The Stuff of Life: An Update

Art by Ray Oranges

Wowie. The last two months have been a whirlwind. I wish I could say that I’ve been in a narrow tunnel of focus jamming out code like Mr.-freakin-Robot but no, I’ve been fully taken over by the stuff of life. In June I packed up my life in Portland, Oregon and moved down to sunny Los Angeles to be closer to some friends, work opportunities, warmth, and of course my lovely girlfriend, Nina. July was spent on an East Coast romp that stretched from Vermont down to DC, seeing family and old friends all along the way.

Now, settled in the Golden State, I’m getting back into the flow and finally able to dedicate time to cool personal development projects like this one again.

Here’s where we left off.

Most of you reading this by now know, I’m teaching myself to build an app in public. That app will allow folks traveling on the same plane to communicate with one another and hopefully, meet IRL. This is how it could work.

Since my last post I have completed about half of Udacity’s free online course teaching folks the fundamentals of Apple’s iOS programming language, Swift.

The course has been, well, interesting. The platform has a ton of potential, and looks nice to begin with, but the actual functionality is a little — how you say — jenky. For the most part, the content is all there. There are course videos that walk you through each lesson that are pretty easy to understand. There were times, however where I got completely lost. Some videos were missing and I had to dig around on YouTube (where all their course vids are hosted) to find the missing lesson.

One of the other major downfalls, and this is no fault of Udacity’s, is that without a live teacher there’s no one there to help you when you get stuck. All you have is the repetition of the video instructor’s voice and Google. On a few occasions, the practice app they have me building got a random bug and stopped working. I wasn’t able to launch it or use it in the way it was intended and I had no idea what I had done to make it go to shit. So, I had to rebuild the whole thing from scratch. This actually turned out to be a good exercise in repetition, however, not a ton of fun.

On the bright side.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Apple’s proprietary development environment, Xcode.

A development environment is a bundle of software that mimics a live application (iOS app, website) on your local computer. It allows you to write and test code safely on your computer before publishing your final product to the world.

In Xcode, the user interface is almost all graphical. They have images representing all parts of the app which makes it very easy to visualize how different parts of your app relate to one another. You can easily peek under the hood to view and edit the underlying code, too.

This set up makes learning Swift a lot like watching an english movie with foreign subtitles. As you move through the story you understand what’s happening visually but you can always peek to see how that translates into a foreign language that corresponds to the imagery. It’s actually a great way to learn how to read that language.

So, I’m enjoying how comfortable I feel using Xcode. It didn’t have to be this way. I could’ve been cast into a dark terminal screen with only green letters moving vertically down the screen to work with. I’m glad it’s not like that.

Art by Ray Oranges

Up next.

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things in the next few weeks and having a substantial report for you on how I plan to get to the end of this project. I currently feel like I’m just testing the waters so we should be able to formulate a real actionable plan soon.

Thanks for keeping up! Until next time.

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