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General question about Java or other languages

 
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I have an important question. I tried to learn Java and I failed miserably. Which means that after 8 months of studying Java I could not build any project on my own. However while I was following the book I did not take the time to solve any problems who was given after each Java lesson. The thing I did at that time was to copy the code of the lesson and modify it a little bit thinking that I was understanding the principle and I was comprehending the material. The exercises following the lessons seem to me too complicate so I never bothered trying to solve any of them. So my question is that : When you learn Java , C++ or anything other language as first language do you guys try to solve these exercises after each lesson? Sometimes I feel that programming is not for me so I stopped for a few months then I feel the urge to try again. Thanks for your answers.
 
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Just my opinion. Without a doubt the exercises at the end of chapter will be useful. In case one is not doing the exercises one should practice some sample programs on the topic which can be from the internet. When we practically run program then our thinking on our understanding becomes clearer.
 
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Everybody does it differently. Yes, you need exercises, whether given you by an instructor or from a book or from the Net. I think you need to work through thee exercises, and get somebody to verify not only that you have the correct answer, but also about the style of your code. Like what I suggested you yesterday about changing int to unsigned int or similar because you won't want negative figures. Also to see what you are missing out. I personally think you won't get far learning to program from a book alone. Others will have different opinions.
Designing an app takes place at different levels. You have the overall design, and the parts, and low‑level bits, which might simply run an algorithm. For algorithms, consider Project Euler (difficult) or codingbat.com (easier). Careful, because those sites don't test the quality of code submitted, only whether you get the required result. And even the simplest codingbat exercise can hide a pitfall you didn't notice.
I suggest you need to decide whether you want to learn to program, because it will entail a lot of effort, and a lot of humility when your code goes wrong and somebody tells you so many things that need correction. It doesn't mean that it is a full‑time task; I am sure somebody can learn well if they actually apply an hour daily to learning. Maybe even less.
 
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Programming is a not a spectator sport: you have to dive in and get wet. It's a hands-on and brains-on endeavor. Learning a programming language, its syntax and constructs, its technologies is a big challenge in itself but the bigger challenge is the problem solving, the organizing, and the story telling. By "story telling" I mean how you put everything together so that someone else can understand the ideas you put into the code. If nobody else can understand what you did or what you were trying to do when you wrote the code, it's highly likely that you won't be able to either a few months or even weeks or days later. Sure, the technical aspects are important but in many ways, the other stuff is just as if not more important. All of it requires practice and lots of it. You don't learn how to swim by wading in the shallow end of the pool.
 
Fred Masen
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Thanks for your answers guys. A loot of good inputs and I appreciate them all. The problem with me is that I don't dislike the exercises totally , I mostly do some that I feel *I can achieve and I have a way to verify if my code answer is correct "online". The thing that really bothers me is when I understand like 80 % of an exercise and for some reasons I can't figure out the last 20 % often due to a logic problem of my part or a lack of math. When I am in that situation I get very upset , I google everything to get an idea to finish the exercise code at 100%. I would not hesitate to spend hours trying hard to make it work and my last attempt is often to get the result from the exercise website. Then I feel like a total failure , I am asking myself , is it worth spending all these hours for such a little reward , and of course I get a bad night of sleep on the top of that. So when that happens after a few months of hard efforts I give up. I start reading a lot of classic books ,I play chess etc.. But then after a few months I decide to return to programming because it feels that I am building something , I create something and that feeling is great. That's why this time I started with C++ instead of Java and I decided to do a few exercises to consolidate my knowledge of the lesson that I am following. Playing chess is similar than coding except that it is a game and it's based on probability and logic of some moves to wins but at the end of the game I have "just" push some wood (pieces) and did not really create anything. I was reading a book saying that actually humans are living algorithms  and and that we are taking decisions all of our life like a computer , and that programming should just feel natural to us. I tried to learn GoLand but it felt non-intuitive to me so I choose C++ because I never did it before and I don't have to deal with OOP right away but for sure I will return to Java when I feel more comfortable,
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Fred Masen wrote:. . . I google everything

Not always a good idea. There are places on the Net where you get good advice, e.g. here and SO (=StackOverflow), but there are other places where you can get poor or incomplete advice, and Google has no way to distinguish them.

to get an idea to finish the exercise code at 100%.

