what I have learnt from it:

  1. Draw a basic layout on some paper, a post it note or an old receipt. This will help you picture what you’re aiming for. I don’t mean decide on font or the shape of your buttons straight away but just the basic structure. Where’s the navigation going to be? How are you going to break up the page (if you are)? Where are your images going to sit? Once you have this you can code towards that structure and then fiddle with the details as you get to each of them.
  2. Take a break but don’t stop. A couple of times I hit some difficulties. I would spend loads of time on one aspect, the hover on a navigation or the positioning of an element. I found that moving onto the next element helped. It stopped the building frustration in its tracks. I’d then go back to the issue an hour, two hours or a day later until I solved it. If you get really stuck, ask. There’s hundreds of people out there who can answer your question. And who knows, one day you might be able to help them back. 
  3. Try to learn but know your limits. Initially I tried to use bootstrap a lot for my page in order to make it as responsive as possible but I will admit I have struggled to get to grips with bootstrap. In the end I settled on just using bootstrap for my social media buttons. I learnt loads during the process about lots of things, including bootstrap, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to build a full bootstrap site. If I kept on going I probably could have done a whole bootstrap page after a day or two, maybe longer,  but I wanted to continue with free code camp. I cut my losses and used the html and css that I knew I could build with. 
  4. Finally, building is the best way to learn because I learnt more in the few days I spent building this page than I did in the whole of free code camp up until that point. That’s no dig at free code camp but it’s true that the best way to learn is to do.

I’ve now started the next part of the camp which is Javascript, it’s very different to html and css but I’m excited to learn something new. 

Hello Projects

Hello Projects

Free Code Camp is going swimmingly well and I would genuinely recommend it to anyone who asks.

Not only does it teach you to code but it also introduces you to a community and so many other resources. So far I have gone through html and css that I learnt through codecademy but also bootstrap,  that allows you to build responsive design elements,  and some jsquery. 

I’ve been introduced to exciting new languages but I’ve also now been unleashed on my first set of projects. There are 3 ‘levels’ of projects (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and this is the first. There are two main projects at this level, the first is a tribute page and the second is a portfolio page. The latter I am just in the early stages of and will share with you all soon. 

My tribute page I dedicated to Alan Turing, purely because I happened to watch The Imitation Game (5 stars and available on Amazon Prime)  the night before I started the project. You can find my tribute page here. It’s built on a site called Codepen. A free platform for writing code that was introduced to me by Free Code Camp. It seems to be pretty good so far and helps keep things tidy by separating my coding.

The rules of the tribute page? 

  • It can be dedicated to anyone or anything.
  • It must be one page, not multiple pages. 
  • It must contain an image, text and a link to another site. 

I’m reasonably happy with mine apart from the margin on the left of the timeline. I would like to shift the timeline left a little bit which I could easily do with css. I don’t want to have half the screen blank though if it’s accessed on a phone or tablet, which is what would happen with css. If anyone knows how I can achieve that then let me know. 

I mentioned in a previous post that codecademy felt like it was constantly holding my hand. These projects certainly don’t do that and I love it. As I say I’m currently working on my portfolio page so watch this space. 

The King is dead, long live the King

The King is dead, long live the King

Codecademy is dead, long live Free Code Camp

OK, maybe dead is a little extreme. Codecademy isn’t dead but I have moved on. I owe codecademy a lot. It was the first site I found that could help me to code. It’s started my coding journey. Unfortunately there were a couple of reasons our time together had to end. 

Firstly it was very regimented, by that I mean you had to do all of this, then you had to do all of this slightly differently, then you had to do all of this another way. As an example I remember having to change font color using names, then RGB, then a hex code before I could move on. So many different ways to make my name a shade of red. 

Secondly, there didn’t seem to be a structure. For some people looking to learn a specific skill this may be useful providing they know what they’re looking for. If you’re a beginner like me though this isn’t the case. Also I completed the first course on HTML and CSS (as mentioned in my last post) but after that there didn’t seem to be an obvious way to go because of the lack of structure – there wasn’t a second course. 

For these reasons I haven’t done lots of coding recently. I felt there had to be a better way so rather than blogging or coding,  I’ve spent the last week or so reading and researching (some of which I will use for other posts – watch this space). 

This led me to discovering Free Code Camp. Based in San Francesco, USA this non-profit aims to teach people how to code while helping other non-profits with their computer based needs. Essentially you learn a certain amount of code, then you get released to work on projects for various non-profit organisations to prove your skills. Everybody wins. 

It’s a simple and in my opinion fantastic idea. The reason I think this is the way to go rather than codecademy? Not only is it a great way of supporting non-profit but the way it teaches is better suited to how I learn. Early on they say that the best way to learn is to do and this is something I really agree with. 

So far the general idea is similar to codecademy but I only had to make my font red once (technically twice but that was to demonstrate another element, not just for font color). It also explains what to do in enough detail to understand but without spelling it out. I still have to think about it a little bit, which I like and keeps me engaged. 

It’s also much better structured. There’s a genuine path from A to Z, and while you don’t have to stick to it, you always know what to do next. It’s laid out in a “map” that clearly shows the stages and let’s you skip any sections you’d like to. 

Finally it’s more interactive, while I haven’t needed to use it yet you are encouraged to join the very active community early on. A dedicated chat room is constantly being used. It makes what you do feel collaborative and helps make you realise you’re not on your own. 

