Blog – Virtual & Literal Adentures

New Years Resolution: Keep You All Updated!

Hello and Happy New Year!

I’m writing from Tucson, AZ right now with one thing that has been on my brain for a little while now… I need to be better about keeping you all updated! Even if it’s really just a few members of my family and friends who are reading this ¬†ūüėČ

There have been so many changes since I last posted. I’ll try to briefly cover them all: I’ve moved to a new home in Oakland with Becca and several close friends. The initial moving process kept me super busy, as I imagine it does for all who move, and that was followed by plentiful home improvement projects which more or less took over my life. (I have this thing about finishing projects which I start, especially related to my home, and I become a bit obsessed with getting them done…)¬†If you want to see any of the projects, feel free to check them out on instagram: @namolnad ‚ÄĒ some of them came out really well, and I’m really happy/proud of how our home is coming together.

At about the same time, I was forced to buy a new car, as my truck¬†randomly set on fire and blew up‚ÄĒeeek! It happened to be Becca’s birthday when the truck blew up, so I imagine it¬†was a rather¬†memorable birthday for her, though not the memorable I was hoping for. Fortunately, however,¬†everyone was alright which is obviously the most important part!

I have been skiing quite a bit, between Tahoe and when I visited my family in Whitefish, MT over the holidays. It’s been great to get back on snow and to see so many west coast areas¬†getting some¬†much needed/deserved snowfall. After my¬†two week trip to Whitefish, Becca and I reunited in Oakland (for about 10 hours) and decided to hop in the car and drive down to San Diego to spend New Years with several close friends who live down South. We had a brief stop in LA, several days in beautiful SD and even popped into¬†to Mexico for brunch on our final day in SD!

After bringing Becca to the airport, I continued the trip by driving to Tucson, where I am having our new car converted from an automatic to a manual transmission (there is a long story about why I’m doing this and why I’m doing it here, but I’ll spare you those details and simply assure you that there is good reason.)¬†So here I sit, alone in a hotel room, where I’m finally getting some solid coding time in once again.

I’m realizing things can be very difficult getting back on the studying wagon after “life” has butted its head in the way of your studies. Due to all of the above circumstances‚ÄĒand I should mention I’m very happy about many of them‚ÄĒI haven’t had as much time as I’d like to make adequate coding progress. As I write, things are definitely a little unfamiliar and slightly intimidating now that¬†I’ve begun¬†the projects section of my tutorial. The simple processes and code methodology¬†which were coming so easily just a month or two ago are taking little while to feel fresh and natural again. However, I have to remind myself of a few things: 1. This is normal and to be expected, I’m not an idiot. Just not an experienced professional. Yet!¬†2. I should focus on recreating the habit of coding or reading code at least a small amount each and every day; the progress and understanding will continue to come back to me as long as I immerse myself fully. 3. Sometimes you need to barrel ahead before having the perfect plan drawn¬†out. It’s better to make progress and adjust along¬†the way, rather than continue to plan everything to perfection and find yourself never actually creating anything.

As far as my projects go: I’m currently building a messaging app, which takes advantage of Apple’s¬†Multi-Peer Connectivity framework (providing the ability to message friends without an internet connection.) I’m also hoping to introduce some sort of homing beacon ability to find friends in a crowd, e.g. at a concert where your friends are difficult to see. So your phone provides Marco Polo sort of information (warmer, warmer, colder kind of thing…) From everything I’ve been reading, that may be difficult to do using the sensors I originally intended, but I won’t let that stop me from trying to find a work around!

That’s all for now! Next time I will hopefully have some updates about the messaging app and should actually have some cool photos to post as well! (I have another adventure weekend planned with a dear friend I haven’t seen in years. Not until after my 13 hour drive home this weekend… :_( to the solo drive & ūüôā to the visit with Ms. Megan Papineau!)

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North American Wife-Carrying Championships Podium, BlocBrowser and Blocstagram

Hey Everyone,

So, many of you are probably already wondering what in the world the title of this post is all about‚ÄĒexplaining that is probably a pretty good place to start.

As this webpage’s title indicates, the subject of this blog is going to include both my “Virtual & Literal Adventures.” In the nature of staying true to that title, this week’s post includes something from both the Virtual Adventure & Literal Adventure sides. First, I’ll talk about non-virtual side of things:

Last week, my girlfriend, Becca, and I flew¬†back to the East coast for a close friend’s wedding. The wedding was at Sunday River Ski Resort in Maine (also my former ski racing stomping grounds while I was racing at Bates.) As it turns out, during the weekend of the wedding, Sunday River was also host to the North American Wife-Carrying Championships. This is a pretty big deal in some places (Finland,) and it‚ÄĒlikely due to the high level of obscurity‚ÄĒgets rather high levels of national press coverage. When I found out about the event, a couple of weeks prior to making the trip, I started pondering it and thinking how I might convince Becca to do it. If you look at this picture, you’ll understand why I thought she might be hesitant. We had a couple of brief conversations about it, but when the time came to pack, I still hadn’t been successful in convincing her. Remaining hopeful, I¬†decided (after viewing a couple of YouTube videos) that it would be a very good idea to bring cleats if we were going to try it. I packed the cleats (unbeknownst to Becca) and hoped that, on the day of, I might have some luck in getting her to do it.
When push came to shove, Becca was all in and we tried our luck at this random sport‚ÄĒcarrying her up a hill, over several large log hurdles, through a mud pit, over a sand North American Wife-Carrying Championshipspile, etc. etc. We ended up doing quite well (3rd place!) though we were both¬†bummed we didn’t make it into the final (only ~2.5 seconds off the qualifying time) where you won your “wife’s” weight in beer and had a shot at winning 5x her weight in cash. It was‚ÄĒwhen it’s all said and done‚ÄĒa really fun, bizarre event with a lot of really amazing crowd support. We would/will definitely do it again. Here is a link to a highlight video from the day. (I should also mention that the wedding we were there for was beautiful; congrats to Liz and Leo!)

