Kartones Blog

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Course Review: Master English (Udemy)

Another course from Udemy, another review. Master English: Improve Your Speaking, Listening, & Writing provides around 5 hours of content to improve your intermediate level. My small caveats or things to improve after going through it are:

  • Some mistakes not edited/corrected. I understand that it takes time, but leaving them looks unprofessional. Once or twice is fine to correct on the fly a mistake and keep on, but happens enough to be noticeable
  • There is background noise at some videos, and a few ones sound metallic as if recorded with lower-quality microphone. Again lowers the perceived quality
  • Quality of the slides is varied, in general they are good but some images are terribly low quality, a few images have black text over them (making hard to read anything), and sometimes the speaker does the mouse cursor dance thingy (appearing or directly "pointing out" text), which at least to me is quite annoying
  • Topics are very varied, as in "a few ones might not interest you at all"

As you can see, nothing major and content is good enough to be worth the cheap price.


Course Review: Webpack 2: The Complete Developer's Guide (Udemy)

Webpack is a tool so widely used for React applications (including at work) and keeping at bay the Javascript tooling madness, that I wanted to also learn how it works, and avoid mistakes I made in the past like ignoring grunt and then having a bad time just working locally with simple SPAs.

Review

This Udemy course includes around 5 hours of nicely done diagrams and code walkthroughs and demos so that we can learn quite a few things about Webpack. It not only teaches the tool itself, including quite a few gotchas and basic plugins, but also extra plugins listed for Babel, automating script bundles injection into index.html, chunk-hash into filenames, bundling CSS & outputing them as single CSS file (vs inlining), React & Redux specific setups, and advices like code splitting based on React-Router routes.

It is really well explained for somebody who has his/her Javascript obsolete (like me), and if anything, the author goes sometimes a bit slow and over-explaining, which is good for beginners. You can watch some portions at 1.5x without problems and still get everything.

After the broad topics, there are sections for developing with and deploying both static and non-static websites, some deployment examples (although all of them with utils so don't expect a detailed AWS S3 deploy) and explains how to use webpack middleware for Express (uses Node & Express as the backend server for the non-static website).

Considering it is a tool, so at least for me a topic that can easily get boring, it covered everything I expected, plus some extras you might find or not so interesting.


Course Review: Learn Redux (Wes Bos)

After a basic React course, I went on to learn some Redux, and chose again a Wes Bos course, both because I really liked the React one and because not only is free but also encouraged by the author to be taken just after the React one.

Review

Learn Redux is a 2.5 hours course in which we'll build a simple Instagram clone by using React, React-Router and Redux. We learn how to use reducers, stores and connectors, reading initial data from some instagram JSON dumps but then operating with React state (using stores).

Again feels like magic how easy and simple everything feels when it's well explained. You can't beat the price, but still I think was more than worth the time to do it. Probably there are lots of advanced topics but I think I now kow the basics to build React SPAs.


Course Review: React for Beginners (Wes Bos)

I'm now going to work in a project which involves lots of frontend work and, as we use React, Redux and ES6, I need to hone my Javascript kung-fu, which has not been used extensively since 2013 (meaning "used on a daily basis for prolonged periods of time"). I got really good feedback about this course and decided to give it a try.

Review

React for Beginners is an online 5 hours video course by the great and funny Wes Bos. By building an online single-page application to manage fish inventory and create orders, we get taught the basics of React: Components, JSX, state management, props, modules... plus other interesting topics like how to deploy a React app, some ES6 features, using the Redux Chrome developer tools extension, how to work with Firebase (the backend used to persist data)...

I not only think it is a great course (it even felt short and I watched the 29 videos version!), but the way it is explained (clearly, with clean and understandable code, and full of tiny tips here and there) and even the funny author comments when he makes a small mistake or the small error debugging sessions make it a great resource to start working with this technology.

Definetly recommended.


My Building Autonomous Agents With gym-retro talk

Few weeks ago the 10th edition of The MindCamp event took place. With 20 attendants (a third less than past editions, as the date was chosen with not much margin and some people couldn't assist), as usual the talks were great, the people better and we spent a nice weekend at a rural house talking, eating and even doing some coding.

As almost every edition, I prepared a talk, but this year I wanted something different, if possible related with videogames. I was thinking on talking about Microsoft's TextWorld, but instead tried something cooler, gym-retro, and decided to give an introductory talk to reinforced learning.

The whole talk is uploaded here: https://slides.kartones.net/028.html but what's more interesting is that I uploaded to my GitHub all the source code of the agents and miscellaneous instructions and tips I gathered while preparing the talk and the demos. Initially I planned to write all the details in this blog post, but then decided to improve instead the GH repository's README (not too much, but some quick tips to get started).

Don't expect anything incredible as I didn't used Deep Learning, so the agents are quite dumb, but the concept of the JERK agent is still interesting enough and adapting it from the Sonic videogame to Golden Axe (including the LUA script) was a fun mini-experiment.

Here are some animated GIFs of some of the agents, if you feel curious check the slides and the code, it's not rocket science :)

Alleway Gameboy

Smash TV NES

Golden Axe MegaDrive/Genesis


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