Never confuse education with intelligence, you can have a PhD and still be an idiot.
- Richard Feynman -

ITIC:Setting up your environment

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Setting up your environment


Since this course material is aimed at courses introducing computers and information technology, and is quite focused around working in the terminal (in your shell/command line interpreter), you need to install some software which allows you to have a common environment with your course peers and teachers.

The basic requirement for this course is thus a terminal running a shell, and we have chosen Bash as the shell.

It is in this shell (command line interpreter) you will do most of the work such as exercises, workshops and assignments in the course material.

You also need a web browser and an editor (for editing plain text files) in order to complete the course material.

You cannot follow this course material if you have a Chrome Book with Chrome OS. You need Windows, Mac OS X or GNU/Linux (or Unix).

First choice

For macOS and Windows users

GNU: GNU's Not Unix

The first choice for MacOS and Windows users is to have Ubuntu running on VirtualBox.

Ubuntu is a Linux distribution. We recommend installing Ubuntu on a virtual machine using Oracle VirtualBox (which is free software), so that you can keep your native OS and start a virtual machine whenever you want to run Ubuntu during class. Your computer's OS will be the "host" OS and Ubuntu will then be "guest" OS in the tutorials and manuals below. Make sure to give the guest (Ubuntu) at least 2500 MB as RAM (set Base Memory to around 2500) and a disk with Virtual Size 20 GB (or higher).

More about setting up VirtualBox here:

The main reason for installing Ubuntu for this course material, is to give our students a uniform computer environment, in particular for the parts involving working in the terminal with the Bash shell (a shell is a command interpreter) and a range of commands/programs meant to be run from a terminal. However, as a bonus, you will probably learn a lot about computers and operating systems from installing Ubuntu from scratch. Knowing about virtualization is also good, and this is why we recommend this setup.

For GNU/Linux users

Well, you're ready to go and don't need to do anything. Just make sure you are running Bash in one of your terminals.

Second and third choice

Mac OS

If you cannot get VirtualBox up and running Ubuntu on your Mac, you will be fine with your Mac terminal. But make sure you install the latest version of Bash and Homebrew (or MacPorts). Instructions for Mac OS is available here.

This is not optimal but will work well enough for you to do the exercises, workshops and assignments. It is good if you work with a friend who is able to install VirtualBox, so that you will learn from that experience even if you couldn't get it to work yourself.

If you can't get either HomeBrew or MacPorts most of the exercises will work quite well with the bash and the tools that come with MacOS.


If you cannot get VirtualBox up and running Ubuntu on your Windows operating system, you can install Ubuntu for Windows or as a third choice Cygwin.

Linux subsystem for Windows/Ubuntu for Windows

You can find instructions for how to install Ubuntu for Windows here. It might be called "Linux subsystem for Windows" nowadays. Here's another link:

Basically, to install "Linux subsystem for Windows" and Ubuntu on Windows 10, these are the steps:

  • Open the start menu (press the windows-key) and search for "Enable windows features"
  • In the list, check the box for "Linux subsystem for Windows"
  • Reboot
  • Open the start menu and seach for "enable developer mode" and in the dialog window, select the radio button for Developer mode (not sure if you need to reboot, but you will be prompted to do so if that's the case)
  • Open "Microsoft Store" and search for Ubuntu, install it and start it
  • If it doesn't start, run the command bash and it will install

During the installation of Ubuntu for Windows, you will be prompted for a login name and a password. These are the things you need when running Ubuntu in Windows. Note that when you select a password, the password will not be echoed to the terminal (so that no one can see what password you type in). You will be prompted to repeat the password. After this, you are set to go. You now have a terminal window running bash and Ubuntu. We recommend that you issue the following command the first thing you do:

sudo apt-get update

You will be prompted for your Ubuntu password, because you are using the sudo command which lets you run a command as the super-user, which requires that you enter your password. The above command will update the list of software sources, so that you can install fresh programs from the command prompt.

Cygwin (a bash terminal with the most common Linux/Unix commands)

Cygwin comes with a package manager for installing "Bash programs" and also a terminal emulator running Bash. This is not optimal but will work well enough for you to do the exercises, workshops and assignments.

We have instructions for installing Cygwin here (open these links in a new tab, to make it easy to get back here when you are done) and here. Make sure you also follow the instructions for installing additional software on that page.

What to do anyway

We recommend that you work with a friend who is able to install VirtualBox on Windows, so that you learn from that experience too. Even if you can't get VirtualBox to install on your computer, we think it is a good learning opportunity to sit with someone who manages to install it, so that you at least see what it looks like and how one can install Ubuntu.


Download VirtualBox

Download Ubuntu


Further reading

Where to go next

The next page is Computers_and_hardware.

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