Quickstart: Basics

Date: 2022-02-18

Table of Contents

Last updated: 2022-02-21

Introduction

This post contains ‘quickstart’ instructions for setting up a software development environment and learning basic skills such as working with the command line and using the Vim text editor, all of which you will need to do if you are working with me on research projects. Feel free to skip any material that you are already familiar with.

(Windows users only) Operating system

If you already have macOS or Linux on your laptop, you can skip this section.

Since I am not familiar with programming on Windows, and have run into numerous issues in the past while trying to help students develop software on their Windows machines, I now ask students who don’t have a macOS or Linux laptop to install Ubuntu on their laptop in a dual-booting setup. Ubuntu is a popular, relatively user-friendly flavor of Linux that I recommend for people who are new to Linux. Follow the instructions here to install Ubuntu.

Command Line

Read the following sections of the PDF version of The Linux Command Line:

Make sure to try all the commands in the examples, in order to develop some muscle memory for them. The goal is not to memorize all the commands immediately, but to get a sense of what is possible when interacting with the computer via the command line, and to be able to look up stuff later when you need - that is, to create a mental index for quick information retrieval.

Text editor

In pages 141-143 of The Linux Command Line (see above), you briefly encountered the Vim text editor. In my personal opinion, if you think you will spend a substantial amount of time in your career writing documents and/or programs on a computer, learning a bit of Vim will pay off handsomely. Here are my recommended steps for doing so.

  1. Run vimtutor at the command line and go through the tutorial.
  2. Read through my slides on Vim that I presented at the IVILab Summer 2020 Bootcamp, and practice the commands in them.

When we are going over your code together (either in person or via Zoom screen sharing), it is useful for me to be able to reference line numbers. To enable showing line numbers in Vim, add the following line to your Vim configuration file (~/.vimrc):

set number

(macOS users only) Package manager

You will need a package manager to install libraries and programs required for software development.

The two most popular package managers for macOS are MacPorts and Homebrew.

Having tried both, I vastly prefer MacPorts. Follow the instructions here to install it.

Version control

We will use git for source code management and version control. If you are on macOS, git will be installed as part of the Xcode Command Line Tools (part of the MacPorts installation process).

We use Github to host our git repositories and collaborate on developing software. Send me your Github username (if you don’t already have a Github account, create one) so that I can add you to any relevant project-specific repositories.

Additionally, please set up an SSH key to use with Github, following the instructions here.

LaTeX


  1. You may find it useful to install the vimtex plugin to provide syntax highlighting and LaTeX-specific motions in vim.