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Online Course : "Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python" by Rice University

 
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Along the grain of Tim and Jeanne's post, I'm enrolled in the first level of the Rice series on Coursera, Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python.
(It'll be a while before I can think about the third level they are attempting).

A C++ instructor of mine said the Intro to Python was very good (he did it earlier this year), and over the weekend a senior manager in industry I know suggested Python would be a good scripting language fit for Java/C++.

So, here we are. If anyone else is doing the Intro Python course, and wants a study buddy, drop me a line.

Cheers!
Chris
 
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I have no doubt that Chris won't be the only one at CodeRanch taking this course so I've added to the Bunkhouse Lounge schedule.

Best of luck to all taking the course and I look forward to hearing about it.
 
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Chris,
I took that course during the first offering. They did a very good job.
 
Chris Barrett
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Thank you both for the feedback!

Cheers!
Chris
 
Chris Barrett
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Hi all,

If you are thinking about the Coursera Python course discussed above, but are unsure of the basics of Python syntax, check out Codecademy's free Python course. There is still plenty of time to complete that before the Coursera course begins.

Oh, and if you know some Java, it'll be a lot less than the suggested 13 hours. Most of it is just understanding the difference in format and function calls (like len() not length() to determine String length) and how whitespace matters beyond human readability. I did the Codecademy in about 5 hours (over two days, while my kids napped) and will probably do it again closer to the Sept 15th date as a refresher.

Cheers!
Chris
 
Tim Cooke
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Couple more beginner Python resources.

Charles Severance from the University of Michigan runs a course or Coursera called Programming for Everybody (Python). I had a skim through it the last time it ran and I think it's a good one for getting started with programming in general, not just Python programming. It doesn't run again until October so won't help as a primer for the Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python course but he has a couple of really great resources out there free to everybody. Firstly he appears to have most of the course content on his website PythonLearn as well as a free eBook. The print version is also available for less than a tenner.
 
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Ok Ok Chris, You talked me into it, but you know what I will be going through this fall with my BCIT courses so be prepared for our usual barrage of emails back and forth lol ;) I had a peruse of the course and it looks interesting.

Oh, and I guess I should say Hi to the others. You spoke so highly of this place that I just signed up. I am Mark, I attend BCIT here in Vancouver, on a part time basis like Chris.

Cheers and thanks for the other resources. This should be fun!

 
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If you're looking for extra resources for learning Python, my post in this thread includes a few that might be useful. The thread is a couple of years old, but if you're learning with Python 2.7 it won't make any difference. FYI, Python 3.x is not fully backwards compatible with earlier versions, so you may still find you need to use Python 2.7 sometimes in order to work with other libraries.

If I had to pick one quick-start resource for Python, I'd probably go with Head First Python which does use Python 3 but provides a brisk and wide-ranging introduction to Python including things like web applications with Django/Google App Engine. It's handy to have a book so you can look things up easily later on, unlike an online course. Also, like most of the Head First books, this one's fun to work through after a dreary day at the office.
 
Tim Cooke
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Hello Mark, welcome to the Ranch!
 
chris webster
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Tim: Thanks for pointing out the Charles Severance course materials - they look very interesting.

I'm currently working on a team consisting mainly of statisticians with little or no coding experience, and I've been encouraging them to use Python for some of our work, as a way to get used to writing their own code instead of relying on "the IT crowd" to do it for them. A couple of them did the "Programming for Everybody" course and were very pleased with it - they've been tinkering with their own Python code since and seem to be enjoying it. The Severance book seems to cover extra material beyond the course, so I think it will be a useful resource for the team.
 
Chris Barrett
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chris webster wrote:If you're looking for extra resources for learning Python...


Thank you so much for the old post link! Lots of great information - I especially liked Sony's Java/Python comparison blog post link. Coming from academia, it's hard to know in which languages to invest finite energy. We intuitively know that some tools are better than others at completing tasks, but the complexity of languages without industry experience makes comparing languages much harder than comparing screws and nails.

