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Cattle Drive Advice

Sean Webster
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 24, 2002
Posts: 21
Hello, I crammed for and passed the java certification exam last year. Unfortunately, I have not had any opportunities to keep up with my java learning and am afraid that my skills are stale. I have tried to discipline myself to work my way through a few Java books, but can�t seem to maintain the dedication. From what I have read about the cattle drive, it seems to be a cool approach. So I have 2 questions. Is it worth the $200 and can I take my time with it since my work load hits peaks and lulls frequently. I would love to use this cattle drive to fill the lulls. What is the max duration that is allowed to complete the cattle drive?
Any other advice would be appreciated.
(Also, this site was great when I was trying to pass the certification exam
)
Marilyn de Queiroz
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9044
    
  10
pkdolphin,

Welcome to JavaRanch! Please adjust your display name to meet the JavaRanch Naming Policy.
You can change it here.

Thanks!


JavaBeginnersFaq
"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that's why they call it the present." Eleanor Roosevelt
Marilyn de Queiroz
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9044
    
  10
1) "Is it worth the $200?"
I believe it is worth more than $200, but I may be prejudiced. Did you follow the link on the "about the CattleDrive page" where some students posted their opinions of the course?

2) "can I take my time with it?"
This is not a problem. You can take as long as you want.

3) "What is the max duration that is allowed to complete the cattle drive?"
There is no max duration. In fact, when some of the future assignments are written, you can come back at no extra charge.
Sean Webster
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 24, 2002
Posts: 21
Marilyn de Queiroz
sorry for the goof with the display name. I should have remembered.
Does anyone have any advice for a guy who is thinking of starting the cattle drive. I read the cattle drive kudos thread, but the posts seemed a bit dated and they were mixed with folks who paid the $$$ and folks who got it for free.
Carol Murphy
village idiot
Bartender

Joined: Mar 15, 2001
Posts: 1194
I got it for free because I just got lucky for once in my life, but I've been doing the drive in my paltry spare time for 2 years now, and it is well worth $200 dollars. I have not had to purchase any books, I go to my local library and monopolize theirs, as well as screaming for help from other cattle drivees as well as the staff at the ranch. It has kept my aspirations to learn java programming alive and kicking through all sorts of difficulties. I would recommend it, and I would even pay for it if I had to.
Brian Coates
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 03, 2001
Posts: 42
I'm only on the second lesson.. so I'm not sure if my $200 has been worth it, yet. However, the selling point for me was the lessons. It was all stuff that I didn't know, but wanted to. So I paid up, and I'm happy so far.
My advice: Go through and read all the lesson descriptions. That should be a good indicator as to whether or not you'll benefit. Also, look at the hall of fame. they've got the "coming soon" lessons listed there.
Manju Jain
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 08, 2001
Posts: 168
I too am lucky that I joined before $200 was fixed.
Worth it? You'll realize its worth only after taking it and then you'll wish that there is a service like this for every programming language in the world. And the tips you'll get from nitpicks will help you immensely in organizing your code but write efficiently as well.
Sean Webster
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 24, 2002
Posts: 21
WOW, I looked at the hall of fame, and the XML, RMI, and EJB...Coming soon lessons look like they could be fun. Do you know if I pay the $200 will I have access to those portions of the lesson or will it cost me extra?
Thanks for pointing that out to me.
My biggest issue is staying motivated. When I try to force myself to work through a book, I get too bored by the middle chapters. Does this learning approach keep you involved with the boards and code reviews.
Also, I feel like I can read and understand java, but I am not yet comfortable with my ability to see a problem, and feel like I can have a reasonable chance at solving it with a java program. Do you feel that this course was able to increase your ability to program in java in a hands on way (enough so that you feel like you can sit down at a PC and be productive?)
Sorry for my tentativeness, but I am a sucker for learnign materials so I had to create a budget for myself, and this will eat up a big portio fo my learnign budget
Marilyn de Queiroz
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9044
    
  10
When the future assignments are written, you can come back at no extra charge.

You can be as involved as you want to be. It seems that the people who are most involved are usually the ones that stick to the program the best. We used to have a posting requirement, at least one post per nitpick. The post could be anywhere on JavaRanch, not necessarily in this forum. Currently posting is not required, but I still think it is beneficial for more than one reason.
Marilyn de Queiroz
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9044
    
  10
I feel that this course (when I took it) increased my ability to program in java in a more organized manner. Other students will have to answer for themselves whether they felt this way. Also, since we also throw in tips about optimization and style, the benefits are not limited to programming in java.

I think it is a good thing to get as much feedback as possible before signing up for the course. You should not feel sorry for asking these questions. Don't feel like you have to rush into anything.
[ August 25, 2002: Message edited by: Marilyn de Queiroz ]
Joel Cochran
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 23, 2001
Posts: 301
I was also one of the lucky ones who got in before the $200 fee. Is it worth $200? No, it is worth WAY MORE. If they said I had to kick in $200 to finish the program I'm afraid my envelope would get burned leaving the building so fast!
I have been on again off again for almost two years. I'll go through spurts where I'm really motivated and spurts where I'm simply too busy, and yet I'm always welcomed back. What I have learned here is irreplaceable: a solid foundation that should serve me well for the rest of my career.
Take a chance, you won't regret it. But be willing to get nipicked... alot... that's what makes it all worthwhile.
Best of Luck


