Big Nerd Ranch

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

So, I've been doing some self-taught mac development using Objective-C and Cocoa for a few months and during those months I never gained enough knowledge to think I had anything to contribute to the mac development community. While I did have a few books on Cocoa programming I basically hunted around for the few things I needed to learn and never really absorbed the big picture.

The first step in gaining the big picture was the book "Cocoa(R) Programming for Mac(R) OS X (2nd Edition)" I went through this book in about 2 weeks and it put me on the road to developing something usable. I highly recommend it to anyone just starting out.

Now, while this book was indeed helpful, that still didn't motivate my mac programming esteem to the point that I would put anything out for public consumption.

The thing that put me over the edge was going to the Big Nerd Ranch's week long Cocoa Bootcamp instructed by one of the book's authors Aaron Hillegass.

Looking back at things I would estimate that this week long course would have cut about 4-6 months of self-discovery off my learning curve. If you want to hit the ground running with Cocoa development and you can swing the boot camp's admission price, I would suggest you do so.

The Big Nerd Ranch offers the class a few times a year, and now the class is even prefixed by a mini camp covering Objective-C. The language of choice for cocoa development. The Cocoa Bootcamp is held a the Historic Banning Mills lodge about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. The Big Nerd Ranch and the lodge take care of most everything for you. If you are flying in, the Big Nerd Ranch will pick you up at the airport and drive you to the lodge and return you to the airport when the class ends. Three meals a day are provided to you by the lodge. The meals are generously portioned and at no time did I every feel like I needed more than what was provided. Of course there were also small snacks available throughout the day as well. The private room included a jacuzzi tub, and wireless network service that allowed me to keep in touch with work and home. The only downsides were the need to hike up a small hill to reach a point that my cell phone would allow me to reach out, and I could have used a washing machine toward the end of my stay.

As far as the classroom instruction went, each section of learning would start with a small lecture. This would be followed by a little instructor lead hands-on exercise. Then the bulk of the time, would go to working from one of the chapters of the book which take you through a project that highlights one of basic building blocks of Cocoa development. Now, you might be thinking well damn, I could work from the book at home and save a bundle, and I would say more power to you. But, while I did learn quite a bit from the book, I remember times that I would get stuck and it would take me hours to figure out the typo I made, or the missed connection in interface builder. Nothing beats being able to raise your hand and have someone say, "Did you make sure to connect you button to the action" or "You forgot the * in your object reference."

In addition, each chapter of the book has challenges that extend your grasp of the subject beyond the standard excercise. These challeges have no published solutions, a situation I also intend to remedy in this blog, so classtime is wicked awesome for finding out how to acheive these challenges. Aaron also made himself available for a couple hours after dinner for an open lab. This lab time is great for the challenges, and to answer specific questions you may have for a project rumbling around in your head.

You spelled Aaron's name wrong... It's Hillegass not Hillegrass.
just a quick question - did you arrive the night before, on on the day of, the first day of class? I seem to remember having read that most students arrived the night prior, so they ended up staying for 5 nights. Please let me know if that was the case for you.
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