Programming & Tech – What You Really Need to Know
“I want to learn programming.”
“I want to learn how to build an app.”
“I want to learn how to build a website, software, or a tool for my business.”
If you are not in high school or do not have enough time in your life right now, it is almost impossible to do any of these. At this point it is nearly impossible to learn programming and it is certainly impossible to build that app or website that you think would make millions.
Programming involves total immersion. One must be willing to spend hours upon hours thinking, designing, rethinking, redesigning, and scrapping entire projects only to be built again. This process could keep you up until 4 in the morning. Programming is not a skill that cannot be taught, it’s a way of approaching problems in a way that many would not see. Its much more than just learning a language.
In a form, programming is an art.
People can teach you techniques and styles, but no one can teach you how to be a good artist, or in this case a good programmer.
However, there are certain things you can learn to supercharge your business, to keep up with any developers that you hire, or to gain a good understanding of technology. This article serves to act as a resource to highlight what is most important to learn in this fast-paced tech world and what to avoid.
Here are some of the most important tech-related things to learn right now:
How to build almost any professional website for $65:
The secret lies in combining a variety of free tools. This can be accomplished all without a web developer. UsingHostgator + WordPress + a WordPress theme you can build almost any site for your company. From e-commerce to blogging to professional business sites, this combination covers it all.
HostGator offers a baby plan for $7.96 a month (and with a discount of around 20% that is almost always available on their site or by searching on Google, the price can be dropped to $6.40 a month) that can serve as your Hosting Provider.
Once purchased, you can setup a wordpress site using their tools and have a website up within minutes. After the basic website is running you can then install themes.
The best themes can be found on: http://themeforest.net. Just search for what you want (add wordpress at the end of your search) and you can find customizable, professional themes between $40-$60.
Using documentation provided with the theme you can learn how to setup your site exactly how you would want it.
Practical Photoshop skills you will need:
I would highly suggest obtaining a copy of Photoshop. If you can I would suggest going on Lynda.com with a student ID and learning more about Photoshop, however, you may never need those skills. Here are some of the most important things to know:
- Learn how to create new layers (Layer > New > Layer…) and then right clicking those layers in the layers window and clicking Blending Options
- Most basic things can be accomplished in blending options. Play around with Drop Shadows, Opacity (how transparent an image is), Patters, Gradients, and Stroke
- Learn how to re-size images (Image > Image Size)
- Never scale up, always scale a larger image down
- Pixels are the smallest units that make up display (think of them as small squares that make up your computer screen)
- Learn how to use the clone stamp tool to fix up images
- Learn how to use the selection tool, cut parts of an image using the selection tool, and the paint bucket tool
Learn HTML the right way:
Many people suggest to pick up HTML as a good way to start programming. I believe HTML is a great way to begin, but no longer do you have to learn everything or even learn “HTML 5”. Google’s main website does not even pass an HTML 5 compliancy test (tested on 12/19/14).
It is very important to learn HTML’s syntax and some important tags. With this knowledge you can understand your website’s structure and can post with greater styling on a WordPress or blogging website.
Also it is a good idea to do a few introductory courses on CSS on CodeAcademy.com. You do not need to know the full extent of CSS, just enough to understand how to inspect elements of your site (on Google Chrome right click a part of your site and click “Inspect Element” to see the CSS.
Also, know what Hexadecimal and RGB are. Hexadecimal is a mathematical representation of a value. In terms of HTML, colors are represented in Hexadecimal in this format: #ffffff. That represents the color white. RGB is also a method of representing color. It’s an additive process in which certain amounts of red, green, and/or blue are added to create colors. Usually shown like this: Red: 255, Green: 120, Blue: 0. That represents a shade of Orange.
Programming? Should I bother?
I believe it is useful to learn the concepts and thinking behind programming. However, I do not recommend learning complicated or sophisticated languages. If you have the time I suggest you complete the beginner tutorials of Python on CodeAcademy.com, or the programming crash course (which takes about an hour). This will help you understand what it means to think in terms of simple data structures and how they can be manipulated.
If you have some more time, I suggest learning Java. I would suggest, however, learning by creating some simple games. You can find various tutorials on YouTube.
Thus if you have limited time: Learn Python
If you have some more time: Learn Java
No need to learn any other languages. It would be a waste of your time (unless you are young or do not have large time commitments).
The most important part of programming is learning how to think creatively towards solving a problem. I always recommend junior programmers to take a step back and stop “thinking in code.”
In a day, look at problems around you. Think not how you could create this device or this gadget to solve the problem, think about the root of the problem and see if you can come up with solutions that tackle the core problem. You can then expand upon the solution from there.
The act of problem finding, and conceptual problem solving, will help you think like a programmer. If you can think of the root problem and abstract it and find solutions for that abstract problem then you could apply that solution to various problems. Now, that’s CS 101.
Master the art of Document Sharing/Editing with Google Drive:
It is almost alarming to find people still sharing Word Docs with one another for proof-reading or editing. Google offers Google Drive for free, which allows for collaborative Document Sharing and Editing. It works very similar to Word and is very quick and easy to use. The most important thing to know, however, is how to share a Google Doc correctly.
To share a Google Doc with anyone:
- Hit Share > Advanced > Change… > On – Anyone with the link > Can View > Change that to Can Edit
- Now you can share your Google Doc with anyone as long as they have the link
They also offer collaborative Spreadsheets and Powerpoint software, but the software is still pretty buggy and I would not recommend them.
Basic Computer Terminology:
In a very computer-driven world, it is necessary to learn some terms that power your everyday devices (including your smartphones).
CPU or “The Processor” – This is part of the system that handles all of the processing and actions of a computer. The better the CPU, the better things will run on your computer. If you can, purchase a computer that has a ‘dual-core’ or ‘quad-core’ processor with 2 GHz or higher. Look for a number with ‘GHz’ next to it on the technical specifications.
RAM – This is the part of the system that handles how much your computer can run. The greater the amount of RAM, the more your system can handle. If you purchase RAM, make sure to get the same size sticks and that your computer can handle it. Optimal amount of RAM is 8gb.
GPU or “graphics” – The part of the computer that runs graphics or handles video and gaming. An average modern laptop no longer has a GPU because they have integrated graphics. This means that CPU takes on the role of the GPU as well. Think of the GPU as a separate CPU that only handles graphics. Only upgrade or get a GPU if you do heavy video work or heavy gaming.
Dongle – This is the general name of adapters that you plug into your computer. For Macs, I suggest buying VGA and HDMI dongles from the Apple Store or http://monoprice.com.
In terms of computer recommendations, I would suggest buying a Mac if you can afford one. They are handy, quick, and almost always virus-free, but any modern day Windows computer will be fine. I would suggest a Windows computer if the Mac pricing makes you hesitate even a little.
Buy a separate monitor if you can too. Another monitor always helps with productivity and multi-tasking.
Sources to stay up-to-date in the tech world:
I often read TechnoBuffalo and Engadget for my tech news. They are always being updated and the articles are often engaging and interesting to read. I’d avoid LifeHacker.com though. That site’s just plain useless.
These are just some tips that I would recommend to stay ahead in this technology-driven world. There are only so many resources that people can provide. It is up to you utilize them.