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Python, my new best friend

Python, my new best friend

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to spend more time writing programs and making stuff.  I have been able to hack things together using example code with surprisingly good results, but when I tried doing API calls to do some data mining, I hit a wall.  I did not know a dictionary from a tuple, and it was time to learn!

Fortunately I came across the Python for Everybody specialization on Coursera.  Taught by Dr. Charles Severance (aka Dr. Chuck), the courses are great for anyone who is just getting started with Python.  Having some programming knowledge is helpful but not entirely necessary.

The series of classes is an adaptation of Dr. Chuck's courses at my alma mater, the University of Michigan.  His well written book, Python for Informatics, serves as the reference for the class.  It is available online in PDF format or from Amazon.  It is easy to follow along with the lecture using the book, and the exercises are well thought out.

This was my first Coursera course, and I actually did the 4 sections for free.  There is a way to validate your work on Coursera if you ever want a course certificate, and I highly recommend doing this.  Once I finished the first 4 sections, I decided to do the Capstone project.  Since I was going to have to pay for the Capstone anyway, I decided to pay for the whole specialization so I could get a course certificate.  To be honest, I don't really need this piece of paper, but I felt that there was so much value in the education that it was worth paying for it. 

I am just starting the Capstone project and will report back once it is complete.  So far the classes have actually helped me to develop some pretty cool Python applications including:

  • A Raspberry Pi based data readout showing my daily sales across our various sites on 7-segment displays
  • A program that does API calls to our biggest vendors to check stock and detect popular items that will soon go out of stock
  • A program that builds a database of our vendors items 

So if you are tinkering with Python on the Raspberry Pi or any platform, check out this course.  I think you will enjoy it!

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Jack - June 29, 2016

I’m in a similar situation – I’ve been randomly chunking out code on an as-needed basis for years but I haven’t really learned anything about programming beyond my FORTRAN/dBase II experiences in the ‘70s. I’m now just about 1/2 way into the first section of the EDx/MITx 6.00.1x course called “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python” which has been really wonderful. The course is true to it’s title – we’re learning how to think like software engineers while learning Python as a “side effect”. The lectures are good and the exercises and problem sets are really well done – they stretch you without being totally overwhelming. Similar to the Coursera course you’ve described, the course is free but you can pay for certification ($49) if you choose to do so. There are four sections to this course; I’m already looking ahead to some other CS/EE courses when I finish this sequence!

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