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What to do, what to do, oh what to do… sigh… I want to get back into programming, ideally professionally. But I’ve been out of hard core programming long enough I have taken on the appearance of an old dog learning new tricks. Even so, an If statement is still an if statement and a while loop is still a while loop. Thus, I’m not particularly worried about jumping back in. In fact, if I didn’t want to get paid for doing what I love, it would be easy. It’s that getting paid part that is tripping me up.

As we all know, the hiring process involves a lot of perception. It has to, because the folks interviewing you haven’t known you that long. Interviewers derive as many tricks and processes to give them as much insight as they can, while interviewees, derive as many tricks and processes to put their best foot forward. But it is a fluid and slippery thing these appearances. In general, no one is trying to lie so that helps the process a lot. Everyone is just trying to maximize their position in a very short amount of time.

Not surprisingly, things change. This is the “old dog” part. The hiring process morphed and changed while I wasn’t looking. Curiously, it almost seems to favor those disadvantaged by previous hiring practices! Bully for them of course, but it leaves me scratching my head as to what my best next step should be.

I won’t belabor it, but it seems my best choice is to “pick a lane” and skill up. This is new and scary for me. First of all, I totally blew it on predicting how long Java would be around! Do I pick Python and maybe gear towards AI? Do I go Full Stack development? Maybe I go C# and Unity. Round and round I go, hmmm….

In the end, for no apparent reason, I recalled the advice I’ve given so many in the past. My answer to the “I want to get into programming, so what’s the best language to learn?” question has always been the same. An if statement is an if statement. A while loop is a while loop. Until you are comfortable with that it doesn’t really matter. Do something that is fun and easy to get started with. If it’s not fun, you’ll stop doing it long before you master it.

Well, I don’t need to learn the structure of a program, but there is value in rediscovering a comfort level with the practice of programming. Install the requisite software, fire up an IDE, write code, execute and test it, check it in somewhere. You know, have fun again.

With that in mind, this weekend I did some cleanup on my old Lenovo Helix. This machine will be a problem later, it’s still running Windows 8.1, but it will serve as a nice, portable playground for now. It will also serve well enough while I get my more powerful laptops going. I have two Lenovo W520s and a T520. The W520s have more RAM and disk space so I can go with a slim OS and then virtualize whatever development environment(s) I want after that.

So while I monkey with those machines, my little bitty Helix now has Strawberry Perl, Smalltalk (Squeak) and TeX on it. It even has an install of NodeJS from a Homeschool programming class I taught, so maybe I’ll update that. I also installed VSCode and Hello Worlded in it with Perl, Perl/Tk and Prima. I need to pick a database and add DBI/DBD as well. Maybe by the time my other laptops are ready I’ll have picked a lane and be ready to get serious.

’till then, be sure to checkout my other blog, Doer’s of Stuff, where I’ll talk a bit about the setup as well as my progress!

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by Robert time to read: 3 min