Now‚ÄĒand I’ll keep this section brief this week‚ÄĒfor the virtual adventures. I spent much of last week working on creating some cool functionality in a basic web browser and designing the building Blocks of an Instagram replica, “Blocstagram.” I worked out a huge number of buggy features in the browser, eventually getting something that worked pretty well for what I was trying to achieve. Check out the code here. On the “Blocstagram” side of things, I learned out to customize a TableViewController, integrate features like pull-to-refresh and infinite-scroll and have started working on networking components to pull down data¬†from the Instagram API, parse the JSON correctly, serialize it into objects that iOS understands, and do it all on¬†background queues so the app continues to function seamlessly for the user. I also learned about the potential dangers of using public code repositories, in particular for storing sensitive data like Developer Client IDs, and came up with some good ways to avoid making those mistakes¬†in the future. It was a productive week and extremely fun week!

This week, I have noticed that my fingers are beginning to be seriously sore from using the Apple Aluminum¬†Keyboard for 12 hours on end, and am about to make¬†a trip to highly reviewed¬†WASD keyboards in Fremont, CA to look into a solid mechanical keyboard option. After I have that, I’ll be continuing to work on Blocstagram and will look to have something fully functional by the end of this week/beginning of next.

That’s it for now, thanks for following along!

Dan

PS If there is something you would particularly like hearing/getting more detail about in my journey, please let me know!

Reacquainting myself with Bloc, Objective-C

Hi Everyone,

This past week marked the true¬†restart of my studies with Bloc‚ÄĒwhat a great week! On Tuesday, I officially restarted the timer on my Bloc program and, like that, my studies had resumed… I had given my next steps a fair amount of thought, but, up to that point, still hadn’t fully decided how I’d dive back into the material. When I’d left the program several months back, I was in the middle of a project in which I was creating a simple web browser app. Upon resuming, however, much of my code and original approach¬†was slightly unfamiliar when I reviewed my project. (I had also spent some of the last several months lightly skimming¬†through the basics of Swift, as opposed to Objective-C, so I’d found myself with a reasonable understanding of both, yet wasn’t feeling like a master of either,¬†as¬†I simply hadn’t enough¬†time in code of late.) I decided I would put that project on hold for the time being and that I would instead focus on the next project, an Instagram replica, and would re-familiarize myself by starting off with a clean¬†slate, so to speak.

Thus far, that’s seemed like a great idea. The Objective-C frameworks are starting to make sense again and things seem to be coming together well. After my first meeting¬†with my mentor, Matt, I felt as though I was on the right path. We discussed the best way for me to get back on track¬†with the curriculum and, it seems I had thought out a solid approach. He¬†gave me a few pointers, helped me think¬†through a few adjustments to my plan and, after catching up a bit more, I was back knee deep in code, working through¬†the different stages of my Instagram replica. It’s been a great week re-emersing myself into the iOS development world‚ÄĒand I’m super excited to keep it rolling!

As time goes on I plan on adding some app screenshots and gists (code snippets), like the really¬†basic example¬†below (way back from my first week ever with Objective-C) to give you a more thorough understanding of the tasks/problems/code I’m working through. You’ll also get to see the occasional post about some awesome bike ride, hike, skiing adventure, etc. I’ve been on, so hopefully you’ll enjoy all that’s to come!

Talk soon,

Dan

My iOS Adventure with Bloc Begins/Continues

Hi, All,

I’ll be using this site as a forum to bring you through the trials and tribulations I’m about to face as I begin/continue my iOS education with Bloc. I should probably first explain what I mean by begins/continues…

Early in 2015, I decided to begin studying iOS (and programming in general) more intensively than I ever had previously. I labored through the process of finding a bootcamp style program which would allow me to study while continuing with my day job. After a bit of searching, I found one that I loved: Bloc.io

I found a great mentor, Matt Hanlon, and elected to start studying in my off hours, during my lunch breaks, weekends, etc. etc. Bloc is fortunately flexible enough where it allows you to study for only 15 hours a week, while covering a vast amount of material and developing a serious knowledge of the system which you are studying. After beginning the program, I was making great progress in learning the necessary tools. Eventually, however, I realized I was not able to devote enough time to the program while still keeping my day job (and beginning to date the love of my life‚ÄĒbut no complaints there!) It was then that I knew I had to put the program on hold for the time being. After months had passed and after serious deliberation, I ultimately decided I would have to leave my day job and study full time to pursue what I knew was my real passion‚ÄĒbuilding great, truly tangible products.

As of September 4th,2015 I have left my job‚ÄĒwith the loving support of my wonderful girlfriend, Becca‚ÄĒand am preparing to¬†restart the Bloc program. I’m extremely excited to get this underway and, to fulfill what I’m sure is everyone’s dream, to have it be my job to learn and become better at something I love doing.

I’ll leave it at that for now, but stay tuned as I take you through my journey. This blog will likely have moments of confusion as I stumble through things I initially don’t understand, but it will also have those shining moments when I discover an answer to something which has been tripping me up for far too long. As I’ve said, I’m very excited for this and I hope you like joining me on this journey.

Best,

Dan