At work, you would ask somebody to help, “I think I have got most of it working but……” The same process works for learners. Apart from here, do you have a teacher whom you can ask? Do you have fellow‑students you can ask, assuming they actually know the answers?

. . . result from the exercise website. . . ,

The suggested solution is sometimes suboptimal or worse. But do you dissect the suggested result and see how it differs from yours?

I create something and that feeling is great. . . .

You have had it: programming is addictive
 
Fred Masen
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Thanks for your kind reply Campbell I will try follow the highlighted suggestions that you have made. Actually I am no student at all , I am a lonely old man that is trying keep his brain alert in order to avoid dementia and the Alzheimer . When I don't use my brain to play chess or programming and read, I start losing my memory and come back from the grocery store with half of what I was supposed to purchased. But I do enjoy both chess and programming even if both of these activities can be in some times very stressful which is not supposed to help dementia etc.... So in the short term it  helps for sure  but in the long term it might be detrimental.
 
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Fred,

Your quandary is very valid: maybe programming is not for you.  The thing about that though, only you can answer that question.

From my first programming assignment in college some 35+ years ago, I knew programming was for me.  Not everyone has the epiphany at the start.

As for your question--I have learned, workably, for school, pleasure, and my job roughly 25 to 30 languages including various dialects of C, Assembler (even machine code), Java, scripting, SQL, and a host of others that are too numerous to mention or for me to recall easily.  Please do not make the mistake of thinking that leaning a language is synonymous with learning to program, it is NOT.  All you do by leaning a language is put another tool into your collection to use to implement your designs--the algorithms you develop to make the desired into reality.  In each case that I learned a language I had to make sure that I knew what was covered in the chapter or the few paragraphs I just read, in doing so, I usually made a small program to illustrate and cement into my mind what I had just done.  In school that was easy, the teacher assigned everyone a problem and we all had to solve it, and grades were given.  In real life I have to come up with the ideas to program, and truthfully, they are a lot more difficult than the exercises in the book or that were assigned in college.

I know a person, we were good friends in college, he got a degree in computer programming, and yet, he could not get 5 lines of code to compile--EVER!!!  But he was a wiz at algorithm development and comprehending the problem and explaining it to others.  He could also translate his design into pseudo code for others to code up.  I know strange combination, but it worked for him, he actually got a job in programming where he doesn't actually have to code anything.  Coding is not for him, but he definitely is a programmer in my opinion--he has all the skills of a superb designer, just not the skill to implement any of it.

If you are reading a language book, no matter how good, and thinking that you know how to program in the end, I am sorry to inform you that your thinking is truly flawed.  Programming is what my friend was truly gifted at: understanding the problem, being able to explain it to others, then being able to break the problem down into manageable sized chunks and develop algorithms to bring that solution to life.  Once again though, he cannot code the answer for you.  So you read the book and didn't do the homework, the problems in the back of the book, what does that mean?  It's like you audited a class.  You were there, but you didn't do anything for credit, so it doesn't count on your transcript.  You're familiar with the information, but you cannot pull it out in any reasonable fashion to do anything with it.

Now here's the hard reality: are you will to go back and redo it?  Read it all over again and actually do the work, do extra work, if needed, to be sure to get the concepts cemented into your head? if not, then really consider seriously that programming is not for you.  If you are willing to do so, then actually buy a book that will teach you about programming and the theory behind development.  I literally read hundreds of articles, books, and howto's each year and i'm 30+ years into programming and actually recognized as being somewhat gifted in the field--expect to do the same.

Now another hard look at reality: when I started in general engineering there were approximately 850 kids that semester at the college I attended.  The semester I graduated, they graduated 20 people in EE, Comp Sci, and Comp Eng.  That's about 2% success rate.  The work is hard.  Many cannot do it, even more choose not to do it because it's hard. (BTW: 850 is the number of new incoming students each and every semester and 20 is about the number they graduate every semester--lest you think there was some anomaly where a huge number dropped out unexpectedly.)

You seem to be able to formulate a reasonable sentence, so you, quite probably, have enough brain matter to become a programmer, but the real question is: "Is it worth it to you?"

NOBODY CAN ANSWER THAT EXCEPT YOU!!!