Mark Doucette wrote:Ok Ok Chris, You talked me into it


Hehehe... Welcome, Mark! Between C++2 & Java JSP/JSF at BCIT, plus Python on Coursera, looks like we will be busy!
Now, if you have a few minutes, go give the Greenhorns a hand:
(1) You'll realize how much you know (and how little you know)
(2) You'll get practice reading code that often... well... let's just say it doesn't follow textbook coding conventions
(3) You'll reinforce learning. Translating complex topics into your own words is hard!
(4) You'll get immediate code review from awesomely smart people
(5) You can impress your wife with your cow collection
(6) You'll feel good helping others

5 minutes a day == 30 hours a year of help that wasn't there yesterday.
 
chris webster
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Chris R Barrett wrote:... I especially liked Sony's Java/Python comparison blog post link. Coming from academia, it's hard to know in which languages to invest finite energy...


Learning a new way of doing things is always useful - it gives you another tool in your mental toolbox - and Python is also a good practical choice for its maturity and widespread use. Some of the interesting features of Python include things like lambda functions and comprehensions, which are useful concepts if you decide to start looking into functional programming languages like Scala or Java 8 (which is introducing these well-established FP ideas to the OO Java world). Python's dynamic typing is also useful to learn about so that you can appreciate the pros and cons of dynamic vs. static typing. And the Python community is very friendly and encourages a distinctively "Pythonic" way of doing things that is often an interesting alternative to conventional approaches in other languages.

So learning Python will teach you lots of useful stuff that you can apply to your programming, even if you never write another line of Python again. But I reckon you'll find lots of ways to use Python for all kinds of purposes once you've learned a bit.
 
Mark Doucette
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Mark Doucette wrote:Ok Ok Chris, You talked me into it


Hehehe... Welcome, Mark! Between C++2 & Java JSP/JSF at BCIT, plus Python on Coursera, looks like we will be busy!
Now, if you have a few minutes, go give the Greenhorns a hand:
(1) You'll realize how much you know (and how little you know)
(2) You'll get practice reading code that often... well... let's just say it doesn't follow textbook coding conventions
(3) You'll reinforce learning. Translating complex topics into your own words is hard!
(4) You'll get immediate code review from awesomely smart people
(5) You can impress your wife with your cow collection
(6) You'll feel good helping others

5 minutes a day == 30 hours a year of help that wasn't there yesterday.


Thanks for the info Chris, I am still having a look around this place, holy what a massive resource lol. It might take me a good amount of time to get up to speed on this site but I will certainly try to help where I can. (in between asking for help that is lol) Awesome place, glad you recommended it.

Cheers Mark
 
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Hi all,

Week0 has begun! If you haven't enrolled, and are interested, I understand you still have time. The Week0 assignment is optional and designed to just get you familiar with the submission system and some very basic Python syntax, such as creating variables, int and float conversions, math order precedence, and generating console output.

This is my first Coursera course, and so far I'm very impressed. The course has been around for a few years, and perhaps therefore is more polished than most. If all the courses are like this, that's amazing! Python is provided via the online environment at CodeSkulptor.org.

One interesting thing I noticed was integer division. I don't remember this being mentioned in the Codeacademy Python introduction course.
For example in Java, (1/2) and (-1/2) would generate 0 and 0. While in Python2, which is what the course uses, the same will generate 0 and -1.
(In Python3, the same would be automatically converted to float values of 0.5 and -0.5.)

I'll post more updates as I work through the material.

Cheers!
Chris
 
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I signed up for it, too. My brain needs a break from studying for the OCEJWCD and this seems like an interesting class. One can never learn too many programming languages, yes?

I just reviewed the first video and I've decided that I need a rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock t-shirt.
 
Mark Doucette
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I just did that first week and submitted.. here is hoping that the rest is that easy! lol. All kidding aside, yes, it looks very well put together. Coursera is a fantastic resource.
 
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J. Kevin Robbins wrote:One can never learn too many programming languages, yes?


Agreed, though some languages are more useful/relevant than others. I would put Python in the "useful/relevant" category.

