How to achieve success in your creative projects.

I was listening to the Grammar Girl podcast while running errands today.  She had a great episode on “How to write your first novel.”  It was actually contributed by my favorite podcasting horror novelist, Scott Sigler.

Scott covers how to get started on your first novel.  It struck me in fact he was drafting a wonderful process for any creative endeavor.  It would equally apply to your first programming projects. It comes down to a simple series of steps.

  1. Write what you know and accept will be a bad novel.  You won’t get tripped up on the hard spots and quit.  This is because you know its going to be bad.  So you are empowering yourself to do whatever sloppy fix to get past the rough spot.
  2. Really finish the project, no matter how bad it is.  Just walk away with a sense of accomplishment from crossing the finish line.
  3. Put the project away for a while.
  4. Write a new project.  One you really put detailed effort into.
  5. Once you finish your first pass through the second project, pick up the first one and go through it.  Find the spots you are really weak in.  Learn from that and begin revising your second project.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

I think this could apply to a lot of things.  And I think I will try it with my first start and stop attempts at some programming projects.  Give the Grammar Girl episode a listen.  She goes into detail with Scott’s advise.


Xcode – Organization Name in Code Header

I did find out something at the Big Nerd Ranch interesting.  Xcode does not always pick up your company name properly from your address book entry.  It should pick up your name, company etc and fill in the standard header and copyright info as you make new source code files.   But it fails a lot of the time.

So here is how you fix it to show your organizational name for good.

Open up terminal.  Replace the word ORGNAME with whatever you want to show for who the code is copyrighted to.  This is all one line to enter into the terminal prompt.  It is going to simply edit a plist preference value setting.  Nothing major.

defaults write PBXCustomTemplateMacroDefinitions ‘{ ORGANIZATIONNAME = “ORGNAME”;}’


Big Nerd Ranch – ObjectiveC and Cocoa Programming

Well I had a really fun time attending the ObjectiveC/Cocoa programming bootcamp from Big Nerd Ranch.  I went in with seriously rusty programming skills.  I probably have not looked at C code more than casually in over ten years.  But I made a small effort to start going through Aaron Hillegass’ third edition Cocoa programming book before I went.  I just could not get far into it on my own with home, work etc taking up time.  So I just made the conscious decision to relax and remember I was doing this for myself.  Not for work.  Not for yet another certification.  But for fun.

I actually drove down.  That Friday my wife finally got to user her Christmas present from last year.  Ten laps driving a racecar at Talladega. That worked out real well.  Because it was only a 40 minute drive tops from there to Banning Mills for the class.

It was strangely relaxing at class because my blackberry only could get signal on the hill leading up to my cabin from the main building.  So basically once a day I checked my berry and made a phone call or two. Some days not at all.  We did have Internet in the class room.   There was wireless at our cabins but it was spotty due to the fact they use a partial directional panel antenna at the main building pointing toward the various cabin areas.  Not the best wireless design in the world.  Honestly after a long day of class.   Some personal project coding after dinner you had no brain power left when you got to your room for more computer stuff.  You would just crash.

Each day I got up around 730am, got ready and walked down to the main building by 8am.  I would get my laptop setup and ready for class.  Let it check email and pull down twitter updates.  At 830am promptly we would have breakfast.  Class started right at 9am and ran till lunch.  After lunch came more class.  At about 230pm each day we went for the daily 30 minute hike.  More class till dinner.  After dinner you could come back to the class room and catch up on exercises or work on a personal project.  Aaron would answer any questions you had and point you in the right direction.  

One of the guys, Ryan C. Payne, from class took photos of everything at class.  So I did not break out my own camera.  You can check them out over in his mobileMe gallery.  Check the one out with the whole class on the last set.  Who knew ObjectiveC nerds had their own gang sign?  Of course is has to be the square brackets. “[]”  

It was a great time for everyone.  It really helped me get back up to speed to the point I can write code on my own on the mac.


Xcode v3

Last night I decided my discretionary time would be spent on starting with xcode to get started toward my bootcamp in October.  The more I learn before then the more I will get out of the camp.  I was using Aaron Hillegass’ Second Edition Cocoa book.  Of course Apple had to change how you create and associate classes to objects in the GUI builder.  I found once I went through Apple’s own tutorial example that I was able to automatically adapt the process in the book to how xcode v3 works.   Was pretty fun once I got it straight in my head.  There is still so much to learn and I doubt I will ever be up to a professional programmer level.  I am just hoping to get proficient enough to make some ideas I have had.  Making a few cocoa front ends for some good security tools would be cool too.I want to get all the way through this second edition book.  Then the couple of others I have.  Aaron’s third edition is coming out sometime soon.  Likely, I will get that and go through it once before October.


Moseying down to the Big Nerd Ranch

I decided to do something interesting with my bonus from work this year.  Well bonus plus saving till September.   Instead of adding yet another certification I decided to modernize my coding skills.  In October I am going to go down to the Big Nerd Ranch for the Objective C/Cocoa Bootcamp.  All my own dime and vacation time.  Heck after 11 years at the same place I have over 4 weeks of vacation saved up that I have to use this year.  If work benefits, great, if not then I can do some things I have been wanting to code up for a few years.  My seat is reserved and its an easy drive over to the Atlanta area when the time comes.  It should be intense but fun.  I have always enjoyed bootcamp environments.   Plus I have a stock of books to read in plenty of time before October.