Fred Masen wrote:I have an important question. I tried to learn Java and I failed miserably. Which means that after 8 months of studying Java I could not build any project on my own. However while I was following the book I did not take the time to solve any problems who was given after each Java lesson. The thing I did at that time was to copy the code of the lesson and modify it a little bit thinking that I was understanding the principle and I was comprehending the material. The exercises following the lessons seem to me too complicate so I never bothered trying to solve any of them. So my question is that : When you learn Java , C++ or anything other language as first language do you guys try to solve these exercises after each lesson? Sometimes I feel that programming is not for me so I stopped for a few months then I feel the urge to try again. Thanks for your answers.

 
Fred Masen
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Thanks Les Morgans for your answer and also for sharing your experiences. Is programming for me ? First I do it has a hobby.  I would say In term of success and learning pace probably not . But again I do it because I enjoy it even with the enormous amount of frustration that comes with it for me and the numbers times I gave up. I do it also because whatever the results of my programming during the day are , it has make my brain work hard which lead for me to a more alert brain and less memory loss(I am old). I have no idea if you are a chess player but it seems that the way a chess player plays is very similar to programming in term of logical thinking. When you lose a very difficult game and that you have given all your resources to try to win or draw the game but you lost. Are you a failure ? I can tell you to become good at chess player you have to be ready to lose hundreds sometimes thousands games in order to improve your game and rating. Bobby Fisher in his whole career has lost more games that he has win but yet he was a genius and became the world chess champion. Like in chess and programming no matter how gifted you are , you have put the hard work into and constantly practice it .I read an article the other day that currently  80% of the programmers are bad programmers , they have done it mostly for money , they don't care about it and they have no passion about it. What you mentioned is true but I knew that fact in the 90s that CS students were taught mostly data structures , algorithms and math and some little C++ or Java back then and when they were applying for a job they could not write a line of code, this is not new and that keep going on ..... The 2% that you mentioned in the CS degree that succeed are the ones who are passionate about programming and are practicing a lot home after their CS classes , they're not necessarily gifted. Your friend that you mentioned is probably  gifted in algorithms and data structures but I am sure that he could write his ideas into programming but he will have to put the hard work into with the frustrations that comes with it and he does not want that because it takes years and coding does not appeal to him so his is smart and knows his strength, he rather become  an architect and not a coder. But you are correct  the book , it does not matter , the language does not matter , what counts is the algorithm and data structures first and if I don't get it then it might not be worth it to me . You are right .  
 
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I have on my shelf a slim little book titled "a discipline of programming" by Edsgar W. Djikstra. Its stated purpose was, in part, to illustrate that there is an art to well-designed software that should be admired.

Djikstra's greatest claim to fame was a letter to the publication Communications of the ACM titled "Go To Statement Considered Harmful", where he made the case that arbitrary branching in code made it difficult to maintain and debug and thus kicked off the movement known as Structured Programming, which held sway until the rise of Object-Oriented Programming. Java, is, in fact, a structured programming language in addition to being an OOP one, with only a limited exception to strict structured flow organization. And one that's rarely used.

Djikstra's book is not written for any specific programming language - he uses an Algol-like notation to illustrate his exercises. If you want to consider programming as a means of staying mentally sharp as opposed to practical usage, it might be worth a read, as would the works of Donald Knuth.

I do regret to say that studies of people attempting to stave off senility have tended to indicate that doing stuff like sudoku or crossword puzzles has been better at keeping you sharp at doing sudoku and crossword puzzles than it has at keeping you from general loss of function. You might be interested in a video series from The Great Courses (The Learning Company) on the Aging Brain.

And, since I've just done a shameless plug gratis, you might find their course on Egyptian hieroglyphics interesting. The instructor is Dr. Bob Brier, who is the first person since Roman times to successfully mummify a human body using authenthic tools and processes. Egyptians wrote on just about everything - except for how they made mummies. He had to rely primarily on Greek sources for that and since Herodotus was just a tourist, details were incomplete. Regardless, the course in question is more than just the stock "Write your name in hieroglyphics", it's essentially a complete college-grade course in written Egyption, including grammar and vocabulary with quite entertaining bits of history (he also has an older course on that). So by the time you're done, you can credibly read the engravings on the back ot King Tut's famous golden mask (I never even knew is had a back before that, and write curses to be painted on the walls of your tomb. And, unlike cuneiform, which I find difficult to decipher from photographs, many ancient hieroglypic writings and inscriptions are just as clear and readable as if they'd been commercially printed yesterday.

