I'm super new to programming and I've been using appengine to help me learn python and general coding. I'm getting better quickly and I'm loving it all the way :)

Appengine was awesome for allowing me to just dive into writing my app and getting something live that works (see http://www.7bks.com/). But I'm realising that the longer I continue to learn on appengine the more I'm constraining myself and locking myself into a single system.

I'd like to move to developing on full django (since django looks super cool!). What are my next steps? To give you a feel for my level of knowledge:

  • I'm not a unix user
  • I'm not familiar with command line controls (I still use appengine/python completely via the appengine SDK)
  • I've never programmed in anything other than python, anywhere other than appengine
  • I know the word SQL, but don't know what MySQL is really or how to use it.

So, specifically:

  • What are the skills I need to learn to get up and running with full django/python?
  • If I'm going to host somewhere else I suppose I'll need to learn some sysadmin type skills (maybe even unix?). Is there anywhere that offers easy hosting (like appengine) but that supports django?
  • I hear such great things about heroku I'm considering switching to RoR and going there

I appreciate that I'm likely not quite ready to move away from appengine just yet but I'm a fiercely passionate learner (http://www.7bks.com/blog/179001) and would love it if I knew all the steps I needed to learn so I could set about learning them. At the moment, I don't even know what the steps are I need to learn!

Thank you very much. Sorry this isn't a specific programming question but I've looked around and haven't found a good how-to for someone of my level of experience and I think others would appreciate a good roadmap for the things we need to learn to get up and running.



PS - if anyone is in London and fancies showing me the ropes in person that would be super awesome :)


There are multiple alternate platforms for App Engine, including Appscale and TyphoonAE, so you're not locking yourself in by using App Engine. Is there a concrete reason you want to leave?

Written by Nick Johnson

Accepted Answer

First up, you can benefit by doing some RoR work by learning a new language. However, I don't know if that'll be entirely beneficial to you right now since you still are learning. I'd stick with Python and Django (or AppEngine) for the moment, until you can grasp some of the more advance concepts. Then, by all means, learning new languages will be fantastic.

As for moving to Django from AppEngine. There isn't a whole lot that's different. The way you define models is similar, but has different types for the definition. As you mentioned, hosting is another consideration.

There should be plenty of hosting options (mod_wsgi is what you're after) based on Apache. Django in particular has seen quite a bit of popularity, and hosting usually springs up for popular frameworks.

I don't think you'll need to know too much sysadmin stuff. This will all depend on the kind of hosting you can find. Same goes for the database. Hosting providers usually offer databases preconfigured so you shouldn't need to worry about that too much.

Django, along with many other frameworks, provide an ORM (Object Relational Mapper) which abstracts away having to write SQL, by calling methods on objects and accessing their properties. I'd advise learning a little bit of SQL to understand it at a bare minimum though.

The Django tutorial is excellent! If you decide to go the Django route, I'd highly recommend working through the entire thing. A development server comes bundled, so you can try out your work instantly without worrying about a provider. Once you have something you want to share with the world, you can worry about hosting then.

I started off using Windows for Django development and it was quite easy. The amount of command line work you need to do is minimal. Really. Not something you need to worry about, as the tutorial covers all 4 or so commands you need to know.

Django hosting provides links to hosting providers, though I'm not sure how up to date that list is.

Getting started in Django is pretty simple. Once you want to host it, there's a bit more work involved - but that can come later. The friction is minimal. Follow the tutorial, it will take you through running the server, setting up the database (a free one comes bundled), and coding your first app.

Written by Josh Smeaton
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