Using multiple 1080P monitors is great for productivity, but I got to a point where I wanted more... More screen real estate to see more code and more windows. So I started researching monitors and I quickly stumbled on a not-so-novel idea: why not just use a 43-inch 4K TV as a computer monitor?
43 inches is too big for me.
A 43-inch 4K TV is basically four 21-inch screens positioned in a two-by-two grid. To look at and use the upper and outer areas of this layout, I found myself squinting, turning my head, and craning my neck. I did it enough that I just ended up using Microsoft's excellent PowerToys for Windows to quickly size and position my windows low and in the center of the screen and basically ignored the top and sides of the screen.
Text was hard to read.
I modified TV settings for brightness and sharpness. I turned on "Game Mode", which greatly improved how smooth most text appeared on the extra-large screen. I increased the scale in Windows display settings. I tweaked Windows ClearType settings. After all my research and configuring, my eyes still felt tired and strained after a normal work day. Text on websites actually looked pretty good. But the default font in Microsoft apps, especially Outlook, frequently appeared rough and uneven, and I consistently had to squint and strain to peruse my inbox.
I'm hoping to try a slightly smaller 4K monitor to get the best of both worlds: a large-but-not-too-large screen with a lot of pixels for displaying more content.
Completing a coding boot camp last year opened up opportunities for me to switch careers and become a software developer. However, I didn't end up developing web applications, even though that was my training. Instead, I took a position as a robotic process automation developer.
Robotic process automation involves converting repetitive, rule-based, manual computer tasks to automated routines. There's a lot of overlap between RPA and other computer tools like macros, scripts, and even online services like IFTTT. Modern RPA platforms like UiPath and Automation Anywhere supercharge these tools by adding vast expandability and scalability.
UiPath has an older post which links to some other old but helpful posts which explain RPA and a number of the dynamics at play in this growing area of IT.
With a month left in my boot camp program, we're going all-in on React.js. For our first solo project, I built a memory-style game that works a little different than the typical matching game. It was great way to reinforce how React components pass props and how to manage and update state. That whole props passing thing cause me more than a few hang ups, but once I got the hang of it, things came together pretty well on the local development server. Deploying was another headeache, and after battling with Github Pages, I went to Netlify (where this site is hosted) and got the Github repo deployed with minimal effort or issue.
Some boot camp projects come easy, and some require MongoDB and Handlebars. The goal for this project involved scraping a site for recent news articles, inserting parts of those articles in a MongoDB database, then displaying the scrapings through Handlebars views. Scraping with Cheerio was relatively easy, especially since my new job as Robotic Process Automation involves a lot of web scraping through UiPath. Things definitely got wonky once I started adding routes to the server.js file. Scraping took longer, and only a few articles were added to the database. Introducing Handlebars to view the articles added even more complexity, mainly by adding an extra syntax to keep track of. The app should include the ability to save and add notes to a given article, but that functionality will have to wait for a rainy day when I have more time to chip away at the project.
Website layout has always been tricky business, and it only gets trickier with the proliferation of different screen sizes and orientations. Flexbox is a great way to make a website responsive to the multitude of target devices. Beau Carnes has an excellent cheatsheet on the Free Code Camp blog, complete with animated illustrations:
Bootstrap is a framework presented in the freeCodeCamp curriculum, but you really only get a brief intro. This reference site is a great way to browse all the different style options available in Bootstrap, complete with code snippets for every example.
Had the chance to tag along at another meet up, this one connected with a Facebook group of folks here in Tucson leveraging freeCodeCamp for learning to code. What a great time. Something about talking code with smart people in real life... Here's one take-away for me: Wherever you're at in your coding journey, you're not alone. Someone has been through the same thing before you and would be happy to help you. Someone else newer than you would be happy to learn from you. And these people live in your town. Looking forward to the next one.
In a modernish meeting room on the third floor of the University of Arizona library, several web development enthusiasts sat scattershot around a handful of tables making introductions and testing the waters of talking tech. This was the setting for my first web dev meetup and my first effort to take my concentrated course of study from solo mission to collaborative effort. Some take aways:
Everyone in this meetup, save the organizer, was a first-time attendee. Started out more like an orientation than an established group, but that dynamic quickly changed as the facilitator of the meeting lead us through the lean coffee meeting method.
The UA Coding Bootcamp was well represented by current participants and recent graduates. A bunch of really smart folks from a variety of contexts. They all spoke very highly of their experiences with the boot camp.
Self-taught folks (like myself) were also represented, albeit to a lesser degree. Some really interesting projects and comments from this group, including some new ideas for the bootcampers to consider.
I left the group feeling inspired to keep on my current course of self-directed study. I may pivot to a coding bootcamp at some point in the future, but until then, my goal is to hustle and hack together my own bootcamp experience through freeCodeCamp, personal networking, and meetups. The folks at the gathering today were all extremely encouraging, so I like my chances.
I've been very interested in technology for a very long time. As a kid and an adult, I played with computers personally and professionally. As a teacher, I leveraged the web as a classroom tool and professional development resource. In my spare time, I hacked on Nintendo Wiis and flashed custom ROMs on Android phones.
In January 2019, I resolved to turn my interest and occasional hobby into a self-directed course of study. I started with Python, working through Guido van Rossum's Python tutorial.
My goal: transition from a web development enthusiast to a web development professional.