And if you're content to stop with the "write your name in hieroglyphs", that particular part of the course is available on YouTube. I believe it's here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHaFf81uFKY

Even if neither of the above - studying programming philosopy or Egyptian - actually staves off Alzheimers, it's a pleasant way to divert oneself while the brain cells slowly shut down. Though I'm still hoping for an effective cure of... what were we talking about again? Who are you?
 
Fred Masen
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Thanks Tim for your informative post. I will definitely look into the book of Edsgar W. Djikstra it seem quite interesting . And yes my main issue here is to keep my brain sharp and avoid memory loss. I tried sudoku or crossword puzzles and I dislike both of these activities. Chess so for against an engine like Stockfish 11 allows you to adjust the rating strength so my elo  is about 2020 elo which is advanced but I achieve that after 50 years of practice. I usually do rapid games with engine no more than 30 minutes which is the minimum it is required to have an interesting game and have the brain benefits of it. In 2019 a study claims that 2 chess games per day reduces the risk of dementia or Alzheimer by 50% which is a great news for the seniors.  The thing is while playing against the engine I don't care to lose because I always adjust the rating of Stockfish11 to 2050 , 30 points elo over mine , so I often lose and sometimes I get some draws. For indications : a normal Joe chess player is between 1400 and 1500 elo, a good chess player is about 1600 to 1700 elo, a strong chess club player is between 1800 and 1950 elo. I o. . The Egyptian hieroglyphics stuff seems quite interesting I will look into for sure . Thank you. I think 2 years ago I was reading that  most the  the pre-socratics philosophers in order to learn advanced mathematics were traveling to Egypt to get their math knowledge even though afterwards we had great mathematics discoveries from the Greeks. In general I personally think that programming is very beneficial  even more than chess. Some intellectuals think that programming is unnatural that's why it is so hard to learn it and it 's unhealthy for our brain because after programming let say for a few hours , your brain unconsciously keep working on the problem that for example you did not successfully solved, these same intellectuals believes that our decision are the fruits of the unconscious which translate into sensation and instincts basically the Nietzsche theory that is verified now as valided by neurosciences , that logic and the reason appears to have a very thiny role  regarding our behavior process. I won't debate too much on that because it might get boring , but I would say that: what we eat and drink influence immensely the chemistry of our body and particularly our brain and our intellect as well as our behavior. My first computer was an Amstrad(1980) and could only handed Basic. So despite everything I read about how fast technology goes we are still  at the very beginning of the computer journey except for the AI , Alpha zero (AI) has won Stockfish 8 something that we though would be only realizable in 20 years from now and it happened 2 years ago ! Leela(AI) an open source AI engine is as  strong as Stockfish 11 and we are talking about 3999 elo that's HUGE comparing to Carlsen the World chess champion with an elo of 2850.  And  the AI we are talking about is not the massive IBM computer(using brute force) that beats Kasparov by calculating 200 millions moves/second , no Alpha Zero was only calculating 80.000 moves/seconds using a highly sophisticated program based on extremely advanced probabilities and statistics and math(with re-enforcing learning capabilities).  So for me AI is the future and it is happening way faster that it was expected........ And the singularity might very soon happened with AI, it will been  SHOCK for us almost  like meeting an advanced  creature coming from the stars. To come back to a similar thought 10 years ago I was listening to a priest on a TV channel and this priest was apparently technologically oriented , that's what he said : The more humans evolves in technology the more their wishes will be to expand to the cosmos and find God! I was stunned by this phrase !
 
Tim Holloway
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Fun fact: Ancient Egyptians weren't actually that good at math. One of the interesting things I learned from Dr. Brier's hieroglyphics course was that the only fractions that they understood were inverse numbers. To get 7/8ths in hieroglyphics you had to code 1/2+1/4+1/8. Mespotamia was where the math experts were. Then again, abstract math really is a Greek invention.

And no, that doesn't mean that aliens designed and built the pyramids anymore than Hebrew slaves did. It just means that laying out squares and triangles isn't as math-intensive as you might think.

