4/14/09

The Beginners Guide to Progamming: Step 2 Environments

One of the biggest frustrations in programming can occur because of ones environment. For the vast majority of programming languages including the one I am going to use for this series , linux is the best platform by far. In fact the more that I work in linux the more that I hate programming in windows, and this is pretty much true for anyone that programs regularly. However, you will run into a few people here and there that swear by some IDE or another.

Speaking of IDEs

An IDE is a horrible idea for anyone trying to learn computer programming, because it makes you think you know what you are doing when you actually have no clue. Converseley the other main functions of the IDE are to simplify processes like stack traces, debugging, setting up ant tasks and far more. The vast majority of noobs will have no idea what 95% of the features are in a IDE and will get immenseley confused by them . The other problem with IDE's are that they aren't available universally and they don't have interchangeable functionality. So what happens if you right a c project in visual studio and need to make a few touch ups from a friends computer. You are SOL, because that is the only thing you have ever learned. However, if you have a solid foundation using a plain text editor you can get by pretty well. IDE's are just a really big detriment to ones learning. You don't get experience tracking issues, implenting and installing basic compilers, and also becoming a vim master is super cool!

Hardware

A vast majority of people think that computer programmers need a really sweet beefed up rig, not true at all. Especially for the people following this tutorial the iPhone could easily compile the code you will write, atleast at first. So just grab any old computer and use it. You should make sure the computer is equiped with everything you need first like a video card if you are going to be working on a 3d game etc. I also recommend a sound card because you will most likely want to hear some music at some point. The most helpful peices of hardware you can have is a great keyboard and plenty of screen real estate. When I am programming I really like to have atleast two screen to work with, but I can live with one.

Your Environment

Ideally your environment will be some form of linux that is installed on it's own computer. Linux is highly beneficial for a lot of reasons, but mostly cause it's already setup with everything you will need for this tutorial. Well, to be exact most distributions are setup with everything you need. If you don't have a spare computer to install linux on I would suggest setting up a virtual machine using Virtual Box. Virtual box works for Windows, Linux, and Macs. It is very simple to setup for anyone that has any computer experience at all and for those that don't. Follow Lifehackers Beginners Guide to Setting Up Virtual Machines with Virtual box. Virtual box is really simple and poses zero risk to your native windows implementation. Infact, virtual box is really nice for beginning programmers, because if you write some poor code that lets say locks your processor to 100% usage. You can just kill that virtual machine and start over. If that was your native machine you would need a complete reboot, it could also save you from worse problems.

If you must continue to work from a Windows OS for whatever reason, I would recommend that you install windows services for unix , vim for windows, and of course Python. Python will be the language I will be using during these tutorials. Windows services for unix provides all the tools linux users get from the command line into the windows command line. These tools will be useful forever, but especially for some of the upcoming tutorials. If you don't know vim is a plain text editor, and it's really powerful but a bit complicated. Don't worry I will hold your hand through out your vim adolescence. Python should be really easy to install, but in some cases it is unreachable from the command line. An easy solution, type the following into your command line window set PATH=PATH:C:\Your Python Location\bin . You should be able to "Python" into the cmd line and have something intelligable pop up.

Environments can be a really complicated thing to to deal with and I don't want to leave anyone behind. So, I am going to wait for some feed back and see if anyone needs help or if I have negated to mention anything. As usual these tutorials are meant to be interactive and will change based on what the readers need. Please Leave any comments you have in the comments, if for some reason you can't do that Email me at Jonathan.Barnes11@gmail.com. I will post your question and the answer in the comments for you. I hope to see you soon. If you missed step 1 find it here.

The Beginners Guide to Programming: Step 1 Intro

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4 Response to The Beginners Guide to Progamming: Step 2 Environments

April 15, 2009 at 6:43 AM

Cool, I'm looking forward to the next step of your guide to programming.

I would like to note that the best way to learn how to program is tinkering with code, and finding out why some code doesn't do what you expected it to do. Also, dissecting and changing working code other's have written can be very helpful in learning how certain tricks are performed and why something is written in a particular way. It forces you to know the language and learn the underlying concepts, without really studying (which is boring for most people). It is this "intuitive knowledge", built up by coding experience, which will help you later on when you'll deal with much bigger projects. You develop a curiosity for code which can't be learned from a textbook.

tenpoundhammer
April 15, 2009 at 9:08 AM

Thanks for commenting Rene,

I agree completely, but I am really aiming this guide at people who for some reason have had trouble getting there foot through the door and have had a hard time getting into tinkering. I think many people out there just feel overwhelmed by all the tools they have available. I really hope to lay a solid foundation for anyone hoping to do computer programming.

thanks
Jon

April 21, 2009 at 9:32 AM

[...] | by tenpoundhammer For anyone reading part 3 I am assuming you have already read at least part 2: environments .  Which means you know that we will be working from the command line and using vim for this [...]

May 4, 2009 at 9:02 AM

[...] easily move into other programming languages, just change syntax.  If you haven’t read Steps 2 and 3 please do so [...]

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