Cocoa Bootcamp at Big Nerd Ranch

Posted on April 10, 2008 by Scott Leberknight

Last week I went to the Cocoa Bootcamp at the Big Nerd Ranch. It was held outside Atlanta at the Historic Banning Mills country inn in Whitesburg, GA - pretty much in the woods in the middle of nowhere, which was nice because there were no distractions like when you go to training in a big city where you want to go out do things every night.

Historic Banning Mills

Aaron Hillegass taught the class and is the author of the excellent Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X which was actually what we used during the class all week. The bottom line for me was that this was the best training class I've ever attended. It was basically one week of intense learning and writing (lots and lots and lots of) code, as the class was way more hands-on than any other training I've attended. Aaron would show some slides on a topic, talk about the real-world implications, and then we were off working through the examples in the book with Aaron providing help and guidance along the way. Everyone in the class was extremely motivated to learn and Aaron (as well as Mark Fenoglio who was assisting Aaron and the students) was willing to stay late at night helping you out with the code labs and exercises.

At Big Nerd Ranch it goes like this: Wake up and go to a nice sit-down breakfast where you try not to eat too much of the good food they provide. Then you go downstairs to a nice classroom from 9am until 12:30pm and write lots of Cocoa code. After that you have more good food at lunch, have about an hour of training after lunch followed by an afternoon hike. Below is JavaScript (and Cocoa) Jedi Master Jason Harwig making his way on one of the hikes along with several other photos I took along the hikes.

Jason hiking

Hiking along the river:

River along hiking trail

An old mill along the river:

Old mill along hiking trail

The hike (and apparently swimming as well in the summer months) is a great way to break up the training day, refresh, and re-energize. Usually about that time in other training classes I would prefer to take a nap and require need a mass infusion of caffeine. But after the hikes I was ready for some more Cocoa! After the hike you go back and do some more learning/coding until about 6:30 when a nice country dinner is served. Good food and they provide free wine and beer, which is always a plus anywhere! After dinner many students actually go back to the training room and write code for several more hours and somehow you actually want to do it! In other training classes by about 5pm my brain is on the way out and I want to stop doing anything related to training. For some reason here, though, you seem to have more energy and drive to keep on coding.

I had a great time and am planning to go back and take more training there, probably the Python Bootcamp since I have been interested in Python for a few years now and have written some admin-type scripts for various projects I've been on as well as worked my way through a Python introductory book. Now that Google App Engine is available and that you currently must code in Python-only I am even more motivated to go and take this course. I'm hoping that as influential innovative companies like Google show that Java and .NET aren't the only game in town to "real" businesses, perhaps they'll be more willing to implement projects in more flexible and lightweight technologies.

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