Big Nerd Ranch vs About Objects, best iOS developer "crash" course?

Discussion in 'iOS Programming' started by Mitthrawnuruodo, Mar 11, 2011.

  1. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus


    Mar 10, 2004
    Bergen, Norway
    My employer has decided that (at least) two of our developer needs to acquire some iOS developing skills and another two might look into the Andriod platfom, and I've been granted to take a beginner's course in iOS programming.

    Background: I've worked mainly in PHP the last couple of years, but have had some (very basic) C/C++ experience, 9-10 years ago.

    I've heard good things about the Big Nerd Ranch, and their Beginning iOS (iPhone/iPad), which seems like a perfect course, with a thorough Objective-C primer before heading into iOS developing.

    The only thing complicating matters is that that course is scheduled in the beginning of May, and the company would prefer that I found a course in June.

    So I browsed around a bit and the most similar course I can find is About Objects and a course bundle called iPhone and iPad Development Bundle, which is being held in June (both in Cupertino and Reston, VA).

    So, does anybody have any experience with About Objects' courses? Are they on par with Big Nerd Ranch?

    Are there any other alternatives?
  2. xyzzycoder, Mar 11, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2011

    xyzzycoder macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2008
    First, let me disclose that I have worked with the owners of both Big Nerd Ranch (Aaron Hillegrass) and About Objects (Jonathan Lehr) in the past. And, I have also been a trainer for About Objects. Both Big Nerd Ranch and About Objects provide excellent programs. Both organizations have been involved in training for a long time and have great technical depth. You cannot go wrong either way.
  3. taylortm macrumors member

    Mar 11, 2011
    California, USA
    About Objects -- Thumbs UP

    I was responsible for setting up a class for our burgeoning iOS developers about a year ago. Actually, it was over a year ago -- pre-iPad days -- November 2009.

    We opted for Jonathan Lehr's (About Objects) 7-day course that combined Intro to Objective-C and iOS SDK Programming. (I was a student, too.)

    TOTALLY a great class.

    We had enough students to warrant an on-site (our turf) class and had a mix of students from "already have an app in the App Store" to "I've never touched an iPhone (and, therefore, don't have any reason to know the first thing about Objective-C)."

    Bottom line: Jonathan did a GREAT job of balancing the wide breadth of experience levels. VERY knowledgeable guy providing VERY relevant information with a good mix of "classroom" vs. "hands-on."

    I highly recommend About Objects. In addition to the class I described above, we also sent two guys to his course in Cupertino. We are also thinking about having him back for the "next step" and/or to usher in a new group of iOS developers.
  4. m4cst3r macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2011
    About Objects: Waste of time/money

    Not a flexible teacher(Really Nice), expects you to throughly know JAVA ahead of time. Said it was a beginner course, it was NOT. I had some programing knowledge ahead of time though not object oriented, still wasn't able to grasp anything he was putting out there. Not to mention the booklets that are handed out are riddled with typos and bad code. In a bad economy, I invested a lot of time and money with nothing to show for it.

    But, if you know JAVA throughly you will have zero problems excelling in this learning atmosphere.

    Overall experience: disappointed after I was convinced I would have no trouble coming out of this course with something useful. The only thing I'm left with is a bad taste in my mouth and strong feeling of being ripped off.
  5. objecto macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2011
    About Objects- Great Course and Worth Every Penny!

    I've really got to disagree with m4cst3r. About Objects is a first class company with a first rate instructor! Before I took the course, I called About Objects and explained my situation. Retired, and an engineer, I had not coded anything in many years. And I knew nothing about JAVA.

    I was encouraged to take the course, and I knew going in I would have to work a bit. So I reviewed C and the object oriented approach before attending.

    I was probably a real challenge for Jonathan. But the end result exceeded my expectations. His patience and unending knowledge about Objective C and the iPhone environment really showed. And he was super patient with my sometimes idiotic questions. I made it through the course, tired but feeling like I had really accomplished something. You do not have to know Java to get this much from the course - I am a perfect example. I still know little about Java but sure have a very good handle on Objective C and iPhone App development.

    So now I have one successful App on the iPhone App Store and two more in the works. The course is one of the best investments I have ever made in my quest for technical knowledge.

