Don’t be a Code Tyrant, Be A Mentor

Hardware hacking is a way of life here at Hackaday. We celebrate projects every day with hot glue, duct tape, upcycled parts, and everything in between. It’s open season to hack hardware. Out in the world, for some reason software doesn’t receive the same laissez-faire treatment. “Too many lines in that file” “bad habits” “bad variable names” the comments often rain down. Even the unsafest silliest of projects isn’t safe. Building a robot to shine lasers into a person’s eyes? Better make sure you have less than 500 lines of code per file!

Why is this? What makes readers and commenters hold software to a higher standard than the hardware it happens to be running on? The reasons are many and varied, and it’s a trend I’d like to see stopped.

Software engineering is a relatively young and fast evolving science. Every few months there is a new hot language on the block, with forums, user groups, and articles galore. Even the way software engineers work is constantly changing. Waterfall to agile, V-Model, Spiral model. Even software design methodologies change — from pseudo code to UML to test driven development, the list goes on and on.

Terms like “clean code” get thrown around. It’s not good enough to have software that works. Software must be well commented, maintainable, elegant, and of course, follow the best coding practices. Most of these are good ideas… in the work environment. Work is what a lot of this boils down to. Software engineers have to stay up to date with new trends to be employable.

There is a certain amount of “born again” mentality among professional software developers. Coders generally hate having change forced upon them. But when they find a tool or system they like, they embrace it both professionally, and in their personal projects. Then they’re out spreading the word of this new method or tool; on Reddit, in forums, to anyone who will listen. The classic example of this is, of course, editors like the vi vs emacs debate.

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The Python Programming Language For Physical Hacking

We see projects here all the time that blend computing with the real world. Some people are naturally stronger on the mechanical end of things, whereas some are better with electronics or coding. All three specialities can be needed depending on your project. If your weakness lies in making a computer do your bidding, I might suggest that the Python language is a good one to learn.

I’ve been going through Learn Python the Hard Way, which is offered for free online, or you can pay for it if you so choose. I’ve published my thoughts on lessons 1-10 and 11-20 so far. As a mechanical engineer with limited (but not totally nonexistent) programming skills, it’s been an excellent experience so far.

If you’re wondering if Python is a good language to learn if you’d like to participate in [HAD] style projects, why not check out the following projects featured here:

Or just do a search of [HAD], and you’ll find many other projects for inspiration. If you’ve got a Python project to share, be sure to tell us about it in the comments!