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#1 Hikaroshi  Icon User is offline

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Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 05 November 2011 - 01:28 PM

When I was in middle school I started learning HTML, CSS, and a little bit of PHP and MYSQL just to get by (and apparently help other people with to some degree). I was self taught at the time and really enjoyed doing it, even when I got stuck with things like PHP/MYSQL.

I know web design isn't programming, but it's a step that some programmers are introduced to before realizing that they like programming. Because I enjoyed web design I decided to look into taking computer science classes in college. Prior to that, when I told my academic adviser about my background I was told "oh, none of that is real programming and I think you might be more suited for the humanities". I feel like every time I take a programming class whatever he said became true more so when I started taking those classes. Sometimes I wonder why I'm having such difficulty when it comes to programing and now I'm starting to assume it's because every class in my school's computer science department deals with a different language, and I need to spend more time with one language in order to understand the logic.

I'm currently taking assembly language and unlike my peers, I am always stuck, sometimes I know what steps I need to take but have errors that I cannot figure out once I code it and submit an incomplete homework assignment. Sometimes I honestly don't even know where to start or what the teacher was trying to say, and even after explanation I STILL don't understand exactly, almost like 'the reason why your code doesn't work is because of this totally nonsensical illogical reason I seem to not understand'. It seems like a lot of my classmates can program their material on their own because I'm always the only one visiting the tutor (which isn't bad) and that they can also program in a shorter time period (like two hours before the deadline) when I'm the opposite. I know it's bad to look at other people, but it became worse when I had to take a class on data structures last year, we had to read everyone's thoughts on the programming assignment and some of them would brag.

Honestly, I feel like my teachers are just giving us assignments and we have to figure everything out through the use of the internet, almost like it becomes pointless to go to class. Last week I had to turn in an assignment that dealt more with the conceptual side of assembly, and well, I didn't do so well.

Anyway, I want to know what I can do to improve my skills? I feel like I'm missing the main idea that everyone else seemed to grasp, what am I missing? I think I'm the type of person who needs a lot of walk-throughs with good descriptions in order to understand what is going on.

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Replies To: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

#2 zombieMadMonkey1971  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 06 November 2011 - 12:08 AM

Had been a Supervisor of more than 350 people and responsible for each ones safety, and train. Not only that teaching them life lessons and for myself as well. The hardest thing for each of person is doubting ourselves. I myself have doubt, in my abilities but this is what I do to overcome.

I'll look at the situation and think what else I can do about it. Can I change it, or can I not. If I can not how can I learn from this and not repeat this. For programming or learning anything new..it takes time and practice. Think about this..Master painter or Computer programmer all began at the beginning, They over time became Master at there art..with hard work and practice.

Talk to your teachers, other students who seem to get it and ask them how they study, how they tackled that assignment that was difficult for you. You'll also be suprised that those students say there the best at everything will not show there assignment grades or they drop out of class. STOP Comparing yourself to them! You are learning at your pace and not there. Start a study group and work on topics that are hard for you to grasp. Ask the teacher for a better explaination on the topic, go see them at there office hours. You be suprised the teacher will gladly help you especially when you show them you true want to learn the subject they love.

Lastly, Do what you dream of..if web designing is you dream go for it. You already know things don't come come easy..what fun would it be if everything came easy.

Counselor are just guides, they suggest things and if they tell you should do this remember it's a suggestion..it's your choice! Do what you need to finish your dreams.. :D

This post has been edited by zombieMadMonkey1971: 06 November 2011 - 12:11 AM

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#3 Hikaroshi  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 06 November 2011 - 07:09 AM

Yeah, I know I shouldn't compare myself. I think I started to really do so after last year's class in java where we had to review our peer's thoughts on the program. Initially it was to highlight key findings while they were programming, associate the programming technique to something else that can be applicable, etc. As time went on a few students didn't do that, I think they knew that there were another set of students who didn't find the assignments that easy and needed an ego boost by saying that the started the assignment late, finished it, and did more than they were required to do.

As you'd say right here, don't look at them. I'd agree with that, but sadly it was hard because my teacher was grading me against them, meaning my first 5 programming assignments would work well, completed, did exactly what was assigned. Instead of getting an A- or A on the assignment, I'd get like a B/B-, and if I'm lucky a B+ because the teacher thought I could have wrote one part of my program more concise or differently. As the class went into the semester and a lot of students were less able to complete a successful program, I'd still get the same B/B- grades for things like null pointer exceptions, so my initial theory was confirmed.

My school's computer science department is rather small, so most of the people I saw in my other computer science classes are always going to be with me (unless they're a year or two above me and graduate), and I'd assume that there are the most, 10 people in my current class. Out of those 10 people I'm always the only one who seems to have to go to the tutor for help, on the bright side, it's great that I'm the only one there because I can get help without waiting 30 minutes for it, but at the same time I kind of wish that I too could have a point in this class where I can figure it out on my own for the most part. So, having a study group is kind of a long shot since all of them are programming on their own. Last year in that java class, I did have a study group, sometimes it was more frustrating being in the group as the people I'd work with would want me to be a human debugger even when I was a step or two behind them, and one of them had this tendency to leave as soon as they were able to get their program running, so in the long run I could never concentrate effectively while I was around them.

I'm the type of person to always seek help, always going to the teacher's assistant, always going to the teacher after class or during her office hours, but I feel like sometimes whatever she says is like magic. I don't know if that makes any sense, I'm actually an engineering student and I came in with a weak math background, now I'm doing a whole lot better because I made the effort to get help, I'm grading for an applied mathematics class at my school so that's a big step from what I came in with. I remember there was a point where math seemed like magic to me because I didn't see how the teacher managed to get from one step to another, or one value to another.

