Getting Started

Course Selection and Advising

For information about the programs, which courses to register for, etc., you should check the links on the CS homepage to our programs and advising information.

CS Accounts, Server, etc.

This section contains information for CS majors to help get you started with logging into the CS server and do the sorts of programming that goes on in most of the CS courses

Operating System and Class Accounts

Many of the CS courses make use of the CS server, which runs Linux. For courses that use the CS server, your programming assignments will be compiled and run on the CS server.

If your class makes use of the CS server, you will be given a "class account". These class accounts allow you to login to the CS server remotely and login to the computers in the CS lab and classroom (Root Hall, A-015 and A-017). The class accounts will be given to you by your instructor. The class account login names all start with cs and then the number of course. For example, CS 151 students get class accounts that begin with cs151 (e.g., cs151000, cs151001, ...). Note that the class accounts are deleted at the end of each semester. If you are a CS major and would like a permanent account on the CS server you can ask your instructor.

For courses using the CS server, you are encouraged to do your programming while logged into the server (using Putty from Windows, or another terminal client if using another OS). You should use the same program to compile your code that the instructor uses, so you are sure it will compile when your instructor grades your code.

Using Linux

Most of your work on the machines in the CS labs will likely be done using the shell/terminal. This is a text-based program that allows you to navigate your files on the system, compile programs, and run commands.

Text Editors

While you are logged into the CS lab machines or CS server, you need to use a text editor to edit files. In getting started, you can use pico, nano, or jove to edit files. These text editors are relatively easy to use and show on the screen what control keys need to be pressed to do different things (e.g., ctrl-x to exit).

Once you are comfortable using the shell/terminal and one of the basic text editors, you should learn either vim or emacs. vim and emacs have many useful features for programming that the basic text editors do not. But they do not show on screen what commands are needed to do different things, so you'll have to have a reference to check against until you remember them.

How to get started?   When getting started with a new text editor, you should search online for a tutorial to follow along (e.g., search for jove tutorial). Once you are familiar with the basics of using the editor, search online for a reference (e.g., search for jove reference) that will give a short summary of the most important commands.

Graphical Editors   The editors mentioned above are all plain-text editors, meaning they can be used from Putty as well as when you are logged into the lab machines. For editing files when you are not using Putty, you can use a graphical editor as well. Some that people have liked include Notepad++ and Kate (KDE Advanced Text Editor). You can also use MS Visual Studio, Eclipse, or other IDEs to edit text files. Some of these have the ability to let you edit files that are located on the CS server by entering your login credentials; note that this is unsupported, and we won't help you to get it working.

Logging into CS Server Remotely

To login to the CS server from a Windows computer, you should install the Putty software. Putty is a shell/terminal that runs on your computer and sends the commands to the CS server. This allows you to edit files on the CS server, compile using programs installed on the CS server, etc.

  • Installing Putty on Windows
  • To transfer files between your computer and the CS server, use an sftp program. Options for Windows include: psftp (included with putty), WinSCP, FileZilla. If given an option of what port to connect to, use port 22 (this is the "secure" port, so data is encrypted while transferring over the public internet).

To login to the CS server from a Mac or Linux, you do not need to install putty. Instead, you can open your terminal or shell program, and then type "ssh username@cs.indstate.edu". On a mac, you find the shell by going to Finder, then Applications, then Utilities, then Shell or Terminal. To transfer files from a Linux or mac to the CS server, you can use a graphical sftp program (e.g., FileZilla or something else) or use the sftp command from your shell/terminal.

Other Software

If you want to develop on your own computer without logging into the CS server you have a few options...

  • MS Visual Studio - the best option to develop GUI programs for Windows, not a good option for developing for Linux.
  • Eclipse - a cross-platform IDE that can be used for Java, C/C++, and some other languages.
  • Cygwin - software that installs a shell/terminal and associated programs on your Windows computer so that it works pretty much like the CS Linux machines. If you select the option to install gcc/g++ and emacs/vim, then you can work on your programs on your local Windows computer with basically the same environment as the CS Linux computers.

Programming Languages

Many of the CS courses use C and C++. If you are a new graduate student or a transfer student, you should get started by making sure you can connect to the CS server with Putty or another terminal program. Once you can connect, you should familiarize yourself with linux shell commands (see the Unix/Linux Quick Reference Card linked above). You should also learn to use one of the text editors mentioned above.

For CS courses that use C and C++, the gcc and g++ compilers are normally used. These are already installed on the CS server. If you have a C or C++ program, you compile it by first logging into the CS server using Putty or another terminal program and typing

gcc code.c -o outputName
for C, or g++ for c++. You run the resulting program by typing ./outputName (and then enter/return) at the shell prompt (aka command line). You should make sure your C/C++ programs compile and run using gcc/g++. Note that programs made using MS Visual Studio or some other compiler will normally not work straight away with gcc/g++ because there are some differences in which functions are included in the header files.

Tutorials and Reference   For a review of C and C++, you can look at various tutorials and references online and courses from other universities that teach these languages. The following is a list of resources we have used in the past; there are many others online as well.

Practice Programming Problems   To practice C/C++ programming, first start by following a tutorial and writing the programs the tutorial shows you. Once you are reasonably familiar with all the syntax rules, start trying "programming contest problems". These are problems with precisely defined correct output, so that you can submit your program to make sure it is 100% correct.