Archive | books

“Learn code the hard way” is Zed Shaw’s most awesome project to date

Not a whole lot to say about it, but I think that the Learn Code The Hard Way initiative is absolutely awesome; it’s probably Zed Shaw‘s (@zedshaw) best work. I’ve used his Learn Python The Hard Way book (and snippets of Learn C The Hard Way, because sometimes the Old Ways are the Best Ways) as reference but they really excel when used linearly to do what it says on the label.

This series uses example-based tutorials to explain and illustrate concepts and new lessons build upon concepts learned from previous lessons and examples. By the time you’ve gone through one of the books the most fundamental lessons have been iterated over numerous times (but without beating you over the head with them), and that’s how these things stick. But honestly, my favorite things about these books are that they’re priced to move (free & cheap, based on what format you’re looking for) and that they’re open-source (the source code is up on Zed’s Gitorious account) but they’re edited; no wild-ass Wikipedia style misinformation, just people contributing what they know where they think it’ll do some good.

Hey, here’s another book I read recently: How to Count

Steven Frank (@stevef), of Panic infamy has self-published the first volume of an ambitious new series of technical books: How to Count: Programming for Mere Mortals, Volume 1. It’s a slim volume, clocking in at approximately 70 pages (depending on your e-reader of choice) but it’s an excellent read on the fundamental skill of thinking about numbers the way a computer thinks about numbers. I will likely continue to use the bits about converting hex to binary long, long after I’ve forgotten everything else I read in here.

Long story short, it’s inexpensive ($2.99 e-book, $7.99 dead tree!), well written (as well written as the beloved Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby), and fun in a nerdy sort of “taught myself calculus one summer back in high school” sort of way. Did you teach yourself calculus one summer back in high school? If you did, this book is probably beneath you. But since I spent my summers in high school at the Warped Tour, working dead-end food-service jobs, and swimming in creeks, I got a lot out of a surprisingly thin book.

If you’re interested in a gentle introduction to programming, looking for a refresher on how computers do “The Maths“, or just want to contribute a few dollars towards a noble cause (that is, convincing Steve to write volume 2) this is a worthwhile purchase. Double word score bonus to the fact that unless we have a massive quantum compute breakthrough within our lifetimes, the contents of this book should withstand factual atrophy astonishingly well.