    The original question on this thread was Big Nerd or About Objects. You have to make this decision. I've read Big Nerd's book on iPhone Programming and it is quite good. I have not taken the Big Nerd course. However, I have taken the About Objects course and I unequivocally recommend it to anyone wanting to learn iPhone and iPad programming.
  6. m4cst3r, Mar 11, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2011

    m4cst3r macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2011
    @Objecto: I am not sure how you can disagree with my OWN personal experience. I felt I was fair with what I said and I didn't personally attack About Objects or Jon. I think Jon is a generally nice guy and very knowledgeable. Do I feel his teaching ability and the concept of a "beginner" class was oversold to me(by him) I would have to strongly say YES. Did he do anything to make good by it? Not really, I was offered the ability to take the course again for free but lets talk about the expenses that come along with that... time off work, travel, hotel, food when its all added up it was just about the price of the course. So lets see pay for the course 3 times to get the same result. No thanks!

    I'm sure Jon knows who I am and hope will eventually make good on this(because I really believe he is a good guy). As the blind email I received from him to "chime in" on this conversation brought up a lot of bad memories.
  7. ilovemyiphone4 macrumors newbie

    Mar 12, 2011
    I have not attended the Big Nerd Ranch training but I have recently read their book 'The Big Nerd Ranch' guide which is an excellent book that I would recommend you read.

    I have attended training at About Objects.

    I would have to agree with some of the comments that m4cst3r made. I also paid for the class and travel out of my own pocket. I think some of the Ansi C and Objective C material in the first week was redundant and unnecessary.

    The second week felt unstructured. Some of the handouts were of poor quality and out of order. We also did not cover everything in the course outline:

    System Events: Work with the iPhone's built-in accelerometers, GPS, and other system resources - never got to this.

    Integrate with Core Services: Integrate your iPhone or iPad app with Address Book, Maps, Safari, Mail, and other standard applications - never got to this either.

    I don't feel ripped off but I think I could have probably just learnt as much if not more by staying at home and reading some books. Jonathan is a great instructor. He just needs to sit down and re-write some of his class.
  8. jemostrom macrumors newbie

    Mar 12, 2011
    Big Nerd Ranch course

    I took the Big Nerd Ranch iOS course and I can really recommend it, you'll get a quick start in how to develop for the iOS platform. You, of course, need to spend time afterwards to become proficient but it's an excellent start.

    Actually, it was kind of fun to see how the course was taught, I work as a CS teacher at a university, sometimes giving intensive programming courses for companies. And Big Nerd Ranch was teaching the course exactly the same way I'm teaching those company courses ... I couldn't help smiling :D

    The book is also good, I looked at a few others but the BNR book was better (but I haven't looked at them all).

    I would gladly take another course given by BNR
  9. toughturtle macrumors newbie


    Jun 24, 2009
    Big Nerd Ranch is the best and most thorough training.

    I went to BNR for both the "Intro To ObjC" and the "iOS" class a few years back.

    Like the original poster, I too, came from a PHP background. However, I had no experience with OO programing at all.

    I signed up for the Intro class after the SDK first came out. I was very worried that I would be lost in the new world of Obj-C and retreat back to my web roots. I was very pleased and surprised how I was able to grasp the concepts and I was well on my way to becoming dangerous wielding Xcode. The class was structured well and the instructors were more than happy to "hold my hand" through some of the exercises. The locale of the training is at a lodge/hotel in the mountains outside of Atlanta. It was a perfect and non-distracting environment to buckle-down and immerse myself in code. And the food that was served was incredible and worthy of photographing and tweeting/showing off.

    A few months later I took the iOS class at the same location. By then I had two Apps in the store and the class enabled me to take my iOS programming to the next level. I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist.

    Back then, BNR was the only training available, so I have not attended any other training outfits that have cropped up. But, when the need arises, I will not hesitate to go back to BNR. It is top notch in all respects... I don't know if anyone can compete with the quality of everything offered.

