Java: more foreign than 3rd form French

02:21, Jul 08 2013

In a fit of what I can only describe as supreme craziness, I went out and borrowed a book from the library the other day called (wait for it) Java All-in-One for Dummies.

It's a huge book - massive. It's apparently nine books in one, too, or so the front of it declares in eye-catching letters. It promises to teach me how to program in Java.

''Oh, Game Junkie, what is behind this fit of madness? Why would you borrow a book on learning to program in Java? Aren't you a little old to be doing that sort of stuff? Oh, and by the way, how old are you, really?*''  you're probably asking yourself. Well, read on to find out.

Master Game Junkie, bless his 14-year-old socks, thinks we should build a mobile app, put it on a marketplace, then make squillions of dollars out of it. ''Good idea,'' I thought. ''I mean, how hard can this programming lark be? After all, I played around with my ZX Spectrum back in the day.''

It's quite hard, actually. You see, Miss Game Junkie saw me looking at another Dummies book, called Android App Development (for Dummies) at a book shop in Dunedin so, she said she'd buy it for me - to repay me for all the thousands and thousands of dollars I'd spent on her over the years. Thanks, love.

I know I'm not going make squillions from it but I thought I'd like to see what it's all about. Master Game Junkie has an intriguing idea for a game and after a session of family brainstorming while having coffee at Riverstone Kitchen just outside Oamaru (its lemon meringue cake is to die for), a seed had been planted. I started reading the App Development for Dummies and noted that its author recommended if I didn't have an understanding of Java I'd best pick up a book that would remedy that. Hence the trip to the library.

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I downloaded the Android SDK and a program called Eclipse and decided that, against my better judgment, I'd put the Java for Dummies book aside and try to fudge it on my own using the exercises in the App Development book.

It all seemed straightforward-ish until it came to actually starting a project. Then things turned into a foreign language, like this:

android: id="@/toggleButton"
android:layout_width="wrap_content"
android:layout_height="wrap_content"
android:layout_gravity="center_horizontal"
android:text="Toggle Silent Mode"
/>

What the what? Foreign language. It's harder to learn than 3rd Form French, which I took, oh, donkey's ages ago. Or maybe it's because I'm so old that my brain just hasn't got the room to absorb any more information.

Eclipse, though, seems very intuitive and when I switch to code mode, rather than graphical mode, it'll actually highlight code errors. A couple of times it actually offered to fix them for me, which I know won't help me learning from mistakes but it's much easier.

I'm hoping to stick with it but truth be told, I'll probably crack under the pressure and give up in a few weeks' time, consigning the book to the Graveyard of Technical Books pile in the spare room. Already residing there is HTML 4 for Dummies, a printed out manual for TrueSpace 4, and numerous magazines with discs containing free graphics programs.

Tips and tricks from anyone who's tackled app making would be appreciated.

* I'm 44 if you're interested.

Other stuff you might be interested in: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here, which was actually updated recently. You should check it out.