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Could use some advice!!!

Jeff Chisolm

Joined: Dec 05, 2007
Posts: 3
I am brand new to the technology world! I am 35 and will be going back to school in January to obtain an assoc. degree in website design/programming. But I want to go ahead and start learning on my own at home. What is the very best book to read and that will give all sorts of exercises to do so that I can learn Java as quickly as possible to get into the workforce? And one more question, how much experience will I need to obtain a position programming in Java for websites and so forth? Any help you can give for this newbie to the computer programming world would be awesome.

Campbell Ritchie

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 46425
Welcome to the Ranch.

When I was in a similar position, I was advised against buying books before the start of the course. Presumably you will be taught Java programming as part of your course. Then look in the library there and see which books you like before buying anything.
There is no such thing as a "very best book;" different people have different tastes, and different styles suit different people. I happen to like Deitel and Deitel (as a beginner you won't notice much difference between the 6th and 7th editions, so you might get a bargain second-hand, but I think the 5th edition is out of date). But I know lots of people who absolutely detest Deitel. . . A lot of people like Bates and Sierra, Head First Java. Don't get the 1st edition.

Is there any point in trying to learn programming before you start your course at all? I don't think you want to learn programming from a book in the first place.

I don't think many people use Java in websites, more likely HTML, Perl, PHP, and JavaScript (a language completely unrelated to Java). But Java is used extensively in large applications, mobile phones, etc etc etc.

I do know however, that there will be lots of people on the Ranch with very different opinions from mine.
Jeff Chisolm

Joined: Dec 05, 2007
Posts: 3
Thanks so much for the advise Campbell! So let me ask you this then, is there a great demand for people to develop websites using the languages you listed below? Would I have a hard time finding work if I learned HTML, PERL and Javascript? I would also assume these are much easier to learn then Java itself?

Thanks again!
Campbell Ritchie

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 46425
You're welcome.
Don't know how much demand there is for jobs, I am afraid. It probably varies from location to location.
I think a website which only uses HTML would be considered very old fashioned nowadays. I have tried a bit of JavaScript a couple of years ago, and I didn't think it was easier than Java at all.
It is not learning the language that is the problem, it is learning the programming and thinking how a computer will behave which is difficult. Having come to computing from a different background, I find that computing really requires a lot of thought if it is to be done right. Definitely strains the brain cells!

Maybe somebody else can help more with your queries. As I said, there will be people with completely different opinions from mine. There are also resources you can get free of charge, legally.

  • The Java� tutorial. Though I have a big reservation about their use of the main method so much.
  • Thinking in Java by Bruce Eckel. But only the 3rd edition is available. A classic, well worth the effort.
  • This book which I only found a few minutes ago, so I don't know whether it is any good!
  • And there is lots in JavaRanch itself.
  • Try those resources, and see what you make of them.
    Sonny Gill
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Feb 02, 2002
    Posts: 1211

    Hi Jeff,

    Welcome to JavaRanch!

    I think learning programming on your own is a great idea, although it can be pretty hard in the beginning.
    In fact, I would go so far to say that if you find you can't learn programming on your own (however difficult it is in the beginning), then maybe you should re-consider choosing programming as a profession. The reason being that schools/universities teach you only so much, after that and when you are on the job, you have to do most of your learning on your own.
    This is not to say that if you can't learn on your own, you will not get good enough to get a job, but without aptitude for self learning, at most you can hope to be an average programmer.

    Ok, on to your specific questions -

    I agree with Campbell that there is no best book.
    I am a self taught programmer, and my first Java book was Java: The Complete Reference, but I wouldn't recommend it as a first book. As the name says, it is more of a reference than a tutorial.
    Thinking In Java is good, but I think it makes a good 2nd Java book to read, not as a first book when you are just trying to get your head around the syntax. I read the 2nd edition of it though, it may have changed since then.
    If you can go to a library/bookstore flip through some of the books to see what you like. Also check out Amazon reviews, and JavaRanch bunkhouse reviews. I haven't read it, but many people like Head First books.

    Also, you may want to consider the JavaRanch Cattle Drive, and the recommended text - Just Java

    And may I offer some friendly advice on how to ask questions on JavaRanch -

    The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet. - William Gibson
    Sonny Gill LinkedIn
    Campbell Ritchie

    Joined: Oct 13, 2005
    Posts: 46425
    As I said, I was sure people would have different opinions from mine. The advantage of learning at college is that there will be people who can pick up any bad habits you are getting into early in your course.

    As for the book I mentioned, about which I said I didn't know whether it was any good or not. I have read part of it, and don't like it at all. I suggest you ignore that book.
    Michael Raymond Jr.
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: May 16, 2005
    Posts: 178
    buy the head first book from kathy and bert bates...introduction to java or something like that.

    i've seen several jobs that want front end (javascript, perl, html/css, etc) and JSP. but most like you probably won't do both the java programming and the front-end stuff.

    personally, i think it's easier to break into front-end development, than learn the back end. pick up the skills you mentioned and photoshop and/or flash, and you'll be rockin' for web dev jobs.

    otherwise, you can follow suit of scja-scjp-scwcd. not necessarily the certifications, but the content.

    Scooby Snacks for everyone...<br /> <br />SCJA, SCJP 1.4
    Raj Kumar Bindal
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Apr 15, 2006
    Posts: 418
    i have one suggestion for you.Please don't just read and read from the book.At the last you have to work on computer,so better you do practicals of whatever you have read from book.I mean suppose you read one chapter from book ,understand it totally and then make its programs.Make programs even if you feel something very simple.Whatever programs are there in the book,all should go through your hand to the computer unless and until it is a very complex and big program which you can copy paste.Believe me,it will boost your confidence very much as it has done for me.
    Second thing, :i found this site quite good for learning html,javascript,php as they are providing an editor online only and examples also they have provided in a well organised manner.
    Hope that helps.
    Adam Schaible
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Oct 04, 2007
    Posts: 101
    I do agree with the above poster about learning it on your own - your college courses will be severly lacking, and designed for 18 yr olds that have drastically different levels of committment, and appreciation for the material.

    Head First Java is a great book. To break into the field, it will help to have experience - the great thing about java is FOSS - or free open source software.

    Do all of the examples in Head First java, go through the "cattle drive" on this site, post questions here - read the forum every day, and then try to get onto an open source project. Join your java users group - go to the presentations, get on the mailing list.

    It will just get you into reading code. Read all the code you can - find industry-leading developers and read what they have to say. Maybe listen to the Java Posse (

    Read Effective Java after a little while (a little more intense than Head First Java).

    This may be an unpopular opinion, but drop your classes, save your cash. If you do want to take some classes, take them in data structures/algorythms.
    James Constable

    Joined: Dec 14, 2007
    Posts: 4
    Im currently learning from
    Java Programming by Joyce Farrell
    its pretty easy to understand comes with a cd
    and some online quiz stuff (scratch panel password)
    its from Thompson Course Technology and has been used
    in tafe this year (Australian College for all the yanks out there)
    There is also a second part to the series called
    Advanced Java Programming

    If the answer is right in front of you, your'e more likley to miss it!
    I agree. Here's the link:
    subject: Could use some advice!!!
    It's not a secret anymore!