The Muse suggested I write one of these to highlight my professional accomplishments, especially since this blog is listed on my resume (I don’t know if that looks kind of tacky, but LGL does give a good idea of what I’ve been doing and what skills I have, so it is practical). I guess it feels a little odd for me, because I can’t remember everything offhand myself. Fortunately, I can flip back through my archives and see what’s been up based on my blog posts.
I’m not sure who this is for, honestly. Mostly, my accomplishments last year were not exactly professional, more just personal projects and so on.
Divided up into sections which are roughly the same length, for easier reading. Not all have the same number of months. Roughly chronological order because I’m using old posts to help me remember all the stuff I did last year. (It was a lot.)
Attending community college to earn an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in Programming (have been since the previous fall).
I was in the Linux learning stages myself, and also learning to use VirtualBox. It seems like a lot longer ago than it was. I made this blog, and wrote a post describing how to set up a Linux VM. I discovered Debian and it became my favorite distro so far. I tried learning to program in C, but didn’t go very far with it because my classes became pretty difficult right after I started getting into it, and haven’t come back to it yet because I haven’t had anything I want to make that requires low-level programming. I’m still learning the high-level stuff for now.
Took a Linux class and surprised myself with how much of the material I already knew from a few months’ odd tinkering here and there. Read Eric S. Raymond’s paper “Cathedral and the Bazaar” and wrote a bit of commentary on it. Converted a Windows box into a mostly-Linux box (it has had very few problems to date, mostly from the age of old files that needed transferring). Started looking for jobs, but as I wasn’t of age until late June, most turned me away on the spot.
Oh, and I got some kind of honor award or something because I’d gotten straight As that semester. I forget what it was. President’s List or something.
Started poking around in the book Head First Design Patterns. (I should come back to that.) Decided I was pretty competent with Linux and wrote the post that made this blog popular–it was actually a long time in planning, starting with a cold email to ESR about whether there was a book on learning to use Linux, and a casual remark that if not, I’d throw my links on a WordPress blog or something and send it to him so he could send it to all the other teenage nerds who were probably emailing him the same question. Instead, he put it on his “How to Become a Hacker” page–which is a courtesy I was not expecting, and suddenly this blog gained a whole bunch of readers. So many that my link above is basically superfluous, because nearly all of the people reading this are reading because of that page. I can’t thank ESR enough for this, my readers are awesome.
Anyway, June was a busy month, and I definitely didn’t stop there.
I discovered Paul Graham’s essay page and started binge-reading. I decided I wanted to start a startup (which I still do, but am putting off due to a lack of cofounder candidates until I go to a 4yr university) and began mentally designing my product. I discovered TechWeek and arranged with my parents to go during September to the Kansas City event.
Also, I turned 18.
Finished reading the last of PG’s essay archive. Started building a cross-platform app called tinypapers, which was to be an app to store notes, business cards, receipts, and all the other clutter paper that ends up in wallets and pockets. I spent a lot of time on that. Also wrote some casual essays on the blog based on reader comments and whatnot.
Wrote some more essays, including a long, rambling one about software licensing and how to compromise on it for businesses that want to make money from selling software. I probably overthought that.
Worked on tinypapers some more, had several major impostor syndrome episodes, went back to work, fixed bugs, etc.
Got my first job that had paperwork attached: a 3-month internship at an engineering company. To be honest, it wasn’t really a programming job as I’d believed, and it wasn’t something I would have wanted to keep long-term for reasons I won’t elaborate on, but it was a job, it paid more than minimum wage, and it wasn’t retail or food service, so on balance it wasn’t a bad deal.
When I went back to school later in August, I started working on Raspberry Signage. If you haven’t read about it on the blog yet, Raspberry Signage is a project I designed in response to a school official’s announcement in one of my classes that our digital bulletin boards were on some very shaky, unsupported ground, because the company that the school had been paying lots of money to maintain the boards had gone out of business.
I designed a solution in which the monitors would each get a $35 Raspberry Pi minicomputer attached to them, which would be programmed to visit a WordPress website in Chome’s Presentation Mode (which hides the navigation bar). This web site would simply display a slideshow of whatever signs we needed to show around the school.
This project is my baby, and it’s almost finished. We’re going to need some real hosting, rather than just the little Apache server I set up back in one of our labs. We’ll probably want a dedicated Internet connection for them–or at least getting them hooked up to the tablet network, which is a mysterious secret thing where only dedicated people are allowed to know the credentials and whatnot, so if we go this route, I sure hope one of their dedicated people knows how to stick together some code on a Linux box. I wish I could say the school doesn’t have anyone who’d faint at the idea of using a terminal-based text editor on Linux config files so as to give the machine access to the school network… but I can’t, because there’s bound to be at least a few people who would look at that and think we were cracking the network. And then there’s the ordeal of configuring aaaalllll the different monitors with their different screen resolutions, because I don’t think I’ve seen two around the school that are alike, and RPis are not the best at auto-configuring screen resolution, so you kind of have to do it by hand.
(I probably would not have understood most of that giant paragraph I just typed a year and a half ago. My, how far we’ve come.)
Most of the programming is done, though. I just need to tweak the image I have.
Kudos to my brother Tim Yoder for doing big, big chunks of the work on this. I didn’t have access to an RPi or anything when I came up with this idea, so he was the one who found out which config files to edit. He even poked around until he found a WP slideshow theme that fit our needs. I was going to code one by hand, being green enough not to look for the pre-invented wheel first.
Attended TechWeek in Kansas City, and visited UMKC. I really liked Kansas City and decided to apply to UMKC. (My other three choices are Chicago colleges. Chicago is pretty awesome too.)
I discovered that tinypapers was basically Evernote, and “officially” stopped working on it, as I decided I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. (Unofficially, I’d been busy with a combination of my job and a very stressful set of classes, and hadn’t been working on it for a while.) I guess I’m still kind of holding a candle for the idea that I’ll finish it as an open-source project, but I can probably find more productive things to make.
I applied to Y Combinator with a different idea that had been in the back of my head for a while, even though I had no cofounder and they’re really reluctant to accept one-person companies (they’ve only taken a few). I got turned down; oh, well. I’ll find someone who wants to make neat stuff with me eventually.
Made a GitHub account and put tinypapers up on it. Not properly, because I had no idea how to use git at the time. It’s since been cleaned up.
Volunteered at my school’s “Plant Yourself in STEM” event, where we make a day out of the Hour of Code program and run other programs on the same day. I ran a Linux activity both days we held the event. My activity consisted of this game I wrote, this FAQ I wrote, and my giving a little mini-speech on what Linux and open-source was all about. It was a very successful event, and I’m proud of the work I did to help make it happen!
I also learned the basics of git and cleaned up tinypapers’s GitHub repository.
Anyway, that’s what I did last year! Which also makes a history of this blog, basically, since it started in March. That reminds me: I have to figure something out for the blog’s first birthday.
It was really interesting reading through some of my old posts. I have poor emotional memory, but I’m also a good writer, so it brought back a lot. I’m remembering how much fun it was to work on a big project with big aspirations, and it’s making me want to go back to that. Maybe it won’t be tinypapers, but I want to get back into something big I can work on for eight hours straight on weekends and stuff, because that was a lot of fun.
Post in the comments below: what did you do last year that you were most proud of? It can be your proudest programming-related moment, or just your favorite accomplishment.
Signing off, and happy hacking!