Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Experiment: Learning Computer Programming

Today I am beginning to learn to program in Python.  I'm not totally sure why I am doing this- those Makers make you feel you should just jump in and do things, I've seen some jobs for computational biologists that don't seem stressful and I am bored by job hunting are all reasons.  A couple weeks ago, a computer programmer friend of mine said that "Not everyone has the mentality to code." and he suggested I just take two weeks to see which camp I was in.  Then he made an "If/Then statement joke" and everyone else at the table laughed.  That might be the real reason I am doing this.

I have been saying "I am going to learn computer programming and get a job" for a while now, so I have already amassed some tools to get started.  I have also set the bar really low- I don't need to be an elegant programmer, I just need to know if I am the kind of person who can break problems down into codable, solvable, chunks.  If in two weeks, I am ready to pitch my computer out the window, well, lesson learned.

Anyway, if you, for whatever strange reason, want to follow along with the Are You a Programmer? Challenge, here is what I am doing.
My intent is to learn Python, as this is a language that might be relevant for a biologist, and is not entirely dissimilar from MatLab- which is the other language people in the know have suggested.  I've downloaded Enthough Python as my python-ing environment.

And while that was dowloading and installing, I learned Java.  Ha!

Actually, I did take a lesson at Codecademy, which has some very gentle resources for learning the basics of programming (what is a variable, how is it defined...).  I passed my first (free!) course online in about an hour and half, and that gave me a boost of confidence for Project Python.  Oo, and that is the name I am going to stick with.

My personal outline for Project Python: 14 days.  If I have to take breaks for contract work or meetings, I'll skip a day.  But, since I've promised the internet I am going to give it a try, I feel obliged.

Here are some other resources that were recommended to me by former colleague ,
Learn Python the Hard Way --  (It's not really the hard way)
Anyone else have resources or encouragement to send me?

1 comment:

  1. Sandlin -- if you've installed the EPD, and are following some tutorials, make sure you are using ipython if you want to play around in an interactive environment. If you enter the prompt using just 'python' you won't have access to a number of nice features like tab completion.