    Toughturtle would not be continuing in the iOS world if it wasn't for Aaron and BNR.
  10. gjj391 macrumors newbie

    Mar 7, 2009
    About Objects is amazing. I never looked at Big Nerd Ranch, so I can't say anything about it. Jonathan from About Objects is not only a great teacher, hes is an excellent programmer with real world experience. If you have prior programming experience, and are interested in really understanding how the iOS platform works and desire to build applications for it, I can't recommend his classes more.

    I wrote a small write up after I took my course, feel free to read..
  11. xyzzycoder macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2008
    Java Not Required

    As a former iOS Development instructor and aide in many classes, I beg to differ on m4cst3r's assertion that Java is required for (any) iOS training. What's useful is a knowledge of object-oriented programming - any flavor, Java being one. Some background with C programming is also highly beneficial for stepping into iOS development.
  12. carld macrumors newbie


    Jun 22, 2009
    Los Angeles, California
    I am thoroughly in love with BNR.

    And I've never heard of About Objects until today, but they look solid. So I'm biased! With that mind, here was my experience with BNR:

    I'd spent the majority of my programming career dealing with PHP, Perl, PL/SQL... scripting languages. I hadn't had to touch C++ since somewhere around '94, and being that my brain is a particularly useless sieve, that stuff has LONG been forgotten.

    I've survived (and flourished, even!) acquiring skills on my own as needed, and when it came time to dive into ObjC for iPhone development, I picked up Aaron's book on Cocoa programming to get a feel for it... and while it's a fantastic guide (and widely considered to be THE bible of OS X programming), I was feeling overwhelmed and felt it was time to take the next step and enroll in a proper course.

    This was back in '08, and a quick search revealed BNR to be the only real option for that sorta thing, so I enrolled in their iPhone course... for some reason the logistics for the Atlanta course didn't work out (it was either sold out or a month or two later than I'd wanted wait, being the impatient chump that I am), so I ended up signing up for the course in Germany.

    I was paying for it out of pocket, and they were REALLY patient with me as I monkeyed about with my payment, and once that was confirmed, they handled everything else. You just give 'em a flight number and that's that. Stefanie was waiting at the airport, scooped up another classmate and took us to the monastery. Yeah, I said it. Monastery. But more on that in a bit.

    My classmates had very different programming backgrounds... a few heavy C guys (experienced, not fat!), some Java folks, and a few people just like me. I was a bit anxious about that but it proved to not be an issue at all. Alex von Below was the instructor, and he's fantastic. As I recall, the course material was basically a rough draft of what is now the BNR book on iOS development... and every day we'd just tackle a chapter or so, with Alex filling in any gaps and helping us explore related topics. I'm probably not doing it justice at all, but some key takeaways for me were:

    • Pacing was NEVER an issue. I never felt like I was holding the rest of the class back, despite my lack of significant OOP experience.
    • The classes were structured to be very low pressure... you can get as much or as little out of it as you need or want... Alex was quite willing to do deep dives on more esoteric things individually, or to the whole class if we were all interested.
    • Classmates were fantastic... very communal, everybody was happy to help one another... hell, even I answered a few questions!

    Anyway, back to the monastery. Turns I paid a couple grand of my own cash to hang out in a monastery for a week. Or former monastery, I should say... it's a hotel/winery now, and it's GORGEOUS.

    Meals are all included and the food was really quite excellent, and they were very accommodating of my vegetarian diet (although I suspect they found it rather amusing!).

    The setting is REALLY conducive to learning... very quiet, no distractions... breakfast, a few hours of instruction, lunch, more class, then we'd take hikes around the winery grounds, some more class, dinner... you get the picture.

    In hindsight, it clearly makes sense, but it never occurred to me at the time how key the setting was going to be in getting me to focus. I've not been to the Atlanta ranch yet, but I'm dying to! At this point, the idea of spending a week in an office park trying to cram knowledge through my thick skull gives me the hives.

    Bottom line for me is this: I have the attention span of a 3-year old, and for me, BNR was more of a retreat than just a course. A week-long vacation in Europe wherein somehow I walked away with a solid understanding of Cocoa and iPhone development too. I'm incredibly happy with the experience, and they have an alumni mailing list where we can post any esoteric Cocoa questions to our classmates and instructors.