Speaking of which the Hebrew period in Egypt was closer to the time of Cleopatra than the era of the pyramids which was exclusively Old Kingdom, and both lived closer to our time than the Old Kingdom. They were tasked to build granaries, which, a certain American politician notwithstanding, were [b]not[/i] in any way resembling pyramids, since if you want to store stuff you don't use a structure that's something like 95% rock and 5% empty space.

It is true, incidentally, that a lot of us (including myself) often end up solving software problems while showering, sleeping, or doing other "non-productive" things. As I've said on the Ranch before, creating software isn't like making hamburger where the longer and faster you crank, the more hamburger you get.
 
Junilu Lacar
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Fred Masen wrote:80% of the programmers are bad programmers , they have done it mostly for money , they don't care about it and they have no passion about it.


It's a bell curve. If there's any industry where "the top 10% are 10 times better than everybody else" is true, it's in the field of software development. I'd say about 20% are competent to brilliant. There's the middle 70% that range from just barely getting by to good enough to get things to work. The bottom 10% really need to find something they're better at doing. There are many factors that keep programmers in that 70% almost mediocre to pedestrian range, some personal, some situational/environmental. What disappoints me the most is that there aren't more who spend time outside of work practicing. Yes, it's just a job but what we do is increasing more impactful to the world around us. Just look at what happened with the Boeing 737 Max. A lot of that was software-related. We software developers can actually kill people if we don't do a proper job. Quality is not a "nice to have" when it comes to people's lives and livelihood. So far, of all the things you've studied about programming, how much of it talked about quality and what kind of habits you should develop as a programmer to ensure the quality of your work? I'm guessing very little to none. It should be more.
 
Fred Masen
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That's true there are a lot of controversies about the Egyptian mathematics and who really invented. The book I read was in favor of the Egyptians based on the fact :  some most significant Greek mathematicians (Euclides, Apollonius, Diophantes) worked in Alexandria (which is in Africa ) however it is sated that :  Greeks had better metallurgy, better ships, better armies but again some indication mention they still went to Egypt, like Pythagoras, to learn the Mysteries and from those Mysteries the Greeks developed their philosophy . I personally think from the book I read that the Greeks certainly built on Egyptian work and that would have transferred on to Rome.But then again for the pyramids the ancient Egyptians (that is the builders of the great pyramids) lacked knowledge of bronze and the wheel so it's still a big mystery & still not quite certain how they moved the massive stone blocks for the pyramids.  I think it may be entirely possible that there may have been a superior technology that was far beyond what we are capable of at this time (the alien theory). To go further even now, with the resources we have - it's not clear that it would be possible to build those pyramids.  But again the facts are  :the Egyptians were splendid builders; they made some advances in mathematics; they had some surprisingly sophisticated medical ideas; they were the greatest engineers of the ancient world until the time of the Romans ( but they may have advanced faster than we have today).
It’s a common belief that Jews built the pyramids, religious tradition but basically the first few books of the Bible  None left the archaeological evidence we would expect to exist if they were literal. But I don’t say they didn’t exist; most likely, all these stories had bases in traditions or allegories etc.. that came down through oral histories I think.  
 
Fred Masen
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Exactly Junilu  about Boeing ! Toyota cars had  issues that leads to accidents. Toyota’s electronic throttle control system (ETCS) source code is of unreasonable quality. Toyota’s source code was defective and contains bugs, including bugs that can cause unintended acceleration (UA).
Code-quality metrics predict presence of additional bugs. Even NASA, which was involved in an investigation discussed in its report the five fail-safe modes implemented in the ETCS. They comprise three limp-home modes, RPM limiting, and finally, engine shutdown if I remember well.
And that's just one example , I am sure there are other cases that we ignore.
 
Fred Masen
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And yes Junilu I was reading a survey recently and here we they said : Over 90% of the households in the US wish that their high school graduated children  enroll into computer sciences because of high salary and the technology demand will increase exponentially. . In 10 years they predict that we will need 48M programmers and that's an estimation . So how do you view that situation in the coming years? Most people don't read anymore in Europe and the US.. Computer programming requires an enormous amount of reading. Math are not regarded as it should be , for instance: if a cashier has her electronic cashier stop working chances are that she or he won't be able to handle back the change properly(if you pay in cash) It happened to me several times in groceries stores. The society encourages happiness through movies , TV game , PC games , Social medias/ Netflix series, comfort food  and so on, which seem to freeze and decrease our intellect in the long run. It seems that as more as we get advanced in technology more people (in general) are regressing intellectually talking and only as you said a small % of people are gifted in tech and are ruling the world. Am i the only who think that way ? Or you guys have different points of views. This my last post regarding tech and society because I am aware it is not aimed to the purpose of this site.
 
