Beginning Rails

Well, I have finally completed the Ruby on Rails Tutorial: Learn Rails by Example by Michael Hartl. It was pretty tough for me, and even now I think I only get about 70% of the content. There is no way I am ready to write my own Rails app. But I am no programmer. I know HTML and CSS quite well, have a bit of knowledge about databases and can hack together a JavaScript by leaning heavily on Google. But I have never taken a compsci course. In fact, my educational background is in theoretical linguistics and international relations theory.

In terms of doing the tutorial, I was lucky to have a guide. The tutorial was used as the primary reference material for the Matygo course Rails for Beginners. I don’t think I could have gotten very far in the tutorial without the clarification provided by the Matygo teacher. Although I can appreciate the structured approach of Hartl, the way he went through the material was kind of “shoot first, ask questions later”. It seemed ass-backwards to me. I would rather learn fundamental concepts first, then do an example, rather than the other way round. The Matygo teacher tried his best to give us some fundamentals before we tackled each chapter. It was very helpful, yet at the end of it all there are still some things I don’t understand. For example:

  • :symbols
  • @instance_variables
  • class and class variables
  • when to use a helper
  • resources (things that can be created and destroyed?)
  • still feel uneasy REST

That said, I am glad I did the course. Even though I didn’t get everything, I walked away with a lot of new knowledge and skills, such as:

  • using GitHub and Heroku
  • more comfortable in Terminal
  • getting used to the file structure of a Rails app
  • developing Entity Relationship Models

One big takeaway I have learned is that going from Rails to Ruby is better than going from Ruby to Rails. I had read Chris Pine’s Learn to Program which is an excellent book on Ruby. However, as it was out of context, I think I will get much more out of it when I go back. And I do plan on going back, and pushing forward with Rails. My lack of programming skills are discouraging, but I relish the challenge. The next thing I must do is build something small for myself, and start flexing my resources. I also plan to try a couple of the shorter tutorials online and test my newfound skills on different problems, just to see how much I have internalized from my course.

If you have any suggestions for a Rails n00b, feel free to give me any recommendations. I would be very grateful.

Smartphone penetration in Japan: Some numbers

New Straits Times quotes MMRI:

Japan’s smart phone sales — 23.3 million this year — account for 56 per cent of the total mobile phone sales of the year

Yet, TomiAhonen Consulting, based on Ipsos data, ranks Japan’s smartphone penetration at just 14% per capita, tied 33rd with Brazil and Romania in a ranking of 42 countries. They follow that number with a caveat:

Japan and S Korea: These numbers are NOT indicative of how advanced phones are in those countries, while technically are reasonably accurate measures of ‘only smartphones’

Korea is ranked 20th, with 34%. It must help with penetration when some of your national champions are some of the top handset makers. (Canada, a particularly backwards nation when it comes to mobile, is 21st with 30% penetration.)

Japan on the other hand is still struggling with smartphone innovation (see my old post about this topic here). From the Straits times:

Commentators suggest phone producers need to install a system so that users cannot use the Internet while walking.

A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances.

Possibly a bit of a sensationalist headline, but there is a key take-away in the final graf about battling anti-atheism:

“If you manage to offer credible counteroffers of these stereotypes, this can do a lot to undermine people’s existing prejudice,” he said. “If you realize there are all these atheists you’ve been interacting with all your life and they haven’t raped your children that is going to do a lot do dispel these stereotypes.”

Being vocal, standing up and being counted, coming out of the closet, conciousness-raising: this is how many censured social groups have overcome prejudiced attitudes. Like women, gays and racial/class minorities atheists too must also use these strategies to defend themselves and ultimately gain acceptance. This is the thinking behind things like The Out Campaign and other efforts by “outspoken” atheists.

I cannot make you come out, or burn the closet down around you. I can only encourage you to come out by letting you know there are many, many of us like you. Please make your voice heard.

A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances.