Programming and CS - Getting Started

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We are developing Getting Started pages on the most important topics and skills that are used throughout our courses. These can be used by incoming undergraduate students to get a head start, incoming graduate students to review, or current students to refresh/remediate.

Recommended Computer

Much of what we do in CS courses can work in Windows, Mac OS, Linux, or Chrome. There will be an odd thing or two still that may not work in Chrome.

All other things being equal, getting a computer that is not "bottom of the barrel" would be good. Chromebooks in the $400+ range should generally work reasonably well. For Windows/Linux/Mac OS laptops, you should be looking for 8GB RAM bare minimum, preferred 16GB if possible, and avoid getting a laptop with an i3 or Celeron processor; this roughly corresponds to the $500+ price range. You can potentially get anything to work, but will have an easier time with a medium-range computer than a low-end system.

For laptops, we recommend getting at least a 3 year warranty (since they tend to break if you actually do transport them around). Also, we recommend getting an option that has a long battery life (rule of thumb - battery life will be half of its original rating after 1-2 years of regular daily use).

You should also have the ability to install programs on the system and have a normally reliable internet connection at home if possible.

If you have a particular system in mind for purchase that you would like an opinion on, please feel free to contact one of the CS faculty members.

University requirements are listed here and are similar to that described above. A laptop option recommended by the university is listed at here (go to for purchasing it) and is a reasonable choice.

Getting Started Pages

Practice 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.

Source Control

It is a good idea to use source control when developing software, and is necessary when you are developing in a group or professionally. When working on assignments or course projects it is the best practice to use a private repository so other students cannot copy your work. Git is the industry standard for source control. Here are some resources to use to learn Git.