Thursday, February 16, 2012

Learn to Program Now with these Free Websites

Codecademy gets you programming right away.
Buying a book on a specific programming language used to be the way to go about learning how to program or "code".  These days however there are more and more great resources online that make the learning process interactive and fun, best of all they are free, and you can start right now.


This website throws you right in to learning JavaScript from the moment you land on the page.  The terminal is conveniently located in the browser so no set-up is required on your computer.  The lessons are featured in short blocks and offer hints if you get stuck.  Codecademy makes it fun by making the mini lessons short and sweet; they even reward you with points and badges for completing levels that you can share with friends via tweet or FB.  The website's functionality is impressive and the way the lessons emerge you in programming gives the user instant gratification, which is more than most print programming manuals can do.  I highly recommend Codecademy for anyone that has any interest in learning how to program.  Go there now and code my friend, it is awesome- you can do it.

W3C Schools

The World Wide Consortium (W3C) is really the authoritative source on the internet and is comprised of an international community that develops open standards that ensures long term growth of the web.  The W3C Schools website is a must have resource for web developers and programmers.  There are interactive online tutorials in HTML, HTML5, CSS, XML, JavaScript, Ajax, and the list goes on.  When you begin to build your own websites you can use many of the diagnostic and compliance tools to ensure your website validates with current web standards.  W3C is a great resource for experienced programmers too, it is in most developers bookmarks and tool kit.


Udacity is comprised of high profile educators who come from top tier institutions such as Stanford and University of Virginia who have left their prestigious institutions to offer their courses to the world for free.  There are currently two classes on offer which is CS101: Building a Search Engine (for beginners with no programming experience) and CS373: Programming a Robotic Car (for higher level programmers).  The courses are 7 weeks long and promise amazing learning outcomes like, "Building a Search Engine like Google or Yahoo".  The classes are free and enrollment is as high as 160,000 students!  I have not had a chance to participate in these classes yet, but plan to start my first one in a few days.  Check out the site and see who is involved in the project (Google) and I am sure you will want to take advantage of this no-cost program.

So, You Want to be a Hacker

Hackthis!!, is an innovative and educational website where you can learn the tricks and tips of website security. The site walks you through all sort of activities that teach you the "ins and outs" of website weaknesses, all the while teaching you the basics of cracking the Hackthis!! website.  This is fun, safe, and educational hacking that will ultimately make you a better web developer and a more experienced programmer.  In actuality, the desire to be a hacker is not a prerequisite since the lessons are puzzle-like, challenging, and fun. The lessons start out fairly easy and gradually become more complicated.  Hackthis!! is a great tool to better understand how modern day hackers do their thing.  While you won't be a pro hacker in minutes, cracking every website you see, you will get a basic understanding on how to shore up the security on you own websites and get a little knowledge of how the black hats got their start.

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