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2 Years And Nothing...


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I was laid off in early 2009 (i'm an accountant) and became fed up with the current economy. At least in my area, after finishing college with a degree in accounting, I landed a few jobs that lasted only 6 months to 1 year. I was only brought in to do special projects (fix their bank reconciliation problems, etc) and then let go. Or, I was hired but then a year later they decided to outsource their business and I was let go as part of that downsizing. For those reasons I decided to learn web design/web programming in hopes to have my own side business and make some good money, while also having the ability to work in accounting. The more things you know, the better, right?

 

I've purchased just about every PHP, MySQL, HTML, and CSS book out there. I was originally a programming major the first time I went through college but I couldn't keep up with the math and had trouble understanding C++ when it got too abstract. However I switched to accounting and it was right for me. But because of my earlier problems trying to learn C++, I was worried I couldn't learn PHP programming or anything in depth as far as web programming. At first, it was difficult to read through your books and other PHP books. Your PHP for the Web Volume 3 was the best though, along with your PHP and MySQL for Dynamic Web Sites (love your explanations for pagination and verifying accounts via email). It took several months to start to understand it, and I was always in a rush to start coding. I remember reading through half of your book and then sitting down trying to code and not knowing what I was really doing (things didn't really start to click for me until I realized PHP programming is basically all about storing things in variables and then manipulating those variables with other functions). I opened Notepad and was clueless. Notepad! When I got a list of errors I was counting each line trying to find what line the error was on. For whatever reason, it was only weeks later that I started to actually "read" your book and realize that I needed either Notepad plus, Netbeans, or some other IDE. Over time I've discovered and installed Linux, Netbeans, XAMPP, etc. Now i run both Windows 7 and Linux on my laptop (Linux is for web development, Windows 7 is for fun). Two years ago I wouldn't have dreamed I could learn so much and have a decent grasp of HTML (the easiest), CSS 2.1/3 (the most fun), or how PHP and MySQL work together.

 

Even though i used the net since... 1992/93 (Prodigy) I never really sat down to try to learn how the web worked, or how to program for the web. In the beginning I was very confused by "web root" and "outside the web root", IDEs, etc. But at some point more things started to click and things started changing. I can understand HTML/XHTML and validate my pages. I see how the structure is laid out, and how CSS is used to style sites into 2/3 column, etc. And I also see how PHP and MySQL fits in and can write code for logging in, out, creating dynamic headers and footers, etc. Learning all of this from your books has been an eye opening experience, even though it has taken me almost 2 years to become a low moderate/moderate programmer. However I still have not completed my dream of finishing a PHP driven website. I still need more work on joining multiple tables, getting more comfortable with SQL, and the like. I get so far but then just can't get over the hump yet. I guess it doesn't help that I want to keep reading and have a broad overview of what's going on before I sit down and code. I made the mistake before of trying to code things without a good plan, jumping back and forth between html, css, php... and it was just a mess. Eventually I wouldn't know what to do next, then would try and read some advanced topics like AJAX. It seems as if the book learning will never end. I have however concentrated my PHP efforts on all three of your PHP books (PHP for the Web, PHP and MySQL, and Advanced PHP) along with Head First PHP and MySQL, and PHP Solutions by David Powers. Your books, along with the other two I just mentioned, are by far the best. You are my favorite author by far.

 

Thanks for reading. I just wanted to get some comments and see if anyone else who is an avid reader of these books has suffered the same problems in finishing a site. Thanks for reading!

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Hello Lou,

 

When you say you're having problems finishing a site. What kind of problems? I think for any people including myself, you see something online that you want to replicate or add to your site and it can almost become a situation where you're never going to finish. But it seems to me that if you're validating your pages and logging in and out then you're doing well. If you haven't encorparated joins into your site then it doesn't mean you haven't finished your site, because not every site warrants multiple tables.

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For joins and so on, I find another Peachpit Press Visual Quickstart Guide very useful: it's SQL by Chris Fehily. I've got the third edition but have no idea if that's the most recent.

