iOS Training by Big Nerd Ranch at Historic Banning Mills
(aka: A Bunch of Nerds in the Woods)
With the popularity of mobile applications ever on the rise, it is very important for companies to stay at the leading edge of mobile development. A common first choice for companies getting into mobile development is to build their first app for the iOS platform because the Apple app store is generally more popular (or at least more lucrative) than the Android market. For anyone with a traditional programming background (C, C++, Java, C#, etc.), it is typically not too difficult to change from one language to another. However, iOS development is done using Objective C, which I can only describe as some child of C, Bash, and Perl. Tack onto that the various frameworks Apple has built to support iOS development, and you’re left with a pretty significant learning curve entering a complex coding space.
I currently work in R&D for FNC. Our team is responsible for looking into and trying out new technologies that can help our company stay on the leading edge of technology. As a Ph.D. candidate at Ole Miss, I like to keep up with the current works going on in academia that might translate well to the business world. Unfortunately, app development is something you can tinker with and get to work, but it’s difficult to go from “hey, I made it load a new page” to building a fleshed-out, content-rich application that users will actually like and use. With this in mind, it was beneficial for me to attend an iOS training camp to jump-start my app coding ability to move towards developing apps that people will enjoy using.
Big Nerd Ranch (BNR) is a company that specializes in various training programs, with iOS training being their specialty. BNR conducts training at three different locations: Georgia, California, and the Netherlands. The class I attended was BNR’s “Beginning iOS Development.” Over the next few blog installments, I plan to share a journal of my experience including stories about the culture of the event to highlights of the coding lessons learned.
Day 1 – Friday
I attended class in BNR’s Georgia location, which is only about 3.5 hours from my house. I left Mississippi about 2 p.m. since BNR begins with a 6:30 p.m. meal on the first night. With a 3.5 hour drive, I left myself an hour to spare. Unfortunately for me, I failed to take into account that Georgia is in a different time zone … whoops. Fortunately, I made good time getting there, so I made it to dinner right at 6:30 p.m. ET. BNR is unique in that it is located in a remote retreat location at a place called Historic Banning Mills (HBM). All meals are served by HBM, and you sit with everyone attending.
What was a shock for me was that both Internet and cell phone service is very limited at HBM. The idea is to separate attendees from the outside world to better increase your learning ability and to allow you to relax. It took a little getting used to, but I eventually really enjoyed it because I got to read a lot in my down time.
Everyone I met on the first night was very nice. It’s kind of odd to put a bunch of nerds together at a table and expect us to socialize because tech people aren’t usually the most social. Everyone was actually very nice and chatty. After dinner, our instructor introduced himself, and everyone had to share who they were and what they did. There was quite a diverse group of people in the group. About 75% of the group were people like me who were coming from their respective companies to get a foothold on how to develop mobile apps. There was a student from Texas who was there just to learn; a few retired guys who liked to code; and a father/son pair who were taking a trip together.
In the next installment of this series, I’ll talk about the first few days at BNR, including working with Objective C, digging in to app development, and even spending some time on HBM’s trails.