I've asked a few students what they have done, there are some students in the class who can't conceptualize the fact that there are people like me taking the class... Like if I were to say I'm having trouble finding this bug in my code or don't know where to start, it's like they can't wrap their heads around the concept of difficulty. Some of them have told me that 'they don't know, they just get it'... Actually, most of the ones I've asked have told me that, or they have told me that they've read the book and that's it (the same book I might be reading, but possibly comprehend it more). I'd want to know what tactic I should be implementing for these programming classes. For example, prior to my first assembly lab, we were required to read up on the concept of registers, I entered lab and the teacher expected us to know how to already understand the programming aspect, of course my peers were typing away, but I was staring at it for a good while and had to ask the teacher: ...What's... all of this, and what do you want us to do with all of this? The lab's instructions were not written so well. After class that day I got frustrated from what happened and looked up the information I needed to know, and that's the only way I understood the stuff the teacher wanted us to get on that day. I feel like unlike my engineering classes, my programming classes hold my hand less, meaning that the way the classes are taught, students are not primed before the next activity or assignment. I don't know.
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#4 NeoTifa  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 06 November 2011 - 10:56 AM

What's your background with hardware? I find it hard to try and tackle Assembly when you don't know how the basic hardware works. Registers are just memory slots that hold a value. They can be however big you want them to be, but most these days seem to be 32 bit. When I took assembly they were 16 bit registers I was fiddling with. If you look at a diagram of a simple Von Neumann model, or a high level model of your computer's architecture, you can more easily see why you have to break it up into certain steps. Have you looked into RTL? It's like pseudocode for Assembly. Once you get that down, Assembly is just syntax.

Also, another way I like to describe the programming process is to ask "what is your program supposed to do? How are you going to do it? What mini tasks will solve this major problem? Which mini tasks will solve those mini tasks?" and so on and so on. The main job of an engineer is to break down the problem into smaller problems, then break those down into smaller problems, then break those down into smaller problems, and so on and so on until all you're left with to figure out is just syntax.
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#5 Hikaroshi  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 13 November 2011 - 07:22 AM

I wouldn't really say I have a background with hardware. The most I've learned about hardware is probably in the first few chapters of 'The Art of Assembly' where they explain the registers and I had to read up on von neumann in the first few weeks of class.

I have not heard or even looked into using RTL.

Since last year I've been trying to plan things out on paper, at least an attempt to do what you have stated above. But, there are some points where I honestly don't know where to go, or some programs I simply don't know where to start. For example, one of my midterm questions asked me to create a program that takes in a string and outputs the hexadecimal value for each character with proper formatting (spacing). I didn't even know where to start... In reality it should be quiet easy to figure out, but in my case... well, I don't know.
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#6 NeoTifa  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 13 November 2011 - 11:27 AM

I had the same assignment for my Computer Organization class. What school do you go to? Also, what dialect of Assembly are you using again?
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#7 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 13 November 2011 - 11:55 AM

You have to understand that programming is nothing more than applying a syntax to logic to solve problems. Can you solve problems? Pretty much everyone can and does whether they know it or not. That is how we learn. Before you rush into writing any code, take a step back, always ask yourself "What is the problem? How do I solve it? Is the solution complex and you don't know where to start? Ok, What steps would I take to solve part of the problem?"

Sometimes problems need research. You know you need to read from an XML file, but what is an XML file? Go read about them. Don't be afraid to crack open some books and read a bit about what something is. Especially if it means that it will put you that much closer to a solution.

And one piece of advice I will give all computer science students or people who want to learn programming... give yourself plenty of time to tackle a project... if you can. Got a project due in two weeks? Better start working on it now, not in a week, not 3 days before deadline. Now! The reason for this is that if you hit a major problem (either technical or design) it could easily throw you for a day or two just so solve that one thing.

Last but not least, expose yourself to everything you can about programming. I know a slew of languages and technologies and I am constantly reading articles, tutorials, looking at code examples etc. You will never know everything... even in a single language. You will need reference material at some point. But reading everything you can and understanding how to do everything you can will always put you a leg up on others. There may be a project next week that those friends of yours will not know a thing about, then they will come to you because you have seen it before. Then everyone will think you are the rockstar of the moment!

:)

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 13 November 2011 - 11:56 AM

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#8 Hikaroshi  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 13 November 2011 - 05:30 PM

@neotifa: I assure you we do not go to the same school, we're not even geographically close to each other. Anyway, we are using nasm.

@Martyr: I've been trying to do that I'd say as of last year. I might be rushing into things a bit more, but in this current assignment I definitely took into consideration what I was advised to do from NeoTifa and attempted broke things into little segments (until, I realized I was asked to do something else, heh) but I'm sure in an ideal world would be correct sans the segmentation fault error.
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#9 Hikaroshi  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 13 November 2011 - 05:52 PM

Actually, in conjunction with taking more time to write plan things prior to coding, would it be advised to work with a higher level programming language on the side of taking this class... I'm kind of interested in things like microcontrollers but was told that if I feel so iffy about my skills as a programmer it will not benefit me as it is more centered around hardware than software. Does it honestly really matter?
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#10 NeoTifa  Icon User is offline

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Re: Frustrated, never seem to get programming

Posted 13 November 2011 - 05:56 PM

Oh, I know the LC-3 dialect, and it was 16 bits for a control word. I think we had TRAP routines that dealt with getting and displaying characters. They were stored in the last 8 bits or something. Just take the bits, add an appropriate offset to take the char 1 to the decimal number 10 and so forth. Then convert it to hex, do a little bit of bit twiddling to get it to the char's representing the hex value, then display it.
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