Plus that "Asteroids" game we build looks pretty cool! I spent 15 minutes (which is a major game time commitment for me) playing the other past projects such as Rice Racer and Star Wars. Brought back good memories of high school (and ditching class for the local arcade). Other past projects can be accessed here: http://www.codeskulptor.org/demos.html#tabs-Hall-of-Fame
 
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Week1 is now officially upon us with the first formal project being Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock - made famous by Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory.

This week’s videos took about an hour to work through and covered Python function creation, logical operators, and conditional statements. The videos were well done, with good explanations and memorable examples. Nice to see that Python will actually catch if (x = 3) as a SyntaxError.

I’m always curious why every textbook I’ve read, plus the course videos, teach conditional format such as:

if (x == 3) {
// do something
}


We all know how easy it is to accidentally introduce a logic error in most languages (Python seems to be an exception to the norm) by writing if (x = 3) instead of if (x == 3). I never see the relatively easy solution of turning a logic error (that could be missed) into a compilation error (that will be caught) by flipping the constant literal and variable:

if (3 == x){
// do something
}


To me, it seems much more logical (pun intended) to teach new programmers the second method regardless of the language.

Starting next week, and after the submission deadline, I’ll post a link to my weekly Code Skulptor project in case anyone wants to peer review. The Week0 project was optional (and not graded), but here you go: [EDIT: link removed to avoid conflict with Coursera honour code]
 
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Which language are you writing? You have to write if (3 == x)… in C and C++ because neither of those languages supports a boolean type and uses ints instead.
You write if (x == 3)… in Java because writing (x = 3) returns an int which cannot be used instead of a boolean. The compiler will notice and complain. The only instance where it will not complain is if the left operand is a boolean/Boolean variable.
 
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:Which language are you writing? You have to write if (3 == x)… in C and C++ because neither of those languages supports a boolean type and uses ints instead.


I've been studying C++ and Java along with Python this term. You're right, I picked it up from C++. It was also recommended on a polyglot programming job interview site (I cannot remember which). Since writing like that worked in C++ (and also worked with Java and Python), it just seemed to me to make sense to use elsewhere. If you think using if (3 == x) in Java is bad form, I'm open to change. I couldn't really see a downside to that format (maybe I've missed something?), nor is the condition structure explicitly defined in the Java coding conventions. I took a bit of a lowest common denominator approach.

Learning C++ has been very useful in showing me how much I took Java structure (such as booleans, nulls, and the instanceof keyword) for granted.
For example, the work in C++ required to validate a dynamic_cast attempt worked is just painful.

Always learning,
Chris
 
Campbell Ritchie
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I am not sure that if (3 == i)… is actually bad form, but if (i == 3)… is more natural to read.
As I said, you do need the first version in C/C++.
 
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Week three (official week two) project is now up. The project this week is to create the classic "Guess my number!" game. The computer picks a number in a range, then the player must guess the number using "higher" and "lower" responses as their guide. I always like this game, because it is a great lead in to binary search and binary search trees. The game also served as our introduction to event driven programming using the "simplegui" package (think mini-javax.swing) developed by Rice University. The optional logarithmic calculation to determine the maximum number of guesses based on a dynamic range of values was an added bonus of difficulty.

I was able to tweak the range a bit to allow my six year old to play. Little does she know she's secretly learning her division 2 table. He...he...he... <insert evil genius emoticon>

As the submission window for last week's project has past, here is the link: [EDIT: link removed to avoid conflict with Coursera honour code]
 
Chris Barrett
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The week four (officially week three) project is now up. The project this week is to create a stopping and starting stopwatch that incorporates a reflex game by testing your ability to stop the timer on whole seconds. My six year old is kicking my butt on the game part... This explains why I gave up shooters a long time ago and switched to turn-based games...

I found this assignment to be easier than last week's assignment, as the only complexity was parsing the integer used to track time with modular math into a string of A:BC.D where A was minutes, B was tens of seconds, C was singles of seconds and D was tenths of seconds. The real purpose was to introduce timers and the imprecision of floating point calculations.

