This weekend I received my 17th certification (or Statement of Accomplishment) for MOOCs. In particular, this last MOOC that I took was Creative, Serious and Playful Science of Android Apps, offered by Lawrence Angrave of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While I certainly knew that the course was an Introduction to Programming, the reasons I took it were twofold:

  1. For the "novelty" (for me, at least) of writing some Android Apps
  2. To reacquaint myself with Java, which I have not touched since 1999, when I wrote a compiler, in the ages of JDK 1.0 being transitioned to JDK 1.1.

I think that the time the course took (and which I invested in) was really well spent. In fact, I learned some nice things which I would not have touched otherwise. For instance, I made the conscious effort to use an IDE (Eclipse), despite being a person that would do most of the things inside Emacs and compile the programs with command-line tools.

Despite being huge, Eclipse has some really nice features and the auto-completion is amazing. Since Java is so strongly typed and Eclipse knows Java pretty well, it almost completely writes your programs for you. :)

Of course, my interest also made me want to streamline the build process and use the command line tools (with ant, another tool that was "alien" to me, having used makefiles for everything that I needed).

The use of Eclipse (and the Android development environment in general) in my Debian unstable computers was not without problems, but after spending more time trying to fix Eclipse than really doing the homework (and pulling the little hair that I still have left), one really helpful post nailed it. (Yes, I had to remove other packages like gimp, but such is life).

While playing with the Android side of things, I put one badly written (and not really "android-ish") app in a github repository (which I think is aptly named "Toy Android Apps"), which served me the purpose of learning some Android-specific concepts.

But the course was helpful not only to get in touch with the tools (Eclipse, ant, running Android virtual machines with the help of kvm), but also on the Java side. I lost a bit of the prejudice against it (even though I still think it is a verbose language, especially when compared to, say Python), and I, also intend to contribute to one apache project or another that have low-hanging fruits. Actually, I have signed their Contributor License Agreement and I even had my first patch accepted!

Aside: Well, sadly SVN doesn't support different committer and author fields like git does and it seems that doing many small commits may not be the Apache way of doing things—but the important part of all this is that the code is there and there is so much more to be done.

Aside #2: After a lot of time spent converting the repository to git (which is, after all, what I use), I put a mirror of Apache's the commons graph project.

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