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Learn How to Program

I recently took up an interest in programming – no, not radio programming – but telling computers what to do.  Creating technology.  Sharing it with the world.  For a bunch of 1’s and 0’s, it is harder than it sounds.  But not because programming is actually hard.  That is the easy part.  The hard part is figuring out what is the right way to go about learning the right programming language.  There are dozens to choose from, so how do you choose?

Assuming you are totally new to this, which I was a few months ago – here is what I would go with.  My goals are to create web applications, databases and cool webpages that I can share with others, without spending 4 years learning a language.  A month would be preferred.  So I went with Ruby on Rails.

Here is why.  In order to have a user interact with whatever code you have written, you need a programming language like PHP, Javascript, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, etc…Of the popular languages, Ruby on Rails is kind of like a rocketship on training wheels, so when you need the training wheels you can use them.  And when you don’t want them, you don’t have to.  This is a stark difference from PHP or Javascript, where to make anything happen at a basic level of complexity, you’ve got to write a ton of code yourself…just to take the first step forward.  These are all great languages that can accomplish the same stuff, but when it comes down to it, the fact that you don’t have to set up your own virtual server to start using Ruby on Rails will be the biggest selling point from the get go for a newbie like myself.  If you don’t know what a virtual server is, you can spend dozens of hours banging your head against the wall with another programming language.  Or you can just take my advice and go with Ruby on Rails.

So how to go about learning Ruby on Rails?  I tried all the tutorials that are popular on Google, which all have their shortcomings:

Ruby on Rails Tutorial –  Learn Rails by Example – Is not that useful because it is written assuming you are on the Mac OS and using the Textmate text editor…so if you are a newbie, it is hard to follow along.  And you should probably learn how to build stuff with the command prompt rather than relying on the text editor to do some of the lifting.

Ruby on Rails Guides – Sponsored by the folks at Ruby on Rails, it really isn’t meant for beginners and is hard to navigate if you don’t already know what you are doing.

Rails for Zombies – Is a popular video, but just doesn’t take you far enough to go out on your own.

The winner is hands down Agile Web Development on Rails (4th Edition).  It has none of the drawbacks of other popular tutorials and takes you from total novice to expert with about two months of effort.  I can lose my patience with my computer quickly and don’t really know anything about programming, but this tutorial just made the whole experience very smooth.  Unfortunately, the tutorial costs $24.  I am so cheap that I tried all the other ones before going with this one – so at least save yourself the time.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Also, Hackety Hack is a good starting resource for Ruby, but I’ve never had the chance to have a good go at this programming language.

    April 26, 2011
    • newtome #

      Interesting, I’ll give that one a look.

      May 22, 2011

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