As the submission window for last week's project has past, as promised, here is the link to my "Guess my number!" game: [EDIT: link removed to avoid conflict with Coursera honour code]

I'll add that it's been very interesting to see some of the other student solutions. I realize different levels of experience will translate to different solutions (I've been trying to use course level material, so just if and elif statements - no arrays, or maps (called "dictionaries" in Python) so far). Several solutions changed the user experience from the provided solutions, with one solution adding all sorts of complexity, including user input fields, that made it impossible to test with the provided Test Driven Development matrix used for evaluation. Personally, when I'm working on school projects I always try to imagine the guidelines have been given to me by another business unit. For example, I imagine user responses are carefully chosen word solutions provided by marketing. Marketing will expect that my solution uses their wordage and punctuation. It is not my place to decide "It's a tie!" is a better user experience than the provided "Player and Computer tie!" wordage. Maybe I'm just anal...

Cheers!
Chris
 
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I'm not doing this course, but are you sure it's OK to post your code online? Most Coursera courses are fairly strict about not posting answers to assignments on public sites, because they re-use the same assignments for subsequent presentations. You might want to check the rules for this course?
 
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Not sure about whether it is allowed to post your code, although Chris (B) is right:
the deadline for that project has passed.

I'm doing this course too, and compared to the Algorithmic course, this one
is very much more relaxed. But I must say: it is not going deeply into Python, at least for
the time being. Nothing about data structures or so. But I guess that that would
make this course a lot less interesting...

Easy so far, I wonder how we will come to the final Asteroids claim. Especially
curious how to obtain all necessary sprites, and how to rotate the spaceship,
with fire coming from the exhausts, when accelerating...

Anyway: these Joe and Scott are funny, and this John emphasizes some
words in the end a bit too much to my liking.

But for all those who struggle with indentation in their programs: this
is a very fine course indeed!

Greetz,
Piet
 
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chris webster wrote:I'm not doing this course, but are you sure it's OK to post your code online?


I did review the course Honor Code prior to posting the links, and I made sure the links were only posted after the submission deadline. The Honor Code forbids students from submitting code they find online, and also forbids the sharing of code between students via private messages. However, nothing was stated about posting links to solutions in public forums after the deadline. I've always believed one of the best ways to learn is to see working solutions after attempting the solution yourself and through peer review. Therefore, I posted the links in good faith.

However, I appreciate your feedback and can see that the posting of the links could be viewed as violating the spirit of the Honor Code.
Therefore, I won't post links going forward. I don't have the ability to redact the links from my previous messages, however.

Cheers!
Chris
 
chris webster
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I only raised this because on some of the Coursera courses I've done there have been problems with students posting their answers e.g. on Github even before the assignment due dates. This usually resulted in a request from the course organisers not to put answers onto public sites generally.

Best of luck with the course!
 
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The third item on the general honour code (http://help.coursera.org/customer/portal/articles/1164381-what-is-the-honor-code-) is:

I will not make solutions to homework, quizzes or exams available to anyone else. This includes both solutions written by me, as well as any official solutions provided by the course staff.


That doesn't say anything about deadlines, and as such is pretty specific.

I suspect individual courses have slightly different philosophies. Some may not care, and some explicitly forbid it. And one I was on sent round an email telling people that if solutions weren't removed from public repositories those students would be removed from the course!
 
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Chris Barrett wrote:Therefore, I won't post links going forward. I don't have the ability to redact the links from my previous messages, however.


I've removed the links from the posts above, although presumably that won't stop people accessing the code if they already have the link.
 
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Piet Souris wrote:Especially curious how to obtain all necessary sprites, and how to rotate the spaceship, with fire coming from the exhausts, when accelerating...


I imagine they give us the URL addresses and we load using the simplegui.load_sound and simplegui.load_image methods. If you check out the Demos on CodeSkulptor, that's how the previous projects were done.

To Matthew & Chris - thank you!
 
Chris Barrett
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Sorry all in my delay. The last two weeks have become busy.

This week we did Pong. Personally, the best set of lectures to date. Scott made me laugh out loud a few times. They are really well put together.
The game itself was pretty cool to make. My kids spent a few hours last night playing it, so I'm happy to see my effort was useful outside of class.