    Oh, and the cheesiest part? I even made friends! ME!
  13. tommoran, Mar 12, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011

    tommoran macrumors member

    Sep 10, 2007
    Very Happy with About Objects

    Can’t comment on BNR. However I took the About Objects class in Reston last summer and was satisfied with the learning delivered for the cost. I did not walk away a minted iPhone developer. However, I began at almost zero in programming knowledge.

    Remember that Stanford as an online class with similar objectives. It lasts an entire semester. Harvard has a similar intro to “C” class also for an entire semester.

    Prospective attendees should be prepared for a challenging course. Programming is not like anything else so almost 100% will be new. And all of it is hard. Not impossible, but hard, intricate and detail oriented.

    The successful student will be prepared. Coding, especially for the newcomer, is intimidating. You will be out of your comfort zone. Try to get past this phase before going to training. Get an Objective C for Dummies book and XCode on your Mac and get the basics down. Maybe an intro to “C” offered at a local community college or tech school. Then take (or at least watch) the Stanford or Harvard class online.

    At this point you’d be prepared to maximize your learning and investment in the About Objects training.

    I took a quick look at BNR’s site. I make no judgment, but I see their prices are much higher than About Objects.

    About Objects, at least when I was there last summer, provided a MacBook to work on and a steep discount at a nearby local extended stay hotel. This means I didn’t have to rent a car, eat three meals a day in restaurants, or purchase a new MacBook to take this training. This lowered my opportunity cost by more than $4,000.

    As soon as About Objects migrates to XCode4/iOS4.3, if they haven’t already, and it fits my schedule, I will be back in Jonathan’s classroom.
  14. carld macrumors newbie


    Jun 22, 2009
    Los Angeles, California
    Tom raises an excellent point about pricing...

    From About Objects' website, they indicate that you should bring your own computer, but if you don't have one, you may be able to reserve one of theirs on a first come, first serve basis.

    If I recall, BNR has the same exact same policy, so equipment cost is moot.

    It looks like BNR's iOS class is $3,850 versus About Objects' being $2,595.

    That additional $1,255 covers all lodging, food, and transport to/from the airport, so to me, it seems like the two companies actually have similar pricing. For me, not having to deal with all the extra stuff was a huge help, travel stresses me out enough as it is. But since your company is paying for it, cost doesn't seem to be an issue one way or another.

    I've been reading more about About Objects- the instructors look great and it looks like people have had great experiences there too. I don't think you're going to have a bad time at either program.

    I would, however, recommend that you get in contact with both and talk about your concerns as far as your skill set and preparedness go. I had similar concerns, and BNR put me in touch with the instructor in advance to talk about my programming history and what to expect. I imagine About Objects would be more than happy to do the same.

    Also, in the case of BNR, pick up a copy of their iOS programming book- their classes aren't just an in-person walkthrough of the book, but I feel that it'll give you a reasonably good feel for the overall style/tone of their courses and you can maybe see if ObjC is way over your head.... it shouldn't be though, it sounds like we both had similar backgrounds.

  15. Mitthrawnuruodo thread starter Moderator emeritus


    Mar 10, 2004
    Bergen, Norway
    Thanks for the feedback from all of you, so far. :)

    Actually, if you look at the two courses I compare, Beginning iOS is $4750 and the comparable iPhone/iPad Development bundle is $3795 (but available at a discounted $3295/$3395 for Cupertino/Reston, respectively), but the price difference is the same, and I've also come to the conclusion that since BNR includes lodging, meals and transport, it evens out any price differences.

    Actually, the total price is actually slightly in BNR's favour, sort of speak, when adding flights from Norway, and accommodation in Cupertino/Reston, but the total for both are within my budget, so that is not the deciding factor. :)
  16. Loc macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2007
    Southern California
    My company brought BNR in to teach us how to write iOS apps back in December. The class was taught by Scott Ritchie, a chill guy and great instructor. I can say we learned a lot and it really is a boot camp. Scott crammed as much in as he could and our brains were throbbing by the 4th day lol.

    They go through most of the chapters in the book so you could save yourself some money if you are disciplined enough to do it yourself. You do lose out on picking at the instructor's brain though and I felt that was valuable enough for my team. If I had the chance to I would definitely sign up for another one of their Mac/iOS classes.
  17. scott.gardner, Mar 15, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2011

    scott.gardner macrumors newbie


    Jan 24, 2011
    My 2 cents

    Looks like we have a lively thread here! I apologize if my comments only reiterate other posts as I do not have the time now to read through them all...