I’m genuinely excited about what’s next and where this will take me. 

Feature image credit: Github 

Back on the wagon

I’ve been a bit AWOL the last week. I ran the London Marathon and a combination of recovering from the race and recovering from the hangover that the training inflicts on the rest of your life,  in terms of time lost to running, has taken up most of my time. 

Having said that I am now back on the coding game. I managed to find a spare hour on Sunday morning to do some more HTML and CSS work. 

I have exciting news too.  I have completed the first HTML and CSS course on codecademy.  And now I feel EPI… Cut! No. Unfortunately I don’t feel epic (those of you outside the UK will feel completely lost by that reference, sorry not sorry). Despite having completed the first course I feel far from being a pro. 

There’s still so much I don’t know. Especially when I thought about setting up a basic webpage and didn’t know where to start in terms of hosting or what programme (if any?) to use to create it.  It’s dawned on me quite how much further there is still to go. 

Having said all that my absence hasn’t seen me forget about coding, it hasn’t fallen to the bottom of my to do list only to disappear off it altogether. Every day I didn’t code I was distinctly aware that I hadn’t. I was itching to find a spare half hour where I was neither busy nor exhausted. Like a true love story absence really has made my heart grow fonder.

Finally as a small side note, I’m now on twitter so follow Tek Fish at @tek_fish for blog updates as well as some bits that won’t make the cut. 

Learn to code with me… Or just listen. 

Learn to code with me is a series of podcasts hosted by Laurence Bradford. In the podcasts I have listened to she has interviewed various people from the tech world. 

While the title of the podcasts is arguably misleading – it seems less about learning to code and more about people’s career stories – they’re actually pretty interesting. I’m going to start with the few negatives before I explain all the positives of these podcasts, so… 

I mentioned the misleading title already. I don’t know if this has always been the case but the more recent podcasts don’t teach anything about coding. It’s interesting to hear how people get to where they are though, especially if the route is a little unusual. 

Laurence, the presenter, is no Piers Morgan or Michael Parkinson but she does a reasonable job. As long as people saying “like” and “y’know” doesn’t really wind you up. She says them,  like, a lot y’know. (see what I did there?). In fairness though she’s not bad so I’m not going to give her a hard time for that. 

The two other negatives are pretty small: firstly the podcast is American and since I’m based in the UK some of the language and references don’t mean much to me; secondly I’m an impatient man and the sponsors midway through annoy me. As I said pretty small and for some of you those won’t bother you at all.

Having got passed all that though there are plenty of positives. The questions are good insightful questions. Some are more relevant than others. I find myself zoning in and out quite a lot during each podcast depending on what’s being spoken about. The information in them is interesting if not groundbreaking but it’s good to be around technical talk, especially if like me you dont work in that sphere. 

The length of each podcast is pretty good. They’re each 40 minutes so perfect for a commute. I would recommend listening to them on a commute rather than just sitting on your sofa because as I said before some bits will be more relevant than others. 

Finally and something that shouldn’t be forgotten. They’re completely free to download. All the best things in life are free. 

Getting going with Github

Getting going with Github

I heard a few things about Github on various sites while I started out looking into coding. My first thought was – what the hell is that?!

Turns out a lot of coders use it as a portfolio, to share their coding or to work on the same pieces of code. Well, at least that’s my basic understanding of it from a quick bit of Googling (other search engines are available). It sounds from what I’ve read like a really good platform so I think I’ll sign up to it.

There’s a few videos out there which explain exactly what it is much better than I could, such as this one taken off the Github YouTube page. (Hats off to the creators of this by the way, one of the best put together videos I’ve seen).

5 minutes later…

Ok, so I’ve just signed up to GitHub and initially I’m really impressed. It was super quick and easy to sign up and now I’ve been taken straight to handy introduction page.


5 more minutes later… that’s right, I didn’t take the full 10 minutes. Thug.Life.

This was quite useful but actually having just finished it I’m a little disappointed. Having seen the video I linked to above and the style and ‘slickness’ of the website I expected some slick, cool, interactive tutorial but it’s mostly a list of instructions with some descriptive pictures. Having said that it was useful to get a grip on the basics.

So that’s my quick initial review of Github. I’ll post again in a month or two to let you know my thoughts once I’ve used it a bit more. I’ve been thinking about another review soon, this time of Code Academy which I’ve mentioned before, but this time maybe running a video with some commentary to keep both you and me interested and awake. Let me know if this is something you’d like to see/hear.

Starting out

Starting out

So here it goes!

I have always dabbled with coding. As a teenager I had a Myspace profile, which to be honest I never got on with. I also had a Piczo site which was my pride and joy, I spent many many hours of my mid teens adding and building that. I took it pretty seriously and learning some basic coding to put it together.

Since then it’s gone pretty quiet on that front.

That is until a couple of months ago when I discovered Code Academy. This free site seems really good as an introduction to HTML and CSS. I dropped off using it a little because I stupidly signed up to do a marathon this spring so that’s been dominating my life at the moment. The training for that has significantly dropped in the last couple of weeks though so I’m hoping to get back into code academy again.

Any recommendation of good resources for coding are welcome. I don’t want to spend a fortune on anything just yet though.