Day 4 at the Ranch – Zip Line Day!

Yo big nerds!  Today was the last full day of training at the Big Nerd Ranch.  We jpbZiplineonly have a half day tomorrow before starting the long drive home and consequently this will probably be my last post on the topic.

For anyone considering training for iOS, advanced iOS, Python, Ruby on Rails, OpenGL, or Android I cannot recommend this place enough!  The week has truly been amazing!  You would think after all of the hours clocked behind this computer listening to instruction on advanced iOS topics I would be tired but I am still full of energy and excitement from the week.

The people here have been great.  I have tried to meet and talk to as many fellow classmates and instructors as possible and the discussions have been fantastic.  We have a surgeon, folks from the two biggest computer companies in the world, independents and entrepreneurs, companies big and small, etc.  They hail from all over the world and have converged upon these small cabins in the middle of nowhere Georgia to share stories and learn from the masters in iOS development.

Today’s topics included mapping a live video capture stream onto an OpenGL texture map, many demos from our classmates and teachers, UIScrollBar magic, and deeper looks at Grand Central Dispatch and the NSOperationQueue.  We had another late night session tonight as well on Computer Vision.  My list of “cool” app ideas and enhancements to my current apps has been growing all week.  If only I could figure out a way to skip sleeping!

If you have read my previous posts this week you may remember my fascination in those zip lines here at our class location – Historic Banning Mills.  This afternoon we took a break from studying and several of us got to do this!  I have to admit for the last hour leading up to the departure I was feeling pretty uneasy and anxious as I didn’t know what to expect.  My nerves were getting the best of me.  Somehow I ended up being the last in our group to go down the first wire but WOW what a RUSH!  The wind and the height and the speed!!!  For our very first run we “flew” over the Snake Creek in the gorge far below.  I didn’t see it too well because I was clinging to the straps for my life but about part way thru I realized THIS IS REALLY FUN!!!

Next up we did a series of sky bridges that I actually found a bit more stressful than the high speed run.  We climbed from tree to tree across bridges of less and less material.  What the heck?  DId they run out of wood boards? Did they use IMG_1027-768x1024them all up building those massive towers?  🙂  Nope just part of the challenge.  Many times we were only walking on single cables but I have to admit it really was fun!  I even jumped up and down in the middle of one of them!

Anyway, thanks to the folks at the Big Nerd Ranch, the folks at Banning Mills and the Screaming Eagle Zip Line Tour for a truly memorable and incredible week!  I really hope I can come back for another class in the future – maybe OpenGL or some more advanced Mac development stuff…

Time to go pack up my stuff so we can leave tomorrow…



Day 3 at the ranch – Development is exciting again! Bezier Curves, FFTs, Matrices oh my!

Time for my end of day ponderings for day 3 at the Big Nerd Ranch.

I thought about this a bit yesterday but today it really struck me.  This class and really the power that the iOS framework provides really taps into every major point of interest I have in software development and technology.  I have not gotten to think about some of the concepts we have discussed here since my days studying electrical engineering at UC or my time at ITI working with graphics modeling and Open Inventor.  For me, this week has truly been a wonderous trip down memory lane.  I feel like I am in the Land of Oz.  Thanks to the instructors – Jonathon Blocksom, Jonathon Saggau, and Michael Ward for that trip!

While we have covered the Cocoa frameworks in a broad, sweeping sense, the Jon’s and Mikey have added interesting historical viewpoints and perspectives.  Bezier curves and surface normals take me back to fond memories struggling with the challenges of writing CAD/CAM data translation software and 3D model viewers.  Those days were really the most challenging and fun in my career and while I still have fun today, I miss some of that excitement!  I left the engineering software realm  to go into corporate IT web development many years ago.  Now with my present focus on mobile development and the driving market forces of the day I find that I may be ready to go full circle.

How and why?  Demands for advancement in software development in the corporate IT field used to drudge along – typically held back by operations and security teams not wanting to move forward so as to protect things the way they are.  With so many people now owning iPhones, iPads, and Android devices consumer expectations towards technology and above all the user experience has totally changed.  This demand will drive us in the IT field to do better! The boring days of Windows and the status quo are thankfully over!  Note this is an opinion piece and certainly I am sure some of you have a different one.  Regardless, it is my belief that the opportunity to develop really cool, engaging, and challenging apps will now be forced upon every business entity or the consumers will simply move somewhere else.  So to the simple, boring, 1980s style web forms and ugly web pages of the 90s I bid you adieu.  To developers without passion, you are going to miss out on a lot of fun!

Today one Jonathan led us thru the power of OpenGL ES and GLKit.  Yes I know OpenGL has been around for years, but most developers have never had to worry about it.  Unless you are writing video games why would you care?  Again, I can see a lot of people caring about this a whole bunch as we are forced to develop solutions that become more engrossing and more 3D.  Good grief Dominoes Pizza even has a game now.  I have been looking forward to a business need to get back to 3D development and this is it!

FFTs?  What is that?  Fast Fourier Transforms are something I haven’t looked at since my Signals and Systems class at UC.  I use pitch shifting (just one of many uses for FFTs) quite a bit as a musician but never had the chance to work on incorporating that into a development project until yesterday.  Again, it was great to have this discussion appear in the class.  The possibility and capability afforded by today’s consumer grade hardware is truly astounding!

More than anything this week I have began to appreciate the parallels at the technical level between two of my favorite things – audio (MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC!) and video and the power that Apple’s collection of frameworks has given today’s developer to create new things using both.  The mathematics using linear algebra, modifications with filter chaining, and low level patterns for hardware acceleration are common to both.  I haven’t been this energized about development for many, many years!  It was pretty hard to get excited about SOAP and EJBs.  Yesterday I tweeted that I had spent more time in this computer lab than any other time since college and I have truly enjoyed every minute of it.

The one sad note for the day…  It rained so unfortunately no afternoon hike and thus no new pictures.