Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dublin JavaScript Group June meet up -- jQuery and Jasmine

In a couple of hours the JavaScript Dublin Group will meet up for the second time. The first meetup was last month, and it was basically a gathering to get to meet other people and talk a bit about organisation.
So this will be the first time for a technical session. Nigel Kelly will be talking about jQuery apps, and I will run a Kata session in JavaScript using Jasmine. I hope people will follow along. We will use the standalone version of Jasmine and the kata chosen for the session is Fizz Buzz.

I came up with the following 4 slides (yeah, want to keep it short!):

The slides will not make much sense on their own, so you better come to the meet up!

This means that I will miss the P2PU SICP study group session on IRC (freenode #sicp room) today at 7pm GTM, 3pm EST, but it's for a good cause, right? :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

SICP -- Starting with the P2PU study group

We have finally started with the SICP study group and I'm delighted to put some time into it. For once, I will focus all my effort and free time to work through and enjoy this fantastic book.

The goal of the group is to finish one section every second week, which gives us 6 weeks for the first chapter. Some people might think that 6 weeks is a lot but to be honest, at least for me, with a full time job, a part time PhD to work on, and all the normal social commitments, it's not that much time. So let's get cracking!

I decided to go back a re-watch the first bunch of MIT SICP lectures as it's been a while since I got around to see them first. I always have this funny and a bit weird feeling when I start watching one because for a moment I feel like I am watching an 80's sitcom or something similar. I'm probably just being silly but it always makes me smile!

The lecture series starts with Harold Abelson ranting a bit about the term Computer Science not being a very good one when it's not a real science, or even about computers. I do agree with him but if you want to know more about the subject you will have to watch it for yourself.

More interesting are his comments about the distinction between declarative or descriptive knowledge and imperative or procedural knowledge. Procedural knowledge or 'Know-How' can be directly applied to a task, whilst declarative knowledge tells us about truth. His example for this is the fact that the square root of a number can be expressed in the form of a mathematic equation(descriptive), compared to a way or algorithm to finding that square root through approximation (imperative).

He also explains that although you can learn most of the LISP language (its rules anyway!) in a short lecture, that does not make you a good user of the language. He compares it to learning the rules of chess and being a good chess player; you need the rules to play, but the rules do not make you any good at it. So you need to embed yourself in the context and the experience, and the techniques to do so are the topic of the course.

In Abelson's words, programming is all about managing complexity, and the techniques in this course will allow you to do so.

The lectures are divided into three main topics which do not correspond to the five sections of my book (my edition is from 1996), but that can be easily correlated, or so I think.

The parts discussed in the lectures are:
    - Black-box Abstraction: I guess this will be chapters 1 and 2, building abstractions with procedures/data.
   - Conventional Interfaces: I'd say this is chapter 3: Modularity, Objects, and State.
   - Metalinguistic Abstractions: This is chapter 4, of the same title.

The fifth chapter of the book about Register Machines does not seem to be in the lectures, but I couldn't tell right now cause I have yet to watch them all.

And that is all for now. I will spend another couple of hours later this evening working through the book and preparing the meeting for tomorrow Sunday at 7pm GMT, 3pm EST. Meetings happen on the #sicp channel on freenode IRC and everybody is welcome!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

learn, laugh and move on!

There's been a lot going on lately and as a professional procrastinator I couldn't let go the chance of putting off writing a new blog post, but with things going back to normal (hopefully!) it's about time for a bit of reflection.

It's been a very social few weeks, ending May with a double bill: The software craftsmanship conference in Bletchley Park, and a coding day with the chaps of codingday.org here in Dublin.

What can I say about scuk11? it was a great day with fantastic sessions and I got to meet a great bunch of Spaniards in red t-shirts. Happy faces all over... yeah, the bar was already open!

The Dublin event was also fantastic and although it was first thought as a coderetreat, the addition of scientists and their real problems changed the nature of the session itself and made of it a fantastic coding day. The group I was working with got a spinning cube in the browser, with three different lights and three particles lighting up the cube with different colours. Great fun using the Three.js library!

The month of June started with @silverspoon organising hack nights in a café near the city centre, that I sadly missed because I was in Barcelona for a conference. Spain was great, as usual, although it was raining most of the time, but that didn't really have an impact on things such as meeting old friends, the great conversations we had, and of course, the fantastic food!

On Tuesday the 14th we had the first meet up for the SICP study group at P2PU. You can see what happened in the new wiki. This is an open group which basically means that you can join in anytime that suits you. We will meet twice a week for the next couple of months, Tuesdays and Sundays at 7pm GMT, 3pm EST. We are hoping to finish a section every two weeks, including exercises. As chapter one of the book has 3 sections, we are hoping for a 6 week period to be done with it. Wish us luck!!! or even better, join in!!!

Last night the first Ruby Project Night happened in armworks. The space is absolutely great and I want to thank Alan for hosting it. We didn't really know what to expect at first, and after a bit of chat and trying to get the projector going, we started hacking away in a rails 3 gem, something that none of us had done before. We didn't get too far but at least we got it packing and installing fine. As soon as the @theirishpenguin pushes it publicly I will share the link here. It was great to meet a bunch of enthusiastic people and looking forward to meeting them again!

This morning I read this 'Help Wanted' message from @oisin in the ruby Ireland list. If you are looking for contract Ruby work you should definitely get in touch with him. His last talk at ruby Ireland was really interesting.
In the thread he mentions that they like egoless programming which brought me back to the this old post of mine. Weingberg's book is a very recommended read even if as myself, you were not even born when it was written!

An finally, more to look forward to as the first 'technical' meet up of the Javascript Dublin group will be next Tuesday 21st at 7pm. A presentation about jQuery for web apps and a kata with Jasmine are in the menu. Are you really going to miss that???