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Happy Holidays, Catching up before the New Year, and Family Visits

So, I'm a few posts behind. I hope you'll all forgive me for taking some time off to spend with family and friends throughout the holiday season. After my last post on the way down to South Carolina to visit my parents, brother, and as many friends as I could, I have been quite busy.

First, I brought my mom back up to Maryland with us to visit for a couple weeks following Thanksgiving. We had a good time and she very much enjoyed her stay. The trip to Union Station so she could catch her train taking her back was a little sad, but surprisingly Union Station is a seriously awesome Metro/Amtrak/Marc station. It felt very much like a mall or a large airport. There were three levels with food, shopping, souvenir shops, and more. It was quite something else. Not to mention it was decked out in lights for the holidays so it looked even more amazing.

So, to catch everyone up on what's been going on, what is going on, and what will be going on:

Since the last post, I am now going to be teaching a short (6-7 week) Android development course at my work place. Now, I am not proficient at Android development, I haven't even published a single application. I haven't even written a full application. But I have done an immense amount of research on Android development, and with the launch of Android Studio, I am no longer fighting the IDE either whenever I feel like working on something. Android Studio has significantly reduced the barrier to entry that is Eclipse. Now don't get me wrong, Eclipse is a very powerful tool, but if you're coming from the Visual Studio world, Eclipse is going to be as far from familiar as digitally possible. I feel the learning curve for Eclipse actually goes backwards in some places. Anyway, back to the class. We will be constructing, or rather reconstructing, one of our companies current applications that is in the Play Store and iTunes right now. I won't bother telling you the name because you need a subscription to our service in order to try it out, but I will tell you that it is old and has the look and feel of a Gingerbread era application, not to mention several (in my opinion) essential features missing and some awful usability bugs. Since this isn't technically writing an entirely new application, the course outline and work is relatively simple to put together, but we're not just rewriting the application, we're improving it, fixing bugs, and adding some new useful features too. I felt the easiest way to give a useful and educational course would be to develop something that is actually in use and something that people are actually paying good money for. My end goal is to have every single line of the application commented explaining exactly what is going on in each line. This way, anyone that looks at the application source (or at least the course version) will be able to know what is going on and not ask the same questions we all do when learning something new, "why is that doing that? I don't understand". Right now I'm still finishing up the first lesson, but I feel good about it so far. It's forcing me to get my hands dirty and learn more about Android development like I've always wanted to, I'm leaning quite a bit as I go along writing the comments and implementing these new features, and I have another coworker helping me on the course to fill in the knowledge gaps that I have (he's done some Android development before with some classmates, but not extensively).

In that same vein, I have more or less become "that guy" for outside of work education, or continued learning if you prefer. It wasn't something I was particularly trying to accomplish, but with my incessant questioning, my knack for remembering an insane amount of information about myriad subjects, my ability to explain things in an understandable manner, and my desire to help wherever I can, I'm now referred to as "that guy who does the class stuff". I've set up some time after work every Thursday for what was originally supposed to be an e-learning type of study hall, but has since turned into Class time. Originally I had planned to have just a place for everyone taking online courses to be able to sit down and focus on them away from the distractions of home, but people wanted more structured classes so the first one I did was a one off on SQL to bring the PMs and whoever else was interested a little knowledge of what the SQL statements they saw dashing around were doing and how to perform simple selects and such. I feel it went well. Now my second class is going to be Android Development. If I'm able to, I will try and post the course online later but currently I'm not sure what I'll be able to provide, as some of the information would be considered proprietary I suppose, but I'll see what I can do.

Following the Android Development class, I will be doing one on Dart, which as some of you know is a new web development language that Google is pushing as a replacement for Javascript (and in the mean time it can be "compiled" to Javascript. I plan to participate in the DartLang Flight Schools that will be happening all throughout February. I think it will be fun and again, it will force me to learn more about something I've been interested in for a while but haven't had the time to pick up. I hope that the DartLang course will go as well as the Android one, especially since I read recently that it's possible to build the DartVM for Android, meaning you should be able to run Dart applications natively on Android. I have a feeling that Dart may be the common ground between Google Chrome OS and Android and will soon be the third officially supported development language, behind Java and C++. This could be huge, as it would allow the same applications to run on Chrome OS and Android. I'm very interested in seeing where this goes.

My plans for the after work classes include a PhoneGap oriented course and possibly a MonoCross/Mono-based cross platform app course too. There's no end to the direction this could go, but regardless of where it takes me I will know more the next day than I did before, and that's always a good goal to have.

I'm going to break this post up as it's become fairly long and I still have plenty more to discus. Round 2 will be coming shortly.


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