Oh, and we are now staring to get into some more complex topics in Python, such as Lists.

Cheers!
Chris
 
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The course officially wraps up on Nov 16, but I'll sign off early. I feel the course completed it's goal - I can write some interesting code in Python now, plus created some fun games for my kids to play. The video tutorials are well thought out and funny. The code templates provided by the instructors were great. The sounds and images provided for the final project were also topnotch.

I did feel the workload increased slightly over the last few weeks, as more complex collections were introduced along with class structures. The final game, Asteroids, was broken up into two projects - the first-part project being the development of a moving space ship in space (so that the angle of the "nose" was independent of the forward direction), while the second-part project brought together the collections required to create multiple asteroids and missiles and how to iterate for collisions.

I would guess it took me about 9 hours combined for the two final projects - that included reviewing the video tutorials, and rewriting some of the template to support a more OOP design. I added extra features such as multiple player Ships so both my kids could play, independent score tracker for each player, free life every 50 points, increasing asteroid count and speed based on total points (allowing for cooperative or competitive play), and pause after each life lost. They gave you enough so you could really build this out if you wanted, and had the time.

I'm looking forward to the next level Rice University course in the series which gets into algorithmic development more.

Regarding Coursera, I see some real value in the platform. It's an awesome media to provide free courses to the masses. Though, I have to question the value of some of the peer-peer review. And, as others pointed out in this thread, the Coursera rules don't allow you to share your code solutions. I know a few times I gave full marks to some really nasty code style. I would have to say that if code styling is something you want to learn, you maybe better off looking for a traditional instructor-peer review system. If you already have a grounding in that area, and just want to learn Python, this is a great beginner class.

Cheers!
Chris
 
chris webster
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Chris Barrett wrote:I would have to say that if code styling is something you want to learn, you maybe better off looking for a traditional instructor-peer review system.


Congratulations on completing the course, Chris, and thanks for all your dispatches from the trenches!

In case anybody wants to try a tutor-led course, I can highly recommend the first two modules from the O'Reilly School of Technology Python Certificate. I did these a couple of years ago and learned a lot about Python and how to write "Pythonic" code. You get a personal tutor who grades your work and provides detailed feedback/advice on your efforts (my tutor was excellent), and the course materials are well-structured, well thought-out and challenging enough to keep you interested. It's not free, but you can get CPD credits for the courses, and having done plenty of commercial training courses in the past, I think this one is actually worth paying for.
 
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Thanks Chris for the feedback. When I do the next course in the series, if you will have me, I would love to keep a war journal here again.

Thanks for the link, too. I'll book mark that link for the future. In the meantime, between my formal courses and work, I'd be scared to spend money on something I might have to give up on half way. Another advantage of Coursera.

Cheers!
Chris
 
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Chris Barrett wrote:I would guess it took me about 9 hours combined for the two final projects


Wow, you breezed through it a lot easier than me. I found the first 3 weeks or so very easy, but then it started getting progressively more difficult. I'd estimate that I've been spending about 15 hours a week on the assignments for the last 5 weeks. This week was actually easier; I turned in RiceRocks last night after only about 5 hours of work on the code, an hour or so to watch the videos, and an hour or so to do the quizzes.

I think I'll still go back and add the explosions and the rock animation. I'd also like to make it like the original game where shooting a rock splits it into two smaller rocks, but that's all "fluff" and doesn't effect the grade.

I agree it was a very fun class; the instructors were very entertaining and kept the class interesting. I'd like to see a more advanced course now.

As an aside, I've decided that I'd like to learn C and C++. Does anyone know of good tutorials or free Coursera-type classes for those languages?
 
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Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I finished it in a marathon session as I also had a JSP lab and a C++ lab for other (non-Coursera) courses I had to get done. Watching the videos at 1.5 speed helped.

I found John Purcell's tutorial course videos on Cave of Programming are very good. I believe his C++ course is still in development mode, so it's free.
I used it in the summer to brush up between terms.

Cheers!
Chris


 
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