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Falling down the steep learning curve: Python and Vim, week 1

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I don’t know how most people imagine learning curves, but they’ve always been downhill for me.  One slight mistake and you’ll fall tumbling to the bottom with no idea how you got there.  When I hear that there’s a steep learning curve, I know to grab my mental crampons and rope gear to begin my slow descent to the bottom of whatever subject I’ve decided to dive into.

Computers and every subject relating to them can be intimidating to learn because you have to know how everything interacts.  In this particular case I want to use the Django framework to rebuild the SFC website which is currently defunct with its last update in April.  I stopped updating because I couldn’t get WordPress to do what I wanted, so my computer savvy older brother suggested that I learn Django and make it myself.  It was a wonderful idea and I want to get a working website up and running as soon as possible.  The one hitch is that before I learn how to work with Django and the many internet related issues contained within (servers, networking, browser interaction, etc.) I needed to learn Python so that I can make Django do what I want.  The trick is that before I can even do that I need to learn how my text editor, Vim works.  It’s true that I could program in text edit or whatever generic text file program, but they’re slow and don’t have powerful editing tools like those available to EMACS and Vim users.  I’ve used Vim before, but it’s been a long time and I need to brush up on all the commands.

I’m also re-learning how to program.  I’ve programmed before in LC-3 machine and assembly code and done a few fun projects in C, but the last time I sat down and wrote code was almost seven years ago under the watchful gaze of a programming genius that took me under his wing.  Now I’m on my own and I don’t remember much of what he taught me.  I asked my brother how he became such an expert and he said that I should hack, a lot.  I should try to make this computer do all sorts of crazy stuff and keep frequent backups on the off-chance that I break something.  It’s a scary prospect, but I think I’ll have to give it a go if I want to understand computers better.

Thankfully there are open book projects on Python for people with no programming experience. I’m on chapter 3 of this book and it’s going well so far.  Learning Python is definitely easier than C.  There’s a seven-year gap in the process, but I think that the basics of Python are a lot easier since you don’t have to do as much setup with the main body of the program versus functions and other smaller pieces.  It’s like the difference between an Erector Set and K’nex; the latter builds similar structures, but you just snap it together instead of getting out a wrench and screwdriver to bolt everything together.

I’m excited and hopeful that I can get through this book relatively quickly and start working with Django and the next set of intimidating computer subjects.

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Written by Christopher Siler

2011/06/14 at 01:55

Posted in SFC Website rebuild

Tagged with , , ,