Tim Holloway
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Fred Masen wrote:
It’s a common belief that Jews built the pyramids, religious tradition but basically the first few books of the Bible  None left the archaeological evidence we would expect to exist if they were literal. But I don’t say they didn’t exist; most likely, all these stories had bases in traditions or allegories etc.. that came down through oral histories I think.  



And like many common beliefs, it's utterly false. The pharaoh associated with Moses and the Exodus was Ramses II, born nearly a thousand years after the end of the Old Kingdom period when the pyramids were built. Abraham himself is supposed to have lived almost 700 years after the Old Kingdom ended. Thus there weren't even any Hebrews as such when those monuments were constructed.

The generally-accepted view on the building of the pyramids is that it was probably done by off-season levies of Egyptian farmers who were paid in beer and bread (foreshadowing modern construction workers, some say). As for the shaping and transport of the blocks, we have long-since found the quarries and even some incomplete workings as well as the canals used to transport. The major remaining mystery there is how they were set in place. A popular modern theory leans towards having had them built from the inside outwards. At any rate, no indications of any slave labor of any kind.

 
Tim Holloway
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Incidentally, although there is an organization devoted to quality in software development (I'm  a member), the actual demand from management is almost universally Larry the Cable Guy: "Git 'er Dun!" As in we don't want it good, we want it fast, we want it cheap and if you don't like it there are a billion people in India who'd be glad to do the job for 50¢ an hour. Which shows how much they know about India. And the Indians, unfortunately, are generally expected to do the same so that they actually can deliver for less. I won't even go into the nuances like a lot of the "Indians" I know locally are actually from Bangladesh.
 
Junilu Lacar
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Fred Masen wrote:In 10 years they predict that we will need 48M programmers and that's an estimation.


Robert Martin has a talk where he says that more people than ever are joining the ranks of professional programmers each year. He guess-timated that more than half of all developers, the ones who actually write code, have less than five years of experience. This means that our profession is heading into, if we're not already there, a perpetual state of inexperience. As the older generations of programmers retire or change roles or change careers, there are fewer people to teach all the hard lessons that were learned to the new generations coming in. Practices like Test-Driven Development (TDD) have been around in some form or another longer than most people think, yet I would estimate that less than 30% of all developers are able to do it effectively and even that's a bit optimistic I think. Don't even get me started about effective unit testing. It's just not a skill that's getting passed from one developer to the next very well.
 
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Have you considered trying a different language?  It's true that programming is generally a language-agnostic skill i.e. once you have learned to program in one language, you should find it relatively easy to transfer those skills to another language.  But not everybody finds every language as comfortable for them personally.  So it may be that - for you - Java is not the right language to start with.

I know quite a few people who've started coding via Python, which in many ways is much easier for new programmers to start with, and there are tons of excellent materials available.  Python is also very widely used in the industry so it is not just an academic toy language, but a really useful practical tool.  Several former colleagues learned Python via the Coursera "Python for everybody" course, which they reckoned was really good:

https://www.coursera.org/specializations/python

I also like the "Head First" books, which use lots of hands-on exercises, are generally good fun to work with and very well structured. There's a great "Head First Python" book (get the most recent edition, as Python 3 is now the standard so no point looking at Python 2 stuff), as well as "Head First Object Oriented Analysis & Design".  There is also a "Head First Java" book, but the last edition I saw was from 2005, so it is probably too far out of date to use as a practical tutorial now (you don't want to be trying to install a JDK 1.2 compiler in 2020...).

So it may be that you will find a different language, like Python, or perhaps a different approach, more comfortable in helping you learn the basics and making them stick.

But whichever approach you choose, you have to practice - programming languages are like natural languages: you learn them by using them, not by reading about them.



 
Christopher Webster
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Junilu Lacar wrote:As the older generations of programmers retire or change roles or change careers, there are fewer people to teach all the hard lessons that were learned to the new generations coming in.



You might find this talk reminds you of the Good Old Days, Junilu!

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Consider Paul's rocket mass heater.
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