Wait a minute, I'm trying to think of something clever to say...<p>Joel
Sam Tilley
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 05, 2001
Posts: 160
Hi Sean,
I was in much the same boat as you in December last year, i had done my study and needed an outlet for all the skills i had picked up as i wasn't doing it for a job at the time.
I paid up the $200 and it is money very well spent, the coding discipline i picked up i use in my coding now and it helped me not only visualise a problem but how to make my code shorter and neater, something that i took into the programming work that my company let me do..
It makes you make good use of the API and look at areas you might not normally look at and when you get into doing the servlets and JDBC stuff as well as the upcoming areas its fairly funky
It does take lots of motivation as its up to you to get things done, its always easy to lose the will (especially when you get to 4b)as no-one is going hound you to keep going, but perseverance pays off big time...
You won't regret it as long as you keep going..
Cheers


Sam Tilley SCJP, SCWCD
Jeremy Thornton
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 21, 2002
Posts: 91
I'd just like to echo the sentiment expressed so far. I stumped up my $200 a few weeks ago so I haven't progressed particularily far along the trail.
The quality of nitpicking is excellent and having others assess your code as you learn is **really** beneficial.
The $200 can't go very far in terms of nitpickers time - I'd imagine that the course will be modularised soon to cover expenses.
Worth it ? Definitely.
Michael Matola
whippersnapper
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 25, 2001
Posts: 1744
    
    2
Originally posted by Marilyn de Queiroz:
I feel that this course (when I took it) increased my ability to program in java in a more organized manner. Other students will have to answer for themselves whether they felt this way. Also, since we also throw in tips about optimization and style, the benefits are not limited to programming in java.

Yeah, what she said!
I've been pretty scarce around the Cattle Drive for a few months, so my name might not be familiar to newer folk, but I agree with everything Marilyn says above.
I look at Java code I wrote before I started the Cattle Drive and realize that I'm really in a different place now as a Java programmer (well, programmer-in-training) as a direct result of the Cattle Drive and all the valuable nitpicking I've received.
Hats off to Paul, Marilyn, and all the folks who take the course and stick with it!
I have grown to really like many of the conventions of the house JavaRanch programming style guide. I've even extended some of these style conventions to the crudmeister procedural language I use at work.
My goal, I'm hereby stating publicly, is to submit my next assignment (Servlets-5) by the end of September.
Sean Webster
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 24, 2002
Posts: 21
Do you suggest that I read the first few chapters of "Just Java" and do the first few assignments on my own. Or, jump right into the program?
Michael Matola
whippersnapper
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 25, 2001
Posts: 1744
    
    2
Originally posted by Sean Webster:
Sorry for my tentativeness, but I am a sucker for learnign materials so I had to create a budget for myself, and this will eat up a big portio fo my learnign budget.

I've probably spent $200 on Java books (particularly at the early stages) that taught me nothing.
Have you looked into your public library or a local university library as a source of materials instead of just purchasing everything yourself?
The JavaRanch Bunkhouse book reviews are also very helpful for deciding which books might be right for you.
Marilyn de Queiroz
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Posts: 9044
    
  10
Lots of people do the assignments and never send them in. There is certainly value in that. You will make a program that works! Our role is to help you understand what makes a program readable. We also throw in tips about optimization and style.
Matthew Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 09, 2001
Posts: 2676
There is a quote attributed to Fowler in Granny's Pearls of Coding Wisdom that is very applicable to how the nitpicking helps.
"Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand." (Fowler)


Matthew Phillips
juliane gross
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 30, 2002
Posts: 161
I take part of the nitpicking since June this year, and I do enjoy it immensly ( even now,
trying to pass the above mentioned famous "4b)".
Regarding the nitpicking quality I have a hard time to believe that this course ONLY costs 200$ !
Java is my first programming language,
and I bought a couple of books for beginners, mainly for practising, doing lots of exercises. But for some reason I don't get much benefit out of those exercises - partially, because many of them mainly ask partial questions, or I just cannot solve them because I don't know enough Java yet.
In the cattle drive, I admire also how extremely well the pedagogic structure is done. Every single assignment so far has been difficult to solve, but never too difficult. You truly learn step by step, and that fast! (My personal feeling, of course).
Two more assets from my view: you learn NEAT coding (some programmers claim they are doing a form of art - here you get glimpses of this idea
), and the assignments are real FUN, too.
Don't think, the nitpicking is like somebody telling you this and that exactly is wrong; no, you only get hints like "isn't there any room for optimization?" or "do not depend on something the operating system does" or "what did you gain by introducing this identifier?". With those hints you have to think your code over and over completely by youself. And after so much thinking you probably never forget about these aspects again ) And again, after you "passed" an assignment, you get the instructor's solution, which is different again, so you got another way of coding to consider. I feel, THAT helps a lot, too!
Sean Webster
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 24, 2002
Posts: 21
Hi Julian,
Thanks for your perspective. I really appreciate your elaborating on what makes this course better than a book. It has become clear to me that the code reviews and community aspects of this course will make it worthwhile. I just purchased the book �Just Java� $54 OUCH!...and am saving my extra $$$ for the $200 registration fee.
I am excited about this cattle drive and have already started to read the first few chapters in the book. Once I get through with chapter 4, I plan on trying the first assignment 1a and 1b.
Thanks again!
Carol Murphy
village idiot
Bartender

Joined: Mar 15, 2001
Posts: 1194
I do hope you decide to join us on the drive! I tried to learn Java as a first programming language from books, after the computer school I was planning to enroll in went belly up. None of the books I was able to find were completely satisfactory. ( I couldn't get my hands on Just Java, so I can't comment on that book.) The ones I could get all seemed to be lacking some important detail, and there was no one to turn to to answer my stupid questions. Somehow, I stumbled onto JavaRanch, and I'm glad I did! I now have 2 Moose badges, and I'm working on my third. The encouragement and motivation I have received from the folks here at the ranch have sustained me though it all, and I consider it beyond value. As a total novice I found the assignments somewhat bewildering at first, but not beyond my ability to tackle, and Marilyn's patience is epic.
 
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