    I took the BNR Ruby on Rails course in 2005 (1 week long, taught by Charles Brian Quinn) and the About Objects iPhone & iPad Development Super Bundle (2 weeks long, taught by Jonathan Lehr primarily with sections also being taught by Firoze Lafeer and Matt Bezark) in January and February this year. So just thought I'd chime in to share my experiences in having taken a course at both BNR and About Objects.

    I enjoyed both courses and learned a lot from them.

    The BNR course attempted to be thorough but I do not feel a week was enough time to cover the subject matter (Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and deployment).

    The About Object super bundle course provided a thorough introduction to C first, before delving in to ObjC and Cocoa Touch. I might have thought to skip that first week had it not been for my experience in taking the Ruby on Rails course. I'm glad I didn't. I actually found out about About Objects via a You Tube banner ad. What piqued my interest most was their commitment to teaching the fundamentals instead of jumping straight into Interface Builder like so many books do within the first few pages.

    So, I am not comparing apples here. I don't recall if BNR offered a Ruby course back then, or for that matter a bundle. If they did, in hindsight, I would've/should've gone with the bundle.

    In either case, there are no magic wands. You're not going to show up on day one bright-eyed and raring to go, and walk away on the last day a proficient programmer. I'm sure everyone realizes this. Or if you did, congrats, you're a genius. Me, not so much. Thick skull, must pound things in repeatedly over time in order for something to stick.

    I split up the About Objects course primarily due to scheduling conflicts, but it also allowed me to prepare for each week and then further study the subject matter of week one before week two. This worked out very well for me.

    Still, I think the About Objects super bundle could be longer, at least 3 weeks, perhaps splitting the weeks up over a 3 month period. I would also recommend reading the following books in preparation for and in follow up to taking these courses:

    C Programming: A Modern Approach, 2nd Edition by K. N. King

    Learning Objective-C 2.0: A Hands-On Guide to Objective-C for Mac and iOS Developers by Robert Clair

    Beginning iPhone 4 Development: Exploring the iOS SDK by David Mark, Jack Nutting, and Jeff LaMarche

    I liked BNR's retreat style approach, allowing us to leave the real world behind for a few days and really focus on learning. The afternoon hikes were also a great way to get the blood pumping after lunch.

    From the About Objects course I really appreciated the many real-world tips and best practices Jonathan shared with us. It helped me form my own ObjC coding style that makes sense.
  18. bgillander macrumors member

    Jul 14, 2007
    About Objects

    I took the About Objects 7 day course in Cupertino last December and thought it was great.

    It was quite a lot to absorb over 7 days, but Jonathan kept it interesting and I felt I learned a lot.
  19. m4cst3r macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2011
    I wasn't saying that JAVA was required I was saying that the instructor kept referencing JAVA which made everything that more confusing.
  20. Mitthrawnuruodo thread starter Moderator emeritus


    Mar 10, 2004
    Bergen, Norway
    A small update

    I'm leaving for Atlanta and Big Nerd Ranch's Beginning iOS Bootcamp this Friday.

    I managed to clear my work schedule, so I could just choose between BNR and About Objects without that in mind.

    I think I would have learned all I need (in the given time) from either BNR or AO, as both their courses looks solid, and in the end it was just two/three (rather insignificant) issues that tipped me in favour of BNR:

    1) The first relevant course at BNR was in May, and the first AO was in June (giving me a bit more time for a test project or two when I get home, before my Summer vacation in July),

    2) the "all inclusive", "seclusion approach" at BNR (I don't have to think about any practicalities and I suppose there's fewer distractions an hour outside Atlanta than 5 minutes away from Apple's headquarter in Cupertino and San Francisco just "up the road"), and least importantly

    3) I've had BNR recommendations already, but "only" found AO browsing/searching the internet.

    Thanks to all replies to this thread, so far. It was very assuring that I would have gotten what I need at either course. :)
  21. jwjody macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2011
    What was your experience at BNR? I'm considering taking the Beginning iOS class there in January.


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