What do I need?

What will we cover?
The character and mindset of a programmer, the programming environments used in the tutor.

Generally

In principle you don't need anything to do this course other than an Internet enabled computer - which I assume you have if you are reading this in the first place! The other thing that is useful is the right mind set to program. What I mean by that is an innate curiosity about things, coupled to a logical way of thinking. These are both essential requirements for a successful programmer.

The curiosity factor comes into play in looking for answers to problems and being willing to dig around in sometimes obscure documents for ideas and information needed to complete a task.

The logical thinking comes into play because computers are intrinsically stupid. They can't really do anything except add single digits together and move bytes from one place to another. Luckily for us some talented programmers have written lots of programs to hide this basic stupidity. But of course as a programmer you may well get into a new situation where you have to face that stupidity in its raw state. At that point you have to think for the computer. You have to figure out exactly what needs to be done to your data and when.

So much for the philosophy! However if you want to get the best from the tutorial you will want to follow along, either typing in the examples by hand or cutting and pasting from the Web page into your text editor. Then you can run the programs and see the results. To do that you will need to have Python installed on your system (and for the VBScript/JScript examples you'll need a browser capable of running those languages. Almost any modern browser can run JavaScript.)

Python

Python version 2.3 is the latest release at the time of writing. The Python download is quite big (about 9Mb for the Windows binary version) but it does include all the documentation and lots of tools, some of which we'll look at later in the tutorial.

For Linux/Unix you can get the source and build it - see your sys admin!! It also comes pre-built (and pre-installed) in most Linux distributions these days and packaged versions (for Red Hat, Mandrake, Suse and Debian) can be found too. In fact you may well find that many of the systems admin tools you use on Linux are actually written in Python.

The master download site for Python is:

http://www.python.org/download

VBScript and JavaScript

As I said earlier most browsers can run JavaScript without any problems. VBScript will only work in Microsoft's Internet Explorer. You don't need to install anything for these languages, either you have them (on Windows boxes) or you don't (JavaScript only on Linux). The only thing to watch out for is that some paranoid system administrators occasionally turn off the scripting feature of the browser for security purposes, but since so many web sites use JavaScript nowadays that's pretty unlikely.


And that's it. Bring your brain, a sense of humor and start programming....

Points to remember
  • You need logical thinking and curiosity to program
  • Python, JavaScript and VBScript(on Windows only) are all freely available
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