 

I very much like Larry's MySQL examples in the three books you mention because they are real-life examples, they show how to use PHP and MySQL together, and they explain the logic for choosing this or that solution; so I go back to these regularly to try and learn more from them. But I also use the SQL Quickstart Guide when I want to check the different possibilities offered by MySQL. It's usually my first step before going to the MySQL manual online. It's not the kind of book you read from beginning to end in an orderly fashion; at least, I don't! It's rather a simplified version of the manual that concentrates on the queries that are used most often, with quite a lot of examples that get gradually more complex. I usually start with quite a precise idea of what I want to obtain and use the guide to check for the different ways of achieving this result. I've always found it very helpful for joins, grouping or filtering data.

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Hello Lou,

 

When you say you're having problems finishing a site. What kind of problems? I think for any people including myself, you see something online that you want to replicate or add to your site and it can almost become a situation where you're never going to finish. But it seems to me that if you're validating your pages and logging in and out then you're doing well. If you haven't encorparated joins into your site then it doesn't mean you haven't finished your site, because not every site warrants multiple tables.

 

Well, I'm working on a buying/selling site, and I'm just not sure how to finish things... actually allowing users to buy/sell items... how to code that section of it all. how i'm going to handle uploading item photos/how to display them on the auctions, basically all the necessary things. Most books show how to make login forms, create areas for users once logged in, pagination, handling sessions, etc, but it's difficult for me to write code for the important stuff. I'm just clueless until I see how it's actually done. I guess I have some more reading to do (working through Wrox PHP and MySQL right now). I know books aren't going to sugar coat it and show you exactly what to do (well they will, but only for the basics) but I just have a hard time figuring out what i'm doing.

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Plus the way I've been working is strange... I read mostly, I don't like sitting down to code until I have a clear picture of what I'm doing. I'm trying to read every book I can and do the examples. There are a lot of PHP books.

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I can relate to Lou's story, because i'm considering a career change to IT, too (coincidently, i'm an accountant myself, but growing increasingly tired of this field). Leaving aside differences of IT jobs market in US vs East-Europe (where i live), is it (theoretically) possible to land a job in web development, with no CS-university background? I believe in self-study and self-improvement, but i would like an onest opinion from the more experienced members of the forum (or even Larry), about this topic (ok, you may err on the side of optimism :rolleyes: ). Thanks

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Well firstly Lou, your project isn't the easiest to code from scratch. And knowing not where to go is something I guess programmers endure. But keep perservering and there are hundreds of forums dedicated to web development. If you only want some pointers of how to develop a certain aspect, then I'm sure people here or other forums would be able to point you in the right direction. Allowing you to do the majority of the learning and application yourself.

 

Sergiu, I think it is possible, but often so much of life boils down to being in the right place at the right time. There is always the approach of getting the foot in the door at a low position and working your way up too.

 

Although I can't speak for Larry, from memory he took English or a variation at university.

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Lou, thanks for the nice words on my books and for your interest in them. It is appreciated. As for your situation, I don't have much to offer, as everyone learns and works differently. I can say that you may benefit from starting off smaller and working your way up to your end goal. Even 12 years into my career, with each project I learn something new and hopefully do the whole project in a better way. Reading as much as you can is great, but that can also confuse you, as different writers/programmers have different methods and approaches. At the end of the day, you need to sit down and your computer and do it yourself.

 

I don't know if you're subscribed to my newsletter or not, but you may appreciate this article from earlier this year: http://www.larryullman.com/2011/02/01/what-is-larry-thinking-36-becoming-a-better-programmer-and-more/#thinking

 

 

And, yes, my degree is in English. I have no formal computer training save for one Pascal class in 1989. That actually goes towards my work as a writer, though. I credit my programming abilities to two years spent working with symbolic logic. For about 95% of the cases, solving problems and working things out is far less complicated and intuitive than I believe people think it is. The same goes for learning new technologies or languages: there's a difference between OOP and procedural programming, but procedural PHP is similar enough to procedural C and OOP Ruby is similar enough to OOP PHP. Once you grasp theories, the rest is just syntax.

 

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