Monthly Archives: September 2014

Learn Python the Hard (Fun) Way

The course is available online and you can try it for free!

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a book called “Learn Python the Hard Way” (LPTHW). The book sat by my bedside under a stack of other reads until I rediscovered it over the weekend. I bought the book because of the unusual way it marketed itself. Learning something the hard way struck a chord with me because taking the easy way has so seldomly worked out for me. I had dabbled with Python throughout the years and even purchased a neglected book or two on the topic. One of my first professional experiences with Python was when I was tasked with fixing an automated process that was scripted in Python.  Googling here and there I was able to patch up the script and get things running again, but I didn’t have the chance to really solidify my knowledge. I was amazed by how much I could do with so little code, but I found debugging and deciphering the code challenging. Since then I transitioned to other jobs, and worked with teams who preferred a different standard for scripting (For reasons I will never understand, Perl is a common favorite). Python felt accessible and yet mysterious and powerful to me. I wanted to learn more and see what other cool things I could do. Perhaps it reminded me of my early programming experiences.

When I was a kid, I used to go to my school library and read the RUN magazine. I would scour the pages to catch up on the latest techno gadgets and games that were on the horizon, but I also loved taking home code to try on my Commodore 64. I would meticulously transcribe the BASIC and assembly code from the magazine to my notebook. I couldn’t wait to get home to try out the new programs and games on my C-64. Often my programs would not run at all and I had to figure out what was causing the crash. This was a terrific training ground for teaching me how to write and troubleshoot code, skills I use to this day at work. Fast-forward to today where all of the information you could possibly need is at your whim and you might think kids have it made. Learning should be easier than ever, but people still need to go through the process and learn a wide array of skills. That takes time, effort, patience and a lot of hard work. You can’t skim over it. You can’t Google your way through it. You just have to do it.

Now, if you review Learning Python the Hard Way, you might think that the text is really just for beginners, but I believe anyone can benefit from the instructional approach to learning. I am going to work my way through each and every chapter in the book, not skipping a page, skimming over an exercise or cutting and pasting so much as a line of code. I am hoping to become a better programmer in the process, but also, I would like to teach my children how to program in Python using the same textbook. I think LPTHW offers a terrific start for anyone making their first steps into the wonderful world of software development. The book even comes with instructional videos to help you through the rough sections. Learning the Hard Way might be a tough sell for kids, but I hope they will gain an appreciation for programming but also learn important life skills like: self discipline, analytical thinking and problem-solving.

The New iCloud is Coming!

If you haven’t heard, Apple is updating its iCloud service, providing a better integrated cloud experience for all your iDevices at a price that won’t bust your budget.

The main feature of the new iCloud service that I am super excited about is Family Sharing. Now, up to six members of your family can share their App Store purchases, iTunes, iBooks, family photos, calendars, etc. This will save you money in the long run because now you don’t have to buy multiple copies of your favourite apps (like 1Password) to share in the fun. Although a lot of apps today are free-ish, some still cost over $15, a fee I don’t care to pay more than once.

The other reason that I am excited about this announcement is the reduced cost of online storage. Now, you can afford to backup all of our Mac data to the cloud and if you are like me, you have a lot of data. No worries, now Apple has provided all the space you need at a reasonable price. Gone are the annual fees where you had to guess how much space you would need for the year ahead. Now, you can upgrade or downgrade month to month. If you decide that you don’t need 500 GB of space, you can drop down to the 200 GB level.

You might be a little concerned about storing all of your private data in the cloud, especially with the recent stories of hackers breaking into Apple’s beloved iCloud, but Apple has investigated the issue and apparently shored up their security. I understand that part of the issue is weak passwords. Perhaps the lesson here is to make sure that your all of your online accounts have strong passwords. Hey, another reason to use a terrific app like 1Password to auto-generate some unguessable passwords for you! (Really, I don’t work for AgileBits but I think 1Password does deserve high praise).

Space Monthly Cost
20GB $0.99/month
20GB $0.99/month
200GB $3.99/month
500GB $9.99/month
1TB $19.99/month


Check it out:

Blogger’s Block

Can it be? I haven’t written a post since March 2014?! Wow, where did the time go? Well, it wasn’t like I was a regular blogger to begin with, but seriously that’s six months! Shameful I know. To be fair, I have been busy with my new job and then there was summer vacation. Okay, that just sounds like a lame excuse. I know what happened, I developed “Blogger’s Block”, a condition worse than the common writer’s block. Once you stop blogging it is like 100 times harder to go back and write something or anything, really. You stop visiting your own website and feel bad for any loyal visitor who comes back day after day only to see the same post about a donut that I ate back in March. Granted, those were some yummy donuts. So now it is time for me to promise that I will return to my former semi-regular pattern of blogging, but that would be a comfortable lie. No, I cannot promise that, but I do at least aspire to write about something interesting, and maybe even helpful. I’ve read some truly great technical blog posts recently that sure helped me out (Thanks Jonas for your post about resolving an annoying SSRS Scale-out Deployment Error. Check out his blog:

Okay, it’s Friday night and I am off to eat some pizza and spend time with the family. That sounds like a Tweet… Hmmm. That reminds me, I haven’t tweeted in quite some time. Appears that my blogger’s block has transferred to my social networks.